FOCUS on Pariah Leaders: Bashar al-Assad

In early October, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received a phone call from King Abdullah II of Jordan, their first since Abdullah called for Assad to step down in 2011 during the Arab Spring, according to Al Jazeera. Jordan is not alone in normalizing relations with their estranged Arab neighbor—Egypt and the UAE have both contacted the Syrian government. Jordan and the UAE have come to agreements to improve economic ties and resume trade with Syria, despite U.S. sanctions.

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Lebanese Minister Criticizes Yemen War, Sparking Diplomatic Spat with Gulf Nations

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries have announced the removal of Lebanese envoys, following statements made by the Lebanese Minister about the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. The Gulf nations have also enacted a blanket ban on all imports from Lebanon, according to BBC News.

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Turkish President Erdogan Expels Ten Ambassadors for Backing Jailed Philanthropist

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared ten ambassadors “persona non grata” after they advocated for the release of a jailed philanthropist, reports The New York Times. Businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala has been in jail in Turkey since 2017, despite having never been convicted of a crime.

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Iraqi Election Yields Historically Low Turnout

On October 10, Iraq held their sixth parliamentary election since the fall of Saddam Hussein after the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, reports The New York Times. The parliamentary election decides the 329 members of the Council of Representatives who elect Iraq’s president and confirm the prime minister.

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Israel to Require Booster Shots for Fully Vaccinated Individuals

Israel has invalidated approximately 2 million vaccine passports after requiring individuals to have a COVID-19 booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated. The country is now requiring the third dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination for those 12 years of age or older, with the exception of those who received their second dose or tested positive for COVID-19 within the last six months.

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Turkey-U.S. Relations Deteriorating as Turkey Seeks Russian Alliance

On September 24, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey will consider buying a second S-400 missile system from Russia, drawing international scrutiny. This announcement concerned United States defense officials, particularly following the events of 2020, in which Turkey was kicked out of NATO’s F-35 program for similar actions, reports ABC News.

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FOCUS on Afghanistan: Women

Since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s takeover of the country, many questions have arisen regarding women’s rights in the country. The Taliban announced that they would lead an inclusive government where women would work “shoulder to shoulder” with men, promising to govern differently than before, says Al Jazeera.

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FOCUS on Afghanistan: The Taliban

On Tuesday, September 21, the Taliban requested to address world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and nominated Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s UN ambassador, according to Reuters. This was one of many strategic efforts by the Taliban as it continues to woo world leaders in a bid for recognition as the official political authority in Afghanistan. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries that recognized the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

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