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Ukraine Attacks Back, Sri Lanka Chaos, Big Buck Moon

“Buck Moon,” the biggest and brightest supermoon of the year, was captured between the Frauenkirche and the Ständehaus in Dresden.

McKenna Johnson, Lisa Berdet, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Joel Silvestri

👋 你好*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south is underway, Sri Lanka declares a state of emergency and Squid Game makes Emmys history. Meanwhile, Persian-language media Kayhan-London zooms in on Hojjatoleslam Taeb, Iran’s top military intelligence chief whose departure may betray the shortcomings of Tehran’s security.

[*Lí-hó - Taiwanese Hokkien]

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🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Ukraine counteroffensive begins: Announced earlier this week, the major counteroffensive in Ukraine’s south has begun over the past 48 hours. A Ukrainian missile hit a building in Russian-occupied Kherson early Tuesday being used as an ammunition depot, while the Ukrainian army also carried out a “special operation” to free military captives in the Moscow-controlled region.

• State of emergency in Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka declares a state of emergency due to mass protests in the country after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country to the Maldives on a military jet. Protestors stormed into government offices including Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office and demanded the resignation of both president and prime minister.

• Biden begins delicate trip to the Middle East: Joe Biden heads to Israel for his first Middle East tour as president. He will then visit the Palestinian territories, followed by Saudi Arabia where he will ask Riyadh to increase oil supplies amid the ongoing energy crisis.

• First vote to design new UK prime minister:Eight contenders are officially in the race to be the next Conservative Party leader and succeed Boris Johnson as UK prime minister. The first round of voting will happen today and the candidates have to secure at least 30 votes before the second round, that will be held on Thursday.

• Chinese heat wave warnings: Eighty-four cities across China issued a red alert warning for high temperatures as a heat wave is hitting the country. Temperatures are expected to hover around 40 °C. Meanwhile, Western Europe is also suffering from soaring temperatures with France facing its second heat wave in a month, increasing wildfire risks.

• Twitter sues Elon Musk:Twitter is suing Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in an attempt to force him to buy the social media company. This comes after Musk announced he was withdrawing from his $44 billion deal Friday. According to the lawsuit, “Musk’s exit strategy is a model of hypocrisy.”

Squid Game makes Emmys history: Netflix’s South-Korean series Squid Game is the first non-English Drama to be nominated at the Emmys in the “best drama series” category. The Emmy Awards ceremony will be held on Sept. 12.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

The front page of Portuguese daily Jornal I reports on temperature records broken by the current heatwave in the cities of Monção, Vila Real and Viseu as temperatures reach 48 °C (118 °F).

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$14.9 billion

Malaysian state oil company Petronas called the seizing of two of its Luxembourg subsidiaries “baseless” after a French court ordered Malaysia to pay $14.9 billion to the heirs of the last sultan of Sulu. The arbitration is linked to an agreement signed 144 years ago with a British trading company over the use of the sultan’s territory, now known as the Malaysian state of Sabah.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Dismissal of Iran spy chief shows a regime in disarray

The recent departure of a top Iranian military intelligence chief, supposedly over security lapses and bad decisions, reveals regime weakness in an area key to its survival: espionage and state intelligence, reports Roshanak Astaraki in Persian-language media Kayhan-London.

🔍 Hojjatoleslam Taeb was a confidante of the supreme leader and regular visitor at the Leader's Household. In the late 1990s, when Khamenei was reportedly displeased with the work of the then intelligence minister, (the leftist) Ali Yunesi, Taeb joined a team to create parallel intelligence bodies. His appointment as head of the Guards intelligence office gave him a free and often decisive hand over all intelligence activities, nor did he hesitate to invade the prerogatives of the Information Ministry, which is part of the executive branch. That produced tensions and disagreements in several cases.

❌ The election of very conservative Ibrahim Raisi appears to have improved coordination between the executive branch and judiciary, and ended the need for intelligence organs working alongside the Information Ministry. The proliferation of security operatives may indeed have weakened state secrecy and thus security, as military and security officials have concluded unity and cohesion are needed to fight suspected acts of sabotage, hacking or digital attacks. Taeb was becoming superfluous then, and a pretext was found for his removal.

⚠️ Iranian security displayed multiple shortfalls. Taeb's successor, Muhammad Kazemi, has a lengthy track record of intelligence work and is expected to close the loopholes, though there is no assurance of course that the new team are not themselves incompetent or treacherous. The regime's problem at present is, in any case, not the intelligence failings of a couple of agencies, but multiple challenges threatening its existence, international diplomatic and financial isolation to a half-collapsed economy, and an angry population fast losing its fear of the instruments of repression.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

COVID-19 is nowhere near over.

— World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday during his opening remarks at a COVID-19 media briefing. He warned that the virus is “running freely” and that there is a “major disconnect” in the perception of COVID-19 risk between the general public, scientific communities and political leaders. While voicing his concerns, he also acknowledged the progress made against the virus. “As the virus pushes at us, we must push back,” he says.

✍️ Newsletter by McKenna Johnson, Lisa Berdet, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Joel Silvestri


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Geopolitics

Why Iran Is Pushing So Hard For A Russian Victory

The Supreme Leader's advisers in Tehran argue the Islamic Republic must back Russia in Ukraine because Russia is fighting a common enemy: the Western alliance.

Russia President Vladimir Putin meeting with Iran's leader Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran

-Analysis-

When he welcomed visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin last month, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reassured his guest that Moscow rightfully defended itself when invading Ukraine. Speaking in Tehran, Khamenei declared: "Westerners are entirely opposed to a strong and independent Russia," and termed the NATO alliance "a dangerous creature."

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His rambling speech continued, filled with baseless claims about NATO, saying the Western military alliance "knows no limits" and "would have provoked this same war, with Crimea as its excuse," if Putin hadn't acted first.

Hossein Shariatmadari, the editor of the conservative Tehran paper Kayhan, which reputedly reflects the Supreme Leader's thinking, wrote in an editorial a week after Putin's visit and evoked a "celestial perspective" that could see the realities behind "the curtain" of the war. Khamenei, the editor wrote, knows that if America were to win this war, Iran would become its next target, which is why he considers the Russian "resistance" in Ukraine as tied to the Iranian regime's own security.

Thus, he concluded of Khamenei: "logically and naturally, he backs it."

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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