Geopolitics

Signs That Iran Wants To Ease Tensions With Saudi Arabia

At a Jan.4 demonstration against Saudi Arabia in Tehran
At a Jan.4 demonstration against Saudi Arabia in Tehran
Alidad Vassigh

The news continues to be troubling for Tehran: Several more Arab states have followed Saudi Arabia to cut or curb ties with Iran in the wake of a showdown over Riyadh's execution of a Shia leader.

And yet, Iran's reformist leaders and most of the country's media are remaining notably calm.

In the immediate aftermath of the execution of the Saudi opposition figure and Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Iran reacted with harsh words, and analysts continue to accuse the Saudis of cooking up this crisis to undermine Tehran's rapprochement with the international community.

But even as the execution appeared clearly designed to "provoke" Iranians â€" some of whom attacked Saudi diplomatic compoundsâ€" leaders in Tehran have flatly condemned the street violence.

Iran is playing the sensible card for now, and media gave top coverage to the current round of diplomatic visits to Tehran, including by the Danish foreign minister. One conservative daily Jomhuri-e Eslami, even accused violent Iranian hardliners of being "friends of al-Saud" for giving the Saudis an excuse to break with Iran.

The judiciary chief, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, considered a confidant of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was also widely cited as condemning the "mistaken" violence outside the Saudi embassy. Police have made arrests, though nobody in Iran expects these radicals to serve any real time. Still, reports of their arrests convey the idea that the regime did not and does not condone such explosions of righteous ire. This stands in contrast not just with the popular uprising of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but also with the more recent presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when hardliners had a much freer hand.

While the moderately conservative daily E'temaad carried a headline on "madness" taking over the Arabian peninsula, its editor wrote Tuesday that Iranian diplomacy would remain "focused" to avoid fanning tensions. He also recalled that Ayatollah Khamenei had, at an unspecified time, stated he is "not in favor" of storming embassies, and that hardliners should remember that.

An editorial in the reformist Shargh reviewed the history of "complex" Iran-Saudi relations, noting this was the third time ties were severed. The conservative Jomhuri-e Eslami took a timely slap at the Saudis, writing that the regime clearly did not understand "how little weight" it carried now, as the West reconsiders its ties with post-revolutionary Iran. Its headline warned that the crisis will harm the economies of Saudi Arabia and its allies.

Meanwhile, the more hardline Resalat wondered Tuesday whether the Saudis "had gone mad."

Several reformist dailies, including Aftab-e Yazd didn't let the potentially far-reaching diplomatic crisis interrupt the current vetting of aspiring candidates for coming elections to the Assembly of Experts, a key clerical body. The daily was concerned that the Guardian Council, the chief vetting body, was looking for excuses to disqualify, among others, one of the most prominent of reformist candidates: Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the late revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

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Future

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.


Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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