This Week in Middle East History – July 15th – 21st

Mohammad Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan who was deposed in July 1972 after forty years of peacefully ruling Afghanistan

Siege of Jerusalem – July 15th, 1099 – The Crusaders from Western Europe ended a month-long siege of Jerusalem by storming the city walls and taking control of the entire city.  Once the Crusaders entered the city they proceeded to forget their holy intentions and massacre most of the inhabitants of the city, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew.  By taking Jerusalem the Crusaders fulfilled their original objective and began a series of European kingdoms in the Levant that would last for almost two centuries.

– Beginning of the Islamic Calendar – July 16th, 622 – The Islamic calendar began its reckoning from the day that Muhammad left Mecca on his way to the city of Yathrib (to be renamed Medina).  This lunar calendar is used by all Muslims around the world and compromises the second most used calendar system to the European Gregorian calendar.

Abdul Rahman Arif is deposed – July 17th, 1968 – Arif, the third president of Iraq (from 1966 to 1968) was overthrown in a bloodless coup orchestrated by members of the Baath party that would later become infamous as the original party of future dictator Saddam Hussein.

Mohammed Zahir Shah is deposed – July 17th, 1973 – Zahir Shah was the last king of Afghanistan who ruled for over four decades until he was overthrown by an ex-Prime Minister while in Italy undergoing eye surgery.  Following his fall from power Afghanistan became a republic for the first time in its history.

– Birth of Ismail I – July 17th, 1487 – Ismail I was the first leader of the Safavid dynasty that would come to rule over much of Iran and neighboring countries until its fall in the mid 18th-century.  The Safavids brought about a rebirth in Iranian culture and power while also contesting the Ottoman Empire as the most powerful Muslim empire in the world.

Battle of Mirbat – July 19th, 1972 – A battle occurring during the Dhofar Rebellion in Oman that pitted the democratic, British supported, Omani government against the communist Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman that was supported the communist government of South Yemen.  Mirbat signified a significant victory on the Omani government’s long road to eventual total victory against the rebels within its territory.

Siege of Jerusalem – July 70 AD – The Roman forces, led by future emperor Titus, succeeded in capturing the city from the Jewish rebels who had revolted against Roman control three years earlier.  When the Romans entered the city they massacred many of the inhabitants, with estimates ranging up to almost one million killed.  They also destroyed the Temple of Solomon, which dealt a psychological blow to the Jewish people that still resonates to this day.

Middle East News – July 19th

The suicide blast on an Israeli tourist bus in Bulgaria has been blamed on Iran by Israeli media sources. Iran’s government has called these claims ‘ridiculous.’

– Russia and China voted yesterday against a UN resolution to introduce further sanction on Assad’s embattled Syrian regime.  Their veto prompted angry responses from Western nations who are ‘appalled’ by both countries’ apparent lack of concern for the Syrian situation – BBC

– Israel has announced that they will actively try to stop Syrian refugees from entering into Israel through the Golan Heights – Al-Bawaba

– Assad emerged on a state-wide Syrian television broadcast yesterday amid speculation as to his whereabouts following deadly attacks on high up members of his cabinet in the capital of Damascus – CNN – Meanwhile, Assad is staying away from Damascus due to the heavy fighting occurring there – Al-Bawaba

– Naharri Mohammed Ali Naharri, a 13-year old imprisoned for the last fourteen months for her role in Arab Spring protests in Yemen, has been released and spoken out about her jail sentence.  She says she was tortured and blindfolded repeatedly and showed off her many scars to the cameras. – Al-Bawaba

– Jews worldwide mourn the death of Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, age 102, a prominent orthodox rabbi who was one of the most respected voices on Torah law in the world – BBC

– Iran has denied Israeli claims that it was involved in the recent suicide attack on Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, calling these claims ‘ridiculous’ – Al-Jazeera

Middle East News – July 18th

– Tens of thousands of textile labororers in northern Egypt have gone on strike to ask for higher wages.  This will be the first significant test for newly elected Mohamed Morsi, as spreading labor unrest will further handicap Egypt’s ability to pay back its international debts – Al-Jazeera

– Yesterday three top officials in the Assad regime were killed in Damascus, prompting US officials to declare that Assad is slowly ‘losing control’ of the country – BBC – Assad’s brother-in-law was among the dead in Damascus – Al-Bawaba

– An interesting spread about the Olympic athletes who persevered through the turmoil of the Arab Spring and hope to proudly represent their countries in the rapidly approaching London Olympics – CNN

– A bomb attack has killed seven Israeli tourists traveling near the Bulgarian city of Burgas.  The Israeli government has blamed Iran for this attack, the latest in a series of attacks blamed by Israel on Iran – BBC

