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Helicopter Crashes During London Rush Hour, At Least Two Dead

BBC, SKY NEWS, THE GUARDIAN (UK)

Worldcrunch

LONDON - A helicopter crashed during London's morning rush hour on Wednesday, killing two people and wounding 11 others.

The incident happened at St George’s Wharf on the River Thames near Vauxhall, in southern London. According to The Guardian the helicopter hit a crane on a building site.

Scotland Yard has confirmed two deaths so far in the crash and 11 other people have been taken to hospital. Of the two fatalities, one was travelling in the helicopter and of the eleven injured, only one is critically injured.

The Guardian reports that Metropolitan Police have evacuated offices around the scene as the crane is in a “precarious position.” BBC reports that the RNLI (Lifeboat Services) are now searching the river after reported sightings of a person.

Aviation expert, Chris Yates told Sky News that any tall structure must have a warning light on top to alert pilots. The question is whether there was a warning light on the crane and whether the pilot would have been able to see it in the foggy conditions this morning. The circumstances are not yet known – whether there was a problem with the helicopter itself, or whether the pilot misread his instructions or received false instructions from air traffic control.

The incident occurred shortly after 8 A.M. local time, and many commuters witnessed the incident. A train happened to be crossing the bridge at the same time as the crash, with a lot of people posting pictures and videos on social media sites. Many told the BBC that a huge explosion was heard and then they saw a ball of fire.

Mad! RT @oog: Here's a very clear picture of the crane at #vauxhall twitter.com/Oog/status/291…

— Jme (Jamie Adenuga) (@JmeBBK) January 16, 2013

Heard a massive bang, major fire on Wandsworth Rd, police, fire brigade everywhere.Roads closed #Vauxhall #NineElms twitter.com/ColinDKavanagh…

— Colin Kavanagh (@ColinDKavanagh) January 16, 2013

#vauxhall #helicopter RT @vctrjmnz: A helicopter crashed minutes ago on Wandsworth road twitter.com/vctrjmnz/statu…

— Lawrence (@leisuresuitlawl) January 16, 2013

2 dead in #helicopter crash in #Vauxhall, South London - latest update .. m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-englan… twitter.com/ADELiCi0US/sta…

— Adelyn xo (@ADELiCi0US) January 16, 2013

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Geopolitics

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

-Analysis-

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

commons.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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