Week of October 28

Several teams taking part in an international robotics contest hosted in Dubai. Credit: AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made claims that Iran is planning to attack Israel. Netanyahu spoke  On Tuesday, Netanyahu spoke to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and expressed that Israel is “in the midst of the war against terror — not only against extreme Sunnis… but also extreme Shiites led by Iran….” The prime minister also mentioned that Iran is trying to obtain precision weapons. Netanyahu firmly believes that Iran has begun deploying weapons in Yemen to “strike” Israel. In response to Netanyahu’s claims, Secretary Mnuchin has announced that the U.S. will “impose additional sanctions” on Iran. 

After weeks of country-wide protests in Lebanon, the country’s prime minister resigned on Tuesday. Prime Minister Hariri delivered a televised speech in which he said that “jobs come and go, but what’s important is the country. No one is bigger than the nation.” Protesters didn’t back down in their demands and continue to proclaim that “all of them means all of them” in their demonstrations, implying that all of the elite leadership needs to go. When BBC published an article on Wednesday with the headline, “Lebanon crisis: President asks Hariri to stay on as caretaker PM,” the Lebanese people said they would block main roads (again) if their demands weren’t met. Lebanese activist Nay al-Rahi told the BBC, “we will not be taking any new government with the same old names, or names that have the same affiliation of those who are already in power now.” Hariri is reportedly ready to try to help form a new government.

On Wednesday morning, the New York Times reported that an IDF soldier was given a one-month sentence over the killing of a 14-year-old boy. The conviction came a year after the soldier shot and killed an unarmed teenage Palestinian boy at a protest in Gaza. The unidentified soldier took a plea deal and was demoted from his position. The conviction was the first to come from a criminal investigation involving an IDF soldier after hundreds of Palestinians were killed during the 2018 Great March of Return protests. The teen’s father said he was “deeply disappointed by the sentence,” and was “hoping for financial compensation” and a longer sentence. While the New York Times reported that the soldier was sentenced to a month of prison time, an Israeli source stated the sentence was one month of community service.

The ruins of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s villa in Barisha, Syria, which was destroyed in a United States raid after his death last weekend. Credit: Yahya Nemah/EPA, via Shutterstock

Quickly following the suicide-vest death of ISIS’ former leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,  the group announced his replacement on Thursday. The New York Times reported that next to nothing is known about Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi. In the announcement of the new leader, ISIS also warned America, “Do not be happy America, for the death of…Baghdadi.” Counter-terrorism experts are expecting video pledges of allegiance from IS supporters over the next few days, as well as a video from the new leader. The United States State Department has announced a $5 million reward for information leading to Qurayshi’s capture. 

On Friday, Dubai kicked off the third edition of the world’s largest international robotics competition ever. The “Ocean Opportunities” theme focused on creating solutions to global oceanic pollution. Dubai is looking to capitalize on the country’s oil wealth in order to branch out to scientific innovation. The country is a hub for technological advancement; it’s the first city outside of the U.S. where FedEx is testing Roxo, an autonomous delivery service that can travel on unpaved surfaces. Organizers also hope that bringing together many of “tomorrow’s scientists and engineers” will facilitate future groundbreaking technological developments. The winning team was from Belarus, but the event also featured a team of Syrian refugees who managed to defeat the Israeli team. Event organizers stressed that the FIRST Global Challenge 2019 should not be seen as a competition but rather as a lesson in cooperation within the international and technological community.

The Trump administration has cut the number of high priority Iraqi refugees allowed into the U.S. About 110,000 Iraqi refugees are trying to enter the country but the current administration capped the number at 4,000. Many of these refugees supported American military efforts as translators and guides, among other roles, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq that toppled Saddam Hussein. After the conflict many of them came under attack by Iraqi militias for their “betrayal”. These American allies put their lives on the lines, but also placed their families in danger and lost their careers because of their work. As a result, they were given assurance that they would receive asylum in the United States. Years later, these promises have not been met. The application process has been further complicated by the closure of the American embassy in Baghdad to all of their non-essential employees for security reasons. Even though many of the refugees are technically eligible, few have been interviewed or properly vetted by immigration officials due to the more stringent procedures imposed by the Trump administration last year. With ongoing violent demonstrations taking place in the country now, this at-risk population is particularly anxious to find refuge in the United States. 

Ahead of the 40th anniversary of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Iran, the student who led a protest movement that escalated into the seizure of the diplomatic compound and the 444-day hostage crisis now says he regrets his part in the event. Ebrahim Asgharzadeh claims the dramatic episode is partially to blame for the bad relations and extreme tensions between America and Iran today. Asgharzadeh warns others to not follow in his footsteps and denies that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard organized the attack, saying that it was all planned by himself and fellow students. He claimed that it started as a plan to have a student sit-in protest in response to the U.S. decision to allow the country’s deposed leader, the Shah Reza Pahlavi, to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.The students were angry that Pahlavi was able to evade trial for corruption. The protest spun out of control when Ayatollah Khomeini gave his support to the effort, after which students lost any courage to end the takeover. Asgharzadeh went on to become a reformist politician in the Iranian government and served time in jail for some of his views. He now advocates for improving U.S.-Iranian relations, though he is pessimistic about the future, stating “It is too difficult to say when the relations between Tehran and Washington can be restored. I do not see any prospect.”

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