Bataclan To Pulse, The Show Must Go On. Or Must It?

Seether concert at the Bataclan on Oct. 15
Seether concert at the Bataclan on Oct. 15
Tori Otten


PARIS — Next month marks the two-year anniversary of the Bataclan attack — and the one-year anniversary of its reopening. The Nov. 13, 2015 shooting that took place at the historic Paris music venue, along with coordinated attacks at nearby cafes and a soccer stadium, left a total of 130 people dead. It was an attack on everything that the Bataclan, which had featured everything from Offenbach operettas to heavy metal bands since its 1865 opening, had stood for: youth, joy, entertainment and life.

After its reopening last year, with a concert by Sting, the concert hall had trouble booking other acts, as many musicians were reluctant to perform in a place where so many people had been killed. In the 11 months since, Le Monde reports on Tuesday, the Bataclan has booked 20% fewer shows than before the attacks. The first six months were especially hard, according to Jules Frutos, one of the current top managers at the Bataclan. "We obviously weren't drowning in calls from agents who wanted their artists performing here."

In the aftermath of such a tragic event, especially when the venue has been specifically targeted, deciding what becomes of the site is never easy. The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, was faced with the same dilemma as the Bataclan after the massacre there in June 2016. As with the Bataclan, the symbolism of the locale is crucial. After the shooting, Pulse's owner Barbara Poma launched the onePulse Foundation, with the goal of turning the club into a memorial and museum for the shooting victims. She is now looking to reopen the club, but in a different location, leaving the original building for the memorial. "This project is not about replacing a building or a fun hangout for the gay community," said Jason Felts, a onePulse Foundation board member, in an official statement. "This project is about healing."

There is, however, a third option. After the New Year's Eve shooting at Reina nightclub in Istanbul, carried out by an Islamic terrorist, the Municipality Board decided to demolish the venue, saying that parts of the building had been built illegally. According to Turkish daily Hurriyet, the club's owner said he also no longer wanted to "sell entertainment in a place in which many people died."

Deciding what becomes of the site is never easy.

More and more attacks seem to target people enjoying themselves, including the Oct. 1 mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas and last May's attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. A tragedy at these kinds of major venues, of course, also leaves its mark, though such spaces are less likely to be immediately associated with that event.

For the Bataclan, the challenge is to simultaneously overcome and remember what happened on November 13, 2015. Next up at the Bataclan, on Wednesday night, is a performance by French comedian Michaël Gregorio. That, ladies and gentleman, will be one tough room to play.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

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.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


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.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

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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