Geopolitics

Nobel Winners, Missouri Clashes, Pig Paradise

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafza
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafza

NOBEL WINNERS: MALALA AND SATYARTHI
Malala Yousafzai, the now-17-year-old Pakistani activist shot by the Taliban on her way to school in 2012, has won the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize alongside Indian children's rights activist Kailash Satyarthi, the Nobel committee announced this morning. “Despite her youth, Malala Yousafzai has already fought for several years for the right of girls to education … under the most dangerous circumstances,” the Nobel committee said. Read more here.

SPANISH NURSE IN “CRITICAL” CONDITION
Teresa Romero, the Spanish nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside of West Africa, is in “critical but stable” condition, medical sources in Madrid said today. Madrid's regional president Ignacio Gonzalez told parliament Thursday that the 44-year-old nurse was “very ill” and her life was “at serious risk as a consequence of the virus,” Spanish daily El Mundo reports.

The Spanish government has also rejected claims that its methods for dealing with the deadly virus were not working and blamed the nurse’s infection on human error, Reuters reports. Romero told El País Wednesday that she may have “touched her face” while removing her protective clothing. But health workers’ unions claim the government is trying to avoid the blame, saying the training and protective suits provided to the hospital staff were inadequate.

Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a conference at the World Bank Thursday that the Ebola virus could become “the world’s next AIDS,” if sufficient preventive measures were not taken, The Washington Post reports. “In my 30 years in public health, the only thing that has been like this is AIDS,” he said.

In Brazil, authorities are investigating what could be Latin America’s first case of Ebola. The patient, a 47-year-old man who arrived more than two weeks ago from Guinea, checked into a hospital in the southwestern city of Cascavel after experiencing several days of fever, Brazil’s O Globo reports. Hospital staff isolated him, and he is his currently being transferred to a hospital in Rio de Janeiro. Health officials are expected to address the issue in a press conference today.

A British man showing signs of the virus died Thursday in Macedonia. Authorities have sealed off his hotel, keeping another Briton and hotel staff inside. The UK also announced it would start screening passengers entering through London’s two main airports and the Eurostar.

83
From Azerbaijan to Venezuela, from Uruguay to Bulgaria, a record 83 countries have submitted Academy Award entries for the best foreign-language film.

ISIS PUSHES FORWARD IN KOBANI
Intense fighting continued overnight in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani, near the Turkish border, between Peshmerga fighters and ISIS jihadists, as U.S.-led forces carried out airstrikes against the terrorist organization. A local official said the strikes had pushed back the ISIS fighters towards the edge of the town, the BBC reports, while earlier reports claimed the jihadists controlled almost a third of Kobani.

Meanwhile, at least 10 people died in eastern Turkey after unidentified gunmen opened fire on police officers in the eastern province of Bingol today, according to the Turkish Dogan News Agency. Security forces had been inspecting shops damaged earlier this week. At least 25 people have been killed in cities across Turkey this week during pro-Kobani demonstrations, Reuters reports.

The U.S. is pushing Turkey to engage in combat against ISIS, saying special presidential envoys have met with Turkish officials about ways to counter the terrorist organization.

In talks with new NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has also renewed calls for the creation of a buffer zone along the Syrian side of the border between the two countries. Such an area would include a no-fly zone, preventing Syrian government aircraft from approaching the Turkish border. According to the BBC, Turkey fears that, in case of an ISIS retreat, Syrian government forces would be the main beneficiaries.

Journalists on site at the Syrian border say Kurdish fighters are demanding more help, including weapons and ammunitions. “ISIS has the most advanced weapons, including tanks and rockets. We are empty-handed. We are giving our lives to protect our homeland.” For more on this, we offer a Die Welt/Worldrunch piece, Kurds Who Fled Kobain Recount The Terror, Plead For Arms.

THE KOREAS EXCHANGE FIRE
The two Koreas exchanged artillery fire across the border Friday, South Korean news agency Yonhap reports. According to Seoul’s military, the incident was sparked after South Korean activists launched balloons containing anti-Pyongyang leaflets. North Korea's military launched shots against the balloons, and the South fired back. No casualties are currently reported. Today marks the 69th anniversary of the founding of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party of Korea. The anniversary was marked by dictator Kim Jong-un’s absence, as North Korean state media said Friday his name was not on the list of those visiting a mausoleum. It has now been one month since the leader’s last appearance. State media last month said Kim Jong-un was suffering from an “uncomfortable physical condition,” as the rotund leader was seen limping on television.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

From fridge magnets to piggy banks, pigs are everywhere at Federica's Trivelli’s house in Vigone, Italy, which she has turned into a shelter of sorts. On the farm, which is self-financed, she has decided to build a paradise for them — along with five dogs and 10 cats. “All the pigs have been abused, or have been saved from slaughterhouses,” Trivelli says. “Here they can be together in a herd and ‘root,’ which is basically digging." Read the piece, I Am Not Prosciutto: Welcome To Italy’s Pig Rescue Shelter on Worldcrunch’s Zoo`d blog.

NEW CLASHES IN MISSOURI
Two months after the police killing of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown sparked riots in Ferguson, Mo., there is new outrage over Wednesday’s fatal shooting of another black teenager by off-duty police officer in St. Louis. There were fresh clashes between dozens of protesters and police officers in riot gear overnight, when two protesters were arrested and one officer was slightly injured, The Washington Post reports. The teenager, 18-year-old Vonderrit D. Myers, was killed in a gun battle after the police officer saw him and two other men running away from him.

HONG KONG PROTESTERS REGROUP
Hundreds of protesters regrouped in central Hong Kong today to continue their call for democracy, a day after the government called off talks with students aimed at defusing a two-week standoff that has shaken communist China's capitalist hub, Reuters reports.

PASSENGER IDIOCY
Why you shouldn't joke about having Ebola on a plane, in one video.

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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.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3

-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.


Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

commons.wikimedia.org

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

For if nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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