SPOTLIGHT: PALESTINIAN PRISON LETTER
"My release is bound to happen, sooner or later ... "
The most charismatic living Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, who has been in an Israeli prison since 2002, offered a rare written exchange recently with Le Monde. Some see the 56-year-old, who was sentenced to five life imprisonments in 2004 for directing suicide bombings during the second Intifada, as the only figure who can unite the Palestinians â€" and then, the thinking follows, forge peace with Israel. A sort of "Mandela of the Middle East" is the dreamy hope: A Hebrew-speaking visionary with street cred in Gaza could not only bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but could in turn reverse the spiral of violence across the entire Arab world, and make those in the West safer in the process.
Middle East dreamers, however, are a vanishing breed. Not only are heels dug in deep in both Jerusalem and Ramallah, but few still hold onto the illusion that the conflicts burning within the Muslim world can be tamed in one fell swoop by the achievement of Palestinian statehood. That, of course, is no reason not to seek it more urgently than ever.
Check out the English edition of the Le Monde story, Marwan Barghouti, A Palestinian Mandela Or Israelâ€™s Worst Nightmare?
WHAT TO LOOK FOR TODAY
- Federal Reserve meeting ends. Interest rates are expected to be left untouched.
- Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama at the White House, even though China wonâ€™t like it.
- SpaceX makes new Falcon 9 rocket launch.
Two groups of Russian hackers working for government intelligence agencies managed to gain access to the Democratic National Committee network for about a year, before being kicked out earlier this month. According to The Washington Post, the intruders targeted emails and files about presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
ORLANDO SHOOTERâ€™S WIFE COULD BE CHARGED
The wife of Omar Mateen, the terrorist who killed 49 people at an Orlando gay club, is believed to have had knowledge of her husbandâ€™s plans and she could soon be charged, CNN reports. The couple has been married since 2011 and have a three-year-old son.
â€" ON THIS DAY
Twenty-two years ago on this day, we were introduced to â€œHakuna matata.â€ That, and more, in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of History.
â€œMore innocents will die,â€ French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told radio station France Inter this morning in reaction to the killing of married police department employees at their home on Monday night by an Islamist terrorist. The fight against terrorism in France could last â€œat least 10 or 20 years,â€ he added.
FRENCH PROTESTS TURN VIOLENT, AGAIN
At least 40 people were wounded, including 29 police officers, during a new day of protests against a labor reform in France yesterday, France 24 reports. A small group of protesters attacked a childrenâ€™s hospital in Paris, smashing some of its windows. The three-year-old child of the couple killed on Monday night was there.
MORE HOOLIGAN CLASHES IN LILLE
Franceâ€™s northern city of Lille is in a â€œstate of siege,â€ daily Libération writes to describe the measures taken there to avoid the fights between Russian and English hooligans witnessed in Marseille days ago. But fights nonetheless started yesterday between groups of supporters. Russia is playing against Slovakia later today, while England and Wales will face each other tomorrow in the nearby city of Lens.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
Cameo Car â€" Monastir, 1970
Alien life is out there, but we might not make contact with it until 1,500 years from now, two scientists believe.
ALLIGATOR DRAGS CHILD INTO LAKE AT DISNEY WORLD
A search and rescue operation is underway at Disney World in Orlando after an alligator dragged a two-year-old boy into the water, despite his fatherâ€™s efforts to protect him. Read more from the Orlando Sentinel.
â€" MORE STORIES, EXCLUSIVELY IN ENGLISH BY WORLDCRUNCH
- The Risks Of Being Gay, Orlando To Berlin To The Middle East â€" Die Welt
- Mickey V. Dragon: Shanghai Disney Challenges China's Domestic Theme Parks â€" Economic Observer
- Mauritania, The Last Stronghold Of Slavery â€" La Stampa
NO MORE PIPING HOT DRINKS
Itâ€™s not what you drink, but rather how hot it is, that can cause cancer, according to a new report by the UNâ€™s International Agency for Research on Cancer.
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.
- Arab-Israeli Rapprochement: Is Saudi Arabia Next? - Worldcrunch ›
- Why Iran Is Actively Backing The Taliban For The First Time ... ›
- Iran-Azerbaijan Tensions: How Khamenei Overplayed Islamic Ties ... ›