Geopolitics

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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How Climate Consensus Could Cool Appetite For Arctic Exploitation

As global warming melts the ice covering parts of the Arctic Ocean, new opportunities are opening up for the exploration of natural resources, including oil. But the accelerating cooperation on climate objectives could wind up saving the Arctic from both business and military interests.

Analysis

PARISMoscow is militarizing the North Pole ... China claims near-arctic state status ... Trump wants to buy Greenland ...

That sampling of headlines from the last few years is a testament to the emergence of the Arctic as a frosty point of potential conflict among the major geopolitical force reshaping our world. Most would still struggle to imagine why this distant place of drifting ice blocks and polar bears, historically considered a place too inaccessible and distant for governments to pay any mind, is suddenly emerging as a frontier of global power play.

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Why Japan Is America's New No. 1 Ally (And May Not Want The Honor)

Asia has become the new center of the world because of China's growing power, which in Washington's eyes has turned Japan from an important ally to the most important. But is Tokyo ready for the newfound responsibility?

-Analysis-

PARIS — "Who's the No. 1 ally of the United States in the world?" For a long time after World War II, the answer to this question was obvious: Britain. The United Kingdom envisioned itself as the would-be Athens to the new Rome.

The special relationship that existed between London and Washington after the War was unique. Indeed, it irritated the likes of France's Charles de Gaulle: How could one trust a country, which was certainly geographically and culturally European, but which, between the continent and the open ocean, would always choose the latter?

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Nobel Peace Prize, Iran Nuclear Talks, 700-Year-Old Pollution

👋 Bonġu!*

Welcome to Friday, where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to two journalists risking their lives in Russia and the Philippines, the U.S. pushes the Iran nuclear deal back on the table, and a Swiss CEO is ousted after offering a different kind of COVID incentive to employees. From rural Sweden, we also look at how a new-age festival has become a touchstone for debate among new-age communities who don't trust the COVID vaccine.

[*Maltese]

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Geopolitics
Andriy Olenin

Destination Chernobyl? Radioactivity, Jobs And Tourism

Ukraine's leaders face toxic land-use challenges 35 years after the world's worst nuclear accident.

KYIV — What is perhaps the best-known — and certainly, the most dangerous — place in Ukraine is referred to as the "Chernobyl Exclusion Zone." And now, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky is promising major changes to the site of the worst civilian nuclear disaster in history.

More than 35 years after the tragedy, much has changed in what locals call the "Zone," but life continues. People who'd returned to their native villages after being forcibly evicted in the aftermath of the 1986 accident still live there. But life has been troubled in these specially designated towns and communities: contaminated areas are often located alongside their vegetable gardens, new infrastructure cannot be built, and there is virtually no work.

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Israel
Hossein Aqay

Any Means, All Fronts: Netanyahu's Shadow War On Iran

The Israeli Prime Minister has taken his cue from a bold predecessor, Menachem Begin, to curb Islamic Iran's regional presence and nuclear threat by any means necessary.

-Analysis-

LONDON — Israel's suspected strike against the Natanz nuclear plant in Iran has taken its shadow war with the Islamic Republic to a new high. It is a battle that began in the 1980s with Iran creating the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon and which continues today, fueled by the Islamic Republic's ideological, ballistic and atomic expansionism.

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Geopolitics

The Natanz Nuclear Site Attack Sparks Political Fallout In Iran

Besides partially destroying a key nuclear installation, the suspected sabotage at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility is also exacerbating tensions within Iran's leadership ranks. Was that part of the purpose of the attack?

-Analysis-

This week's explosion at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility is having repercussions in the capital, Tehran, starting with Alireza Zakani, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, who has sharply criticized domestic intelligence agencies, saying "a good part" of the country's uranium enrichment facilities "have been destroyed."

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

Why Is Washington Balking On Iran?

Certain Gulf States have joined Israel in sounding the alarm about a nuclear armed Islamic Republic. Washington, in the meantime, has been reluctant to show its cards.

-Analysis-

The Islamic Republic's nuclear program is no longer a saga restricted, as it was in the past, to Iran and the world powers known as the P5+1, namely the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) plus Germany.

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Japan

Fukushima Disaster A Decade Later: This Happened, March 11

One of the most striking photographs of the destruction caused by the tsunami that struck Japan and set off the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Today marks 10 years since an earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated Fukushima in Japan, killing 18,000 people, destroying towns and triggering the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

At 2:46 pm, the strongest Japanese earthquake ever recorded struck off the northern coast and created monstrous waves up to 16 meters high. On detecting the earthquake, the active reactors automatically shut down, which sparked the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, at the time one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world. The explosions of the reactors released large quantities of radiation that contaminated a vast area of northern Japan.

