🌍 Inside The Middle East — Nov. 25

Mike Pompeo Visit, Netanyahu and MBS Meet, PNA and Israel Resume Cooperation, al-Qaeda Leader Dies, Turkey's Kurdish Crackdown, Arabic Onion-Style Website Launches

Hello folks and happy Thanksgiving-eve to our American friends! Welcome to another edition of Inside The Middle East where we dissect the week's most important news from the world's most important region.

On today's docket we round up reactions to U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo's visit to the region; we travel to Saudi Arabia where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly net with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; to Palestine where the Palestinian National Authority has agreed to resume cooperation with Israel; to Pakistan where the leader of al-Qaeda has reportedly died; to Turkey where almost 100 Kurds have been arrested; and we finish with the news that Onion-style Arabic website al-Hudood has launched an English-language version.

This week on the podcast we had Mr. Hurricane Man Josh Morgerman on to talk about the record setting 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as how he recovers mentally after chasing a monster storm. Next week we'll have The Atlantic writer Olga Khazan on to talk about her new book Weird and why it's okay not to fit.

Job Corner

We finally did it, 1,000 journalism jobs and internships! This week’s new postings feature the likes of CNN, the Economist and the Wall Street Journal. Keep spreading the word! 🙏 👇

Job Board — w/c/ Nov. 23

Pompeo Visits the Middle East

We start this week tracking the reactions to U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s likely last major visit to the Middle East before the Trump administration departs to make way for Joe Biden’s team. Some are saying the visit is a prelude to a 2024 presidential run for Pompeo. Until then, let’s see what he’s been up to…

Israel: A controversial stop during which Pompeo visited a settlement in the occupied West Bank and the Golan Heights, a first for a U.S. secretary of state. He also declared the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement anti-Semitic, and continued to ostracize Iran.

Turkey: An odd visit where Pompeo blamed “incompatible schedules” for not meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan or any other officials. Instead Pompeo met with an Orthodox church leader to talk about religious freedom. Ankara called the move an insult.

Qatar: Pompeo held separate meetings with the Afghan government and the Taliban, one week after the U.S. announced it will cut the number of troops in Afghanistan by almost half to 2,500.

U.A.E.: In his meeting with leader Mohammed bin Zayed, Pompeo sold $23 billion (£17 billion) worth of arms including the U.S.' most advanced fighter aircraft, the F-35. Israel was previously the only other country in the region to possess an F-35, and the deal sparked controversy over whether the arms would be used in Yemen’s civil war.

Saudi Arabia: Pompeo met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a “constructive meeting” where the two discussed Iran, economic goals and human rights reform.

Netanyahu Meets MBS

Talking of meetings in Saudi Arabia, Pompeo and MBS weren’t the only ones present. They were reportedly joined by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who flew secretly to Saudi Arabia, though not covert enough for Haaretz editor Avi Scharf who spotted the flight on a flight tracking website.

The meeting was confirmed by Israel’s education minister, though Saudi’s foreign minister has since denied the meeting. It’s thought that official relations between the two countries could normalize relatively soon. Meanwhile Palestinian officials said they weren’t surprised by the meeting and hoped normalization wouldn’t happen. Hamas also condemned the visit describing it as a dangerous precedent.

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Palestinian Authority to Resume Cooperation With Israel 

Sticking with Palestine, the Palestinian National Authority announced it will resume civil and security cooperation with Israel, six months after it ended the relationship over the Israeli government’s plans to annex the West Bank. The PA said in June it would refuse to accept monthly tax transfers of more than $100 million (£74 million) from Israel during its boycott, but has said it will resume the collection which represents around 60 percent of the PA’s total revenue.

Israel also announced it will buy between three and four million Covid-19 vaccines for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza. And the Israeli government’s annexation plans have been put on ice as part of its deal with the U.A.E. and Bahrain to normalize official relations.

Al-Qaeda Leader Reportedly Dies

Moving to Pakistan next where the leader of al-Qaeda died last month from natural causes at the age of 69, reports suggest. The news that Ayman Al-Zawahiri passed was broken on Twitter by Newlines Magazine editor-in-chief Hassan Hassan, though the news is yet to be officially confirmed.

The FBI had a $25 million (£19 million) bounty on Zawahiri, who was an Egyptian physician and the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which merged with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda in 2001. When bin Laden was assassinated by U.S. troops 10 years later, Zawahiri took the helm. His death comes just days after news that the U.S. and Israel killed al-Qaeda’s no.2, Abu Mohammed Al Masri, in August. It’s currently unclear who will succeed Zawahiri.

Turkey Arrests Dozens of Kurdish Activists

In Turkey, at least 70 people have been arrested by officials, accused of having links with the Democratic Society Congress. The DTK advocates for greater rights for Turkey’s long suppressed Kurdish community, and the raids included politicians, doctors, lawyers and journalists, according to Al-Monitor.

Cihan Aydin, president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association where the arrest warrants were issued, said the only evidence against the suspects was that their names appeared in documents seized from the DTK’s offices. The crackdown comes at a time when President Erdogan has promised human rights reform ahead of an EU summit next month.

Last Time on Inside The Middle East…

🌍 Inside The Middle East — November 18

🌍 Inside The Middle East — November 11

🌍 Inside The Middle East — November 5

🌍 Inside The Middle East — October 28


Onion-Style Website Launches English Version

We end this week with the news that Arabic satirical news site al-Hudood (The Limits) has launched an English language edition. The original Arabic version has existed since 2013, and uses humour to unpick the region’s absurdities. Previous headlines have ranged from “Man’s chin well-protected from coronavirus” to “Students at local school memorize lesson in independent thinking”. Most of al-Hudood’s funding comes from the European Endowment for Democracy and the Open Society Foundations. The site’s editor-in-chief, Isam Uraiqat, is based in London.

That’s all for today, see you Friday for Picks of the Week! 👋