BRITAIN BEGINS AIRSTRIKES AGAINST ISIS
Britain’s Royal Air Force has joined the anti-ISIS coalition, launching its first airstrikes last night against the jihadist group in Iraq, before U.S.-led forces targeted fighters in villages near the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, not far from the Turkish border. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby warned yesterday against those who might think the fight against ISIS “would be easy or quick,” while the BBC reports that militants are adapting quickly to the reality of U.S. airstrikes and have, for example, stopped using phones to avoid being detected.
HONG KONG PROTESTS
As China celebrates the 65th anniversary of the foundation of the People’s Republic, large crowds in Hong Kong defied calls this morning to leave the streets and are gathered at the city’s main protest sites. Protest leaders have told reporters that they plan to occupy government building if chief executive Leung Leung Chun-ying doesn’t resign. Follow the updates live with The Guardian’s blog.
Meanwhile in Beijing, authorities are so scared of a possible attack that they reportedly carried out feathers and anal security checks on 10,000 pigeons before releasing them at sunrise on Tiananmen Square.
SHELLS KILL 10 IN DONETSK
A shell hit a school on the first day of class in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, killing at least 4 people, while another hit a public minibus and killed 6 passengers, AFP reports. Pro-Kiev authorities in the region are accusing pro-Russian rebels, though Russian government-run broadcaster RT reported that the shell that fell on the school had been fired from Ukrainian army positions.
JAPAN VOLCANO TOLL RISES
A photo taken by a local after the eruption of Mt. Ontake, the volcano in Japan that has left at least 48 dead since first erupting on Saturday.
FIRST CASE OF EBOLA DIAGNOSED IN U.S.
An unnamed man was diagnosed with the Ebola virus in Dallas, Texas, after travelling to the U.S. from Liberia to visit relatives. According to USA Today, the patient showed no symptoms when he entered American territory on September 20 and only became sick days later, making him the first case diagnosed in the U.S. CDC Director Thomas Frieden said however that there was no danger of an outbreak like in West Africa. Meanwhile, a New York Times report shows how Nigeria seems to have succeeded in containing Ebola, where no new cases have occurred since the end of August.
AFGHAN TROOPS KILLED IN TALIBAN ATTACK
At least seven people were killed and more than 15 wounded as two Taliban suicide bombers carried out separate attacks on buses transporting Afghan troops in Kabul, Reuters reports. The bombings are the latest in a series of similar attacks that began in the summer, and come just one day after the new government signed a bilateral security agreement allowing 12,000 U.S. and NATO troops to stay in the country beyond the end of the year.
Former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic began closing his defense Wednesday, saying that he takes "moral responsibility" for crimes committed by Bosnian Serbs but denies he ordered any killings. The Hague's International Criminal Court has accused him of genocide and other crimes, with one charge relating to the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Read more here.
ISRAELI VEHICLES ENTER GAZA
Israeli military vehicles entered the southern Gaza strip this morning and opened fire in the direction of Palestinian farms, in a move which would represent a violation of the ceasefire, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reports citing local witnesses. According to the report, an Israeli army spokeswoman said she was looking into the incident, though other Israeli sources suggested this was an operation to “destroy Hamas tunnels.” More than a month after the ceasefire in Gaza was agreed, Haaretz reports that three Israeli soldiers have committed suicide since then.
Outside of Seoul are the graves of 769 North Korean soldiers, and a South Korean monk busy tending to their souls, Asian news outlet KBR media reports.
“The 58-year-old monk says he doesn’t consider them as enemies. "It isn’t about sympathy — they were soldiers and soldiers obey their orders. In Buddhism, we say when people die they do not vanish, their bodies go away, but their souls still exist and are later reborn in many different forms." Read the full article: This South Korean Monk Comforts North Korean Souls
A criminal court in Cairo issued lengthy jail sentences to 68 Muslim Brotherhood supporters Tuesday for their purported role in the deaths of 30 people during protests that took place last October in the Egyptian capital's Azbakiya neighborhood.
SIX SEPTEMBER FAREWELLS
An American actress and comedienne, Argentine singer and Northern Irish firebrand were among those who departed this past month.
THE PERFECT PACKED LUNCH
Growing fed-up with eating takeout at the office? Quartz has some great ideas for a perfect packed lunch that will both save you money and keep you healthy.
— Crunched by Marc Alves
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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