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Geopolitics
Ahmad Ra'fat

Iran Regime Up To Old Tricks Ahead Of Nuclear Talks

With its nemesis Donald Trump gone, Iran's regime has resumed old practices ahead of possible talks on its nuclear program, goading the West with suspect activities and meddling in the affairs of neighboring states.

-Editorial-

Work is well underway to try to revive nuclear talks between the Islamic Republic of Iran and leading Western powers. The foreign ministers of the European signatories of the 2015 nuclear pact with Iran met online late last month with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and all sides have now agreed to holding conversations directly with Tehran.

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eyes on the U.S.
Ahmad Ra'fat

Biden And Iran: The If, When And How Of Reopening Nuclear Talks

Iran's clerical regime is boosting its military and nuclear activities, perhaps in a bid to bolster its position ahead of possible talks to revive the 2015 nuclear pact.

-Analysis-

LONDON — Donald Trump is just hours away from ending his term in the White House, and once the Democrat Joseph Biden is sworn in as president — tomorrow, Jan. 20 — his team is expected to begin working almost immediately. That's assuming the Senate approves Biden's choice of secretaries, which seems likely as Democrats have a majority now in both houses of Congress.

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eyes on the U.S.

Israel Or Inside Job? What Killing Of Iran Scientist Reveals

The targeted killing of a top Iranian scientist has increased pressures on Iran's regime at a time of speculation about a renewal of dialogue with the United States.

LONDON — Less than three months ago, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Hossein Salami vowed retribution for "enemies' should "any Iranian lose so much as a hair on their head." Now, as we know, nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, whom the Islamic Republic called "the father of Iran's atomic bomb," was killed in an operation near Tehran. The killing comes less than a year after U.S. drones killed the Revolutionary guards commander Qasem Soleimani near Baghdad airport, and the Islamic Republic's intelligence agencies have yet to trace the source of this latest attack or identify how Fakhrizadeh could be struck in broad daylight, while traveling with a security escort in the district of Absard, not far from Tehran.

The explosion that killed the scientist left no civilian casualties. Officials of the Islamic Republic are blaming the Israelis, though quite a few people in Iran are also attributing the act to the regime itself. Speculations may proliferate but many in Iran cannot believe elements outside the regime's intelligence apparatus to carry out such a "neat" and precise operation.

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eyes on the U.S.
Hamed Mohammadi

Inside Iran, Biden's Election Is Cause For Both Hope And Fear

Donald Trump's departure renews the possibility of talks between Washington and Tehran. But the Iranian leadership has reasons to be wary of the incoming administration in Washington.

How does Iran feel about Joe Biden's victory in the recent U.S. presidential election? Depends on when you ask.

On Nov. 3, the day of the election, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the American broadcaster CBS that Iran sees no difference between the sitting president of the United States, Donald Trump, and his Democrat rival. But just three days later, speaking to Venezuela's TeleSUR, the Islamic Republic's top diplomat told a different story: there's "clearly" a difference between the two, he said.

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Geopolitics

A New Iran Nuclear Deal? Khamenei And The Man In The White House

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claims he has no interest in engaging with Washington. But the U.S. president, fighting right now to win reelection, tells a different story.

-Analysis-

At a recent campaign rally in Florida, U.S. President Donald Trump boasted that his administration had killed "the world's number one terrorist... a mass murderer of American troops and many many people all over the world."

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REUTERS

The Latest: Shooting in Indianapolis, China's Boom, World Press Photo of the Year

Welcome to Friday, where a mass shooting in Indianapolis leaves eight dead, Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai is sentenced and a Danish photographer's image from Brazil wins World Press Photo of the Year. Independent media Kayhan-London also exposes how the suspected sabotage at the Natanz nuclear facility in Iran has done more than physical harm for the regime.

Hong Kong's Jimmy Lai sentenced: Two of Hong Kong's best-known activists were sentenced today for their participation in unauthorized assemblies during the 2019 mass pro-democracy protests. Media tycoon Jimmy Lai was sentenced to 12 months in prison, as democratic activist Martin Lee avoided prison because of his advanced age, and was given a suspended sentence of 11 months.

China's economy grows by a record 18.3%: China's economy grew 18.3% in a post-COVID comeback, setting a record in gross domestic product (GDP) since China started keeping quarterly records in 1992.

