The World Today for October 30, 2023

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Something Old, Something New


Simon Maghakyan, a visiting scholar at Tufts University who studies heritage crime, recently warned in Time magazine that Azerbaijan intends to invade Armenia. This attack would come on the heels of Azerbaijan’s September invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, a historically Armenian ethnic enclave within Azerbaijani territory, and the subsequent campaign of ethnic cleansing in the ancient region, Maghakyan argued.

Unfortunately, his claims are not far-fetched, say other researchers. When they overran Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijani forces displaced over 100,000 ethnic Armenians, or around 85 percent of the population, from their homes, reported ABC News.

“The ethnic Armenian population of the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan, a largely Christian community in a predominantly Muslim nation, is experiencing ethnic cleansing at warp speed,” wrote David Scheffer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “The rout that has driven most ethnic Armenians onto Armenian territory demands some sort of dialogue. Otherwise, resentments and insecurities will govern the future relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”

Meanwhile, Azeris whom the Armenians kicked out of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, are looking forward to returning home, added Radio Free Europe.

With that history in mind, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has made his intentions for the region’s future clear. He recently raised his country’s flag in the former capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, a city that Azeris call Khankendi and Armenians call Stepanakert.

Meanwhile, French officials appear to agree with Maghakyan’s fears about an imminent resumption of fighting between the two former Soviet republics in the Caucasus mountains straddling Asia and Europe.

Officials in Paris have authorized the sending of weapons to Armenia in expectation of an escalation of hostilities between the countries, reported Politico.

The French aid will counterbalance the loss of Armenia’s traditional protector, Russia, at a time when the Russian military is preoccupied in Ukraine. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, enjoys the help of Israel, as the Associated Press explained, and the staunch support of Turkey. Turks share ethnic links with Azeris. Iran supports Armenia because it opposes Turkish influence in its backyard.

This external meddling in Armenia and Azerbaijan has undoubtedly worsened tensions, argued New York University Abu Dhabi sociologist Georgi Derluguian in the New York Times. Tracing the history of the region, he made clear that the two countries’ neighbors have repeatedly set them up for conflict over the years. Iran, he noted, stridently opposes Turkish influence in countries on its border, namely Armenia and Azerbaijan.

In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan, a territory that borders Armenia, Turkey, and Iran, but not Azerbaijan proper, wrote Reuters. It’s this enclave many believe will be the focus of any new fight between the two countries.

President Aliyev has said he wants to create a corridor through Armenia to Nakhchivan that would link his country and Turkey – an idea Armenia opposes.

One side sees disorder. The other sees a new order.


Forward March


Israel stepped up ground strikes against Gaza and cut off communications in a “new phase” of its war against Hamas over the weekend, as a mounting death toll set off renewed protests around the world, CBS News reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Saturday that Israel had sent ground forces into Hamas-controlled Gaza and increased attacks from land, air and sea. He added that he expected to increase the military’s advance in preparation for a broader ground invasion.

Netanyahu framed the fighting as a war for Israel’s very existence, saying “‘Never again’ is now.”

The conflict began earlier this month when Hamas – designated as a terror group by the US and the European Union – launched a surprise attack into southern Israel from Gaza, breaching Israeli defenses and attacking civilians in nearby towns and cities, and launching rockets from the enclave. More than 1,400 people were killed and around 230 others were kidnapped by Hamas.

Hamas has continued to fire thousands of rockets from Gaza, many of which have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system.

In response, Israel has launched airstrikes on the area that have killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 20,000, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. Over the weekend, the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) confirmed the strikes have killed two key Hamas leaders: Asem Abu Rakaba, the head of Hamas’ air force, and Ratib Abu Tzahiban, the head of the navy.

At the same time, the IDF has conducted a series of ground raids in Gaza, with officials saying the primary goal is to destroy Hamas.

Even so, the fighting has raised fears about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, with 2.3 million people cut off from the outside world. Israeli strikes have caused blackouts that have severed communication and Internet access in the enclave, disrupting vital services, such as ambulances and aid organizations’ work. Services were partially restored on Sunday following US pressure on Israel to do so, the Washington Post reported.

