Geopolitics

U.S. And Russia Team Up, More Ebola In Texas, Barack O'Bama

At least 50 people have been killed over the past two weeks after Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano erupted four separate times.
At least 50 people have been killed over the past two weeks after Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano erupted four separate times.
Worldcrunch

Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014

U.S. AND RUSSIA TO TEAM UP AGAINST ISIS
The United States and Russia have agreed to share more intelligence on ISIS, as part of a renewed cooperation on global security and counter-terrorism efforts, Secretary of State John Kerry said after he met with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Paris on Tuesday. The Associated Press quotes Kerry as saying that he had stressed the fact that as world powers, the U.S. and Russia have “major” responsibilities. Speaking separately, Lavrov confirmed the sharing of intelligence and spoke positively about improving ties between the two countries, which had become tense over the Ukrainian crisis. "Mr. Kerry and I don't represent warring sides," Lavrov said.

  • Kerry also confirmed that Russian troops were withdrawing from Ukraine and the border zone, and returning to their permanent bases, French daily Libération reports. The Secretary of State added this was a necessary initiative for Western sanctions against Russia to be lifted. "There are four to five principal requirements with respect to lifting the sanctions: release of hostages, release of all prisoners, is one; the withdrawal of troops and equipment is another," he said.

  • Meanwhile, American-led forces have sharply intensified air strikes in the past two days against Islamic State fighters threatening Kurds on Syria's Turkish border after the jihadists' advance began to destabilize Turkey, Reuters reports.

NEW EBOLA CASE IN TEXAS
A second health worker in Texas has tested positive for Ebola, medical officials announced Wednesday, the BBC reports. A 26-year-old nurse is already being treated after she became infected with the virus by a Liberian man who died from Ebola last week at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 contacts of the Liberian man and healthcare workers who treated him are currently being monitored.

  • Speaking at a news conference in Geneva on Tuesday, the assistant director general of the World Health Organization Bruce Aylward said the number of new Ebola cases was likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000 by early December, The Guardian reports. Aylward added that according to detailed investigations, only around 30% of people infected with Ebola survived.

  • According to the WHO, at least 4,447 people have died of Ebola, mainly in West Africa, since the beginning of the outbreak earlier this year.

SNAPSHOT
At least 50 people have been killed over the past two weeks after Indonesia's Mount Sinabung volcano erupted four separate times.

HONG KONG TENSION RISES AFTER VIDEO OF POLICE BEATING
A video showing the alleged beating of a Civic Party member by a group of plain-clothes police officers has outraged pro-democracy protesters across Hong Kong, raising tension even further in demonstrations that have now lasted for more than two weeks. Pictures later show the victim, Ken Tsang, with cuts and bruises across his body. According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong authorities have launched an investigation into the beating and the concerned officers are set to be temporarily removed from their duties.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
From biblical times to crusades and jihad, self-proclaimed "holy wars" are not driven by God — but rather by power, territory and economic interests, writes Die Welt. “It is not the belief in Allah, Yahweh or God that unleashes religiously motivated violence. More is needed for that, like excessive striving for power, riches, influence, sexual fulfillment and bloodlust. The religious systems merely provide the mask under which the banality of evil can hide. Killing and robbing are sanctioned by invoking God or Allah.”
Read the full article, What So-Called Religious Wars Are Really About.

DRONE & BRAWL INTERRUPT EURO 2016 QUALIFIER
A Euro 2016 qualifying soccer match between Serbia and Albania in Belgrade had to be abandoned after 41 minutes of play, after a brawl erupted between players and hooligans. The incidents were sparked by a drone flying over the pitch carrying a flag of “Greater Albania”, a nationalist project covering all parts of the Balkans where ethnic Albanians live. A Serbian player grabbed the flag, prompting violent reactions by some Albanian players and scrambles around the Partizan stadium. The riots came a few days before the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama is set to visit Belgrade, a first in almost 70 years. Watch expand=1] a video of the incidents here.

MOZAMBIQUE VOTES
Mozambicans are voting in key presidential, parliamentary and provincial elections today. This is seen as a crucial test for the incumbent Frelimo party, which is however expected to remain in power, according to the French-language pan-African news outlet Jeune Afrique. Mozambique is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and is hoping to escape years of poverty and conflicts through these elections.

$25 MILLION
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan have made a major donation to fight the outbreak of Ebola.

VERBATIM
Brazil’s incumbent president Dilma Rousseff and her rival Aécio Neves traded accusations of corruption and nepotism during a heated televised debate yesterday, with the center-right candidate branding Rousseff’s campaign as “nothing but lies.”

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD

BARACK O’BAMA
After visiting this teeny tiny Irish town once in 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama has saved it. Read about in The Irish Times.

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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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