Geopolitics

Out of Cash, Iran Puts Dream Of Shia Empire On Pause

Under sanctions and deprived of funds, Iran's clerical regime has placed its dreams of regional supremacy on hold, at least until it can reach a multilateral pact on its nuclear program.

-Analysis-

It has been two years since a U.S. drone strike on a convoy in Iraq killed the Iranian Revolutionary guards commander Qasem Soleimani and 10 others, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, one of the heads of the Iran-backed militia, Hashd al-shaabi.

In spite of his efforts and backing from his government, Soleimani's successor as head of the Revolutionary guards' Quds force, Ismail Qaani, has failed to prevent the depletion of the Axis of Resistance.

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China Less-Than-Zero-COVID, Saudi Raids In Yemen, Space Diamond

👋 Привет!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where China further clamps down its COVID controls, Saudi Arabia launches air raids on the Yemeni capital and Indonesia gets a new capital. Meanwhile Les Echos’ Théophile Simon finally sees brighter days at hand in Iraq, during an extensive tour of the reconstruction efforts around the country.

[*Privet - Russian]

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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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From Taliban To Taiwan, The Limits Of Military Power

China is beefing up its military arsenal, with Taiwan as its target. However, as with the continued difficulty to control the terrain in Afghanistan, we increasingly see that military power is far from ensuring the hegemony hoped for by stronger parties.

-Analysis-

PARIS — "How many divisions does the Pope have?" once famously asked Joseph Stalin, highlighting that despite religious or political authority, military force can always prevail in geopolitics. However, in the 21st century, one can legitimately ask what military force is for.

In Afghanistan, more than three months after the Taliban's lightning victory, terrorist violence continues. It seems that members of the defeated regular army have joined the ranks of the "fundamentalist international" to continue the fight against the Taliban. In short, military victory on the ground has not solved anything. The Taliban face the resilience of those nostalgic for freedom and progress on the one hand, and Islamic fanatics on the other.

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In The News
Jane Herbelin and Jeff Israely

Clashes On Polish-Belarus Border, South Africa’s de Klerk Dies, 600 In Space

👋 سلام*

Welcome to Thursday, where overnight clashes are reported at Poland's border with Belarus, South Africa's last white president died and history links Yuri Gagarin and Elon Musk. We also look at how COVID may be the tipping point to push cities into a bicycle-centric future.

[*Salam - Arabic]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet and Bertrand Hauger

Kabul Hospital Blast, COP26 Pledges, Crypto Scam

👋 Sawubona!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where at least 15 die in an attack on a Kabul military hospital, more than 100 leaders pledge to end deforestation by 2030, and the tomb of King Ramses II's treasurer is uncovered. Meanwhile, we learn why autumn leaves aren't as red and gold as they used to be.

[*Zulu, Southern Africa]

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food / travel
Laure Gautherin and Carl-Johan Karlsson

The True Horrors Behind 7 Haunted Locations Around The World

With Halloween arriving, we have dug up the would-be ghosts of documented evil and bloodshed from the past.

When Hallows Eve was first introduced as a Celtic festival some 2,000 years ago, bonfires and costumes were seen as a legitimate way to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. Today of course, with science and logic being real ghostbusters, spine-chilling tales of haunted forests, abandoned asylums and deserted graveyards have rather become a way to add some mystery and suspense to our lives.

And yet there are still spooky places around the world that have something more than legend attached to them. From Spain to Uzbekistan and Australia, these locations prove that haunting lore is sometimes rooted in very real, and often terrible events.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Sudan Coup, Drug Lord Busted, Bulls Are Back

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Afghanistan Mosque Blast, Widest Vaccine Mandate, Banksy’s Record

👋 Bonjou!*

Welcome to Friday, where a deadly blast strikes a mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan during Friday prayers, Lebanon death toll rises, and Banksy sells 15 times better when shredded. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt reporters take us on an eerie tour of the deserted Camp Marmal, the German army's former headquarters in Afghanistan.

[*Haitian Creole]

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Geopolitics
Alfred Hackensberger, Sebastian Backhaus, Ricardo Vilanova

Ghosts Of Defeat Inside Deserted NATO Base In Afghanistan

The new Taliban commander shows reporters from Die Welt around the deserted Camp Marmal, the German army's former headquarters in Afghanistan.

Fries, beer and barbecued meat. That's what was on the menu every year when the German troops stationed at Camp Marmal celebrated German Unity Day. "That was always a special day," remembers Mohammed Sayed (names have been changed to protect identities), who worked as an interpreter for the German army.

