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Sherlock

Best of the Web: Saudi king hospitalised for 2nd time, follows rumours of assassination attempt on prince

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, King Salman
© Amr Nabil/APFILE: The 84-year-old King Salman's ascension to the throne in 2015 ushered in the rise of his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to power. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz gives virtual speech during an opening session of the 15th annual G20 Leaders' Summit in Riyadh
Saudi King Salman will undergo treatment at Al Salam Palace in Jeddah for a lung inflammation, the state news agency said on Sunday, hours after he underwent medical tests.

Citing the royal court, the state news agency said the 88-year-old king would be treated with antibiotics until the inflammation subsides.

Due to King Salman's health issue, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi leader, postponed a visit to Japan that had been scheduled to begin on Monday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said.


Comment: This would be the 2nd scheduled visit abroad the prince has cancelled in the last month. With the first one, to Pakistan, cancelled prior to the King's diagnosis and hospitalisation, but after the rumour assassination attempt.


Comment: The rumours of the assassination attempt emerged on social media on May 6th. Shortly afterwards, it was refuted by the mainstream press. Yahoo reports:
No, there wasn't an assassination attempt on Saudi Crown Prince MBS
  • Both traditional media outlets and social media users started sharing a video of a car accident on the evening of May 6, claiming that it showed an assassination attempt on the life of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.
  • In reality, this video shows a car accident that took place on March 16, 2024. No one was injured in the crash, according to emergency responders, the Saudi Civil Defense.
Neither the article by Nabd News nor the tweet from the Beirut News Center mentioned Mohammed bin Salman. However, later on, Russian accounts on Telegram started reporting that the crown prince was the victim of an assassination attempt.

Read more on The Observers - France 24
Which traditional media outlets? And just because the video was allegedly wrongly associated with the rumour, does that mean the rumour had no basis in fact? Even without an assassination attempt, these postponements are notable. And, in light of recent incidents, more so.

On the 11th of May, the crown prince postponed a scheduled meeting in Pakistan for, what they stated at the time, 'unspecified reasons'.

Then, on the 20th of May the trip to Japan was cancelled, allegedly because of the king's hospitalisation:
Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman's much-anticipated visit to Pakistan has been deferred for unspecified reasons, a report said on Saturday. He was earlier expected to arrive in Islamabad on May 19 on a two-day visit, Geo News reported.

Commenting on the visit of the Saudi crown prince, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zehra Baloch on Friday clarified that details of the visit will be made public as soon as a schedule is worked out between Islamabad and Riyadh. Baloch was confident that the visit would take place soon and surely be valuable as the people of Pakistan were anxiously waiting for the leader from the brotherly country.

The high-level visit was likely to take place after the recent diplomatic and trade-related engagements between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia following Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif's visit to the Kingdom in March.

The expected visit of the top dignitary, which has now been delayed, possesses vital importance to cash-strapped Pakistan eyeing big investment from Saudi Arabia in diverse fields. It would also materialise the understanding between both countries in Makkah for attracting Saudi investments worth USD 5 billion in Pakistan in the coming days.

It would be the first visit of Mohammad Bin Salman to Pakistan in five years as he last visited the country in February 2019 during the rule of former prime minister Imran Khan. He was due to visit Pakistan in 2022 as part of his visit to the region but the visit was called off at the 11th hour.


Another last minute cancellation?


The visit will see the third in-person meeting between Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in a period spanning five weeks. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defence, and cultural ties.

The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as a top source of remittances to the cash-strapped country.
Murad Sadygzade writing for RT, on the 12th of May, gave the following analysis of the rumoured assassination attempt:
Royal bounty: Who would want to kill the Saudi Crown Prince, and why?
Reports about a recent assassination attempt on Mohammed bin Salman appear to have been false - but that doesn't mean it can't happen.
Recently, several media outlets reported an attack on the convoy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). However, these claims appear to have been false.

The video and information about burning cars in Riyadh emerged in a post by X (formerly Twitter) user Winter Intel, whose account analysis indicates an unreliable source. Later, the General Directorate of Civil Defense of Saudi Arabia reported an accident involving two cars, one of which had caught fire. The agency confirmed that there were no casualties.

Many Saudi journalists also debunked the news of the attack, calling it fake. Despite the widespread presence of fake news in the modern information space, questions remain about who could have an interest in spreading such rumors, and why. Could there indeed be an assassination attempt on MBS, and what might the reasons be?

Vision 2030: A great reformer for a nation of the future

Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, initiated comprehensive reforms in the kingdom from the moment he assumed key positions of power. His ambitious reform program "Vision 2030" reflects a strategic plan to transform various aspects of the country's economy, society, and culture. The primary economic goal is to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil, and MBS has taken several critical steps toward this objective.

