HOLLANDE: U.S. AND RUSSIA MUST COOPERATE
During a joint parliamentary session at the Palace of Versailles Monday, French President François Hollande called on the United States and Russia to combine forces against ISIS after Fridayâ€™s terror attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead. The speech, in which Hollande reiterated that France is at â€œwar against jihadist terrorismâ€ that is â€œthreatening the whole world,â€ was followed by the French national anthem â€œLa Marseillaise.â€
- Russia and the U.S. are leading two different airstrike campaigns in Syria. Moscow has been backing Bashar al-Assadâ€™s regime by targeting rebel and jihadist groups. The U.S.-led intervention has brought support to rebel groups such as the Free Syrian Army. The situation is widely considered to be a proxy war between the two countries.
- Hollande also announced the countryâ€™s constitution would be reviewed to extend the state of emergency granting authorities exceptional powers for three months, Libération reports.
- During the early morning hours today, French warplanes conducted airstrikes targeting ISIS targets in Raqqa, Syria, â€œfor the second time in 24 hours,â€ the French Ministry of Defense said in a statement. Ten jets dropped 16 bombs in a mission similar to the first wave of post-terror airstrikes Sunday. â€œBoth targets were hit and destroyed simultaneously,â€ the statement continued.
- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hollande at the French presidential palace this morning, saying afterward he was convinced that ISIS would begin to feel more pressure and would continue to lose territory. â€œThey are feeling it today,â€ Le Monde quoted him as saying. â€œThey felt it yesterday.â€
CHARLIE HEBDO REACTS
â€œTheyâ€™ve got the guns. Screw them, weâ€™ve got the Champagne!â€ reads Charlie Hebdoâ€™s much-awaited cover four days after Friday nightâ€™s terrorist attacks.
THE LATEST IN THE TERROR INVESTIGATION
French police carried out 128 more raids on suspected Islamist militants across the country overnight. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said 115,000 security personnel had been mobilized throughout the country in the wake of the attacks.
- A major manhunt is still underway in Belgium to track down Salah Abdeslam, a Belgian national believed to be connected to Fridayâ€™s massacres. French authorities are also looking into the possibility that a second man who participated in the attacks is on the run, Le Monde reports.
- The Syrian passport found next to the body of one of the suicide bombers at Stade de France could belong to a Syrian soldier who died fighting for Bashar al-Assadâ€™s government several months ago, Le Parisien quotes a source as saying. The document, which was presented by a migrant to Greek authorities on Oct. 3, could have been stolen or forged.
- Le Figaro also reports that French police are examining a black car with a Belgian plate in northern Paris. The vehicle could have been used to plan the attacks.
- A senior Turkish official told Al Jazeera that twice over the past year the country shared information with France about one of the Paris attackers, adding that they did not hear back from French authorities.
ON THIS DAY
For heâ€™s a jolly Goodfella â€¦ Happy 73rd birthday, Mr. Scorsese. That and more in your 57-second shot of history.
THE GAME WILL GO ON
A soccer match between France and England is scheduled for tonight at Londonâ€™s Wembley Stadium. Authorities considered canceling the friendly but ultimately decided to allow it to go on, Lâ€™Equipe reports. Tonight, â€œLa Marseillaiseâ€ will follow â€œGod Save The Queen.â€
FRANCE APPROVES CHEMICAL WEAPON ANTIDOTE
The French government on Sunday authorized the countryâ€™s hospitals to be equipped with atropine sulfate, the only antidote available to certain toxic gas attacks, Le Parisien reports. The decision was made in part because of Fridayâ€™s attacks and the risk of more in France, but also in anticipation of the upcoming COP21 global climate conference to be held in Paris, where many heads of state will gather.
A record-high 529 kilometers of traffic jams were recorded this morning around Paris, according to FranceTV. It is believed to be linked to a drop in public transport usage after Fridayâ€™s deadly reign of terror in the French capital.
SINAI PLANE WAS BOMBED, RUSSIA CONFIRMS
After weeks of speculation, Russian authorities confirmed definitively that the passenger jet that crashed in Egyptâ€™s Sinai Peninsula last month, killing all 224 people on board, was brought down by a bomb. â€œWe can unequivocally say it was a terrorist act,â€ Reuters quoted Russian security service chief Alexander Bortnikov as saying. During a meeting at the Kremlin today, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to intensify the countryâ€™s airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. â€œWe will find them anywhere on the planet and punish them,â€ he reportedly said.
- Meanwhile, Egyptian authorities reportedly detained two Sharm el Sheikh airport employees that may have aided the bombers, though Egyptâ€™s Ministry of the Interior denies any arrests.
TUNISIA CLAIMS IT FOILED MAJOR ATTACK
Tunisian intelligence services have prevented a major Islamist attack on hotels and security forces that had been planned for this month in the resort town of Sousse, Reuters quotes Interior Ministry security chief Rafik Chelli as saying. Authorities also arrested a cell of 17 Islamist militant linked to the planned assault.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
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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