Why does ISIS destroy priceless historical artifacts?

I found this interesting video made by the BBC, which explains in a minute why the Islamic State is so ruthless with ancient buildings and artwork.

The simple answer is: the Islamic State views ancient, paganistic gods and culture as blasphemy, and they don’t want it in their territory. They have also been known to sell recovered ancient artifacts on the black market as a profit.


What does a Trump presidency mean for Middle East foreign policy?

Trump speaks next to his family after winning the election.

Well, Arabs may prefer Clinton, but that’s not going to make much of a difference now.

Today at around three in the morning, President-elect Donald Trump accepted his electoral college victory in a large hall, where he largely stuck to the script, and had some kind words for Clinton, despite his previous record of saying otherwise.

Trump is fairly isolationist compared to previous Republican nominees for president, and is much moreso than Clinton, who voted for the Iraq war and has said she wants a no-fly zone over Syria in order to halt Russian aggression.

He has previously called for more compensation from NATO allies for the US’s protection, so perhaps we’ll see some outrageous demands for cash, or a lessening of US involvement in the treaty. Trump has cozied up to Russia, so perhaps we’ll see him withdraw or lessen support for rebels in Syria.

He has also made outrageous remarks about ‘taking oil’ from countries we help in the past, but hopefully he won’t ever actually do that. As I said a few months ago, it’s  just a terrible idea.

As for his ban on Muslim immigration, it seems he may be walking it back somewhat. He has promised that he will use ‘extreme vetting’ with immigrants from Middle Eastern countries in his plan for the first 100 days, but what that means exactly isn’t clear.

An interesting opinion piece touched on the idea that Trump could actually be better for the Middle East than Clinton, because he is less hawkish. You can read that here.

For more details on his foreign policy with the Middle East, we’re going to need a lot more than his vagaries before the election, especially given Trump’s tendency to flip-flop.

Poll finds Arabs prefer Clinton

Some of the poll results.

In a poll conducted by YouGov and Arab News, the results showed Clinton with a large lead over Trump in likability, how Arabs would vote, and who is perceived to be better for the Arab world.

It’s interesting that this poll conflicts with a recent Al-Arabiya/Evey poll, which found that Arab men preferred Trump by a large margin, and that Arabs overall preferred Trump.

It should be mentioned however, that the YouGov poll is more credible. YouGov has been around for awhile, and conducts accurate Internet polls, according to the FiveThirtyEight Pollster Ratings, whereas I have never even heard of Evey, and couldn’t find anything about it except for its LinkedIn page. Also, Evey apparently uses a phone app to conduct its polling, which may mean that it doesn’t draw from a random sample.

If Clinton is actually preferred among Arabs, which is more likely, it’s not surprising why Trump would be frowned upon. He has received a lot of flak for his call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration ‘until we can figure out what is going on’ – and a lot of Arabs and Middle Easterners probably weren’t amused by it.

What do you think these surveys reflect about Arabs’ opinions on the candidates and the presidential race? Let me know in the comments!

Islamic State leader claims Turkey is the next target for invasion in audio tape

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi speaks in a video released by the Islamic State.

In strikingly bold terms for a militant group that has been gradually pushed back out of half of its territory, the de-facto leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for an invasion of Turkey as Iraqi and Kurdish troops push into the ‘capital’ of ISIS, Mosul.

The audio was released on the Islamic State site, and appears to be an attempt at a morale boost for ISIS fighters currently battling for control of Mosul. Baghdadi also expresses confidence that the invasion into Mosul will be repelled, despite being massively under-equipped and having about a third of the number of troops.

So will ISIS try an invasion of Turkey? I seriously doubt it. It would be a huge mistake to even try. While ISIS has been able to gain a large amount of Iraqi territory, it hasn’t even managed to finish off the gridlocked and morale-lacking Iraqi government. The Turkish government and military is far more effective, is a part of the NATO alliance, and there is no way ISIS would have enough fighters to hold its Iraqi territory AND push into Turkey.

The only reason that this audio tape seems to exist is a morale boost to fighters who believe in ISIS’s proclaimed mission to conquer all the way to Rome. The Islamic State invading Turkey at this point is such a bad idea it’s almost comical.

Reporters Without Borders – Erdogan is an ‘enemy’ of the press

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an interview.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has always received a lot of flak for his authoritarian tendencies, one of which is his unsettling tendency to shut down press and media that disagrees or opposes him. And his tendency has only gotten worse since the failed Turkish coup, with his following purge eliminating more than 120 media outlets, and  with more than 125 journalists still in prison.

In a damning report, Reporters Without Borders added Erdogan to a list of 35 ‘Enemies of Press Freedom’, made up of anti-free press leaders and organizations. In the report, RSF (as their French acronym goes) stated that Erdogan only allowed media that was “submissive and docile and sang his praises”. It also stated that Erdogan hid his “aggressive dictatorship under a veneer of democracy”.

Turkey’s ranking in the 2016 World Press Freedom Index has also gone down since last year, from 149th to 151st. The list includes 180 countries, so that ranking is quite bad. In 2008, when Erdogan ally Abdullah Gul first took charge as president of Turkey, Turkey’s ranking was 102nd.

More recently, Erdogan has come under fire for detaining the top staff of a popular opposition newspaper, Cumhuriyet. Turkey may have a ways to go before its media can recover from the blows dealt by the Justice and Development party.

Egypt’s currency value drops by fifty percent in one day


As part of the Egyptian government’s initiative to resuscitate its failing economy, they are trying to receive a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, a bank and organization dedicated to fostering free trade and financial stability. But in order to be eligible for the loan, Egypt had to ‘float’ its currency.

Egypt for years has had its currency ‘pegged’ to the US dollar, meaning that as the dollar fluctuated in value, its own currency would follow suit. That meant that Egypt had a stable currency that was relatively strong. But now, Egypt has removed its attachment to the US dollar, so its currency’s value is now determined by its own usage rather than the US dollar’s value.

As you can probably tell from the massive drop in value, Egypt’s currency was massively overvalued. Objects that were 5 Egyptian pounds yesterday should now cost 10, which will pose hardships for poor Egyptians in the meantime. In a country where nearly 27% of the population is below the poverty line, that’s not a good thing.

But the hope is that the shifting of its currency will allow for more foreign investment, make it more competitive on a global market, and help to decrease the growing inflation that Egypt is currently facing.


Former vice president of Egypt defers responsibility for 2013 massacre


After a three year silence on a massacre that killed 800 and injured nearly 4000, former Egyptian vice president Mohamed el-Baradei has finally addressed it.

In a lengthy post on Facebook, Baradei said that he opposed the violent dispersal of protestors in Rabaa, and that the state-run media was spreading misinformation to discredit him.

The Rabaa massacre, in which Egyptian security forces raided protester camps in Cairo, is one of the bloodiest days in Egypt after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. After the revolution, military leader and Islamist Mohamed Morsi became the president, but was quickly deposed in 2013 after massive protests.

But supporters of Morsi were also among the protesters, and many were situated in two camps in Cairo. There were plans to try and have the protesters disperse peacefully, but after the plans were leaked, the pro-Morsi protesters started fortifying themselves in with sandbags, bricks, and concrete barriers.

So police in riot gear invaded to try and clear the protest camps, using live ammo and tear gas. Helicopters were present over the camp, and snipers protected police from the rooftops.

The news of the massacre led to even more chaos, with Muslim Brotherhood supporters attacking government buildings and barricading themselves in a mosque. The Egyptian government declared a state of emergency for a full month.