KAYHAN-LONDON
Kayhan is a Persian-language, London-based spinoff of the conservative daily of the same name headquartered in Tehran. It was founded in 1984 by Mostafa Mesbahzadeh, the owner of the Iranian paper. Unlike its Tehran sister paper, considered "the most conservative Iranian newspaper," the London-based version is mostly run by exiled journalists and is very critical of the Iranian regime.
Taliban And Iran: The Impossible Alliance May Already Be Crumbling
Geopolitics

Taliban And Iran: The Impossible Alliance May Already Be Crumbling

After the Sunni fundamentalist Taliban rulers retook control of Afghanistan, there were initial, friendly signals exchanged with Iran's Shia regime. But a recent border skirmish recalls tensions from the 1990s, when Iran massed troops on the Afghan frontier.

The clashes reported this week from the border between Iran and Afghanistan were perhaps inevitable.

There are so far scant details on what triggered the flare up on Wednesday between Iranian border forces and Taliban fighters, near the district of Hirmand in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province. Still, footage posted on social media indicated the exchange of fire was fairly intense, with troops on both sides using both light and heavy weaponry.

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Iran's Hard Line On Nuclear Talks Keeps Getting Harder
Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat and Hamed Mohammadi

Iran's Hard Line On Nuclear Talks Keeps Getting Harder

In spite of the toll sanctions have taken on its economy, Iran wants a deal on its nuclear program that addresses none of the West's concerns about its military ambitions. It is also moving forward with new uranium enrichment technology.

-Analysis-

After a four-month hiatus, Iran has resumed talks on its nuclear program with other signatory countries of the suspended, multilateral pact of 2015. These are Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, and the European Union (EU). The talks that began this week in Vienna exclude the United States, an original signatory that withdrew from the pact in 2018 — and while the U.S. administration under President Joe Biden says it favors a deal, it is only indirectly involved, through the EU.

Prospects for this round remain dim, given Iran's preconditions and the stated objectives of Western states. The Iranian deputy-foreign minister, Ali Baqeri-Kani, said on a recent trip to several EU states that Iran would only resume talks to discuss ending sanctions on it, and there would be no discussions for a nuclear agreement. He was suggesting that an end to all sanctions — whether for Tehran's nuclear program, rights violations or terrorism abroad — was the central condition for more talks.

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Iranian men wearing protective face masks walk along a street-side near Tehran's Traditional Grand bazaar
Economy
Hamed Mohammadi and Roshanak Astaraki

Iranians Used To Flee For Politics, Now It's Economics

The desperation to leave Islamic Iran has spread from writers, dissidents and minority groups to hundreds of thousands of Iranians willing to live and work "anywhere that isn't Iran."

-Analysis-

Not so long ago, people leaving Iran did so temporarily, and were from specific social groups like students or persecuted minorities. Today, emigration has become a crucial life choice weighed by many, if not most, Iranian families.

The principal destinations in previous years were Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia. Iranians were ready to pay the price required to buy themselves a better life in "first world" destinations. Today, they're no longer eyeing the most advanced countries but anywhere "that isn't Iran."

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Iran's New Law To Boost Birthrate Takes Aim At Condoms, Raises HIV Risks
Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Iran's New Law To Boost Birthrate Takes Aim At Condoms, Raises HIV Risks

An Iranian public healthcare official warns that a parliamentary bill to boost birth rates will cut access to condoms, and could fuel sexually-transmitted diseases like AIDS.

TEHRAN — Facing the lowest birth rate in the Middle East, the Iranian government has passed legislation that will end the distribution of free contraceptives in the public health care system unless a pregnancy would threaten the woman's health.

The law, called Rejuvenate the Population (Tarh-e javani-e jam'iat), has already faced pushback from NGOs for its attempt to undermine woman's reproductive rights. But now an Iranian public health official has also voiced his opposition, warning that discouraging the use of condoms will increase the spread of AIDS/HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

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A photo of two women walking past a poster of Iran's president
Geopolitics
Yusef Mosaddeqi

Interests Or Ignorance? What Drives The West's Appeasement Of Iran

Whether out of cynicism, greed or basic lack of knowledge, the West has willingly embraced the fabricated vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a slightly unruly, but essentially legitimate government with which it can do business.

-OpEd-

LONDON — Since the 1979 revolution in Iran, there has been strong support in the West for the idea of talking to and working with the Islamic Republic. For starters, this can be explained by Western governments' considerable economic interests in Iran, which endures to this day.

