Week of June 24

World leaders gather at the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. Credit: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

In the latest on the Iran crisis, the United States announced new sanctions against the Islamic Republic on Tuesday. After the decision last week to not retaliate militarily after Iran shot down a U.S. drone, the Americans instead punished Iran with further economic penalties. These new sanctions target the personal assets of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top Iranian officials, penalizing every foreign financial institution working with these officials. Trump stated that “the supreme leader of Iran is the one who ultimately is responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime,” as he enacted the sanctions. However, at this point, additional sanctions are more symbolic than actually effective; Suzanne Maloney commented that, “any new measures are only incremental and possibly redundant. The Iranian economy has already been forced to become more insular and less interconnected.” Iran criticized Trump’s actions, with President Rouhani saying to the U.S., “You call for negotiations. If you are telling the truth, why are you simultaneously seeking to sanction our foreign minister?”

Iraqi protesters stormed the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad on Thursday, protesting the Arab-Israeli peace conference held in Bahrain the day before. There was an hour-long standoff before Iraqi security forces eventually expelled the dissidents, but no one was hurt. The protesters removed Bahrain’s flag from its embassy and replaced it with a Palestinian banner, prompting the Bahraini government to recall their Iraqi ambassador. While the Iraqi government expressed “deep regret” over the attack, Bahrain’s foreign ministry criticized the Iraqis for failing to properly protect the embassy. It is not surprising that this conference precipitated so much rage in Iraqi, given that the American-led workshop has been widely unpopular in the region. Led by White House advisor Jared Kushner, the “Peace to Prosperity” conference intended to bring peace through economic means by doubling the Palestinian GDP and improving Palestine’s access to international markets. However, the conference included neither Palestinian nor Israeli government officials (in fact, the Palestinians actively boycotted the event). The Trump administration has been promising a grand Middle East peace plan, but progress seems improbably without a political accompaniment to this economic plan.

Excavators work on a room in the Kemune Palace in which murals were found. Credit: University of Tübingen and Kurdistan Archaeology Organization

The University of Tübingen in Germany and the Kurdistan Archaeology Organization announced the discovery of an ancient Iraqi palace on Thursday. The palace was first revealed back in September as the waters of a Mosul dam receded due to a drought. This was the first time the waters had retreated enough for archaeologists to excavate what they call “one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the region in recent decades.” The palace, which dates from the Bronze Age, is believed to have been part of the Mittani empire, a “kingdom that spread across northern Mesopotamia and Syria” from 1500 to 1350 B.C. The palace’s walls, rooms, and bright blue and red murals remained intact. Currently, the site is located in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq. The discovery is greatly exciting for archaeologists around the world, as modern-day Iraq has a rich and illustrious ancient history.

Saturday marked the first day of the annual G20 Summit held this year in Osaka, Japan. Despite diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Turkey over Erdogan’s plan to purchase Russian S-400 aircraft in the first half of July, Trump and Erdogan were surprisingly on friendly terms during the summit. Erdogan announced that Turkey will move forward with the S-400 arms deal it originally made with Russia in 2017, in spite of continuing U.S threats to sanction Turkey. Erdo?an is confident that Trump won’t allow for sanctions and states that the deal with Russia had been made after the U.S. denied sales of American Patriot missiles to Turkey. Yet contrary to his claims, the Obama administration had agreed to sell Turkey American missiles in 2013 and had renewed the offer in 2018. Turkey had then chosen the Russian missiles from fear of becoming dependent on the Western defense sector. Regardless, Trump echoed Erdogan in the G20 Summit and blamed the Obama administration for Turkey’s turn to Russia for weapons. Despite Erdogan’s optimism, sanctions seem to be looming: Congress is the main decision-maker in whether there will be sanctions or not, and on Friday a bill was passed banning American F-35 sales to Turkey if the S-400s are purchased from Russia. Congress’ concern with the S-400 is it could provide Russia sensitive information about how the American F-35 and other weapons operate, yet what lays beyond is a fear that Turkey, a historical ally to the U.S., is shifting away from the Western camp. 

Dramatic reports about one of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s wives fleeing the Dubai ruler’s palace emerged over the weekend. Princess Haya al-Hussein, the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, took the couple’s two children — and 31 million dollars — and is reportedly now in hiding in “fear of her life.” On June 22nd, Sheikh Maktoum posted a poem about betrayal on his personal Instagram account that is thought to have been directed at the princess. Entitled “You Lived and You Died,” the poet tells an unnamed subject: “You no longer have any place with me, Go to who you have been busy with! And let this be good for you; I don’t care if you live or you die.” While the UAE is known for its spectacular wealth and as an exhilarating tourist destination, the country has faced regular human rights abuse allegations. This case is reminiscent of previous, failed-escape attempts by other female royal family members. Nevertheless, the Princess Haya story, and the sheikh’s poetic response to it, stands out in particular its public nature in a region that usually keeps personal matters out of the spotlight. The episode is unlikely to affect the positive bilateral relations between Jordan and the Emirates, but Jordan may try to capitalize on the affair; in return for ensuring Princess Haya’s silence on the matter, sources say that “Jordan is likely to politely request influxes of capital investment, which they felt they were promised when the marriage first took place but did not materialize as hoped.”

Zeina Nassar, a German-Lebanese boxer, is one of Nike’s Pro Hijab Style line models. Credit: Material Magazine/Photography Jan Kapitan

A recent article discusses how the “modesty movement,” largely driven by Muslim women seeking to dress in accordance with their religion, is changing how women dress worldwide. As home to one of the youngest and wealthiest populations in the world, the Middle East has become a hub for fashion in recent years – Vogue Arabia, for example, was first published in March 2017 and has since featured historic covers by hijabi (wearing the headscarf) and Middle Eastern models. The modesty movement arose out of a desire by Muslim women to abide by their personal religious guidelines for modest dress, while also using fashion to express themselves in a way that had often been unavailable to them in Western-oriented clothing markets. The movement has seen the rise of modesty-oriented online shops like The Modist, founded by Algerian-born Ghizlan Guenez, as well as lines by major brands like Nike. The covered-up style has also appeared in high fashion, a testament to the influence of Muslim women, and the broad appeal of the modest look. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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