Week of November 4

Ivanka Trump, the daughter and senior adviser to President Donald Trump, is greeted by Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco and is offered dates and milk, as she arrives in Rabat, Morocco, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019, where she will promote a global economical program for women. Credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

On Monday morning, the older sister of former ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was detained by Turkish security officials. Rasmiya Awad was found in Turkish-controlled northern Syria. According to women held by Baghdadi and “senior aides interviews after their capture,” the former leader was very secretive. They assert that Baghdadi only trusted family members and a group of associates. Officials anticipate that Awad will have insight into the workings of the Islamic State but a senior research fellow at the Soufan Center warned not to expect a “gold mine” of information; even if Awad had insider access to vital ISIS information, the likelihood of her passing her knowledge on to Turkish authorities is another story. Update: On Wednesday morning, Turkish president announced that Turkish security forces had detained one of al-Baghdadi’s wives along with Rasmiya Awad’s husband.   

Russian mercenaries arrived in Libya six weeks ago and are wreaking havoc on the country’s population, which is caught in the middle of a conflict between two rival governments. Medics have recorded injuries such as “narrow holes in a head or a torso left by bullets that kill instantly and never exit the body.” The New York Times says there are an estimated 200 Russian mercenaries that are a part of the “campaign by the Kremlin to reassert its influence across the Middle East and Africa.” Russia has intervened in Libya’s civil war on behalf of Khalifa Hifter, a military leader supported by the UAE, Egypt, and France. For four years, Russia has given financial and tactical support to Hifter, who controls the eastern part of the country. But it has now introduced advanced Sukhoi jets, coordinated missile strikes, and precision-guided artillery, as well as the snipers to an already-chaotic situation. These same tactics drastically altered the course of the Syrian civil war. Hifter has been at war for five years with Libyan authorities that are supported by the United States.

On Wednesday morning, a man stabbed eight people at an archaeological site in Jerash, Jordan. The attacker was believed to have acted alone and was arrested shortly after the attack. Half of the victims were Jordanian, three were visiting from Mexico, and the last victim was from Switzerland. Of the victims, the Swiss national and one of the Jordanians, a policeman, were in critical condition, while the other six victims were stable. Jordan’s economy relies heavily on tourism but for several years, tourism in Jerash suffered due to the country’s proximity to Syria. Since 2017, Jordan’s economy has rebounded due to an uptick in international visitors but officials worry that attacks such as this could threaten the country’s delicate economy. 

Also on Wednesday, CNN reported that the U.S. is investigating whether Turkey violated agreements with Washington about the use of U.S.-provided weapons and equipment, including whether Ankara improperly transferred U.S.-supplied weapons to its proxies in Syria, groups that some U.S. officials say may have committed war crimes as part of the Turkish-led incursion targeting America’s Kurdish allies. Israel has been assisting the Kurds battered by the incursion, seeing them as a counterweight to Iranian influence and advocating for them in talks with the United States, Israeli’s deputy Israeli foreign minister said on Wednesday. Ankara launched its assault targeting the Kurdish YPG militia after the abrupt withdrawal of 1,000 U.S. troops from northern Syria in early October, a move Kurds deemed a betrayal by Washington, their partner in fighting Islamic State. In a rare public dissent with U.S. President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered humanitarian aid to the “gallant Kurdish people” on Oct. 10, saying they faced possible “ethnic cleansing” by Turkey and its Syrian allies. The troubling news that Turkey may have used American weapons against Kurdish civilians came as President Trump confirmed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit the White House for a high-profile meeting that has been opposed by several members of Congress who have condemned the Turkish incursion and called for sanctions.

Ivanka Trump received a warm welcome in Morocco on Wednesday as she opened a three-day visit to promote the economic empowerment of women in developing countries. Morocco’s Princess Lalla Meryem, Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita and other officials met the daughter of President Donald Trump at the airport in the capital of Rabat. White-gloved servers offered traditional staples of dates and milk. Ivanka, an advisor to her father, was visiting the North African kingdom to promote the U.S. government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, which she spearheads.

On Saturday, a spokesperson for Iran’s atomic agency defended the government’s decision to block a U.N. inspector from touring a nuclear facility. The spokesman said Iran had done nothing wrong because the inspector allegedly tested positive for suspected traces of explosive nitrates. The spokesman said that Iran was allowed to do this under the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency This is the first known instance of Iran blocking an inspector. The once-lauded Nuclear Deal has been is struggling to survive since the U.S. unilaterally pulled out of the deal. Other parties of the agreement tried to work around the subsequent American sanctions but there has been little incentive for Iran to remain committed to the agreement. Iran announced plans on Wednesday to reactivate its most sensitive nuclear production site, a deep, underground uranium enrichment center, in a step that dismantles more of the last major restrictions on the country under the 2015 nuclear deal. 

President Rouhani announces the discovery of a new oil field. Credit: Iranian Presidential Office, via EPA

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Iran’s President Rouhani announced that a new oil field had been discovered in the southern part of the country. The field allegedly contains more than 50 million barrels of crude oil, which would boost Iran’s oil reserves by about a third. However, Iran is struggling to capitalize on its energy resources in part due to the crushing American sanctions that prohibit Iran from exporting its oil and punish other countries who purchase it. The discovery has not been independently verified; some suggest Rouhani used the opportunity to boost the spirits of Iranian citizens or taunt President Trump: “I am telling the White House that in the days when you sanctioned the sale of Iranian oil, the country’s workers and engineers were able to discover 53 billion barrels of oil,” Mr. Rouhani said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency.


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