Hollande And Putin, Pope Visits Kenya, Thanksgiving Trivia

Hollande And Putin, Pope Visits Kenya, Thanksgiving Trivia


French President François Hollande is set to meet Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin later today in Moscow in the hopes of forming an international military coalition against ISIS. Hollande has been engaged in a diplomatic blitz this week, having met with British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to discuss military measures after the Nov. 13 Paris terror attacks that left 130 dead.

  • But the French president’s efforts in Russia could be jeopardized by tensions between Russia and Turkey, after the Turkish military shot down a Russian jet Tuesday.
  • French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said there is no alternative but to “annihilate ISIS,” before the French parliament voted overwhelmingly to pursue anti-ISIS airstrikes in Syria, Le Monde reports.
  • Merkel, who was in the French capital with Hollande yesterday to pay respects to those who were killed in the Paris attacks, said Germany would “do more” to support France in its fight against terrorism. The German chancellor announced Berlin would send 650 additional troops to Mali alongside the French military.
  • Vice has the first interview with the members of Eagles of Death Metal, the California band that was playing in the Bataclan theater in Paris, where 89 people were killed by terrorists.
  • David Cameron said this morning that UK airstrikes against ISIS militants would be in the country’s “national interest,” the BBC reports. British Members of Parliament are expected to vote on whether to authorize such airstrikes within weeks.


Turkey released the audio recording of apparent warnings issued to the Russian warplane shot down by Turkish military Tuesday, Hürriyet reports. “This is Turkish Air Force speaking on guard,” a voice can be heard saying. “You are approaching Turkish airspace. Change your heading south immediately.” But the surviving jet pilot claims he received no warning, despite Turkish military insisting it gave 10 warnings in five minutes.

  • In a defiant move, Moscow sent an advanced missile system to Syria yesterday to protect its jets operating there, Reuters reports.
  • Russian warplanes also reportedly carried out new airstrikes against insurgent-held areas near where the jet was shot down.


Research suggests that sustained terror attacks over time deal a crippling blow to economies, but a single act of appalling violence, like the Nov. 13 attacks in France, may have fewer lasting effects than one might think, Les Echos reports. “After Sept. 11, 2001, the number of domestic airline passengers dropped 10% in the United States and even more on international flights,” the newspaper writes. “But at the macro level, the impact was barely discernible. In late 2001, many economists argued that the attacks of Sept. 11 would rush the United States further into recession. In fact, the country was already emerging from it, and the dramatic events did nothing to reverse the economic turnaround.”

Read the full article, Terror And The Economic Cost Of Fear.


Photo: Steve Bichage via Instagram

Thousands of people gathered at a university campus in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi to attend a mass celebrated by Pope Francis this morning. In his sermon, he insisted on the need for interreligious harmony, the Daily Nation reports. This is the first stop of the Pope’s three-nation visit on his first trip as a pontiff to Africa. Read more about it on Le Blog.


Two bright spots of American entertainment culture, Tina Turner and Casablanca, were born on this day. That and more in today’s shot of history.


Luis Diaz, the leader of the Venezuelan opposition party Democratic Action for the town of Altagracia de Orituco, was shot and killed yesterday during a public meeting, El Universal reports. According to witnesses, shots were fired from a vehicle while Diaz was on stage beside Lilian Tintori, the wife of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for “incitement to violence” after deadly protests in 2014 that left 43 dead. The assassination, which the Democratic Action party is blaming on the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela, comes before the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections.


“I look at the political landscape, I think that there might be a future out there for me. They might need me out there,” American actor Will Smith said Wednesday on Scott Feinberg’s Awards Chatter podcast, hinting at a possible political career. “This is the first year that I’ve been incensed to a level that I can’t sleep, you know?”


North and South Korean officials met today in Panmunjom, a village in the demilitarized zone on the border between the two countries, to hold rare, high-level talks aiming at improving relations after a military standoff last August, The Korea Times reports. On Aug. 4, two South Korean soldiers were seriously wounded by a landmine that Seoul blamed on Pyongyang. North Korea denied planting the landmine. A military escalation was defused with an inter-Korean agreement reached on Aug. 25.



A French army sergeant from a parachute regiment died overnight from wounds suffered last Oct. 13 in northern Mali. His vehicle drove on a landmine placed by “terrorist groups” that also injured two other soldiers, Le Figaro reports. France, in an attempt to secure the country from Islamist threats, has a large military presence in Mali.


Having random statistics on hand can sometimes be a godsend during long family meals. Here’s one: 59.3% of EU residents live in houses and 40% live in apartments, according to a study by the European Commission. Time to shine!


For those of you still wondering whether Turkey is named after a bird, we dug up this Worldcrunch fowl nugget from our archives: Turkey-And-Egg Question: Which Came First, The Country Or The Bird?

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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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