"It was a big celebration," he says, with a wistful look. "Ambassadors from other countries came to visit, as well as governors from various provinces in Afghanistan." This year, at Camp Marmal near the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, there was no Oct. 3 holiday celebration in sight.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Emergency Afghan Aid, U.S. Reopens Borders, Royal Marriage Equality

👋 Kamusta!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where G20 leaders agree to involve Taliban in distributing help to Afghanistan, the U.S. announces it will reopen borders with Mexico and Canada, and Dutch royals can marry as they please. Thanks to Chilean daily El Mercurio, we also follow the tumultuous journey of a Haitian migrant in her efforts to reach the U.S.

[*Filipino]

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Geopolitics
Alfonso Masoliver

Immigrants Don't Drive Up Crime: Here Are The Facts

Crunch the numbers, or just look around...and we see that immigrants, wherever they may come from, are not a disproportionate cause of crime or cultural degradation across Europe.

Standing outside Hamburg's Arts and Crafts Museum, I observe a little the traffic and bustle of this historic German port, home to two million people. I notice to my right two German women sitting on the grass in the Carl Legien Platz, gaunt but eager as they prepare themselves a syringe full of some drug. To the left, sitting on the museum's steps, is an African man, wearing a pretty checked shirt and white cap. He wipes his face in despair, trying to decipher a manual for a gadget or contraption.

Once they have had their injection, the women recline to enjoy the buzz, until two policemen arrive. They dryly nod at the African and ask the women for their ID. I observed with fascination and must say, no travel journalist should omit to record these little bits of reality. They are as informative to readers as sight-seeing recommendations or dining tips.

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Ideas
Mihir Chitre

Reading Rumi In Kabul: A Persian Poet's Lesson For Radical Islam

Born some eight centuries ago, the famed poet and philosopher Rumi offered ideas on religion that bear little resemblance to the brand of Islam being imposed right now in Afghanistan by the Taliban regime.

Among the various Afghan cities that the Taliban has invaded and apparently "reclaimed" in recent weeks is Balkh, a town near the country's north-western border. Interestingly, it was there, about 800 years ago, that a man called Jalal ad-Din Mohammad Balkhi, better known as Rumi, was born.

Some see the grotesque exhibitionism of the Taliban advance as a celebration of Islam or a "going back to the roots" campaign. As if followers of Islam were always like this, as if every willing Muslim always propagated austerity and oppressiveness. As if it was always meant to be this way and any shred of liberalism was a digression from the quest of the religion.

In fact, a look at the history of the religion — and of the region — tells a different story, which is why there's no better time than now to rediscover the wisdom of the poet Rumi, but without doing away with its religious context.

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Migrant Lives
Benedetta Zocchi

On The Border Of Bosnia: Voices Of Afghan Migrants

As the Taliban closed in on Afghanistan, the European Union co-signed a joint statement with dozens of nations agreeing that "the Afghan people deserve to live in safety, security and dignity" and that the international community was "ready to assist them".

As someone who has been researching the refugee crisis on Europe's borders for years, I found the statement surprising. Before it was making bold statements about events in Kabul, the EU had spent years failing to help thousands of Afghans seeking help at its borders.

Since 2015, more than 570,000 Afghan citizens have sought protection in the EU. Thousands of them remain stuck in Bosnia and Herzegovina, after having been pushed back by the Croatian police catching them on the EU border.

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Geopolitics
Daniel García-Peña

Like Afghan War, The U.S. War On Drugs Must End

The United States has long dictated policy regarding narcotics, and Colombia, in particular, has paid a heavy price. The current presidential race is an opportunity to shift course and prioritize the welfare of everyday people.

-OpEd-

More than 20 years ago, I read a headline in the satirical U.S. newspaper The Onion declaring "Drugs Win Drug War." It would be an appropriate headline for this item too, but not as a joke. As the years have shown, it's an accurate description of reality.

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Geopolitics
Klaus Geiger and Christoph B. Schiltz

Afghan Refugee Crisis: Why Merkel Closed Her Open Border

The Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 ignited a bitter rivalry between Germany's Angela Merkel and Austria's Sebastian Kurz. Merkel was in favor of a "culture of welcome," while Kurz argued for border protection. But with the current Afghan refugee crisis, the German leader is shifting course.

-OpEd-

BERLIN — Six years ago, the now outgoing German Chancellor,Angela Merkel argued that borders cannot be divided by walls. That was on Oct. 26, 2015. Her future Austrian counterpart, Sebastian Kurz, disagreed. "It's simply not true to claim that it doesn't work," he said in an Austrian radio interview. "The question is whether we want to do it or not."

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