Week of August 28th

  • Jordan’s relations with Israel remain strained after an Israeli security officer shot a delivery driver at the embassy in Amman in July. The Jordanian government is reportedly refusing to allow the return of the Israeli ambassador to the country. Additionally, Ynet news reported that no visas are being issued to the respective country’s citizens, meaning that “thousands of Jordanians and Palestinians [who are] living in Jordan cannot enter Israel through the Allenby crossing” and “163 passports of Jordanian citizens waiting to receive a visa to Israel have been held in a safe of the Israeli embassy in Jordan.” Jordan wants assurances that the security guard will be prosecuted for the Jordanian’s death. Israel expects to assign a new ambassador to overcome the impasse.
  • More positive bilateral relations could be found elsewhere in Jordan. Signally further progress of the imminent defeat of the Islamic State, Iraq’s main international border crossing with Jordan and a key trade route, officially reopened Wednesday after being officially closed for three years. Privately-owned U.S. security firms, along with Iraqi ground and air forces, will be responsible for safety along the 500-kilometer route from Baghdad to Amman, which goes through Iraq’s Anbar province. Iraqi forces have cleared areas near the highway of Islamic State militants in recent months, and parts of the route, including a number of bridges and overpasses, were rebuilt or repaired. The Iraqi parliament agreed to allow U.S. security firms to oversee the highway, after a long and heated debate.
  • Also on Wednesday came a public acknowledgment from the Pentagon that the United States has about 11,000 troops in Afghanistan, confirming suspicions that the total forces there are higher than formally disclosed in recent years. Previously, Defense Department officials had said 8,400 troops were in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. An additional 2,000 American troops, which military officials have not publicly acknowledged, are in Afghanistan to help local forces conduct counter-terrorism missions. The new count includes covert as well as temporary units, defense officials said. The disclosure came after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis expressed frustration with how troops in war zones were counted. To get around Obama-era restrictions on the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, commanders sometimes resorted to ad hoc arrangements.
  • School playgrounds across Syria are being transformed into vegetable gardens where children whose diets have been devastated by six years of war can learn to grow – and then eat – eggplant, lettuces, peppers, cabbages and cucumbers. “The ongoing crisis in Syria is having a devastating effect on the health and nutrition of an entire generation of children,” Adam Yao, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) acting representative in Syria, said on Tuesday, ahead of the start of the new school year. FAO is helping some 17 primary schools in both government and opposition-controlled areas to plant up 500 meter-square fruit and vegetable plots in war-torn areas. So far the primary schools, which began planting in May, have produced 12 tonnes of fruit and vegetables. Another 35 schools are expected to start transforming their playgrounds soon in Aleppo and in rural areas around Damascus.
  • An Afghan refugee who was personally affected by the years of harsh gender restrictions completed her education abroad and return to Herat to open Afghanistan’s first all-female coding schoolCode to Inspire. With $20,000 raised on IndieGoGo and 20 laptops, the school opened its doors in 2015 to 50 girls between the ages of 14 and 25, offering free two-year-long after-school courses. One is an introduction to coding for young high school girls and teaches basics like HTML, JavaScript, CSS and WordPress. Another is focused on graphic design for mobile apps and games. Another focuses on game design. Ultimately, CTI helps the girls build the necessary skills to empower them financially and socially.
  • Finally, in an attempt to avoid being added to the U.N.’s Child Rights Blacklist for its role in the death of civilians in Yemen, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has devoted enormous time and effort in recent days to emphasizing how much aid their kingdom has given to the country’s war-ravaged population. In at least three events last week at the United Nations, the Saudis stressed that they are, by far, the top donors of food, medicine and money to their neighbor. The effort to overcome negative perceptions comes follows a letter campaign to the UN Human Rights Council by 57 human rights organizations calling for the creation of an independent body to look into violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian laws.
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