1642: Mehmed IV, who ruled the Ottoman Empire between 1648 and 1687, is born. He became Sultan at age 7 and diluted the sultan’s power by dividing it with that of the Grand Vizir. Mehmet IV died in 1693.
1882: The Standard Oil Trust Agreement is signed, establishing a consolidated Standard Oil company. It is John D. Rockefeller’s answer to judicial and political attacks against monopolies. Out of 700,000 total shares issued in the company, Rockefeller holds 191,700, Henry Flagler holds 60,000. Standard Oil would develop major holdings in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and play a large role in Aramco, the Arabian American Oil Company.
1920: Isaac Asimov, who would become one of the world’s best-known and most prolific writers of science fiction (he wrote some 500 books), is born in Petrovichi, a village 250 miles southwest of Moscow. In 2001, Dimitri Gusev, a Russian scientist, argued in a published paper that Osama bin Laden was inspired by Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy—which had been translated into Arabic under the name “Al Qaeda”—to give his terrorist organization the same name.
- War of the Worlds: Giles Foden Explores the Qaeda-Asimov Connection
- Profile: Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda
- Al Qaeda as a Parody of Its Former Self
1962: Page Communications Engineers of Washington, D.C., wins a $7.37 million contract to build the Voice of America main relay station in Africa for rebroadcast of programming to Africa, parts of Central Europe and the Middle East.
1970: Defying a Western arms embargo against Arab nations and Israel following the 1967 Six Day War, France is revealed to be selling weaponry to Iraq. An Iraqi ship, The New York Times’ Henry Giniger reports from Paris, “is reliably reported to be heading for Cherbourg to pick up military supplies, including machine-gun ammunition manufactured by an Alsatian concern, Manufactures de Machines du Haut-Rhin, which is based in Mulhouse.” Israel also takes delivery of five French-built gunboats a week earlier, a clear sign France is mitigating fears that trading with Iraq is an act of belligerence toward Israel.
1990: The PLO’s Yasser Arafat, who brandished his support for Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, meets with Hussein in Baghdad for 90 minutes, declares that the Palestinian problem doesn’t have to be solved before Iraqi troops withdraw from Kuwait, and calls the United Nations’ Jan. 15 ultimatum to Hussein to withdraw “only a date like all other dates. Arafat’s trip to Baghdad compounds the miscalculation he made by supporting Hussein’s invasion , crippling his credibility and ultimately weakening his authority among Palestinians.
1992: A snow storm dumps 18 inches on Jerusalem, the city’s worst winter storm in 42 years. Tree limbs snap, power lines are severed and thousands lose electricity. The Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway is blocked for hours. Two feet of snow fall in Amman, the Jordanian capital, and snow paralyzes Lebanon and parts of Turkey
2001: Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, elected in 1998 on a promise of moderating Iran’s dogmatic social strictures, announces that he will run for reelection in the June 8 presidential contest.
2001: President Clinton, in the waning days of his administration, meets with Yasser Arafat at the White House in hopes of brokering a last-minute peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis. The two men emerge from their meeting stiff-bodied and grim-faced, lowering already dismal expectations of a breakthrough.
2002: The Lebanese government severs private station New Television’s satellite link and forces it to cancel a public affairs program discussing Saudi politics and the state of the opposition in the Saudi kingdom. The Saudi government had sent a letter to the Lebanese government complaining about the program. The Lebanese government alleges that the ban is to protect the 150,000-some Lebanese who work in Saudi Arabia.
2002: The Egyptian government arrests 14 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, accusing them of fomenting activities among university students. The Egyptian government is fearful of large student demonstrations opposing an American-led invasion of Iraq, which begins to look likely.