Geopolitics

Ukraine Arrests, Pistorius "Besotted," Dinodog

Oscar Pistorius's trial goes on Tuesday
Oscar Pistorius's trial goes on Tuesday
Worldcrunch

"COUNTERTERRORISM" UNDERWAY IN EAST UKRAINE
The Ukrainian police arrested 70 pro-Russian protesters who were occupying government buildings in the eastern city of Kharkiv as part of what acting Interior Minister Arsen Avakov described as “a counterterrorism operation,” Ria Novosti reports. According to Reuters, the standoff continues in Luhansk and Donetsk.

  • The recent events have reignited the blame game between the West and Russia, with Kiev accusing Moscow of being behind the separatist movements. In a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, John Kerry warned Russia that any move to destabilize Ukraine “would incur costs.” Meanwhile, NATO’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Russia “to step back” and to pull back the “tens of thousands of troops” stationed on the border with Ukraine.

  • Lavrov dismissed accusations that Russia was destabilizing Ukraine and said Moscow was ready for negotiations with the U.S., the EU and Ukraine, including representatives of the eastern regions of Ukraine, which “believe that their interests are being ignored by Kiev.” RT reports. In a statement released last night, Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged Kiev “to immediately stop all military preparations which could lead to a civil war,” and claimed that “150 American mercenaries from a private company Greystone Ltd.” were among the operation sent by Kiev to Eastern Ukraine.

  • In today’s editorial, The New York Times draws the parallel between the events in Crimea last month and now in Ukraine’s industrial heartland. “The United States and Europe have said time and again that further Russian aggression would prompt a stern and painful response. Now is the time to prepare it.” Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports that Europe’s dependency on Russian gas is fueling the cause of shale gas, particularly in Britain.

VERBATIM
“I was besotted,” Oscar Pistorius testified this morning in his trial for the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, saying he was taken with her than she was with him. Read more from NBC News.

IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS RESUME
Negotiations on Tehran’s nuclear program resumed today in the Austrian capital of Vienna. According to PressTV, both sides are expected to discuss a further reduction of the country’s nuclear capabilities as well as mechanisms for inspections, the ultimate goal being to turn the interim deal reached in November into a permanent agreement, AFP reports.

OBAMA AND KERRY TO MEET ABOUT MIDEAST TALKS
Barack Obama and his Secretary of State John Kerry will meet today to discuss the future of the U.S.-backed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which are on the verge of collapse, Al Arabiya reports. This comes as negotiators from both sides failed to reach a breakthrough earlier today, although an Israeli official said they would meet again. Read more from Reuters.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Radikal’s Ayse Adanali reports, forced marriage of children is still alive and well in Turkey despite laws against it. “I came back home from work,” one woman told the journalist about her own tragic fate. “The man my sister had married one night before brought her back home saying she was not a virgin. He was furious. My father, who was scared to death that his honor would be harmed, offered him my youngest sister. I intervened, saying that I would marry him. What was I going to do? My sister was just a child, 11 years old. I was 14.”
Read the full article:
To Shield Their Daughters, Former Child Brides In Turkey Recount The Horror.

MADURO TO MEET WITH OPPOSITION
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has agreed to meet with an opposition delegation, after a top-level reunion with South American Foreign Ministers, newspaperEl Universalreports. Only the moderate party Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has so far agreed to the meeting, which will take place today. According to AFP, its leaders seek “change without unseating Maduro.” 39 people have died since the beginning of violent protests in Venezuela two months ago.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD

INDEPENDENTS LOSE IN QUEBEC
Quebec’s independent party, Parti Québecois, suffered big losses during yesterday’s election, 18 months after forming a minority government. The Liberal Party is believed to have won 70 of Quebec’s 125 electoral seats, The Montreal Gazette reports. The campaign focused essentially on the independents’ bid for the French-speaking region to become autonomous and the party’s controversial “Charter of Values,” which would have banned public employees from wearing “conspicuous religious symbols.” Some feared the proposed legislation would mean they stood to lose their jobs too.

FAREWELL
British journalist and TV personality Peaches Geldof, the daughter of musician Bob Geldof, died suddenly Monday at age 25.

$44 MILLION
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 is projected to be the most expensive in aviation history.

WITH GREAT POWER…
After Ukraine’s Darth Vader, another superhero is now campaigning from window to window for a parliamentary seat in India.

DINODOG
Yes, someone did groom this poor pooch to look like Yoshi, the dinosaur character in Mario video games.

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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.

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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