In turn, inside Iran, some politicians swiftly adopted the "good cop/bad cop" approach to dealing with the West. They would play the role of liberals, and keep open the door to a sham dialogue between the "infidel" West and the self-styled homeland of Shia Muslims.

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Backlit photo of Iranian soldiers marching in Tehran on October 3, 2021
Geopolitics

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.

-Analysis-

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.

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Plan B? Why Iran Thinks It Has The West Cornered On Nuclear Deal
Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat and Hamed Mohammadi

Plan B? Why Iran Thinks It Has The West Cornered On Nuclear Deal

The U.S. is calling for "imminent" return to talks. But Tehran has made advances on its nuclear program that could force the West to accept, in a new pact, its bomb-making capacity, which Iran will "freeze" if Western powers lift sanctions.


-Analysis-

It was a declaration of excessive optimism. Speaking in Doha on Sep. 30, the European Union's High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, said that nuclear negotiations with Iran would resume "within an acceptable period of time." Talks on reviving the 2015 pact to keep checks on Iran's nuclear program had ground to a halt before June's election of the very conservative Ibrahim Raisi as Iran's president. That has left the country under international sanctions, and its contested nuclear activities without outside supervision.

There was talk in recent days of referring Iran's dossier to the United Nations Security Council, which could happen in mid-November when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) governing board is to meet again. On Thursday, the U.S. State Department called for an "imminent" return to talks, but says it's up to Tehran to agree.

Iran's new foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, says that talks may resume "soon," but has stressed "soon" means different things to Iranians and Westerners.

The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned Iran several times that negotiations cannot go on forever, and should Tehran persist in dragging its feet, it may well be referred to the Security Council — where it can expect a chiding no less!

Iran wants a lighter pact.

Israel, which feels keenly threatened by Iran's program, is increasingly skeptical of the chances of an agreement. Iran's hesitations on resuming talks may explained by the uncertainty about how to proceed; though some believe it is simply reluctant to revert to the 2015 pact.

What's most likely is that Iran wants a more limited and less intrusive pact, in contrast with Western demands for a deal to include its ballistic program and regional interventions.

Khamenei's positive fatwa

Some experts suspect Iran's regime may have enough enriched uranium to feed a nuclear bomb this month. Iran may wish to resume "last minute" talks in Vienna, when it appears it is about to get its hands on a bomb. It will then expect the West to accept, in a new pact, its bomb-making capacity, which Iran will "freeze" if Western powers lift most or all sanctions, especially on its banks, foreign assets and energy sector.

Iranian policymakers seem to have concluded that the United States and Europe no longer want to revive the old pact and will accept that deal — because, apparently, it is the only way to avoid an Iranian bomb. At the same time, to reassure the West that Iran isn't truly pursuing a bomb, its officials keep citing the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's fatwa, that nuclear weapons are "illicit."

Western powers are likely preparing their response to a breakdown of talks, while the Israelis have been promoting their plan B, and C if need be, to contain Iran without a pact.

photo of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saluting with his hand at a military university graduation ceremony

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei at a military university graduation ceremony

Iranian Supreme Leader's Office/ZUMA

Signs on the Azerbaijan border

Meanwhile, amid verbal tensions between Iran and its neighbor the Republic of Azerbaijan, Iranian troops have for days been engaged in maneuvers near Iran's northern frontier, ostensibly to test weaponry including tanks and artillery.

The exercises are a response to what Tehran sees as threatening developments around it, including war games involving Azerbaijan, Turkey and Pakistan; security and military activity in Azerbaijan by the Israelis; a recent conference in Iraq that urged the Iraqi government to recognize Israel, U.S.-Israeli naval maneuvers in the Red Sea; and yet another suspect fire at a warehouse run by the Revolutionary Guards, west of Tehran.

Slowly, circles are being drawn around the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional power games

Israel's plans B and C may indeed consist of harsher sanctions or acts of sabotage against Iranian installations, and Iranian officials are aware of the threats. The IAEA's critical reports recently led one Iranian legislator to denounce IAEA inspectors as CIA and Mossad spies.

Biden hasn't strayed far from Trump

The regime's differences with the Western world go beyond its nuclear dossier. Slowly, circles are being drawn around the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional power games. Its officials may wonder whether or not Israel's Plan B has quietly begun.

An unnamed Revolutionary Guards Official was recently cited as saying that Iran has readied its plans against Israeli threats, and "we have a full hand in terms of intelligence and operational scenarios, with all the information on Israel's sensitive and strategic sites."

Iran's new foreign minister Amirabdollahian has made a point of showing his ministry's close coordination with the Revolutionary Guards, in marked contrast with his predecessor Javad Zarif.

