Erdogan's Setback, MERS Virus Spreads, Sticky Fingers Reissue

Erdogan's Setback, MERS Virus Spreads, Sticky Fingers Reissue


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) suffered a major setback in yesterday’s general election, losing their parliamentary majority, Hürriyet reports. While it still received more votes than any other party, losing the single-party majority bodes poorly for Erdogan’s wish to introduce a strong presidential system. The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) received a double-digit percentage of the vote for the first time, meaning it will finally be represented in parliament, with some 80 lawmakers.

Read more about it in our Extra! feature here.


World leaders are gathering for a second and final day in the Bavarian Alps for a G7 summit focused on “global security.” They have vowed to keep sanctions against Russia in place over the country’s backing of eastern Ukraine rebels, Deutsche Welle reports. High on the agenda are also the issues of climate change and terrorism.


Photo:Â Prabhat Kumar Verma/ZUMA

Because greenhouse gas emissions from China may peak five years earlier than expected, global warming could be contained and kept below the critical 2º Celsius rise, according to a report from the London School of Economics. President Xi Jinping pledged last year that Chinese emissions would begin falling after 2030, but researchers Nicholas Stern and Fergus Green believe the shift could happen as early as 2025. “China’s international commitment to peak carbon dioxide emissions around 2030 should be seen as a conservative upper limit from a government that prefers to under-promise and over-deliver,” they wrote. China is responsible for a quarter of global emissions. Read more from Bloomberg.


More than 50,000 migrants have reached Italian shores by boat since the beginning of the year, The Guardian reports. The newspaper also describes Saturday and Sunday as “one of the busiest weekends so far this year” for rescue teams, with 3,480 people from 15 different boats needing help on Saturday alone.


At least 45 people, including 20 civilians, were killed in Sanaa, Yemen, after the Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes there yesterday, AFP reports. Women and children were among the victims, and more than 100 people were wounded. The strikes, the latest in an offensive against Shia Houthi rebels that started two months ago, came after Saudi Arabia shot down a Scud missile fired by forces loyal to the rebels. UN-backed peace talks are scheduled to take place in Geneva starting June 14.


George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four was published in the United Kingdom on this day in 1949. Time for your 57-second shot of history.


Authorities have launched a manhunt for two prisoners who escaped from a maximum-security prison in New York state using power tools to cut through the steel back walls of their cell before leaving behind a taunting note that read, “Have a nice day.” Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged that the “resourceful” and “dangerous” inmates, David Sweat and Richard Matt, could be anywhere. “We’ll get them back, and we’ll give them the note back,” he added.


A 38-year-old woman who wants to shake up a sleepy Colombian town by running for mayor will face a hard fight to win the October election â€" not just because she’s a woman, but because she was born a boy. “Alondra Metaute inherited a taste for politics from her dad, and that’s where the dream of governing Sopetrán was born,” El Espectador’s Robinson Usaga Henao writes. “If she wins the vote, she would be the first transgender mayor in Colombia.

A candidate of the left-wing Alternative Democratic Pole, she tries to communicate to voters what’s wrong with Colombia's traditional parties and has proposed a new hospital, along with policies to encourage tolerance for the local LGBT community.”

Read the full article, When A Transsexual Runs For Mayor In Small-Town Colombia.



An outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea has now affected 87 people and killed six, while more than 2,300 are being quarantined, CNN reports. More than 1,800 schools will be closed until Wednesday.


Domenico Scala, the independent chairman of FIFA's audit and compliance committee, told Switzerland’s SontagsZeitung that Russia and Qatar could be stripped of their awards to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, should evidence emerge that they “bought votes.”


“They knew if they put jeans and a working zipper that people were going to want to see what was back there,” Craig Braun, who designed the famous cover of the 1971 Rolling Stones’ album Sticky Fingers, told The New York Times. The album is being reissued tomorrow.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

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.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


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.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

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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