BROTHERS IDENTIFIED AS BRUSSELS BOMBERS
Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/ZUMA
Two of the bombers who carried out yesterdayâ€™s deadly attacks in Brussels have been identified as brothers with criminal records and links to the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, according to Belgian media. Brussels daily Le Soir reports that the brothers were identified as 27-year-old Khalid el-Bakraoui, and 30-year-old Brahim el-Bakraoui, and had been sought by police on suspicion of renting out a safe house for the commando that carried out the Paris attacks. Belgian prosecutors say that the younger brother blew himself up at the Maelbeek metro station, with the older one carrying out a suicide bombing at the airport. Police are hunting for a suspect from the airport attack filmed by a CCTV camera.
- The official death count in the two attacks is 31, with some 250 reported injured.
- Schools, shopping centers and other public spaces in the Belgian capital remained open today, though the Zaventem airport is expected to be closed through Thursday.
- ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Here are 21 front pages from this morningâ€™s newspapers around the world.
- An editorial by Le Mondeâ€™s editor-in-chief calls on European leaders to take a new approach to the terror threat. Read the English-language version via Worldcrunch here.
- Richard Werly of the Geneva daily Le Temps writes that major questions are facing European law enforcement, with the third major attack in 15 months.
50 DEAD IN U.S. AIRSTRIKE IN AL-QAEDA YEMEN CAMP
Local sources said today that at least 50 militants were killed and 30 wounded in a U.S. air strike on an al-Qaeda training camp in southern Yemen carried out only hours after yesterdayâ€™s attacks in Brussels, Reuters reports. The Pentagon stated that a U.S. air strike had killed dozens of al-Qaeda fighters but gave no further details. According to a local official, "The planes struck as al-Qaeda people stood in line to receive their dinner meal.â€
TRUMP AND CLINTON WIN, CRUZ AND SANDERS HANG ON
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump swept to victory in the Arizona primary, taking the 58 winner-takes-all delegates, USA Today reports. His chief GOP rival Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hangs in the race with a win in Utah as he cleared the 50% threshold needed to capture all of the state's 40 delegates. On the Democratic side, favorite Hillary Clinton routed challenger Bernie Sanders in Arizona to increase her advantage in the race for the presidential nomination. Sanders, however, won in Utah and Idaho.
â€œPROFOUNDLY HUMANâ€ ROB FORD DIES
The unconventional former mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, whose career imploded in a drug-driven breakdown, died of cancer yesterday at the age of 46, Toronto Star reports. Only two months before the 2014 election in which Ford sought a second term as mayor, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer that forced him to drop his bid for re-election. Current Toronto Mayor John Tory, stated that Mr. Ford was a â€œprofoundly human guyâ€ and that â€œthe city is reeling with this news.â€
SYRIA ELECTRONIC ARMY HACKERS CHARGED
The Justice Department has filed criminal charges against three members of the so-called Syrian Electronic Army, the hacker group responsible for a series of cyber intrusions targeting U.S. companies and government systems, The Washington Post reports. From 2011 through 2014, the three men, based in Germany and Syria, managed to deface websites, take over social media accounts and penetrate company computer systems to protest against those believed opposed to the Assad regime.
OBAMA IN ARGENTINA WITH PROTESTS PLANNED
President Barack Obama touched down early today in Argentina after his historic visit to Cuba. Obama arrived in Argentina shortly after midnight local time for a two-day visit aimed at strengthening trade ties and diplomatic relations after the victory of the more U.S.-friendly President Mauricio Macri. Some 3,000 Argentine law enforcement troops have been deployed alongside U.S. agents to strengthen security for the visit, Argentine daily La Nacion reports. Leftist activists have promised to protest on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1976 right-wing coup that had the tacit support of Washington and led to a dictatorship that killed up to 30,000 opponents of the regime. In an attempt to soften anti-American sentiments, the U.S. recently declassified military, intelligence and law enforcement records on the military juntaâ€™s â€œdirtyâ€ war against left-wing guerrillas and suspected dissidents.
ON THIS DAY
Sixteen years ago, Titanic won 11 Academy Awards. That, and more, in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of history.
POSSIBLE MH370 DEBRIS
A piece of debris was found on a South African beach that could belong to the engine of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the Boeing 777 airliner that disappeared from the skies two years ago, South African Sunday Times reports. The debris carried the logo of Rolls Royce that manufactured the aircraftâ€™s engines.
NAZI LEADER SAVED BY SYRIAN REFUGEES
A regional leader of the German neo-Nazi party NPD, Stefan Jagsch, was rescued from a car crash by two Syrian refugees, Die Welt reports today. Local witnesses said that the severely injured Jagsch was pulled out of the car that had crashed into a tree, and was given first aid by the two refugees. The rescuers were part of a group of asylum seekers who were passing by the scene of the accident in buses. In the city of Büdingen where the accident occurred, NPD took home 10.2% of the votes in the local election March 6.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
"I will never resign under any circumstances," Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said yesterday in a speech to legal experts, as she faces growing discontent and threats of impeachment.
JUDGE JUDY PALIN
Former Alaska Governor and one-time GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is embarking on a new gig: daytime TV judge.
The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.
LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.
Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.
Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.
The role of the nuclear pact
Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.
It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.
He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."
The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.
Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020commons.wikimedia.org
Riyadh's warming relations with Israel
Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."
The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."
Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."
Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.
For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.
Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.
Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.
For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.
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