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Rowing in Cambridge
Rowing in Cambridge
Worldcrunch

Friday, November 7, 2014

OBAMA PENS LETTER TO IRAN’S KHAMENEI
U.S. President Barack Obama secretly wrote a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last month, which The Wall Street Journal reports “appeared aimed both at buttressing” the anti-ISIS campaign and “nudging Iran's religious leader closer to a nuclear deal.” Obama reportedly stressed that the two issues are deeply linked and that a possible cooperation in the fight against ISIS was “largely contingent” on Iran reaching an agreement on its nuclear program by a Nov. 24 deadline. The news is likely to anger the Republican majority in the Congress, which largely opposes any collaboration with Iran. A congressional source told Fox News that the letter “f***s up everything.” Reacting to the news, Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he opposed linking Iran’s nuclear program to the fight against ISIS and added that Iran was “not a partner for any dialogue in the Middle East.”

VERBATIM
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"I am absolutely convinced that Putin protects Russia's interests better than anyone else." Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said Thursday that he will defend Russian President Vladimir Putin's policies when he travels to Germany this weekend for ceremonies commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall.

FATAH TARGETED IN GAZA BLASTS
A series of coordinated explosions targeted the homes and vehicles of several leaders within Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports. It’s unclear who was behind the attacks, and Fatah sources said they doubted the authenticity of a letter signed by ISIS left at the scene of one explosion, saying it was likely an attempt by attackers to spread fear and hide their true identity. Meanwhile, tensions could escalate further in East Jerusalem, as there are rumors that more right-wing Israeli politicians are planning visits to Temple Mount, the location of the al-Aqsa mosque compound. Hamas called on West Bank worshippers to march after today’s prayers to “protect” Islam’s third holiest site from the “Zionist siege.”

According to Haaretz, Israel’s Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also a leader of the far-right party The Jewish Home, called yesterday for an all-out military offensive in the Palestinian territory of East Jerusalem and called Mahmoud Abbas a “terrorist.”

“For its security, Israel cannot withdraw from more territory and cannot allow for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank,” Bennett writes in a New York Times opinion piece.

12%
Francois Hollande's approval ratings hit a new low yesterday, exactly halfway into the French president's five-year term, when Pollster YouGov revealed that Hollande scored a mere 12% approval rating in its latest monthly survey — the worst for any president in modern-day polling.

CHINA AND JAPAN TO RESUME TALKS
Beijing and Tokyo officials have agreed to overcome “political obstacles” and will gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogue, news agency Xinhua reported, quoting China’s Foreign Ministry. As the AP reports, this is the “strongest indication yet” that the two leaders, Xi Jinping and Shinzo Abe, could meet at next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The two countries also acknowledged they had “different positions” on the disputed Diaoyu-Senkaku Islands but vowed to prevent any escalation “through dialogue and consultation,” the statement said.
For more on the ongoing dispute, we offer this Economic Observer/Worldcrunch piece, Japan V. China: The Kabuki Theater Standoff Over Senkaku Islands.

SNAPSHOT
Rowers shrouded in mist train on the River Cam early Thursday. Temperatures are beginning to drop below zero in southern and central parts of England.

CHINA HINTS AT MINOR HONG KONG COMPROMISE
Chinese officials will be more respectful of the fact that Beijing and Hong Kong are “two systems,” while also stressing the "one country" aspect in the wake of the Occupy protests, a source close to the government told the South China Morning Post. He indicated, however, that Beijing would not change its mind over the preselection of candidates for the 2017 Hong Kong elections. Instead, the central government “will make appropriate adjustments in its policy towards the city,” the source said.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt’s Eva Marie Kogel reports, a secret 60-bed hospital in the Lebanese capital of Beirut treats both ISIS patients and other Islamic extremists whose backers must pay cash in advance. Enemies share doctors in a place where medicine is a blind business, and cash is king. “The doctor's prognosis for today's patient is that he will walk again, but with a limp,” the journalist writes. “His minimum goal for his patients is to spare the young men life in a wheelchair. They are mostly aged between 20 and 22, and some are still teenagers. But they are also terrorists whose barbaric brutality is feared the world over. The slaughter in Syria and Iraq, the horrific acts they commit, are a declaration of war on the whole world.”
Read the full article, Exclusive: Inside The Secret Beirut Hospital Treating ISIS.

SOUTH KOREA VOTES TO DISBAND COAST GUARD
The South Korean National Assembly voted overwhelmingly to dismantle the Coast Guard in an attempt to prevent a disaster similar to the April ferry sinking in which more than 300 people died, Yonhap reports. The Coast Guard was heavily criticized after the tragedy, with authorities saying that swifter action could have saved many lives. Lawmakers also approved a bill calling for an independent investigation into the disaster and another that proposes to seize the wealth of those found guilty of causing “people's deaths through illegal activities.” The money would then be used to compensate victims’ families.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

RUDD’S MURDER PLOT CHARGE DROPPED
New Zealand prosecutors have dropped the murder-for-hire charge against AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd, just one day after he appeared in court, The New Zealand Herald reports. According to Rudd’s lawyer, “There was insufficient evidence to justify that charge,” and his client has "suffered unnecessary and extremely damaging publicity.” The 60-year-old still faces charges of drug possession and threatening to kill.

THE TOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN
Buzz, Woody & Co. will be back on screens in 2017 for a fourth installment of Disney’s Toy Story. Toy Story 4 will be directed by John Lasseter, who made the first two animated movies. “We don't want to do anything with them unless it lives up to or surpasses what's gone before,” he said.

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Geopolitics

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

Leaders of Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attend a summit marking the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty in Moscow on May 16.

Oleksandr Demchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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