CALIFORNIA SHOOTING MAY BE TERRORISM
FBI officials investigating the Wednesday San Bernardino shooting that left 14 people dead and 21 wounded are probing a potential terrorist motive, though that connection has yet to be substantiated, the Los Angeles Times reports. Police officers told reporters that the level of planning and the arsenal used by killers Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik suggest it was more than a response to a workplace dispute. â€œCertainly they were equipped and they could have continued to do another attack,â€ San Bernardino police Chief Jarrod Burguan said. The Los Angeles Times reports that Farook is believed to have been in contact with a potential terror suspect, meaning there could be a â€œdeeper terror matrix,â€ the newspaper quoted a senior federal source as saying.
A return to national borders, a fight against radical Islam, a rejection of the EU and its asylum policies. Franceâ€™s Far-Right National Front leader Marine Le Pen answers questions from Le Temps in the wake of the Paris attacks, and ahead of Sunday's regional elections, when the party is expected to make major gains. Read the full piece, â€œYou Must Name Your Enemy â€" The Marine Le Pen Interview.â€
GERMANY JOINS ANTI-ISIS COALITION
German lawmakers voted overwhelmingly (445 to 146) to support the governmentâ€™s plan to join the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition in Syria and Iraq, Die Welt reports. The decision means that warplanes and up to 1,200 German troops could be deployed to Syria, and it comes three weeks after the Paris terror attacks that killed 130 people.
- Unconfirmed reports, meanwhile, claim that Britain could be the next ISIS target, in retaliation for bombing the jihadist groupâ€™s positions in Syria.
- Australia has taken steps to strip suspected terrorists holding two nationalities of their Australian citizenship, a move that could affect half of the Australians fighting with jihadists in the Middle East, AP reports.
â€œNow if there is some little girl who wants to be a tanker, no one can tell her she canâ€™t,â€ U.S. attack helicopter pilot Katelyn van Dam told The New York Times in response to the news that all combat jobs in the U.S. military are now available to women. â€œThere will be no exceptions,â€ Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. Some critics remain unconvinced. â€œHumping a hundred pounds, man, that ainâ€™t easy, and it remains the defining physical requirement of the infantry,â€ one scientist said.
Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have installed 12 hunks of ice from Greenlandâ€™s Nuuk Fjord in front of the Panthéon in Paris. The installation, called â€œIce Watchâ€ is an artistic reminder of the dangers of a warming planet as the French capital hosts the UN Climate Summit (COP21).
COULD THE EU SUSPEND SCHENGEN?
European Union interior ministers are expected to meet in Brussels today to address the issue of free movement across borders in the Schengen Area, the Financial Times reports. According to a leaked document prepared by Luxembourg, the EU could consider suspending the Schengen agreements and re-establish border checks for a period of two years. Yesterday Greece asked the EU to help control its border, especially its northern border with non-EU member Macedonia, where thousands of migrants are stranded after a Macedonian decision to welcome only Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. The move has led to violent clashes, the BBC reports. An estimated 1.2 million migrants have entered Europe this year, more than half of them via Greece.
Almost half of Japanese workers could be replaced by robots or artificial intelligence software in the next 10 to 20 years, according to a scientific study published by the Nomura Research Institute. Most of the replaced jobs wouldnâ€™t require â€œcreativity, cooperativeness and negotiation skills.â€ The institute notes that this percentage stands at 47% in the U.S., and 35% in Britain.
CHINA-AFRICA SUMMIT IN JOHANNESBURG
Chinese President Xi Jinping is in Johannesburg, South Africa, for a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation during which he announced a series of measures to support Africaâ€™s self-development, Xinhua reports. According to Africa News Agency, the Chinese leader pledged $60 billion in loans and assistance to African nations.
MY GRAND-PÈREâ€™S WORLD
ROCKER SCOTT WEILAND FOUND DEAD
Scott Weiland, the frontman and lead singer of rock bands Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, was found dead late yesterday during a tour stop in Bloomington, Minn. He â€œpassed away in his sleep,â€ the official statement reads. He was 48.
ON THIS DAY
An English pope, you say? That, and more, 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.
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 ... ›