AP, REUTERS, CNN, NEW YORK TIMES (U.S.), BBC (UK)
WATERTOWN — Two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing killed an MIT university police officer, injured a transit officer in a firefight and threw explosive devices at police during their getaway attempt in a long night of violence that left one of them dead and another still at large Friday morning.
Authorities said the manhunt intensified for the other suspect, a young man described as a dangerous terrorist.
The suspects were identified early Friday to The Associated Press as coming from the Russian region near Chechnya, which has been plagued by an Islamic insurgency stemming from separatist wars. A law enforcement intelligence bulletin obtained by the AP identified the surviving bomb suspect as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, a 19-year-old who had been living in Cambridge, just outside Boston, and said he "may be armed and dangerous."
Boston RIC has released this flier showing at large suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. He may be armed & dangerous. twitter.com/Suntimes/statu…
— Suntimes (@Suntimes) April 19, 2013
Officers fired at the suspects, writes CNN, wounding one of the men, possibly the person identified by the FBI as "suspect number 1," who is seen in the images released Thursday in a dark cap, sunglasses and wearing a black backpack. The man died at Beth Israel Hospital. He had bullet wounds and injuries from an explosion, according to officials. The second man was reported to have escaped on foot. During this exchange, an MBTA police officer was seriously injured and taken to the hospital, according to the New York Times.
The dramatic events overnight followed the release on Thursday by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of pictures and video of two suspects seen wearing backpacks and baseball caps in the crowd minutes before the bombs exploded, says Reuters. On Friday the authorities effectively closed down Boston, halting transportation systems and telling people to stay home as the hunt continued.
“This situation is grave, we are here to protect public safety,” said Col. Tim Alben of the Massachusetts State Police. “We believe these are the same individuals that were responsible for the bombing on Monday at the Boston Marathon,” Mr. Alben said. “We believe that they’re responsible for the death of an MIT police officer and the shooting of an MBTA officer."
Three people were killed and more than 170 wounded when the two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, writes the BBC. It was the first major terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11.
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.
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