Indeed, the Islamic Republic lost interest in the Vienna talks when the West began bringing up its regional activities, missiles and human rights. Before he was killed in 2020, the Revolutionary Guards general Qasem Soleimani had warned that reviving the 2015 pact was in fact a Western bid to curb the rising power of Shia Iran "against the Wahhabi-Jewish (brand of) Islam. They want to desiccate the Islamic current."

Israel may have broadly managed to persuade the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to collaborate more closely against the Iranian regime's multiple threats. There are several signs that Washington is holding the same line: Congressional approval of a billion dollars of funding for Israel's Iron Dome system; improving Israeli ties with Arab states and provisions added (by U.S. House Republicans) to the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act; and blocking any bid by the Biden administration to unilaterally lift sanctions on Iran. These are the type of obstacles Iran's regime had hoped would disappear with the Trump administration.

Photo of an explosion during Iranian military exercises near the Azerbaijan border.
Geopolitics
Kayhan-London

Iran-Azerbaijan Tensions: How Khamenei Overplayed Islamic Ties

Azerbaijan's flourishing ties with Turkey and Israel threaten Iran's regional trade and strategic security after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei overestimated his ability to woo Azerbaijan leader, Ilham Aliev, because both nations are predominantly Shia Muslim.

-Analysis-

Iran's Revolutionary Guards have sent armored and artillery units for maneuvers Friday close to the Islamic Republic's northern border with the Republic of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan deplored the move and reportedly prevented Iranian trucks from driving on Azeri roads into Armenia. Iran says the movements were a matter of internal security.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this week that Tehran would not tolerate the presence of "the Zionist regime near its frontiers and will take any measure needed for its national security."

In the northwestern Iranian city of Ardabil, with a population dominated by Iranian Azeris, the congregational prayer leader (and local representative of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), Ayatollah Hasan Amoli, has said that "Israel has come to Azerbaijan to threaten Iran, and the Sepah (Revolutionary guards) are in maneuvers... sending the message, don't overstep the mark!"

Khamenei tried to play the 'Islamic geography' card

When Armenia and Azerbaijan went to war in 2020 over the Karabakh enclave, Supreme Leader Khamenei ditched all neutrality and declared that "the lands of the Republic of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia must be freed." Ayatollah Amoli dutifully echoed him then, saying the leader's "fatwa to free Karabakh has been of great help!"

While some reports suggested the Revolutionary guards were secretly sending arms to Armenia, Khamenei believed he should publicly defend "the Islamic geography" and back Azerbaijan, which like Iran is a majority Shia Muslim nation. Perhaps Khamenei thought he could impede Azerbaijan's blossoming ties with Israel, nemesis to Iran's revolutionary regime.

He also thought he had close ties with the Azeri leader, Ilham Aliev. He must have felt it when he bantered with him in Azeri — which Khamenei speaks, being an Iranian Azeri himself — on Aliev's visit to Tehran in early 2014. But in this regard, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan has had far greater success.

At a meeting in February 2017, Khamenei warned Aliev that "the malicious Zionist regime is working harder than other enemies to weaken the brotherly ties between Iran and Azerbaijan." His recipe for Aliev was to pump the Shia ideology and ride the people's religious sentiments.

Aliev evidently wasn't moved. If this were a recipe for success and popularity, why did Iranians intermittently pour onto the streets and risk their lives to denounce the Islamic Republic?

Khamenei's diplomacy hasn't stopped Azerbaijan from repeatedly obstructing Iranian lorries driving toward Russia in recent years and hiking customs and passage fees.

Photo of Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey meeting in Nagorno-Karabakh

Presidents of Azerbaijan and Turkey meet in Nagorno-Karabakh

AzerbaijanPresidentPressOffice/TASS /ZUMA

Azerbaijan has bought billions worth of Israeli arms

Azerbaijan has meanwhile forged warm relations with Israel, expanding commercial, security and military ties since 2011. Tehran consequently feels threatened, as Israel has installed communications and satellite systems near Iran's 600-kilometer frontier with Azerbaijan, and is helping develop Azerbaijan's defensive and drone capabilities. Azerbaijan has bought billions of dollars worth of Israeli armaments.

Iran sent troops to the frontier after the tripartite exercises involving Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Turkey, set to continue to the end of September. The three countries say they are strengthening the security of routes set to be linked to China's Belt and Road system.

Economic benefits go to Turkey.

