DAILY MAIL, BBC NEWS, THE GUARDIAN (U.K.)
British Police are investigating reports on Monday of a lion on the loose in the southeastern county of Essex, near the village of St. Osyth.
Residents of #stosyth are advised to enjoy the bank holiday Monday but to be cautious. Officers still in the area conducting searches
— Essex Police (@EssexPoliceUK) August 27, 2012
The BBC reports that police are cooperating with the nearby Colchester zoo, which deemed the reports genuine after analyzing a long-range photograph by a member of the public.
One local resident told the BBC that he heard a "loud roar" near his house last night.
Two helicopters and approximately 30 armed police officers were deployed in the area to search for the beast. The Colchester Zoo and a nearby circus both told authorities all animals were accounted for.
"It was one million percent a lion. It was a tan colour with a big mane, it was fully grown, it was definitely a lion. It was just standing there, it seemed to be enjoying itself," said Rich Baker, a resident of Clacton where the lion was allegedly last seen, according to the Daily Mail.
The Guardian has started a live blog to monitor the situation and to determine whether the lion-on-the-loose is a hoax, noting that a similar sighting of a white tiger last year in Hampshire caused quite a stir - until the animal turned out to be a stuffed toy.
The reports of the lion sighting prompted many Twitter users to joke about the situation and poke fun at Essex stereotypes.
Police have reported that with further observation, it turns out the lion in Essex is a snow leopard with a spray tan and hair extensions.
— Danny Osborne (@thedannyosborne) August 27, 2012
— The Poke(@ThePoke) August 26, 2012
This is getting interesting. The Essex Lion has just taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy #essexlion
— David Schneider (@davidschneider) August 27, 2012
Someone even went as far as to create a dedicated Twitter account for the lion, which already has more than 28,000 followers and purportedly follows its peregrenations around Essex.
ON ME WAY TO THE CARPARK FOR A PROPER FIGHT. BRUVS GOING DOWN. LISTENING TO CIRCLE OF LIFE TO GET PUMPED.
— Essex Lion (@EssexLion) August 26, 2012
ME MANE IS TOO MENTAL. FIRST ONE TO LAUGH AT ME ROMFORD FACELIFT GETS THEIR ARM MAULED
— Essex Lion (@EssexLion) August 27, 2012
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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