CALIFORNIA SHOOTING: 14 DEAD, COUPLE SUSPECTED
Police have identified a couple in their late 20s as the two shooters in the latest mass killing in the United States that left at least 14 people dead and 17 injured Wednesday in the southern Californian city of San Bernardino.
- Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who The Los Angeles Times reports were married, were killed in a shootout with police later in the day.
- Reports today began to piece together the events that led to the shooting during a holiday gathering of employees at the San Bernardino County Public Health Department, where Farook worked as a health inspector.
- The coupleâ€™s motives arenâ€™t yet clear. Relatives of American-born Farook, whose parents are Pakistani, said he was a devout Muslim but knew of no connections to any radical Islamist organization. Coworkers described him as kind and quiet. The couple had a baby and appeared to be â€œliving the American dream,â€ Patrick Baccari, a fellow health inspector who shared a cubicle with Farook, told the LA Times.
- Malikâ€™s nationality has not yet been confirmed by authorities, though reports say that Farook had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and â€œreturned with a new wife he had met online.â€.
- Though the shooting comes three weeks after 130 people were killed in Paris by Islamist terrorists linked to ISIS, it is also part of a steady stream of mass shootings in the United States. Hereâ€™s a recap from Reuters.
UK BEGINS SYRIA STRIKES
Britainâ€™s Royal Air Force conducted its first strikes against ISIS in Syria early this morning, just hours after lawmakers in Westminster voted to extend British airstrikes against jihadists from Iraq to Syria, The Guardian reports. Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the strikes targeted an oil field in eastern Syria, dealing a â€œreal blowâ€ to ISIS finances.
- Syrian and Russian forces have been holding military exercises in preparation for an offensive to regain the city of Idlib, held by al-Qaedaâ€™s Syrian offshoot al-Nusra, AFP reports citing a security source. This comes amid reports that the Syrian army continues to regain territory in the northwest provinces held by ISIS.
PUTINâ€™S HARSH WORDS FOR TURKEY
As expected, a large part of Russian President Vladimir Putinâ€™s annual state of the nation speech Thursday was devoted to the current diplomatic crisis and tension with Turkey. â€œWe shall remind them many a time what they have done, and they will more than once feel regret,â€ Putin said of Turkeyâ€™s shooting of a Russian warplane in Syria near the Turkish border last week. Putin said, however, that there would be no â€œnervous, hysterical reaction, risky for ourselves and the whole world.â€
- One of these retaliatory measures seems to be the decision announced this morning by the Energy Minister to suspend the Turkish Stream pipeline project that would have delivered Russian gas to Turkey and eventually southern Europe.
- In his address, Putin also reiterated accusations that Turkish leaders were gaining financially from ISIS oil and said Moscow â€œwill not forget this complicity with terrorists.â€ Russiaâ€™s Defense Ministry presented yesterday its evidence backing its claims that Turkish officials, among them President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and members of his family including his son Bilal, were illegally profiting from smuggled oil, to the benefit of ISIS. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed the accusation as â€œSoviet-style propaganda.â€ Read more from Reuters.
- ISIS meanwhile released a video purportedly showing the execution of a â€œRussian spy.â€
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
â€œIf the families of the privileged continue to live abroad, they will not have careers; if they live abroad, they will become dishwashers,â€ Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told Deutsche Welle in a plea for Afghan asylum seekers to return home. Ghani met with Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday, and the German Chancellor told a press conference that the country â€œwill have to deport people to Afghanistan,â€ explaining that the Afghansâ€™ hope for a better life â€œis no reason to get asylum status or residency status here.â€ An estimated 140,000 Afghans have fled the country since January, with Germany as the final destination for most.
CAMEROON FREES 900 BOKO HARAM HOSTAGES
Cameroon troops have killed some 100 Boko Haram fighters and freed about 900 people the Islamist group was holding hostage in a major blow to the Nigeria-based outfit, Vanguard reports citing Cameroonâ€™s Defense Ministry. The operation took place near the border with Nigeria.
Shouldn't women who believe it's wrong to abort a girl just because she's a girl also believe it's wrong to abort a baby just because she might have a disability? Yes, says German feminist author Kirsten Achtelik in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung. â€œThere is no such thing as a single â€˜feminism,â€™ but it's a fact that most feminists are against gender-based selection. That's how we can see the inconsistency of the female viewpoint: Aborting a girl, simply because sheâ€™s a girl, is discriminatory and sexist. But aborting because of a baby's disability is part of a women's self-determination? It's just as discriminatory. Requesting a â€˜normalâ€™ child isn't feminist.â€
Read the full article, A New Feminist Argument Against Abortion.
NEW ROUND OF FIFA ARRESTS
Swiss police took several FIFA officials into custody in a new series of dawn arrests, as part of the ongoing U.S. investigation into corruption at the worldâ€™s soccer governing body. According to The New York Times, more than a dozen people are expected to be charged. The official list of those arrested hasnâ€™t been made public yet, but it includes at least two top officials accused of accepting millions of dollars of bribes. They were arrested at the same Zurich hotel where several officials had been arrested in May, and ahead of a planned two-day meeting to vote on proposed reforms.
ON APPEAL, PISTORIUS GUILTY OF MURDER
Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein said this morning. Pistorius, whoâ€™s been on house arrest since late October after serving one year of his five-year-sentence in jail issued for the initial guilty verdict of manslaughter charges. A new, likely heavier sentence will have to be pronounced for the murder charge. Read more from The Star.
BRAZILâ€™S ROUSSEFF TARGETED BY IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS
The speaker of Brazilâ€™s lowest house of Parliament, Eduardo Cunha, has initiated impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. The political showdown between two leaders described as "arch enemies" was put in stark terms on the Thursday edition of Portuguese-language Brazilian daily Correio, which used the English word "Impeachment" on the front page. Read more about Brazilâ€™s Game-of-Thrones-like politics on Worldcrunch.
Egypt will hit a new population threshold next week, reaching 90 million in a country that has seen a demographic explosion over the past few generations.
ON THIS DAY
Happy birthday to one of the icons of heavy metal music, plus three more events to mark Dec. 3 in your 57-second shot of history.
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.
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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