Watching and Ignoring
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Shinzo Abe — With scandals back home and an approval rating of 26.7 percent, Japan’s Prime Minister Abe needed a boost from his Mar-a-Lago meeting with President Trump. He returns to Tokyo with no waiver on US steel tariffs, no US steps back toward the Transpacific Partnership, and no guarantees Trump will remember Japan’s interests if/when he sits down with Kim Jong-un. Can Abe keep his job through a long hot summer and survive his party’s leadership election in September?
Turkey’s elections — Why call for elections on June 24 when you could wait until November 2019? Because you want to catch the opposition napping, and because you expect your leadership will look much better in two monthsthan it will next year. Turkey’s economy is headed in the wrong direction. Its adventure in Syria has reached the limits of the military’s capabilities. And there’s reason for Recep Tayyip Erdogan to fear that familiarity with his leadership will only further polarize his country. We’ll watch to see how hard he must work to win.
The Middle East’s Culture Wars — Last month, an Iranian woman was sentenced to two years in prison for becoming the latest to remove her headscarf in public. This week, the head of the department of Islamic guidance in the Iranian city of Mashhad was arrested after video appeared that showed men and women dancing together at a local shopping center. Meanwhile, Saudi filmgoers (!) ate popcorn and enjoyed screenings of the popular film Black Panther as Saudi cinemas reopened for the first time since 1979. That’s the year Saudi society became much more conservative in response to the Islamic revolution in rival Iran.
WHAT WE’RE IGNORING
Macron’s understanding of Trump — Following comments from French President Macron that he had convinced President Trump to keep US troops in Syria, the White House quickly reiterated its goal to withdraw troops… because Trump loves it when other people take credit for his decisions. The two men will have a chance to discuss their differences during a very interesting meeting next week.
The WhatsApp call to prayer — In response to complaints about noise pollution, authorities in Ghana are calling on Muslims to broadcast the call to prayer via WhatsApp instead of loudspeakers. I’m not Muslim, a technophobe, or a fan of cacophonous racket. But it’s a call to prayer. Maybe other sources of sound could move to quiet mode.