EU EMERGENCY MIGRANT SUMMIT
European Union leaders arrived in Brussels for an emergency summit Thursday on the migration crisis, following Europe’s worst maritime disaster since World War II last weekend that killed hundreds of would-be immigrants in the Mediterranean Sea. There is a working list of 10 objectives that was put together earlier this week by the European Commission, according to Le Monde.
- The most immediate objective of the meeting will be to find policies to avoid other tragedies like the sinking of a boat last Saturday night that killed at least 800 migrants crossing the Mediterranean from the Libyan coast.
- The Frontex agency, whose mission it is to control the EU’s external borders, will likely see its funds raised for surveillance, research and rescue operations.
- The intervention zone of Frontex could also be extended. Until now, it has been limited in the Mediterranean at 30 nautical miles from the Italian coast.
- The EU leaders are also expected to discuss ways to show more solidarity, with plans to accept more refugees and deliver more visas. Germany, which has already taken in 30,000 Syrians (compared to a total of 10,000 for the other EU countries combined), says it will take in more, hoping to influence its neighbors to do the same, Le Monde reports.
- Financial aid could also be sent to Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, Niger and Mali to reinforce the surveillance of their borders.
- The meeting in Brussels will also discuss ways to increase the fight against human trafficking networks. This could involve carrying out military operations to destroy the boats used by smugglers. The project could bring together Europol, Eurojust, Frontex, European and foreign intelligence services and the United Nations.
- This is how the Sicilian daily La Sicilia covered the issue that is very much local news on the Italian island.
ON THIS DAY
Time for your 57-second shot of history, today featuring Coca-Cola.
FIVE ATTACKS FOILED IN FRANCE
French authorities have foiled five terrorist attacks on its territory in recent months, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday. “The threat has never been so high. We have never had to face this kind of terrorism in our history," he told the French radio France Inter. The foiled attacks include Sunday’s arrest of an Algerian man who allegedly planned to attack churches in the Paris suburb of Villejuif. The suspect was arrested after he apparently shot himself by accident and called an ambulance.
MORE YEMEN AIRSTRIKES
Despite announcing it would wind down its “Decisive Storm” airstrike campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen on Tuesday, the Saudi-led coalition bombed additional targets in and around the cities of Aden and Ibb Thursday morning, local residents told Reuters. The airstrikes reportedly hit Houthi tanks and warehouses and other positions occupied by the Iran-backed rebel group.
- Thousands of Houthi rebels and supporters took to streets of the Yemeni capital Sanaa Wednesday to protest against the month-long bombing campaign.
- The former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh reportedly left the country Wednesday, according to Al Arabiya.
- The U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday he is concerned that Iranian ships heading toward Yemen may be carrying advanced weapons for the Houthi rebels. Moving a U.S. aircraft carrier to the region gives the President Obama options, AP reports.
Photo: Andrew Coutman via Instagram
The biggest storm to hit the area of Sydney in more than a decade has turned the Australian city’s harbour bridge into a waterfall. At least four people have died and 250,000 homes were left without electricity.
Even at 93, former SS officer Oskar Gröning must still be tried for his alleged crimes. But according to this Süddeutsche Zeitung’s OpEd by Heribert Prantl, the real question is why German authorities didn't try him decades ago. “German Federal legal authorities should begin in this case by apologizing to the victims — and to the world in general — for taking so long to proceed with ‘the State vs. Oskar Gröning in 300,000 cases of accessory to murder.’ The delay is so exaggerated that punishment almost doesn’t make sense any longer. Unfortunately, no such confession or apology will be forthcoming — that's not something our code of criminal procedure calls for. Nor was the system designed to mete out punishments that no longer make any sense. And yet that is precisely what the Gröning case involves.”
Read the full article, Elderly Nazis On Trial, And The Crime Of Germany's Post-War Legal System.
CHILE’S CALBUCO VOLCANO ERUPTS
The Calbuco volcano, in southern Chile, erupted for the first time in 42 years Wednesday, forcing more than 4,000 people to be evacuated by authorities within a 20-kilometer radius, El Mercurio reports. A huge ash cloud was seen billowed several kilometers into the air over the sparsely populated and mountainous region. The eruption of the Calbuco, which is one of the most dangerous of Chile’s 90 active volcanoes, took officials by surprise. No deaths or missing persons were reported Thursday.
Clarence Moore, a 66-year-old American fugitive, has turned himself in to Kentucky authorities after 40 years on the run, USA Today reports. He reportedly made the decision due to poor health and his need for medical care. Moore was convicted of robbery in North Carolina in 1967 and escaped police custody in 1976. He had been living under the name Ronnie Dickinson in Frankfort, Kentucky, for years. But a stroke that left him paralyzed on his right side led him to contact authorities this week. "As soon as he saw us, he started crying. He said, "I just want to get this behind me. I want to be done,"” the Franklin County sheriff Pat Melton said.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
“You’re a donkey,” said Lindsay Lohan, (hopefully) mistakenly.
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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