Twenty years on from the Iraq War, water scarcity in the Middle East, and the start of Ramadan. Here’s your round up of our coverage, written by Abubakr Al-Shamahi, Al Jazeera Digital’s Middle East and North Africa editor.
“I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq … [that] my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” Those words were uttered by the 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 attacks pummelling Baghdad. The next day, troops from the US-led coalition began crossing the border into Iraq, and the ground invasion had begun.
Over the past week we’ve been looking at the events of the Iraq war, and its aftermath. What were the justifications for the war, and how do they stand up today? One of the intelligence dossiers used to build the case for a war turned out to have been plagiarised from a dissertation written by an Iraqi-American student. Now, an associate professor in California, Ibrahim al-Marashi recounts 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 at prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib — one former detainee recounted his story, and the horror that won’t go away. The occupation also introduced a sectarian-based political system designed to share power among Iraq’s various ethnicities and religious sects, but many Iraqis blame it for the political problems that have plagued Iraq in the years since.
And what of Iraq today? It’s a country where young people complain of a corrupt elite, where the societal ruptures caused by the emergence of ISIL (ISIS) still run deep, and where the majority Kurdish north has a strong desire to secede.
But it’s also a country that has undergone some positive change, where streets damaged by war (and civil war) have been rebuilt and are bustling once again. Ultimately, the legacy of the Iraq war will rumble on. But Bush has retired to his painting, and Saddam Hussein is long dead. What’s left are the people of Iraq, who now live with the consequences of an invasion that many today see as having been unjustifiable and downright illegal.
A Region Thirsting for Water
It’s common knowledge that many parts of the Middle East and North Africa are arid. And yet I was still taken aback reading that seven out of the 10 most water-stressed nations in the world are in the region. In countries like Bahrain and Egypt, the usage of water far outstrips the supply from renewable sources. Richer countries in the region are able to survive on desalinated water, drawn from the sea and treated. But in poorer countries the amount of water stress means that aquifers are being drained, and will eventually run dry.
Ramadan and Nowruz
In Iran, as well as 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. Although a time for celebration and good food, many of those celebrating Nowruz are also now fasting for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which this year begins today, Thursday. The iftar meal, which breaks the fast, is traditionally an opportunity to gather and share food, and yet, with inflation rising around the world, will Muslims have to cut back on some of the traditional staples?
And Now for Something Different
The Amazigh people of North Africa have traditionally used collective granaries, built of what’s called rammed earth. Known as an agadir, they’re used to store food and even important documents. But in Algeria, Tunisia and Libya they’re hard to find, having mostly disappeared. High up in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, though, many villagers are trying to keep the practice alive, and continue their “institution of solidarity”.
The ICC Charges 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 the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory? That’s what Al Jazeera columnist Andrew Mitrovica answers in this opinion piece. This week, Israeli forces killed at least six Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, as their raids show few signs of letting up. Separately, far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich followed up a statement earlier this year — calling for a Palestinian village to be wiped out – by denying the very existence of the Palestinian people, all while standing in front of a podium bearing a map of ‘Greater Israel’ that included Jordan. The Jordanian government was not happy.
Yemeni YouTubers sentenced to prison after criticising Houthis | Israel launches missile attack on Syria’s Aleppo Airport | US ‘extremely troubled’ by new Israeli settlement law | Saudi Arabia releases US national from prison, but travel ban remains, says son | As Sudan’s rival forces vie for power, who pays the price? | Ancient pearl town discovered in the UAE | Iran and Iraq sign deal to tighten border security | Floods destroy homes of quake survivors in Syria | Syria’s al-Assad in UAE for second post-quake Gulf visit | Kuwait nullifies 2022 vote and reinstates previous parliament | Qatar charges ex-finance minister with bribery and embezzlement | Egyptian and Turkish foreign ministers hold first Cairo talks in a decade | Turkey’s Erdogan backs Finland’s NATO bid | Uranium reported missing by IAEA ‘recovered’ in Libya | Lebanon’s central bank chief appears before corruption hearing | Building collapse in Qatar kills one | Algerian president says Morocco ties have reached point of no return |
Quote of the Week
“They [Saudi Arabia and Iran] have set Yemen on fire for seven years in pursuit of their conflicting agenda. Today, they begin a new chapter of cooperation and partnership. So, what were they fighting for in Yemen?” | Ali Mohammed, the father of two sons who died fighting in the civil war in Yemen, one for the Saudi-backed Yemeni government, the other for the Iran-allied Houthi rebels. There have been 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 reported to have been killed after a Houthi attack this week, in one of the worst flare-ups of violence since the start of last year.