A Fortification from the Time of King Solomon Sheds Light on Biblical History

Jan. 16 2017

Archaeologists first discovered a 10th-century fort in the Timna Valley—located near Eilat at Israel’s southern tip—in 2014. But only recently, by performing tests on the remarkably well preserved animal bones and dung in the complex’s stables, were they able to realize some of their discovery’s implications. James Rogers writes:

Built of sturdy stone to defend against invasions, the fortification had pens for draft animals and other livestock. By studying pollen, seeds, and fauna in the dung, experts found that the animals were fed with hay and the remains of grapes, which were delivered from the Mediterranean coast hundreds of miles away.

The research . . . highlights the ancient community’s sophisticated defense system and trade links. “The evidence demonstrates long-distance connections with the Mediterranean region,” said Erez Ben-Yosef, [one of the leaders of the excavation]. In addition to transporting materials to other regions, the donkeys at the fortification would also have been used in copper production.

The fact that the two-room fortification is located within one of the largest ancient smelting plants in the Timna Valley is particularly important, according to Ben-Yosef. “Until now we didn’t have evidence for military conflicts in the copper mines of Timna at this period,” [he said]. “Moreover, they are in accord with the biblical accounts depicting wars between David and the Edomites who inhabited this region.”

The archaeologist added that, with biblical historians hotly debating these accounts, any evidence is of great importance.

Read more at Fox News

More about: Ancient Israel, Archaeology, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, King Solomon


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy