Photo: Ahmad Halabisaz/ZUMA
IMF URGES MORE GREEK DEBT RELIEF
The Eurozone must â€œgo well beyond what has been under consideration to dateâ€ to relieve Greek debt, and it could even eventually forgive a part of it, IMF officials wrote in a report obtained by Reuters.
- The IMF report was submitted to Eurozone authorities late Monday, hours after a new bailout agreement averting a â€œGrexitâ€ was signed between Greece and the 18 other Eurozone members.
- The Greek parliament will vote on the new bailout plan today. As The Guardian reports, parliament members will be asked to back an overhaul of the VAT system and an increase in the retirement age. Such measures had been rejected in the July 6 referendum.
- The vote is seen as a test of leadership for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
- At least 35 members of the prime ministerâ€™s Syriza party said last night that they would vote against the measures, arguing that the bailout agreement would only worsen poverty and unemployment.
U.S. President Barack Obama has hailed the Iran nuclear deal reached yesterday between the Islamic Republic and the â€œP5+1â€ (the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France and Germany). â€œHistory shows that America must lead not just with our might but with our principles,â€ he said in a televised address. â€œTodayâ€™s announcement marks one more chapter in our pursuit of a safer, more helpful and more hopeful world.â€ Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also described the talks as promising, Reuters reports. â€œThis is a reciprocal deal,â€ he said. â€œIf they stick to it, we will. The Iranian nation has always observed its promises and treaties.â€
Belarus will hold presidential elections in October, and President Alexander Lukashenko will face Tatiana Karatkevich, the first-ever female candidate. That is, of course, unless the all-powerful ruler changes his mind, writes Kommersantâ€™s Nikolai Anishenko. â€œSince Belarus gained independence in 1991, only one woman had ever flirted with presidential aspirations, and even then she didn't make it past the signature-gathering stage,â€ Anishenko reports. â€œKaratkevich instead is determined to go farther. â€˜First and foremost, what we want to achieve is for the state to respect the opinions of the people,â€™ the candidate says. â€˜To ensure that the authorities do not divide us into good and bad, into enemies, into the capable and the incapable.â€™â€
Read the full article, A First Female Presidential Candidate In Europeâ€™s Last Dictatorship.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
AUSCHWITZ GUARD SENTENCED TO 4 YEARS
Former â€œAuschwitz bookkeeperâ€ Oskar Gröning, 94, was sentenced by a German court today to four years in prison for being an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews at the Nazi concentration camp during World War II, Die Welt reports. Gröning, who has previously admitted â€œmoral guilt,â€ was responsible for counting the belongings confiscated from prisoners. He is expected to be the last Nazi to face trial.
â€œWith this mission, we have visited every single planet in the solar system,â€ NASA administrator Charles Bolden said Tuesday, as the space agency received confirmation from its New Horizons spacecraft that it survived its historic encounter with Pluto. The probe passed only 12,400 kilometers (7,700 miles) away from the dwarf planet, after a 9-year and 5 billion-kilometer journey, NASA reports. The confirmation message took four hours 25 minutes to traverse 4.7 billion kilometers of space.
YEMEN REBELS LOSE GROUND
Loyalists of exiled Yemen President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi recaptured the airport and some districts of Aden, a critical port city in southern Yemen, from Houthi rebels who had held it since March. The president fled the country for Saudi Arabia March 25 after the Houthis, Shia rebels hailing from the countryâ€™s north, advanced on Aden after capturing the capital of Sanaâ€™a. Saudi Arabia and a coalition of mainly Arab states began a heavy campaign of airstrikes the same day, and three months of war have sparked a humanitarian crisis in the country.
ON THIS DAY
Today is Arianna Huffingtonâ€™s birthday. Get more July 15 trivia in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of history.
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.
For 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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