Deal Qatar

Happy Tuesday! We would like to take a moment to pay our respects to Bobi, a 31-year-old Rafeiro do Alentejo who passed away this week in the Portuguese village of Conqueiros as the world’s oldest dog. Bobi’s owners believed the secret to his record-setting longevity was his exclusive diet of watered-down human food—an experiment your Morning Dispatchers will probably not be conducting for themselves.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • After more than a year of negotiation with the Nordic state, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a measure to his nation’s parliament on Monday that would ratify Sweden’s bid to join NATO. It’s not clear why Erdoğan has advanced the ratification now—after refusing to do so over complaints that Stockholm was too lax in addressing threats posed by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a Kurdish terror organization—or how long approval in parliament may take, with no vote yet scheduled. Hungary is the only other NATO member which has not yet ratified Sweden’s accession to the consensus-based alliance.
  • A Russian court on Monday extended its detention of journalist Alsu Kurmasheva—a Prague-based dual U.S. and Russian citizen who works for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty—until December. Kurmasheva was first detained in June after returning to Russia for a family emergency, and was charged last week with failing to register as a “foreign agent.” She is at least the second American journalist the Russian government has arrested since its invasion of Ukraine last year, following the detention of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in March. 
  • Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the U.S. would “hold Iran responsible” for several drone attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria over the last week, though Ryder said the U.S. did not have evidence Tehran had “explicitly ordered” the drone strikes and did not say whether there would be retaliation against Iran. The spate of drone strikes came after Hamas, an Iran-backed terror organization, began its attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 Israeli civilians. Axios reported Monday the Pentagon had sent Marine Corps Lt. Gen. James Glynn—who was involved in the fight against ISIS in Iraq—and several other U.S. military officers to Israel to advise Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) leadership on its operations against Hamas in Gaza.  
  • Hamas on Monday released two elderly Israeli women whom the group abducted from Kibbutz Nir Oz on October 7. Nurit Cooper and Yocheved Lifshitz—who were both taken with their husbands who have not yet been released—were reportedly set free on humanitarian grounds after mediation by Egypt and Qatar. The two were the second pair of hostages to be released—out of more than 200 currently believed to be in captivity in Gaza—after a mother and daughter, American citizens Judith and Natalie Raanan, were freed on Friday.  
  • Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey pleaded not guilty in a New Jersey court on Monday to the charge that he conspired to act as a foreign agent for Egypt. The allegation was part of a superseding indictment against the senator, who—along with his wife and several businessmen—was charged with bribery last month. A trial date has been set for May. 
  • The United Auto Workers (UAW) union announced Monday it was expanding its ongoing strike against the “Big Three” U.S. auto companies—Stellantis, General Motors, and Ford—to include shutting down Stellantis’ largest plant, which is in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The additional 6,800 UAW workers—who manufacture RAM 1500 trucks—brought the total number of striking members to about 40,000 since the strike began on September 15. The strike at the Stellantis plant was a response to a deal offered Friday, which Shawn Fain, the union’s president, argued did not match the contracts proposed by Ford and GM. 

The Middle East’s Middleman 

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani following their meeting and press conference in Doha on October 13, 2023. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani following their meeting and press conference in Doha on October 13, 2023. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR / AFP) (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The average American might know the tiny Gulf state of Qatar best for its role in international sports: The nation hosted a Formula One Grand Prix race earlier this month, and in 2022, it became the first Arab country to host the World Cup. But the emirate has taken on an outsized role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent weeks, too, as a partner to Western nations working toward the release of the more than 200 citizens believed to be held hostage in Gaza by Hamas ahead of an imminent ground invasion by Israel.

On Friday, two U.S. citizens—Judith and Natalie Raanan, a mother and her 17-year-old daughter—became the first pair of hostages released by Hamas after the terrorist organization’s October 7 rampage. Negotiations between Hamas and Qatar reportedly played a crucial role.

Yesterday, Hamas released two additional hostages—Yocheved Lifshitz and Nurit Cooper, both elderly Israeli women—though both those women’s husbands are still being held prisoner. “The war is not yet over,” Lifshitz’s daughter said in an interview on Monday. “Neither is my personal war, until everyone returns.” According to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Hamas terrorists abducted 222 people during its attack earlier this month.

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