Syrian soldiers in Eastern Ghouta on April 11
Marie-Hélène Miauton

-OpEd-

Tensions are reaching a bursting point over Syria! Just as Saddam Hussein's (hypothetical) possession of weapons of mass destruction led U.S. President George W. Bush to invade Iraq, the (alleged) use of lethal gases on Douma, a district in Syria's Eastern Ghouta controlled by Islamists, now allows Donald Trump to announce harsh reprisals.

Once again, a coalition of the "good" is forming against the "axis of evil," embodied in this case by Russia — which supports Syria, whose president is "a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it," as Trump tweeted with his trademark sense of moderation. Failing to learn the lessons of the past, the Western world is therefore trying to overthrow a secular regime in Syria, just as it did in Iraq, a move that allowed the emergence of this Islamic state that they claim they want to annihilate. Nonsense!

What Trump and others want to destroy in Syria is the regime in place supported by Moscow, which is definitely taking on far too much importance at the moment. This land thus becomes the battleground for monumental geopolitical and economic interests.

Nonsense!

Incidentally, Russia has become the second largest arms exporter in the world after the U.S. Although Russian exports are four times smaller than those of the U.S., the American hawks must be thinking that it cannot be allowed to last! This is why the aircraft carriers are on the move, as are the submarines and the war planes ... preparing for the full-scale demonstration of the superiority of the F-22 over the Sukhoi-24, or of the U.S. military's "nice and new and ‘smart""" — as Trump put it — missiles, over the new Sarmat, which, according to Putin, are "capable of striking targets both via the North and South Poles."

What are we playing at here, under the watchful and totally useless eye of the United Nations? Have we forgotten everything already? The justifications given for invading Iraq, with the aim of supposedly "establishing democracy and pacifying the Middle East by way of an example effect"? Saddam Hussein's alleged ties with terrorist networks when he was actually actively fighting them?

Have we forgotten Colin Powell's incredible claim that Saddam Hussein "investigated dozens of biological agents causing diseases such as gas gangrene, plague, typhus, tetanus, cholera, camelpox and hemorrhagic fever"? Or the false statement of a pseudo-Kuwaiti nurse paid by the U.S. to claim she had seen Iraqi soldiers loot the maternity ward of a hospital in Kuwait and "take babies from the incubators and kill them mercilessly by throwing them to the ground"?

Have we really forgotten everything?

What about the luxurious press service that was stationed in the desert and tasked with feeding the international media with war and technological exploits? Don't we remember that? Or the so-called "surgical war" that actually killed over a million people? Have we really forgotten everything?

It is astonishing to see that Donald Trump, whose unpredictability, recklessness and ridicule are unanimously and constantly denounced, regains his former glory as soon as he proposes to pound Syria, or what's left of it. That Theresa May, whose strategic and tactical weakness is largely deplored, is showing no hesitation in pushing Britain, entangled in the Brexit negotiations, to play war games with its American big brother. That France, which used to know better, is joining the club of good intentions while its trains are on strike, its university campuses blocked by protesters, its reforms badly accepted.

While these heads of state are often judged poorly when it comes to their domestic programs and governing ability, they're considered instantly credible, for some reason, when making major international decisions. And yet, those decision could very well lead to a world conflict or, at the very least, a new bloodbath in the Middle East. Go figure!

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Thousands of migrants in Del Rio, Texas, on the border between Mexico and the U.S.

Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

👋 Сайн уу*

Welcome to Friday, where the new U.S.-UK-Australia security pact is under fire, Italy becomes the first country to make COVID-19 "green pass" mandatory for all workers, and Prince Philip's will is to be kept secret for 90 years. From Russia, we also look at the government censorship faced by brands that recently tried to promote multiculturalism and inclusiveness in their ads.

[*Sain uu - Mongolian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• U.S. facing multiple waves of migrants, refugees: The temporary camp, located between Mexico's Ciudad Acuña and Del Rio in Texas, is housing some 10,000 people, largely from Haiti. With few resources, they are forced to wait in squalid conditions and scorching temperatures amidst a surge of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. Meanwhile, thousands of recently evacuated Afghan refugees wait in limbo at U.S. military bases, both domestic and abroad.

