Today (?) in Middle Eastern history: Muhammad conquers Mecca (630?)

You’ll note the presence of question marks in the title to this post, and that’s not to remind me to go back and check later. The question marks are there because there’s no particular reason to believe that this event happened on the date that corresponds with January 11, 630, on our Gregorian calendar. Don’t… Continue reading Today (?) in Middle Eastern history: Muhammad conquers Mecca (630?)

Today in Middle Eastern history: the Grand Mosque seizure (1979)

Religious fervor was truly in the air in 1979. Presumably we don’t need to go into much detail about that year’s Islamic Revolution in Iran, which toppled our old pal Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and his secret police/torture network in favor of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and, uh, his secret police/torture network. But across the Persian Gulf Saudi… Continue reading Today in Middle Eastern history: the Grand Mosque seizure (1979)

Middle East update: June 23 2017

QATAR Well, the long-awaited list of Saudi demands is in, and it’s quite something. If you had no knowledge of the context and you just happened to come upon this list, I think you’d probably conclude that Qatar must have lost a war: — Curb diplomatic ties with Iran and close its diplomatic missions there.… Continue reading Middle East update: June 23 2017

Conflict update: February 7 2017

OK, so…this could get long. Sorry. That’s what happens when I’m away for a few days. #ThanksTrump I almost feel like I should start each of these with a quick roundup of the miscellaneous ways Donald Trump is fucking up around the world. For example: When President Trump makes a formal state visit to the… Continue reading Conflict update: February 7 2017

A sense of proportionality

Earlier today the Yemeni rebels (I’ve decided to stop always calling them “Houthis,” because they’re not all Houthis) launched a ballistic missile into Saudi Arabia. The missile was intercepted and destroyed by the Saudis before it reached its target, and the Saudis then counterattacked against the site from which the missile was launched. Ho-hum, right?… Continue reading A sense of proportionality

The Iran-Saudi pilgrimage dispute has historical precedent

Originally posted on and that's the way it was:
Iran has barred its citizens from traveling to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah, or lesser pilgrimage to Mecca, which is the recommended-but-not-obligatory pilgrimage that can be performed any time (as opposed to the obligatory Hajj, which has to be performed during the annual Hajj).…

Tragedy on the Hajj

At least 717 people (and that may go higher) were killed, and 863 injured, today during the Mina portion of the Hajj, when confusion among the massive crowd of pilgrims (around 2 million according to official figures) caused a panic, and people fell to the ground and were trampled. A BBC Hausa reporter named Tchima… Continue reading Tragedy on the Hajj