Israel, meanwhile, agreed to allow up to 100 trucks carrying aid into Gaza daily, the newspaper added. The prewar daily was 450.

The international community, including the United Nations, has expressed concerns about the situation, with the UN human rights office warning that “war crimes” are being committed in the conflict.

Over the weekend, thousands marched in London, Paris, Rome and across the Muslim world, often in defiance of bans, in support of Palestinians or just appealing for a ceasefire.

On Friday, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce, but the US voted against it after an amendment that would have condemned Hamas’ terror attack on Israel and demanded the release of hostages was defeated.

Meanwhile, families of the hostages held by Hamas are increasing the pressure on Netanyahu to take action to rescue the captives, in response to unverified claims that Israeli airstrikes have already led to the death of more than 50 of the captives.

Legal Eagles


Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele will seek reelection in next year’s presidential race, a move that some say is illegal because it violates the country’s constitution, the Associated Press reported.

On Thursday, Bukele and his running mate, Vice President Félix Ulloa, registered as candidates of the ruling New Ideas party for the February 2024 polls.

Thousands of Bukele supporters rallied in front of the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal to express support for the incumbent.

Polls showed that Bukele would win reelection, adding that the president remains popular for his heavy-handed crackdown on the country’s powerful street gangs.

But the registration prompted questions from legal scholars and human rights groups, who said El Salvador’s 1983 constitution only establishes a five-year presidential term without the possibility of running for a successive term.

While some called it illegal, others noted that El Salvador’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled in 2021 that a constitutional provision allows the president to run for reelection once. They contend that if the Electoral Tribunal deems the application invalid, it would return to the same Supreme Court chamber that previously supported Bukele’s candidacy.

Meanwhile, Bukele countered that while some “developed countries” might disagree with his reelection bid, it will be up to the Salvadoran people to decide.

The Song Remains the Same


Iranian teenager Armita Geravand died over the weekend, according to state media, nearly a month after the 16-year-old girl fell into a coma following a confrontation with Iran’s morality police, the New York Times reported.

Geravand’s death came a week after authorities declared that she was brain-dead after weeks in a coma.

The incident began on Oct. 1 when Geravand and her two friends were stopped on a Tehran subway car by officers enforcing the country’s strict Islamic headscarf law. Video footage showed the three girls entering the subway car without the mandatory hijabs, but then showed two of Geravand’s friends pulling her unconscious body back onto the platform.

Iranian officials said Geravand fell into a coma after she fainted and hit her head. But they didn’t allow family or friends to visit her in the hospital. State media released an interview with her parents, where they repeated the official narrative that she had hit her head after fainting.

But critics and people familiar with the incident countered that an officer pushed Geravand, who hit her head on a metal object as she fell, during an argument in the subway car. They also accused the government of forcing her parents to repeat official statements.

Geravand’s case came a few weeks after the first anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old woman died in the custody of the morality police after being detained for allegedly flouting the hijab rules.

Her death sparked months-long protests against Iran’s strict dress code and the ruling clerics.


An Old Staple

Seaweed is usually associated with East Asian cuisines, but the aquatic plants were also a staple for early Europeans thousands of years ago, Smithsonian Magazine reported.

In a new study, archaeologists and scientists analyzed the fossilized dental plaque from the remains of 74 humans unearthed at 28 European sites. The studied samples date back more than 8,000 years.

The researchers found chemical biomarkers of a variety of seaweeds – red, brown and green – and other aquatic plants in 26 samples. They added that these plants were being consumed as early as the Mesolithic period, through the Neolithic and into the early Middle Ages.

The findings challenge a long-held assumption that the introduction of agricultural practices during the Neolithic meant that early humans stopped eating aquatic vegetation.

The team noted that the discovery also suggests that early humans probably knew about the benefits of seaweed, which nowadays is considered a “superfood.”

They hope that their research can encourage more people to start adding seaweed and other aquatic plants into their diets.

Although not necessarily appetizing to many at first glance, seaweed offers a series of health benefits as it contains polysaccharides that promote gut health and serves as a prebiotic, according to the Harvard School of Public Health.

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