• COVID update: Italy is now the first European country to require vaccination for all public and private sector workers from Oct. 15. The Netherlands will also implement a "corona pass" in the following weeks for restaurants, bars and cultural spaces. When he gives an opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly next week, unvaccinated Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will defy New York City authorities, who are requiring jabs for all leaders and diplomats.

• U.S. and UK face global backlash over Australian deal: The U.S. is attempting to diffuse the backlash over the new security pact signed with Australia and the UK, which excludes the European Union. The move has angered France, prompting diplomats to cancel a gala to celebrate ties between the country and the U.S.

• Russian elections: Half of the 450 seats in Duma are will be determined in today's parliamentary race. Despite persistent protests led by imprisoned opposition leader Alexey Navalny, many international monitors and Western governments fear rigged voting will result in President Vladimir Putin's United Russia party maintaining its large majority.

• Somali president halts prime minister's authority: The decision by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed marks the latest escalation in tensions with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble concerning a murder investigation. The move comes as the Horn of Africa country has fallen into a political crisis driven by militant violence and clashes between clans.

• Astronauts return to Earth after China's longest space mission: Three astronauts spent 90 days at the Tianhe module and arrived safely in the Gobi desert in Inner Mongolia. The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first of crewed missions China has planned for 2021-2022 as it completes its first permanent space station.

• Prince Philip's will to be kept secret for 90 years: A British court has ruled that the will of Prince Philip, the late husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth who passed away in April at 99 years old, will remain private for at least 90 years to preserve the monarch's "dignity and standing."

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

With a memorable front-page photo, Argentine daily La Voz reports on the open fight between the country's president Alberto Fernández and vice-president Cristina Kirchner which is paralyzing the government. Kirchner published a letter criticizing the president's administration after several ministers resigned and the government suffered a major defeat in last week's midterm primary election.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€150

An Italian investigation uncovered a series of offers on encrypted "dark web" websites offering to sell fake EU COVID vaccine travel documents. Italy's financial police say its units have seized control of 10 channels on the messaging service Telegram linked to anonymous accounts that were offering the vaccine certificates for up to €150. "Through the internet and through these channels, you can sell things everywhere in the world," finance police officer Gianluca Berruti told Euronews.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

In Russia, brands advertising diversity are under attack

Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

❌ "On behalf of the entire company, we want to apologize for offending the public with our photos..." reads a recent statement by Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi after publishing an advertisement that included a photograph of a Black man. Shortly after, the company's co-founder, Konstantin Zimen, said people on social media were accusing Yobidoyobi of promoting multiculturalism. Another recent case involved grocery store chain VkusVill, which released advertising material featuring a lesbian couple. The company soon began to receive threats and quickly apologized and removed the text and apologized.

🏳️🌈 For the real life family featured in the ad, they have taken refuge in Spain, after their emails and cell phone numbers were leaked. "We were happy to express ourselves as a family because LGBTQ people are often alone and abandoned by their families in Russia," Mila, one of the daughters in the ad, explained in a recent interview with El Pais.

🇷🇺 It is already common in Russia to talk about "spiritual bonds," a common designation for the spiritual foundations that unite modern Russian society, harkening back to the Old Empire as the last Orthodox frontier. The expression has been mocked as an internet meme and is widely used in public rhetoric. For opponents, this meme is a reason for irony and ridicule. Patriots take spiritual bonds very seriously: The government has decided to focus on strengthening these links and the mission has become more important than protecting basic human rights.Russian sushi delivery Yobidoyobi removed an advertisement with a Black man and apologized for offending the Russian nation, while a grocery chain was attacked for featuring an LGBTQ couple, reports Moscow-based daily Kommersant.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"Ask the rich countries: Where are Africa's vaccines?"

— During an online conference, Dr. Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, implored the international community to do more to inoculate people against COVID-19 in Africa and other developing regions. The World Health Organization estimates that only 3.6% of people living in Africa have been fully vaccinated. The continent is home to 17% of the world population, but only 2% of the nearly six billion shots administered so far have been given in Africa, according to the W.H.O.

✍️ Newsletter by Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Bertrand Hauger and Anne-Sophie Goninet

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