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Austria And Italy, Mixed Message

Many observers feared that yesterday would be the day that could rock the European Union to its core, six months after the Brexit referendum. Austria looked ready to elect Europe's first far-right president since the end of World War II. Meanwhile, Italy, a founding member of the EU, was expected to reject a proposed constitutional reform, paving the way for new elections and possibly an anti-EU government.

This morning, the best Brussels can do is a one-handed clap: The far-right candidate Norbert Hofer lost the Austrian presidency to his left-backed opponent Alexander Van der Bellen; but in Italy, where the vote actually mattered more, it was a "Triumph for the ‘No"," as La Repubblica puts it on its front page. Making good on his pre-vote pledge, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned, opening a period of uncertainty for Italy and, for many reasons, the EU itself.

The aftermath of the referendum could prove dramatic for Italy's third-largest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which is saddled with bad loans and needs to raise more than $5 billion by the end of the month. Failure to raise that capital would likely trigger a banking crisis in what is Europe's second most indebted country after Greece.

That, added to what La Stampa"s editor-in-chief Maurizio Molinari describes as a "middle-class protest" behind the referendum result, provides a perfect stage for anti-establishment parties, especially the increasingly popular Five Star Movement led by former standup comic Beppe Grillo. "Italy needs a new welfare for families facing hardships, it needs a recipe to reignite economic growth and a formula for integrating migrants," Molinari warns in his post-referendum editorial. "The longer these questions are left unanswered, the wider the protest movement will grow, which could trigger a domino effect of unpredictable consequences. To relaunch Italy, a new government is simply not enough: The popular rebellion must be respected, and its demands must be met."

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

What Are Iran's Real Intentions? Watch What The Houthis Do Next

Three commercial ships traveling through the Red Sea were attacked by missiles launched by Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi rebels, while the U.S. Navy shot down three drones. Tensions that are linked to the ongoing war in Gaza conflict and that may serve as an indication as to Iran's wider intentions.

photo of Raisi of iran speaking in parliament

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi at the Iranian parliament in Tehran.

Icana News Agency via ZUMA
Pierre Haski


PARIS — It’s a parallel war that has so far claimed fewer victims and attracted less public attention than the one in Gaza. Yet it increasingly poses a serious threat of escalating at any time.

This conflict playing out in the international waters of the Red Sea, a strategic maritime route, features the U.S. Navy pitted against Yemen's Houthi rebels. But the stakes go beyond the Yemeni militants — with the latter being supported by Iran, which has a hand in virtually every hotspot in the region.

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Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, the Houthis have been making headlines, despite Yemen’s distance from the Gaza front. Starting with missiles launched directed toward southern Israel, which were intercepted by U.S. forces. Then came attacks on ships belonging, or suspected of belonging, to Israeli interests.

On Sunday, no fewer than three commercial ships were targeted by ballistic missiles in the Red Sea. The missiles caused minor damage and no casualties. Meanwhile, three drones were intercepted and destroyed by the U.S. Navy, currently deployed in full force in the region.

The Houthis claimed responsibility for these attacks, stating their intention to block Israeli ships' passage for as long as there was war in Gaza. The ships targeted on Sunday were registered in Panama, but at least one of them was Israeli. In the days before, several other ships were attacked and an Israeli cargo ship carrying cars was seized, and is still being held in the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

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