October 19, 2015

Middle East Monday Edition



Canada votes today! For a refresher on Canadian politics, see the Pnut’s Nutshell.


Attacks Continue In Israel, Politicians Confused  

A gun and knife attack in the southern Israeli city of Beersheba yesterday killed an Israeli soldier. The assailant and an innocent Eritrean bystander were also killed in the ensuing response. The attack caps a chaotic weekend of stabbings and clashes in the West Bank and on the border with Gaza. Why is there so much violence happening now? Much of the violence began after false rumors circulated around a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount (known as the Noble Sanctuary in Arabic). The site, which is a holy site for Muslims and Jews, has been administered by a complex agreement between the Israeli government and the Jordanian Waqf (religious authorities). The agreement stipulates that Jews can visit the Temple Mount but can’t pray there (they can pray at the Western Wall that borders the Temple Mount). Rumors about a change in the status quo have been propagated by Israeli right-wingers (who want to pray there) and Palestinian right-wingers (who don’t want them to). How is this different than previous incidents of violence? Many of today’s attacks occur by Israeli Arabs who are Israeli citizens. That complicates things for the Israeli government (e.g. it can’t really deploy the IDF or set up barricades within Israel) and threatens the cohesion of Israeli society. NUTS AND BOLTS: SHOULD READ

Obama Signs Iran Deal  

After years of negotiations (with the Republicans and with Iran), Obama finally got around to signing the Iran Deal. The deal, which took two presidents and at least three secretaries of state to put together, is meant to ensure a nuclear-free Iran in return for sanction relief. Obama said he is waiting for Iran to dismantle the program before companies get the green light to go in. Meanwhile, Iran is expecting a “tsunami of tourists.”
 Pnut’s Nutshell: Iran Deal  

Egypt Finally Gets Around To Voting For Parliament

Egypt, the middle child of the Arab Spring (not as successful as Tunisia and not as dysfunctional as Syria), held parliamentary elections yesterday. The country has been without a parliament since the Egyptian Supreme Court dissolved an Islamist-dominated one in 2012. Voter turnout is expected to be so low that the government decided to give public sector employees a half-day tomorrow so they can vote… inshAllah.       

Stabbing Doesn’t Slow Down German Mayor

Henriette Recker, a German mayoral candidate known for her sympathetic stance on refugees, was stabbed in the neck over the weekend in an apparent hate crime. The stabbing didn’t deter her though, as she went on to win the race for Mayor of Cologne with 52% of the vote. The stabbing underscores the rise of Germany’s far-right, which has grown stronger in the face of the refugee crisis.

#pnut4prez: Trump-Bush Debate Gets Personal, W. Gets In The Ring

Trump is back in the ring with the gloves on and the punches in full swing. His new target: W. Blaming the former president for 9/11, Trump sparred with brother Jeb on Twitter kindly reminding him to instead “focus on his own shortcomings.” When CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Jeb if his logic about his brother holds true for Hillary, indicating that she wasn’t responsible for the Benghazi attacks, the presidential candidate got a little tongue-tied to say the least.

Keeping Our Eye On…

  • Syria: The leader of an Al-Qaeda cell was killed in a US airstrike on Syria yesterday. Meanwhile Russian jets continued pounding the opposition as the Syrian government set its sights on re-taking Aleppo.
  • United CEO: Apparently the only thing worse than flying United is running United. Oscar Munoz, the CEO, was hospitalized after only one month on the job upon taking over from his predecessor who was removed abruptly.
  • China: The dragon seems to be settling in for a nap as China’s economic growth clocked in at just under 7% (the magic number) for the third quarter. The announcement is bound to make investors a bit jittery. Read more about it here.


Iceland’s Police Force All Call In Sick… On The Same Day

Iceland, a country deeply respectful of elves (and big men with big beards), doesn’t allow its police to strike. Instead, last week nearly half of the country’s officers (about 300) called in “sick” in a protest over pay and marched on Parliament. Given that Iceland has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, this is unlikely to worry the government too much. Maybe the police should get back to running their phenomenal Instagram account.
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