Eight shot dead in Indianapolis: At least eight people were killed in a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis Thursday night, with multiple injuries reported, before the gunman killed himself. Last week, six people were killed in another mass shooting, in South Carolina.

Brazil's Supreme Court clears path for Lula to take on Bolsonaro: The Brazilian Supreme Court has confirmed its decision to annul convictions against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who was accused of corruption. This sets up a likely head-to-head with conservative President Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 elections.

Argentina closes schools as COVID-19 surges: Argentina's government has announced new pandemic restrictions to curb the spread of the virus in and around capital city Buenos Aires, including shutting down schools and a night-time curfew.

"Sexual slavery" in Tigray: New revelations of rape and a declaration by a top Ethiopia health official has pointed to widespread sexual abuse in the conflict in the northern region of Tigray. Both sides are said to have committed war crimes, including sexual violence. Hundreds other women have reported rape.

Mystery animal turns out to be a croissant: Multiple residents in a neighborhood in Krakow, Poland called animal welfare workers after having spotted an unusual animal sitting in a tree for several days, fearing attack. An investigation revealed that the creature in the tree was actually a croissant.

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BBC

The Latest: 3 Million COVID Deaths, Nuclear Deal Revived, Soviet LOTR

Welcome to Tuesday, where global COVID-19 death toll surpasses 3 million, the Iran nuclear deal is back on the table, and a Soviet-produced Lord of the Rings is unearthed. Thanks to Die Welt, we also look at how the German auto industry is trying to keep up with Elon Musk.

• Iran nuclear talks back on: Iran and the United States are to start indirect talks in Vienna to try and restore the 2015 nuclear accord that Washington abandoned three years ago under the Trump administration.

• COVID global death toll hits 3 million: The pandemic continues to weigh on world events, as Reuters reports global death toll has reached 3 million. Meanwhile, amid national efforts to accelerate vaccination campaigns, Australian and New-Zealand residents will be able to travel without having to quarantine between the two countries starting April 19.

• Southeast Asian flood death toll tops 100: Rescuers are searching for dozens still missing after floods and landslides on Sunday killed more than 100 people in Indonesia and East Timor.

• Tokyo Olympics' no-show neighbor: North Korea has announced it would skip the Tokyo Olympic Games this year due to COVID-19 concerns. This decision is likely to undermine South Korean's strategy to use the Games to revive suspended peace talks.

• Putin could stay in power until 2036: Russian President Vladimir Putin signs law allowing him to run for two more terms as president.

• Kosovo's new female president: Kosovo's parliament votes as president Vjosa Osmani, the former speaker of parliament and ally of a leftist-nationalist movement.

• The Weeknd donates $1 million to Ethiopians: Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd has promised to give $1 million to Ethiopians ensnared in the Tigray crisis. The star's parents are Ethiopian immigrants.

Malaysian daily The Star reports on the government's proposal that would make it compulsory for employers to grant their workers a day off to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Achtung Tesla! German automakers try to compete with Elon Musk

Volkswagen and other German car companies want to develop their own software systems and thus close the e-car technology gap with Tesla. But success will depend on a cultural change in the established auto sector, writes Daniel Zwick in German daily Die Welt.

It's all systems go in Ingolstadt, where Volkswagen has invested billions of dollars in setting up a new subsidiary. The plan is for the organization Car.Software to soon employ 10,000 people and become the "second largest software company in Europe, after SAP," according to CEO Herbert Diess. The subsidiary's main aim is for in-house programmers to develop a single operating system for all VW cars, the automotive equivalent of Apple's iOS, used across all its smartphones.

It's a nice idea, but it's still unclear whether traditional manufacturers such as Volkswagen, BMW or Daimler are capable of developing the best operating systems for modern cars. And it's make or break: After battery technology, this software is the next most important criterion for future success. But so far their efforts in this area have been far from impressive. There are already competitors who are years ahead when it comes to building computers on four wheels. And not only Tesla, the favorite of so many electric car enthusiasts. There are new suppliers springing up in its shadow, which have the potential to shake up the industry.

In the future, the programmers will take on a larger role in product development. The main advantage of Tesla's cars is that they are built with the driver's experience in mind, going from the starting point of the software — how the product is used — to the hardware, the physical components. In German cars, it's the other way round. To change this, the companies will have to change themselves. Car manufacturers are at a crossroads, says Frank Ferchau, managing partner at ABLE Group. "The culture of the car manufacturing industry is bumping up against the software development culture, and the two don't go together," he says.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

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