– Relatives of three Americans killed in drone strikes on Al-Qaeda forces in Yemen have filed suit against the US government.  They allege that the attacks were illegal and unconstitutional – BBC

– Yemen’s president has announced the detainment of a group of terrorists apparently funded by Iran.  Following this arrest he released a strongly worded statement warning Iran to stay out of Yemen and quit interfering – BBC

Middle East News – July 17th

The Sudanese pound has inflated 37% in value in the last few months, further signs that Sudan’s already impoverished economy is unraveling

– An alliance of political parties generally seen as liberal have made substantial gains in the first democratic election in Libya after the fall of the Gaddafi regime – BBC

– India has asked the United Arab Emirates to investigate an incident yesterday where a US navy ship fired upon Indian fishermen off the coast of the UAE, killing one – Al-Jazeera

– Israel has announced that it will construct the first ever university in the West Bank on the confines of one of the many controversial settlements in that reason – BBC

– Fighting in the Syrian capital of Damascus intensified today with dozens of casualties reported and Syrian soldiers attacking rebels in helicopter gunships – CNN

– The United States has announced that it is building a ‘missile defense radar’ in Qatar, a sign that the two countries are cooperating at a higher degree as tensions with neighboring Iran increase – Al-Jazeera

– The Red Cross’ announcement declaring the Syrian conflict as a ‘civil war’ is seen by some to be evidence that the Geneva Convention rules under which the Red Cross made this declaration could be used to end the violence in Syria – CNN

– The Sudanese pound continues to lose ground to the US dollar, continuing recent trends of rapid inflation that can only hurt an already floundering economy – Al-Bawaba

– Israel’s Kadima party has left the coalition formed by Prime Minister Ben Netanyahu over disputes concerning Netanyahu’s desire to extend military conscription to ultra-Orthodox Jews – BBC

Middle East News – July 16th

The USS Rappahannock, the vessel which fired on a small motor boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates as tensions between the United States and Iran heighten

– US Secretary of Defense, Hilary Clinton, has declared that the United States will do everything within its power in order to prevent Iran from finishing their nuclear weapons program – BBC

– Saudi Arabia’s intelligence has experienced a major leak in what has been called the equivalent of the security leak experienced by Syria in the past month – Al-Bawaba

– A US Navy vessel fired on a small motor boat off the coast of the United Arab Emirates after the boat refused to acknowledge the hails of the US ship, killing one.  This comes as US naval presence is the Persian Gulf heightens in reaction to Iran’s threats to close the Straits of Hormuz – BBC

– Russia has issued a stern declaration against Saudi Arabia’s continued suppression of the pro-democracy protests in Eastern Saudi Arabia in the past week – Al-Bawaba

– Ex-Egyptian President Mubarak has been ordered back to prison after officials remarked that his health has improved dramatically – BBC

– A key defector from the Syria regime has stated that the Assad regime will not hesitate to use chemical weapons in its fight against rebel forces – BBC

– Relatives of inmates held in Gaza prisons have been allowed to visit those imprisoned for the first time in five years in a dramatic change in Israeli policy – BBC

Middle East News – July 15th

Field Marshal Tantawi, the Egyptian general who has vowed to keep ‘certain political groups’ from gaining too much control in the country

– The Syrian government is actively moving around chemical weapons stockpiles in order to keep them safe and away from ‘rebel’ hands – CNN

– The United Arab Emirates has completed a pipeline that allows oil to be shipped passed the Straits of Hormuz, meaning that Iranian threats the block the straits are no longer a threat to the region’s oil supplies – Al-Jazeera

– The United States’ influence in the Middle East is rapidly waning, especially in Egypt and Israel – CNN

– Field Marshall Tantawi, leader of Egypt’s military, says that he will ‘push back’ against political groups, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, to make sure no particular group takes control of the country – Al-Jazeera

– One of Syria’s top diplomats who recently defected has publicly said that the only way to topple the Assad regime will be through force, not diplomacy – CNN

– Religious police in Iran have begun to target cafes all over the culture for sponsoring ‘anti-religious’ activity, such as the smoking of hookah by women – Al-Jazeera

– Arab youths are not reading as much as in generation’s past, continuing a decade of literacy decline in the Arab world – Al-Bawaba

– Iran has offered to host diplomatic talks relating to the Syrian conflicts, though no other countries have yet taken them up on their offer – CNN

– The Red Cross has officially (and finally) declared that the conflict in Syria is a civil war, which means that international humanitarian aid can now be sent to the country – Al-Jazeera

– Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has accused the Iranian government of sponsoring a recently foiled terrorist attack on ‘Israeli interests’ in Cyprus – Al-Bawaba