🌍 Inside The Middle East — Jan. 27
Biden Ends Muslim Travel Ban, First Baghdad Bombings Since 2018, Aramco Wildly Misreports Emissions, U.S. Freezes Houthi Sanctions, Netanyahu's Election Challenge, Turkey Denounces Evil Eye Charms
Happy Wednesday folks! Hope we’re all doing well. Lots to get through today, so I’ll cut the waffle and get straight to it…
I wanted to flag our call for help in sourcing and scraping new datasets to expand Data Corner. If you like numbers and want to get paid to find datasets, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. No need for a cover letter, but do include a CV/résumé to speed things up.
In today’s newsletter we look at the end of the U.S. travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries, as well as Joe Biden’s suspension of sanctions on Houthi rebels in Yemen; the first suicide bombings in the capital of Iraq in three years; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election challenge from the right; Saudi state-owned oil company Aramco failing to report its full emissions; and Turkey denouncing evil eye charms as “un-Islamic”.
Okay, let’s get it! See you again on Friday for Picks of the Week. Aina, take it away!
Job Corner ✍️
Next up are all the details you’ll need to access this week’s job board, including more than 150 deadlines in the next 10 days.
Due to a limit on the number of people that can be added to a Google Spreadsheet, I’ve made two versions listing exactly the same jobs, so no need to have access to both. If you’re a paying member, you’ll have access to one of the two below links/buttons… 👇
A few datasets we used in today’s newsletter…
Muslim Ban: U.S. visas issued per country, from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Sanctions: U.S. sanctions per country, from the U.S. Department of the Treasury
Terrorism: Global terrorism index, from Vision of Humanity
Emissions: Greenhouse gases data by company, city and country, from CDP
Biden Ends Muslim Travel Ban
We start this week with more news from new U.S. President Joe Biden’s first days in office, after he cancelled the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline last week. As it pertains to the Middle East, Biden signed another executive order that repeals Donald Trump’s travel ban on citizens from several Muslim-majority countries.
Trump signed the policy into law in his first week in the White House in 2017, but left out many countries with whom the U.S. had economic ties with. In total, more than 42,000 people from war-torn countries including Syria and Yemen were banned from entering the U.S., simply because of their country of origin as opposed to any specific wrongdoing. Biden’s reversal was part of a slew of executive orders signed to start the rehabilitation of the U.S.’ global reputation.
Biden Freezes Houthi Sanctions
Next up on the Biden beat is the new president’s decision to freeze terrorism sanctions put on the Houthi rebels fighting the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen’s civil war by the Trump administration. Former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s order took effect last week, just a day before Biden’s inauguration, which was greeted with dismay from international aid groups, with some describing Pompeo’s actions as “diplomatic vandalism”.
The reversal was welcomed by aid organizations who feared the sanctions would significantly compromise shipments of food, medicine, oil and other necessities that around 70 percent of the country relies on to survive. The move comes as part of Biden’s promise to end U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen’s civil war.
Netanyahu Faces Election Challenge From the Right
To Israel next where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be challenged in March’s general election by former ally Gideon Saar. The duo worked closely together since 1999, when Saar first entered politics as a cabinet secretary in Netanyahu’s inaugural government. Saar then assumed top posts during Netanyahu’s second run as PM, including education and interior minister, but their relationship soured as the country became rooted in political stalemate for more than two years, which will see voters go to the polls for the fourth time.
Saar split from Netanyahu’s Likud party in December to form his own party, New Hope, after multiple failed bids to unseat his former boss. Saar’s campaign is considered by most to be on the right of Netanyahu's, of which already fills most of the country’s centre-right ground. Like most Israeli right-wing politicians, Saar supports building more illegal settlements in the West Bank, and said in 2018 that “There is no two-state solution; there is at most a two-state slogan.”
First Baghdad Suicide Bomb in Three Years Kills Dozens
To Iraq next where twin suicide bombs in Baghdad killed at least 32 people and injured hundreds more. ISIS claimed responsibility for the first deadly suicide attack since January, 2018, which killed 35 people also in Tayaran Square.
Once a regular occurrence, violence had ground to a near halt since ISIS were largely defeated in 2017, but after a UN report estimated more than 10,000 ISIS fighters remain active in Iraq and Syria, more trouble could be on the horizon. And Trump's decision to cut the number of U.S. troops in Iraq from 5,200 to 2,500 won’t have helped the region’s stability.
ISIS takes responsibility for deadly Baghdad suicide bombings
Last Time on Inside The Middle East…
Aramco Fails to Report Full Emissions
Moving to Saudi Arabia next where state-owned oil firm Aramco has failed to report the true extent of its greenhouse and carbon emissions, wildly misrepresenting its total impact on the environment. Leading up to its record-breaking public listing on the country’s stock exchange in 2019, which valued the company at $1.9tn (£1.4tn), Aramco executives pedalled the line that drilling Saudi oil emits less climate-damaging emissions than elsewhere, but vast amounts of data show that’s false.
Per Bloomberg: “The Saudi oil giant excludes emissions generated from many of its refineries and petrochemical plants in its overall carbon disclosures… Including all such facilities might nearly double Aramco’s self-reported carbon footprint, adding as much as 55 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent to its annual tally—or about the emissions produced by Portugal.”
In 2019, The Guardian released figures that showed Aramco was by far the largest polluter in the world, and led a group of 20 companies that contributed a third of all carbon emissions globally.
Turkey Denounces Evil Eye Charms
We finish this week in Turkey whose state-run religious authority denounced evil eye charms as un-Islamic, saying “behaviours and beliefs that attribute the ultimate influence on anything other than Allah are forbidden”. The eye-shaped talismans, thought to thwart malicious intentions, are widespread across the Mediterranean and parts of Asia, and date back to at least 3,300 BC.
Art history professor at Istanbul’s Bahcesehir University Nese Yildiran told Al Jazeera that the blue color refers to a god of Central Asian Seljuk Turks. Many Turks believe in the superstition, but others see the charm as purely decorative. Diyanet, or Directorate of Religious Affairs, has previously condemned men dying their facial hair, playing the lottery and feeding dogs at home.
An evil eye charm 👇
That’s all for today. See you Friday for Picks of the Week! 👋