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An oil field outside of Ahwaz
An oil field outside of Ahwaz
Dynamosquito

For world leaders in Paris trying to reach a historic deal to protect the environment, it is worth looking at the Iranian city of Ahwaz.

For at least three years, this city of 1.4 million has been hit each autumn with spells of polluted rain that have caused breathing difficulties for thousands of residents. Even though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has made environmental protection a key part of his reformist agenda, authorities have still not been able to identify the cause of the dirty rain.

Ahwaz is in southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan, in the heart of the country's oil producing region. Although it is not uncommon in Iran to experience air pollution and severe dust storms, which local authorities say originate in Iraq, the newspaper E'temaad reports that incipient autumn rains in Ahwaz stand out as an urgent health crisis, having sent some 50,000 "people rushing to hospitals with breathing difficulties" over the past three years.

This year, the polluted rains have extended to the city of Masjid Suleiman in northern Khuzestan and the Iraqi city of Basra. E'temaad reports that authorities have confirmed that the rain is "not acid" rain, but was probably due to a range of causes. Locals, however, suspect a cover-up for industrial pollution.

A local taxi driver named Adnan told the newspaper he was feeling so sick one day while driving that he had to stop and let one of his passengers drive him to a hospital. "Now I am afraid every time it rains," he told the daily.

The provincial environmental chief, Ahmadreza Lahijanzadeh, said that experts had whittled down the initial 18 possible causes or sources of polluting particles to four, including pollen or dust from an imported, eucalyptus-type tree.

For the climate experts gathered in Paris, the collective sound of coughing in Ahwaz is just the latest reminder that the global crisis is the sum (and more) of so many local crises.

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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