Week of February 10

Iraqi women have participated in anti-government protests in a number of ways, including as first aid responders, artists, cooks and online activists. Credit: Sofia Barbarani/Al Jazeera

On Wednesday, President Trump urged the U.S. Senate to reject a bipartisan war powers resolution curbing his authority to engage in acts of war with Iran. He tweeted, “It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness. Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani….” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., author of the resolution, introduced it in January after a drone strike, authorized by Trump, killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Nonetheless, the Senate passed a bipartisan war powers resolution on Thursday aimed at reining in Trump’s ability to use military action against Iran without prior congressional approval. The resolution underscores that congress has the sole power to declare war, as laid out in the constitution, and also requires that any hostilities with Iran must be explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force. It does not prevent the U.S. from defending itself from an imminent attack. Eight Republican senators joined all 47 Democrats in support of the resolution. The resolution now heads to the House, where it is expected to pass. Trump, in turn, is expected to veto the resolution once it reaches his desk, and the Senate does not currently have the 67 votes needed to override his veto.

Also on Thursday, a U.N. spokesperson told Reuters that since December, more than 800,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, have fled their homes during a Russian-backed Syrian military campaign to clear the opposition in northwest Syria. The exodus is expected to continue, with thousands of people on the move as whole towns and communities flee to the safety of areas near the Turkish border. Russian jets and Syrian artillery have pounded towns and villages since early December in a renewed assault backed by pro-Iranian militias and aimed at clearing the opposition. U.N. officials say the region is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. Those on the run in Idlib and adjoining Aleppo province are joining close to 400,000 people who fled earlier bouts of fighting to the safety of camps near the Turkish border. The New York Times reported that “families fleeing air strikes and advancing troops in Syria’s Idlib province are sleeping rough in streets and olive groves, and burning toxic bundles of rubbish to stay warm in the biting winter weather.”

On Thursday,  men and women of all backgrounds came together in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square in a march – organized and led by women – in defiance of a Twitter post by Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr that called for gender segregation in the anti-government rallies that have swept across the capital and southern cities. This new generation of demonstrations has been fueled by long-standing grievances, with Iraqis of all stripes taking to the streets to demand basic services, more job opportunities and an end to government corruption and foreign interference in the country. Women have been at the forefront of the movement and one result of their participation has been that the country’s gender dynamics have started to shift as more women carve out a place for themselves in the country’s public sphere. They have the support of their male counterparts; at the march, men linked arms to form a protective chain around the women. However, that night, al-Sadr took to Twitter again, calling the march sinful and warning against the country’s moral demise: “We shall not be slaves to temptation and the infidel West,” he said.

On Friday, the United States and Taliban reached an agreement to reduce violence for seven days. The reduction in violence had been a key U.S. demand since President Donald Trump called for negotiations last fall, and the the seven-day deal could open the door to a larger agreement that ends U.S. deployment in Afghanistan, according to a senior State Department official. A Taliban source told ABC News the reduction would begin on Feb. 22, with plans for the two sides to sign the larger agreement on Feb. 29 and Afghan national peace talks to begin March 10. The agreement applies nationwide and includes Afghan government forces, as well as the U.S. and Taliban. Roadside bombs, suicide bombs and rocket attacks are prohibited but it’s unclear if some military activity will be allowed. The U.S. military will monitor the reduction and use a hotline to raise any violations or other issues.

Ivanka Trump speaks at the Global Women’s Forum in Dubai on Sunday, congratulating several Arab countries for instituting significant reforms over the past two years. Credit: Arab News

On Sunday, Ivanka Trump commended Saudi Arabia for its efforts in empowering women by changing laws to respect women’s freedom of movement and access to credit and financial services. Speaking on the first day of the Global Women’s Forum, organized by the Dubai Women Establishment, Trump, adviser to her father, congratulated the kingdom and other countries in the region for instituting significant reforms over the past two years. However, she said too many women continue to face obstacles to entering the workforce, which has an immense impact on national and regional growth. In the region, women’s economic equality has the potential to add $600 billion to the global annual GDP by 2025. “This number represents far more than an economic boom,” Trump said. “It represents millions of lives full of promise, mothers who can provide for their children, daughters who could be the first to graduate high school, and young women who could start businesses and become job creators. This is the future that we can and must achieve together.”

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