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Italy-France Tale Of Two Borders: Alpine Chic Meets Migrant Drama

At one spot where France and Italy cross, we see a futuristic ascent to a majestic panorama of the Alps. Farther south, desperate migrants' fate hangs in the balance.

The cross-border panoramic terrace at Pointe Helbronner
The cross-border panoramic terrace at Pointe Helbronner

Italy and France share a 488-kilometer long border, stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Alps. Among the most scenic border crossings is just below the peak of Mont Blanc (or Monte Bianco), where Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi came this week to inaugurate the Skyway Monte Bianco, a high-tech cable car ferrying passengers from the town of Courmayeur to Pointe Helbronner, a 3,462-meter peak (11,358 feet) in the Mont Blanc massif.


*A Skyway cable car on its way to Pointe Helbronner

The Turin-based daily La Stampa reports that the new cableway has three stations: it starts at Entrèves, a hamlet near Courmayeur at the foot of Mont Blanc, then rises to an intermediary station at Pavillon Mont Frèty, and finally on to Pointe Helbronner.

The Pavillon Mont Fréty station hosts an auditorium, botanical garden, and will even have bars, shops and restaurants. The cars transporting passengers between the stations constantly rotate at 360 degrees. But the Skyway's real draw is Pointe Helbronner, with a large, 360 degree panoramic terrace straddling the Franco-Italian border. From here visitors can see across the Alps, from Mont Blanc — the tallest mountain in Europe — all the way to the Matterhorn in Switzerland.

Helbronner

Not one to miss an opportunity for a pun, Renzi stated he would like to eventually host a European summit at the summit of Europe, now boasting a conference center and a well-stocked bar.

But farther south, there are other sights that may be even more worthy of our attention. A four-hour drive away is the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, where French border police are refusing entry to illegal economic migrants and asylum seekers alike — just the latest chapter in Europe's ongoing immigration crisis.

Under an EU treaty the migrants must legally stay in Italy as that is the first European country where they landed, but France's actions on the border have increased tensions between the two neighbors as Italy continues to call on the rest of Europe to share the burden. Negotiations on how to redistribute the influx of migrants are progressing slowly in Brussels, with Thursday night's EU meeting ending in rancor.

Back on Tuesday, as Renzi christened the shiny new cable car up on Mont Blanc, he was asked about the migrant stand-off down below. "Today, we see the highest point in Europe," Renzi said. "Let's hope we'll never have to see the lowest."

*All photos of the Skyway Monte Bianco are from Marco Destefanis, Pacific Press/ZUMA

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Geopolitics

How A Drone Strike Inside Iran Exposes The Regime's Vulnerability — On All Fronts

It is still not clear what was the exact target of an attack by three armed drones Saturday night on an arms factory in central Iran. But it comes as Tehran authorities appear increasingly vulnerable to both its foreign and domestic enemies, with more attacks increasingly likely.

Screenshot of one of the Saturday drone attacks arms factory in Isfahan, central Iran

One of the Saturday drone attacks arms factory in Isfahan, central Iran

Screenshot
Pierre Haski

-Analysis-

PARIS — It's the kind of incident that momentarily reveals the shadow wars that are part of the Middle East. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack by three armed drones Saturday night on an arms factory complex north of Isfahan in central Iran.

But the explosion was so strong that it set off a small earthquake. Iranian authorities have played down the damage, as we might expect, and claim to have shot down the drones.

Nevertheless, three armed drones reaching the center of Iran, buzzing right up to weapons factories, is anything but ordinary in light of recent events. Iran is at the crossroads of several crises: from the war in Ukraine where it's been supplying drones to Russia to its nuclear development arriving at the moment of truth; from regional wars of influence to the anti-government uprising of Iranian youth.

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That leaves us spoiled for choice when it comes to possible interpretations of this act of war against Iran, which likely is a precursor to plenty of others to follow.

Iranian authorities, in their comments, blame the United States and Israel for the aggression. These are the two usual suspects for Tehran, and it is not surprising that they are at the top of the list.

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