Geopolitics

U.S.-Iraq Ultimatum, Long Live Felipe VI, Assange's 729 Days

Clashed erupted Wednesday in Bahrain.
Clashed erupted Wednesday in Bahrain.
Worldcrunch

Thursday, June 19, 2014

U.S. WANTS MALIKI GONE
U.S. officials are increasing pressure on the Iraqi government, warning that the U.S. won’t intervene militarily to stop the barbaric ISIS fighters until Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki steps down, British newspaper The Independent reports. Speaking to the BBC this morning, Maliki’s spokesman rejected calls for his resignation, arguing that the PM had won parliamentary election just two months ago. He also drew comparisons between the situation in Iraq and “the Nazi occupation of Europe,” describing “a similar situation to Rwanda, where there is going to be genocide, and we are having mass killings already.”

This comes one day after the Iraqi government requested U.S. air strikes against the Sunni extremists and an escalation in the war of words between Maliki and Saudi Arabian officials, which Maliki accuses of supporting ISIS. According to Al-Arabiya, the Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said this morning that Maliki had exacerbated “sectarianism” in Iraq. This echoes U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s accusations yesterday that Maliki, a Shia Muslim, had failed to “bring a unity government together with the Sunnis, the Kurds, and the Shia.” Follow The Guardian’s blog for live updates.

BAHRAIN CLASHES
Clashes erupted Wednesday in northern Bahrain's Abu Saiba over the regime's refusal to release the body of Abdul-Aziz al-Abbar, a protester killed by security forces two months ago.

FELIPE VI CROWNED KING OF SPAIN
Felipe VI has been officially sworn in as the new king of Spain during a ceremony the media described as “low-key,” matching the country’s austerity period amid a deep economic crisis. Royalists hope that Felipe will revive the monarchy and keep the country united, as Catalonia threatens to break apart. The new king promised “a renewed monarchy for a new era,” and said that “in this united and diverse Spain, there is room for everybody.”

729
It has been two years — 729 days — since Julian Assange took diplomatic refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. In a conference call late Wednesday night, the Australian editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks marked the anniversary by announcing another impending leak of information affecting 50 countries.

SECOND BOAT CAPSIZES OFF MALAYSIA
At least nine people are missing after a boat carrying 27 Indonesian migrants capsized off the coast of Malaysia, the second such incident in the region in two days, AP reports. Though 62 people were rescued, 25 people are still missing after yesterday’s accident, and 10 have been confirmed dead.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Die Welt’s Henryk M. Broder writes, the growing tendency to say “there is no just war” is just a way to keep one's hands clean, while leaving it to others to pay the consequences for freedom. “The German peace movement is an offshoot of German nationalism, a late Nazi retaliation against the World War II Allies,” Broder writes. “The Gestapo lives on at Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib is the new Auschwitz, and the NSA has taken over where the Reich Security Head Office left off.”
Read the full article, How Pacifism Has Become A Lifestyle (Not Moral) Choice.

JAIL FOR CHINESE ANTI-CORRUPTION ACTIVISTS
A Chinese court sentenced two anti-corruption activists to six and a half years in jail and a third one to three and a half years after finding them guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and “using an evil cult to undermine law enforcement,” South China Morning Post reports. The three are part of an organization called the New Citizens Movement, which calls for government officials to declare their assets.
For more on the subject, we offer this Economic Observer/Worldcrunch piece, Off-Duty Reporters Are China's Newest Whistleblowers.

FAREWELL
Horace Silver, an American composer and pioneer of the jazz subgenre known as hard bop, has died at his home in New Rochelle, N.Y. at age 85.

PEDOPHILES AND THE DEEP WEB
Thousands of pedophiles around the world are using the “deep web,” a hidden part of the Internet that can’t be found on search engines and can only be accessed via specific software, to browse through countless images and videos of child pornography, a BBC investigation has found. The founder of one site admitted that it sometimes receives as many as 500 page views per second, as an increasing number of pedophiles turn to this method, believing the police can’t catch them because of the software’s numerous layers of encryption.

UNESCO DELAYS ON GREAT BARRIER REEF
UNESCO announced it would grant Australia another 12 months before deciding whether to place the Great Barrier Reef on its List of World Heritage in Danger. The organization expressed its concern about federal government plans to expand a coal terminal and develop liquefied gas facilities. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest marine park and home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 types of mollusc. Read more from News.com.

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A check operation in Indian-administered Kashmir, following a spate of targeted attacks on the region's Hindu minority

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здраво!*

Welcome to Friday, where Joe Biden vows to protect Taiwan from China, Alec Baldwin accidentally kills a cinematographer, and can you guess what day it is TODAY? We also have a report from a researcher in San Diego, USA on the sociological dark side of food trucks.

[*Zdravo - Macedonian]

💡  SPOTLIGHT

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, writes Persian-language media Kayhan-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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Kayhan-London

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Biden vows to defend Taiwan: U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if it were attacked and had a commitment to defend the island nation that China claims as its own. The White House clarified for the second time in three months that U.S. policy on the subject has not changed, and declined further comment when asked if Biden had misspoken.

