Here’s an overview of Al Jazeera’s coverage of the Middle East this week.
Twenty years after the war in Iraq, water scarcity in the Middle East and the start of Ramadan. Here is your overview of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Middle East and North Africa Editor of Al Jazeera Digital.
“I think things have gotten so bad in Iraq… (that) I believe we will actually be greeted as liberators.” Those words were spoken by former US Vice President, Dick Cheney, on March 16, 2003. Three days later, President George W. Bush announced that a military operation had begun, with air strikes on Baghdad. The next day, US-led coalition troops began crossing the border into Iraq and the ground invasion had begun.
This past week we looked at the events of the Iraq War and its aftermath. What were the justifications for the war and how do they hold up today? One of the intelligence files used to build the case for a war was found to be plagiarized from a thesis written by an Iraqi-American student. Now, an associate professor in California, Ibrahim al-Marashi talks about the experience and how he was propelled “on a trajectory of fame and infamy.”
The occupation of Iraq that followed the invasion led to torture in prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib – a former prisoner told his story, and the horror that will not go away. The occupation also introduced a sectarian-based political system designed to share power between Iraq’s different ethnicities and religious sects, but many Iraqis blame it for the political problems that have plagued Iraq in the years since.
And what about Iraq today? It is a country where young people complain about a corrupt elite, where the social rifts caused by the rise of ISIL (ISIS) are still deep, and where the majority of the Kurdish north has a strong desire to secede.
(READ: The US-led Iraq War and Saddam’s Arab Legacy)
But it’s also a country that’s seen some positive changes, where streets damaged by war (and civil war) have been rebuilt and bustling again. Ultimately, the legacy of the Iraq war will continue to rumble. But Bush has retreated to his painting and Saddam Hussein is long dead. What remains are the people of Iraq, now living with the consequences of an invasion that many today believe has been unwarranted and downright illegal.
A region thirsty for water
It is common knowledge that many parts of the Middle East and North Africa are arid. And yet, I was still amazed to read that seven of the 10 most water-poor countries in the world are in the region. In countries such as Bahrain and Egypt, the use of water far exceeds the supply from renewable sources. Wealthier countries in the region can survive on desalinated water, which is taken from the sea and purified. But in poorer countries, the amount of water stress means that aquifers are drained and will eventually dry up.
Ramadan and Nowruz
In Iran, as well as in Kurdish-speaking regions of Iraq, Turkey and Syria, millions of people celebrated Nowruz this week. It marks the Persian New Year and the beginning of spring. While it is a time for celebration and good food, many of those who celebrate Nowruz now also fast for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins today, Thursday, this year. The iftar meal, which breaks the fast, has traditionally been an opportunity to gather and share food, yet, with inflation rising around the world, will Muslims have to cut back on some of the traditional staples?
And now for something else
The Amazigh people of North Africa traditionally use collective granaries, built of what is called tamped earth. They are known as an agadir and are used to store food and even important documents. But in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya they are hard to find, because they have largely disappeared. But high up in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, many villagers are trying to keep the practice alive and continue their “establishment of solidarity.”
The ICC is suing Putin, but what about Israel?
Is it hypocritical for the International Criminal Court to issue an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine while ignoring Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory? That’s what Al Jazeera columnist Andrew Mitrovica answers in this op-ed. This week, Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank killed at least six Palestinians as their raids show little sign of stopping. Separately, far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich followed a statement earlier this year – calling for the destruction of a Palestinian village – by denying the existence of the Palestinian people, while standing in front of a dais holding a map of “” Greater Israel’, including Jordan. The Jordanian government was not happy.
Yemeni YouTubers Sentenced to Jail for Criticizing Houthis | Israel launches missile attack on Syrian airport in Aleppo | US ‘extremely concerned’ by new Israeli settlement law | Saudi Arabia releases US national from prison, but travel ban remains in place, says son | As Sudan’s rival forces battle for power, who will pay the price? | Ancient Pearl City Discovered in the UAE | Iran and Iraq sign deal to tighten border security | Floods destroy homes of earthquake survivors in Syria | Syria’s al-Assad in UAE for second visit to Gulf after earthquake | Kuwait voids 2022 vote and reinstates previous parliament | Qatar indicts former finance minister for bribery and embezzlement | Egyptian and Turkish foreign ministers hold first talks in Cairo in a decade | Turkey’s Erdogan backs Finland’s NATO bid | Uranium reported missing by IAEA ‘found’ in Libya | Lebanon’s Central Bank Chief Appears for Corruption Hearing | Collapsed building in Qatar kills one | Algerian president says ties with Morocco have reached a point of return |
Quote of the week
“They (Saudi Arabia and Iran) have been burning Yemen for seven years to pursue their conflicting agenda. Today they begin a new chapter of collaboration and partnership. So, what were they fighting for in Yemen?” | Ali Mohammed, the father of two sons who died during Yemen’s civil war, one for the Saudi Arabian-backed Yemeni government, the other for Iran-allied Houthi rebels. There are mixed feelings in Yemen at the prospect of a full restoration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, particularly on the anti-Houthi side. Ten Yemeni soldiers were reportedly killed this week in a Houthi attack, in one of the worst outbreaks of violence since early last year.