Some observers in Tehran suspect that in return for backing Azerbaijan's efforts to regain the Nagorno-Karabakh territory, Turkey and Israel, and more discreetly, Britain and the United States, have extracted commitments from Aliev, effectively to act against Iranian interests in fields including defense, the economy and even ethnic separatism.

A member of the Iranian parliament's National Security Committee, Fadahussein Maleki, has deplored the tripartite maneuvers, saying Iran "expected more of its Azeri neighbor." Other legislators have warned Azerbaijan to mind the "childish" positions taken by some of its legislators or ministers, whom they accuse of feeding "discord" between neighbors.

These tensions are likely to have economic, rather than military consequences, and to benefit Turkey, which already boasts a thriving trade with Baku. And the principal loser is Khamenei, who thought the Azeri language and Shia Islam were enough to bring the two states closer. Yet in geopolitical and economic calculations, and in the basic function between states, such assumptions should never be overestimated.

Why The Power Keeps Getting Cut In Oil-Rich Iran
Economy
Roshanak Astaraki

Why The Power Keeps Getting Cut In Oil-Rich Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran has no shortage of oil and gas. And yet, its people and industries are having to contend right now with regular power cuts. The question, then, is why, and what — if anything — the Iranian government can hope to do about it.

Analysis-

LONDON — Repeated power cuts in Iran have made lives a misery in recent months and are pushing industry, production and services to critical limits. In early July, when President Ibrahim Raisi officially began work as head of the 13th government of the Islamic Republic, he asked the outgoing energy minister Reza Ardakanian why this was happening.

Sources within the energy sector have given some clues and warn that shortages will continue into the winter. Mostafa Rajabi-Mashhadi, a spokesman for the electricity industry, has said there is a "20% shortage in fuel" needed for power production, while Nosratollah Kazemi, a member of the sector's main trade union, recently blamed a "lack of correct planning in energy," warning that even if policies were rectified now, outages could continue for two or three more years.

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Photo of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi walking on a stage in front of Iranian flags
Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

As Hopes For Iran Nuclear Deal Fade, Uranium Enrichment Accelerates

Institute for Science and International Security concludes that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level, with new centrifuges meaning that Tehran is a month away from obtaining arms-grade material to move toward its first weapon.

-Analysis-

The U.S.-based Institute for Science and International Security, which includes independent nuclear power experts, concludes from information issued by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran is enriching uranium at a 60% level — and thanks to new types of centrifuges, Tehran is barely a month away from obtaining weapons-grade material. The specialists caution that weapons-grade uranium is not the same as a nuclear bomb, for which delivery weapons and assemblage are needed. That would require another two years.

The Institute's experts believe Iran could produce material for a second bomb within a three-month time frame and that unless its activities are slowed, it may have enough enriched uranium for three bombs in the next five months.

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"We Won't Be Silenced" - Afghan Women Vow To Resist Taliban
Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

"We Won't Be Silenced" - Afghan Women Vow To Resist Taliban

Angered at the return of the Islamist rule of the Taliban, many Afghan women are refusing to keep quiet, covered and at home as they did in the 1990s.

The Afghan struggle against the Taliban's sectarian rule has begun, and does not look as if it will be deterred by threats from the "Islamic Emirate." After forming its provisional government — which shares a trait with the cabinet of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi for including ministers subject to sanctions and sought by international justice — the Taliban regime immediately banned all demonstrations. Protests, it declared, must seek permits 24 hours beforehand and even submit the slogans to be chanted to the interior and justice ministries for approval.

One woman who took part in recent anti-state protests in Kabul was Fahimeh Sadat, a rights activist who used to work with the Afghan government. Fahimeh Sadat tells Kayhan London by phone, "We won't be silenced with these threats, and will defend the rights we won in the past 20 years as far as we can."

We're not prepared to overlook our hard-earned rights.

She adds that women won't accept being confined at home like 25 years ago, having to do nothing but bear children, without any political or social rights: "We studied and worked, and we're not prepared to overlook our hard-earned rights because of the treachery of politicians and of international games, and because some bearded men from the Stone Age have regained power. We won't just switch off. That would be like combining death and hard labor."

Fereshteh Ra'fat, a journalist who managed to leave Kabul on one of the last flights out, says Afghanistan is "not the Afghanistan of 20 years ago," and the Taliban "are well aware of this change, which is why they are particularly afraid of women."

Ra'fat says they know that today, as was seen across Afghanistan in the past days, women are at the heart of protests against the government: "They're the ones who with their presence on the streets, brought the men onto the streets of Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif."

