Ultimatum For Greece, Boston Bomber Apology, Translating Seinfeld

Kobani, Syria
Kobani, Syria


Fruitless talks between the Greek government and its international creditors to obtain a new rescue funding plan resumed yesterday and lasted through the night, ending in the lenders giving Greece an ultimatum to offer a new reforms proposal this morning, To Vima reports.

  • According to the Financial Times, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was given until 11 a.m. Brussels time today to present a “feasible blueprint” otherwise the IMF, the European Commission and Eurogroup would put forward a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer for Athens. The deadline has passed and no deal was reached. Follow The Guardian’s blog for live updates.

  • Hopes that a deal could be reached after Athens offered to pass a series of reforms, including tax hikes and an end to early retirement, were dashed yesterday by the creditors’ refusal. According to Les Échos, the IMF and its chief Christine Lagarde, who is campaigning for reelection next year, favor spending cuts to VAT and corporate tax increases. Creditors now want Greece to push its retirement age to 67 and to cancel benefits for its poorest pensioners. “This odd stance seems to indicate that either there is no interest in an agreement or that special interests are being backed,” Tsipras said yesterday.

  • Such demands are placing the Greek government under intense pressure, and it’s unclear whether the Greek Parliament would back them. The country’s parliamentary Truth Commission on Public Debt recently released a report claiming the debt is “illegal, illegitimate and odious” and therefore shouldn’t be repaid. Read more from the Greek Reporter.

  • Greece has until Tuesday to make a $1.8 billion payment to the IMF. Any agreement would first have to be ratified by the Greek Parliament, talking heads believe that no agreement by Sunday will result in a Greek default.

  • Check out this week’s Charlie Hebdo, which weighs in on the Greek crisis, in our Extra! feature.


Tensions between NATO and Russia are continuing to escalate, with defense ministers in NATO member states considering boosting their nuclear deterrent in the face of “irresponsible rhetoric from Russia,” the Financial Times reports. While NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance “will not be dragged into an arms race,” he suggested that Moscow’s recent decision to buy 40 new intercontinental ballistic missiles in response to U.S. plans to permanently install heavy weaponry in eastern Europe had raised the alarm.


“I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering that I’ve caused you, for damage that I’ve done,” Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told surviving victims in court yesterday, his first public statement since his trial began for the 2013 terror attack. Moments later, he was formally sentenced to death. Read more from The Boston Globe.


After losing ground in Syria to Kurdish-led forces in recent days, ISIS fighters have launched a series of counteroffensives and attacked the Syrian army and Kurdish militias. One attack was in the Syrian-Turkish border city of Kobani, which ISIS lost in January after a months-long battle. ISIS suicide bombers detonated explosives, sparking clashes that killed dozens, The International Business Times reports. Jihadists also stormed a government-held neighborhood in the northeastern city of Hasakeh, and attacked government positions in the southern city of Daraa, near the Jordan border.


The Diary of Anne Frank was published 68 years ago today. Learn more about June 25 in today’s shot of history.


Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki will submit evidence of alleged Israeli war crimes to the International Criminal Court in The Hague today. The information is related to Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip last summer. But according to The New York Times, the files are believed to contain mostly information that’s already in the public record and is therefore “unlikely to have any immediate impact.” This comes days after a UN report accused both Hamas and Israel of war crimes during last summer’s conflict. A spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry dismissed today’s event as “nothing more than Palestinian public relations.”


It’s not quite like Marty McFly’s pink floating skateboard in Back To The Future 2, but Lexus has unveiled its closest match yet: a hoverboard that levitates thanks to magnetic forces.


In an area of Sao Paulo, Brazil, that still bears the marks of poverty, a private cemetery called Parque das Cerejeiras (Cherry Trees Park) has been turned into an artistic landmark of sorts, Folha’s Camila Appel writes. “‘The locals have few options when it comes to culture and leisure in the neighborhood,’ says Daniel Arantes, the cemetery’s manager. The well-equipped urban parks Burle Marx and Ibirapuera are 15 and 30 kilometers away, respectively. But these places actually have one notable thing in common with Parque das Cerejeiras: They boast benches designed by artist Hugo França.Read the full article, The Sao Paulo Cemetery Full Of Artistic Life.


Chinese authorities have announced the seizure of almost $500 million worth of smuggled frozen meat, some it dating back to the 1970s, as part of a nationwide crackdown that’s just the latest stomach-turning food scandal to hit the country. Read the full article from The New York Times.


Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has joined the already crowded 2016 Republican presidential primary race, the 13th GOP member to do so. But a hidden-camera video he posted online before making the official announcement, showing him and his wife telling their children the news, may send the wrong message.


Seinfeld’s word-based brand of humor is particularly difficult to translate. According to The Verge, the translator behind the show’s German version had a really hard time with Dolores, whose name “rhymes with a part of the female anatomy.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

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.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


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.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

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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