• Call on China to respect Uyghurs: A statement from 43 countries denounced China's human rights record at the United Nations over the reported torture and repression of the mostly Muslim Uyghurs, as well as the existence of "re-education camps" in Xinjiang. The declaration calls on Beijing to allow independent observers immediate access. In response, Cuba issued a rival statement shortly afterwards on behalf of 62 other countries claiming "disinformation".

• Alec Baldwin fires prop gun, kills cinematographer: U.S. actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and injured director Joel Souza after discharging a prop gun on the set of his new movie, near Santa Fe. The accident is being investigated.

• Berlusconi acquitted: Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was acquitted of judicial corruption charges. The 85-year-old media mogul had been accused of seeking to bribe guests present at his infamous "Bunga Bunga" parties to lie about the evenings as part of an underage prostitution case.

• COVID health workers death toll: A new WHO working report estimates that between 80,000 and 180,000 health and care workers may have died from COVID-19 between January 2020 and May 2021. The same report also noted that fewer than 1 in 10 healthcare workers were fully vaccinated in Africa, compared with 9 in 10 in high-income countries, and less than 5% of Africa's population have been vaccinated.

• Seven killed in Russian gunpowder factory blast: An explosion at the Elastik gunpowder and chemicals plant southeast of Moscow killed at least seven people, while nine are still missing.

• Aye aye, CAP'n: HAPPY CAPS LOCK DAY, FOLKS!

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

Dutch daily De Volkskrant pays tribute to "sound master" and renowned classical conductor Bernard Haitink, who died at 92. Born in Amsterdam, Haitink made more than 450 records and led some of the world's top orchestras in the span of his 65-year career.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

The food truck, a sign that the white and wealthy are moving in

In San Diego, California, researcher Pascale Joassart-Marcelli tracked how in the city's low-income neighborhoods that have traditionally lacked dining options, when interesting eateries arrive the gentrification of white, affluent and college-educated people has begun. In The Conversation she writes:

🥡 In 2016 in City Heights, a large multi-ethnic San Diego neighborhood, a dusty vacant lot on the busiest boulevard was converted into an outdoor international marketplace called Fair@44. There, food vendors gather in semi-permanent stalls to sell pupusas, lechon (roasted pig), single-sourced cold-brewed coffee, cupcakes and tamarind raspado (crushed ice). Just a few blocks outside the gates, informal street vendors — who have long sold goods such as fruit, tamales and ice cream to residents who can't easily access supermarkets — now face heightened harassment.

🤑 Cities and neighborhoods have long sought to attract educated and affluent residents – people whom sociologist Richard Florida dubbed "the creative class." The thinking goes that these newcomers will spend their dollars and presumably contribute to economic growth and job creation. Food, it seems, has become the perfect lure. It's uncontroversial and has broad appeal. It taps into the American Dream and appeals to the multicultural values of many educated, wealthy foodies.

🏙️ My analysis of real estate ads for properties listed in City Heights and other gentrifying San Diego neighborhoods found that access to restaurants, cafés, farmers markets and outdoor dining is a common selling point. San Diego Magazine's home buyer guide for the same year identified City Heights as an "up-and-coming neighborhood," attributing its appeal to its diverse population and eclectic "culinary landscape," including several restaurants and Fair@44. When I see that City Heights' home prices rose 58% over the past three years, I'm not surprised.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

€6.65 million

The remains of "Big John," the world's largest triceratops skeleton ever found, were sold at auction for a European record price of 6.65 millions euros in Paris to a private anonymous collector from the U.S. The 200 pieces of the skeleton were unearthed in 2014 in South Dakota and reassembled by specialists in Italy.

👮🎮  IN OTHER NEWS

Police bust Mexican drug gang recruiting boys via online video games

Police in Mexico have intervened to rescue three minors, aged 11 to 14, from recruitment into a drug gang that had enticed them through online gaming.

A top Mexican police agency official Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, said the gang had contacted the youths in the south-central city of Oaxaca, chatting through a free-to-download game called Free Fire, which involves shooting at rivals with virtual firearms.

Calling himself "Rafael," another player of the same age, the suspected gang member offered one of the youths work "checking radio frequencies and watching out for police presence" in Monterrey, northern Mexico, reported national daily El Heraldo de México. The pay was unusually good — 8,000 pesos (almost $400) every two weeks — and the youth called two friends who also wanted to get in.

The three boys were set to take the bait, but an anonymous Mexican intelligence agent following the exchange while also posing as youth playing Free Fire, ultimately led police to a safe house in Santa Lucía del Camino, outside Oaxaca.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

"I just want to make China understand that we are not going to step back."

— U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to defend Taiwan if it came under attack from China, an assertion that seems to move away from the U.S. stated policy of "strategic ambiguity." His administration is now facing calls to clarify this stance on the island.

📸  PHOTO DU JOUR

Paramilitary soldiers are conducting a check operation in Indian-administered Kashmir, following a spate of targeted attacks on the region's Hindu minority that have left at least 33 dead since early October. The region, claimed in full by both India and Pakistan, has been the site of a bloody armed rebellion against India since the 1990s — Photo: Adil Abbas/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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