Welcome to Tuesday, where China further clamps down its COVID controls, Saudi Arabia launches air raids on the Yemeni capital and Indonesia gets a new capital. Meanwhile Les Echos’ Théophile Simon finally sees brighter days at hand in Iraq, during an extensive tour of the reconstruction efforts around the country.
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• COVID update: China is further tightening its Zero-COVID measures. It has ordered postal service’s workers to disinfect international deliveries and urged people to wear masks and gloves when opening overseas mail, after authorities claimed a package from Canada could be the source of the first Omicron case. Hong Kong authorities have announced they would cull some 2,000 small animals, including hamsters, after several tested positive for the coronavirus in a pet store where an infected employee was working. Beijing also announced that no tickets will be sold for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Australia, meanwhile, recorded its deadliest day of the pandemic with 77 dead, as the Omicron outbreak continues to push up hospitalizations to record levels.
• Saudi-led coalition carries deadly raids in Yemen’s Sanaa: An airstrike killed at least 14 people in the Yemeni capital Sanaa during raids launched by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi, a day after the rebel group launched a deadly attack in the United Arab Emirates. The strike targeted the home of a Houthi military official.
• At least 26 killed in Afghanistan twin quakes: Back-to-back earthquakes struck the west of Afghanistan on Monday, killing at least 26 people and damaging more than 700 houses. Rescue efforts are underway to find survivors.
• More Tonga deaths feared: Images taken by New Zealand Defence Force reconnaissance flights have revealed the significant damage inflicted by the tsunami and volcanic eruption on Tonga’s small outer islands, with an entire village destroyed and areas blanketed with ash. The confirmed death toll stands at two but as communications in the South Pacific island nation are cut, the true extent of casualties remains unclear. Heavy ashfall is hampering international relief efforts.
• Roberta Metsola elected new EU parliament president: The European parliament has chosen Maltese conservative lawmaker Roberta Metsola to succeed David Sassoli, who died last week, as its president. Metsola is the third woman to preside over the assembly after France’s Simone Veil and Nicole Fontaine.
• Oil prices hit highest level in 7 years: Benchmark oil prices have reached their highest level since 2014 while Brent crude futures rose 1.2% to $87.50 a barrel, over fears of possible supply disruption amid escalating hostility between the United Arab Emirates and Yemen’s Houthi group.
• An outer space black diamond unveiled in Dubai: Auction house Sotheby’s Dubai has unveiled “The Enigma,” a 555.55-carat black diamond believed to have come from outer space, which will be auctioned off in February in London for at least $6.8 million. Black diamonds, also known as cardonado, are extremely rare.
New Zealand daily The Dominion Post reports on hampered relief efforts to Tonga, as the scale of the damage caused from a volcanic eruption and tsunami has been revealed by images taken by the New Zealand Defence Force. The country is sending a ship carrying freshwater and supplies to the South Pacific Island nation after ash delayed the delivery of aid by air.
Indonesia’s parliament has approved a bill to move its capital to a site 2,000 kilometers away on Borneo island, which will be named “Nusantara” (an Old Javanese term which means "outer islands"). The current capital Jakarta, plagued by flooding and infrastructure problems, is slowly sinking, with experts predicting up to one-third of the city could be underwater by 2050.
The new Iraq, signs of hope amid the rubble and reconstruction
How do you rebuild a country decimated by four decades of war and embargoes? Following the withdrawal of the U.S. military, Iraq faces many challenges, from oil revenues captured by the militias and endemic corruption to religious segregation. However, there are glimmers of hope for the country's future, writes Théophile Simon in an in-depth reportage for French daily Les Echos.
🇮🇶 In many ways the skies are clearing over Iraq. The recent victory against the Islamic State organization may have ended nearly four decades of wars and embargoes. The COVID-19 pandemic, after ravaging the economy and forcing the first devaluation since the American invasion of 2003, is loosening its grip and allowing world oil demand to resume its upward trend. Iraq, the world's fifth largest crude producer, is counting on the windfall to rebuild, announcing recently that it would increase production by 40% by 2027.
🛢️ But the oil industry, which represents nearly 60% of the national GDP, is under the control of more or less coordinated paramilitary organizations, often linked to Iran. They’re present at all stages of the value chain: trucks, terminals, cargo ships. Their reach even goes as far as the clandestine refueling of oil tankers anchored in the Persian Gulf. "We do not control our borders," says Finance Minister Ali Allawi, who says he has launched a customs reform in recent months. It’s a problem with seemingly no solution, given the size of the challenge.
💧 As the Middle East goes through a phase of relative respite, a chorus of politicians from all sides is calling for the post-war Europe model to be used to tie regional economies together through transportation, trade or the energy sector. For Iraq, the practical work could begin with the management of its major rivers, which have their sources in Turkey and Iran and whose flows are decreasing at the rate of the construction of dams upstream.
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There still is a high risk that he will commit new crimes if he is released.
— Berit Johnsen, research professor at University College of Norwegian Correctional Service, warns about the threat still posed today by Anders Behring Breivik, as the Norwegian mass murderer goes to court today, seeking parole from his 21-year sentence, which almost certainly won’t be granted. Breivik, who has been in jail for the past ten years, has so far shown no remorse for the killing of 77 people in a bomb and gun attack in Oslo and on the island of Utøya in 2011.
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