Many women in Afghanistan fear their hard-won rights will be taken away — Photo: Demiroren Visual Media/Abaca/ZUMA

Fahimeh Sadat will not believe any of the Taliban's promises to safeguard women's rights in an "Islamic framework." She says, "Didn't we live in an Islamic country so far? Which of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan's laws were against religious laws? Not that the Taliban recognize rights for men either. They arrest and strike with any pretext, as they did with journalists in recent days."

She cites their violations including the disappearance of ethnic Hazaras in Dasht-e Barchi (west of Kabul) and murders of civilians in the Panjshir valley. With such actions, she asks, "how are we going to believe that they will recognize women's rights, when the Taliban spokesman denies women constitute half of society."

Fahimeh Sadat says the city-countryside divide was a factor that aided the Taliban's return. The cultural and economic changes of the past 20 years "never reached the villages," she says, and rural life remained traditional. She said, "We mustn't pin our hopes on foreign governments. We must change Afghan society from inside," and bring it to "maturity." Her mother had "opted for silence and inaction to stay alive" in the last Taliban government, but for herself, "the incentive is to take part in protests. We're not seeing similar moves in villages, even if many people in the countryside are probably dismayed by the Taliban's return."

You can't blame America and the West for every sin.

She admits the sudden, disorderly departure of Western troops helped bring the Taliban to power, but Afghan society and politicians were not blameless. "If we had pressured our political leaders and didn't expect America and the West to decide for us like guardians, we might not be under the Taliban today. You can't blame America and the West for every sin. They created conditions 20 years ago so we could forge a new life for ourselves, and we are the ones who lost the opportunity."

She says protests in cities and fighting in the Panjshie Valley "are complementary." But reports from the valley in north-central Afghanistan are contradictory. The Taliban claim they have broken resistance led by Ahmad Mas'ud, after bombing and air and drone support given by Pakistan. Opposition fighters claim they have retreated to the mountains to prevent civilian deaths. In the last 150 years, no imperial power — from the British Empire to the Soviets to the Taliban themselves in 1996 — could fully penetrate and take over the Panjshir mountains, and this may again prove an unlikely feat today.

Fahimeh Sadat tells Kayhan London that as far she could make out from intermittent reports, the rebels in Panjshir were preparing for a guerrilla war, while "the Taliban could not have entered Panjshir and taken its towns without Pakistani military support." She says Afghans did not expect foreign states to help, as "they have their own interests," but hoped they would at least "refrain from direct interference and stop backing the Taliban."

Ahmad Mas'ud has said he would form an opposition government, for which former vice-president Yunus Qanuni is working to win support from notables and parties. Qanuni once collaborated with Mas'ud's legendary father, the late Ahmadshah Mas'ud. The opposition's aim, says Fahimeh Sadat, is to repeat the experience of the 1990s, when very few states recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's government.

Reports: U.S. Arms Abandoned In Afghanistan Moved To Iran
Geopolitics
Kayhan London

Reports: U.S. Arms Abandoned In Afghanistan Moved To Iran

Weaponry belonging to the Afghan army is moving into Iran, though it is not clear if it is smuggled, or moved in a deal between the Taliban and Iran's regime.

LONDON — With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, much of the U.S.-supplied military hardware formerly used by the country's armed forces have fallen into their hands. This terrorist group that ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, and gave refuge to other terrorists, especially al-Qaeda, now has its hands on advanced military weaponry and know-how.

It has also become clear that neighboring Iran was keen and ready to get its own hands on this material, either to use directly or to copy the weapon design.

And this has happened amid reports that armaments including tanks and armored vehicles have been moved into Iran. Sources say Iranian dealers are particularly looking for arms and missiles the Americans abandoned in suspect circumstances, without destroying them.

Bagram air base, Afghanistan, on Sept. 1 — Photo: Samiloglu Selcuk/Abaca/ZUMA


It is not clear whether the Taliban or fugitive members of the armed forces are handing over the weaponry to the Islamic Republic of Iran, or if this is the work of middlemen exploiting the disorderly state of the country.

War booty is not the only thing moving into Iran though. Thousands of Afghan citizens have left their homes and towns, fleeing toward neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan.

These include the elderly and pregnant women, who are risking their lives on a desperate flight, though it seems they prefer this to living under the Taliban. Meanwhile, Western states are preparing for a new wave of refugees from Afghanistan, knowing that regional instability will push them toward Europe and beyond, even if they first pass through Pakistan, Iran or Turkey. This is increasingly of concern to them as the refugee crisis may last a while, in spite of the contradictory positions of different Western countries, particularly those in the European Union.