Photo: Natsuki Sakai/ZUMA
GREECE APPROVES BAILOUT, BUT TSIPRAS IN TROUBLE
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras won a bittersweet approval late yesterday of a package of tough measures â€" including an increase in sales tax and a pension shakeup â€" that will make a third bailout of the ailing country possible. But 38 members of his governing Syriza party voted against the deal, including former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis and Parliament Speaker Zoi Konstantopoulou, who called the measures â€œsocial genocide.â€ A weakened Tsipras is expected to reshuffle his cabinet to remove dissident members, but Reuters reports that the prime minister has no plans to resign. Read more about it on our Extra! feature here.
JAPAN STRENGTHENS MILITARY POWERS
The lower house of the Diet, Japanâ€™s parliament, has approved controversial legislation to allow the countryâ€™s armed forces to come to the aid of its allies and to engage in self-defense, the Japan Times reports. But the countryâ€™s 1947 constitution expressly prohibits it from engaging in the use of force, and its military is officially called the â€œself-defense forces.â€ The changes are a hallmark policy for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who had originally pledged to propose them after the summer. Tens of thousands of people have protested against the legislation, and the opposition has vowed to challenge them in the courts, calling them unconstitutional. The bills now move to the upper house, where they are expected to pass despite polls consistently showing that a majority of Japanese oppose the changes.
After decades of ambivalence and even suspicion toward â€œthe language of the Nazis,â€ German will now be offered as an official course in public high schools in Israel, Matthias Heine writes for German daily Die Welt. â€œGerman is taught at state-run schools or university in 144 countries around the world, even in North Korea. It was always possible to study German in Israel, but the standing of German as a language in the country â€" for comprehensible historic reasons â€" was not very high. Indeed, it was not offered as a normal public school subject. But all of this is about to change. German will be introduced as a compulsory subject choice during the coming school year that starts in late August. Students at participating schools will then be able to learn German as a foreign language.â€
Read the full article, Ending The Taboo Of The German Language In Israel.
YEMEN MINISTERS RETURN TO ADEN
Militias loyal to exiled President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi have retaken the provincial headquarters of the southern city of Aden after recapturing its airport two days ago. Al Jazeera reports that several ministers of Yemenâ€™s exiled government have now returned to Aden, which has been the provisional capital of Yemen since Sanaâ€™a fell to the northern Houthi rebels in February. After months of setbacks and stalemates despite the help of Saudi airstrikes, the pro-Hadi forces are now slowly advancing.
GAZA, ISRAEL TRADE ATTACKS
Israeli warplanes carried out a raid on Gaza after militants from the Palestinian territory fired rockets that landed near the Israeli city of Ashkelon, Italian daily La Stampa reports. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, which caused no deaths or injuries despite targeting a heavily populated area. Hamas officials confirmed that the airstrikes damaged a training site for their military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
GEORGE H.W. BUSH INJURED
Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush broke a bone in his neck after falling in his home in Maine, APreports. The 91-year-old is in stable condition at a local hospital, where his stay is expected to be brief.
UBER FINED IN CALIFORNIA
After a series of legal defeats in France and Italy, Uber took another hit yesterday when a regulator in its home state of California handed the ride-sharing app a $7.3 million fine. The company was accused of withholding data on accidents and the number of rides given to disabled people, the BBC reports.
TALIBAN LEADER ENDORSES PEACE TALKS
Reuters reports that Mullah Omar, the Afghan Talibanâ€™s reclusive leader, allegedly published an unprecedented statement yesterday marking the end of Ramadan by endorsing the nascent peace talks between his militant group and the Afghanistan government. In a post on a Taliban website, Omar expressed that Islam regards negotiations as a â€œlegitimateâ€ route to achieving the Talibanâ€™s goal of ending foreign occupation. Pakistan mediated a preliminary meeting between the two sides last week, where negotiators agreed to meet again to discuss further the possibility of peace talks.
ON THIS DAY
You stay classy, San Diego. Our favorite anchorman features in today'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.
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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