Sectors like tourism, entertainment, information technology, healthcare, industry, and mining are being developed. Saudi Arabia aims to increase the share of the non-oil sector in GDP from 16% to 50%. Privatization of state-owned enterprises is another vital element. The process of partial privatization of Saudi Aramco, the state oil company, has begun, as well as privatization of other public enterprises in various sectors.

At the same time, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), one of the largest sovereign funds in the world, with assets exceeding $620 billion, was established. The fund finances many strategic investments within and beyond the country, including the major project to build the futuristic NEOM megacity on the Red Sea coast. To stimulate the private sector, MBS has paid particular attention to developing small and medium-sized businesses, creating favorable conditions for entrepreneurship and foreign investment, including lifting restrictions on foreign ownership of businesses in the country.

MBS has also brought significant changes to Saudi Arabian social life. The most critical step was expanding women's rights: they can now drive, attend sports stadiums, start their own businesses, and travel without a male guardian's permission. Mandatory gender segregation at public events has also been abolished. Additionally, the establishment of the General Entertainment Authority has led to the emergence of concerts, cinemas, festivals, and other forms of entertainment previously strictly prohibited.

Opening Saudi Arabia to foreign tourists is another key social reform. Thanks to the introduction of tourist visas, the country has for the first time become accessible to visitors not involved in a pilgrimage. In the cultural sphere, MBS is promoting development of arts and culture. The General Culture Authority was created, launching initiatives to support local artists and cultural projects. Special attention is also given to preserving Saudi Arabia's cultural heritage, restoring historical sites and opening them to visitors.


Whilst also evicting local tribes for vanity projects: Saudi cuts back widely ridiculed NEOM desert city plans by 98%


Political reforms have also become an essential part of "Vision 2030." In November 2017, MBS launched an anti-corruption campaign, arresting dozens of princes and businessmen. This campaign allowed significant sums to be returned to the state treasury, which were then used to finance key reforms. The government service reform introduced new standards for civil servants and improved the efficiency of the government apparatus.

Despite the complexity and scale of the changes, MBS continues to advance Vision 2030, striving to make Saudi Arabia more progressive, modern, and sustainable in the future.

"Challenges of 2030": What problems does MBS face?

MBS' reforms are already changing the face of Saudi Arabia, but they have sparked strong reactions, both domestically and internationally. Vision 2030 is an ambitious plan to transform Saudi Arabia but the implementation of the program faces significant challenges.

Despite notable achievements, MBS' reforms have drawn criticism from both inside the country and abroad. The anti-corruption campaign was accompanied by harsh repression of dissent. The November 2017 move on princes and businessmen returned significant sums to the state. However, this step by MBS was also seen as an attempt to eliminate political opponents, consolidate his power, and suppress dissent.

The arrests of activists and journalists have restricted freedom of speech and political participation, provoking strong criticism from international human-rights organizations. The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 cemented a negative image of MBS in the eyes of the global community. This crime became a symbol of a brutal suppression of opposition, and several Western countries imposed sanctions on Saudi officials suspected of involvement in the killing.

The UN and international human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have raised concerns and leveled criticism at MBS for the arrests of journalists, bloggers and activists, including female activists fighting for women's rights such as Loujain al-Hathloul. Strict laws on insulting religion and the state, mistreatment of prisoners, and the kingdom's use of the death penalty continue to attract global attention.

Another source of international criticism is the war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, led by MBS, headed a coalition against the Houthis in 2015. The conflict has led to massive civilian casualties and a humanitarian crisis in Yemen. MBS was accused of waging a war that disproportionately targeted civilian infrastructure, and of blockading Yemen, which led to widespread famine.

Sharp economic and social changes have also triggered resistance within Saudi Arabia. Despite efforts to develop non-oil sectors, oil remains a significant source of the country's revenue. The recent sharp decline in global oil prices has exposed the vulnerability of the kingdom's economy. Vision 2030 aims to reduce Saudi Arabia's dependence on oil revenue, but economic diversification has proven to be a challenging task.

The reforms have faced the most resistance from religious and conservative circles. Most significantly, expanding women's rights was met with fierce criticism from the religious establishment and conservative parts of the population, who see such reforms as a threat to traditional Islamic values.

These problems are not without historical parallels to the reforms of King Faisal, who also faced challenges in modernizing Saudi Arabia in the mid-20th century. King Faisal, the uncle of MBS, also carried out reforms that changed Saudi Arabia. He sought to reduce the country's dependence on oil by developing infrastructure and non-oil sectors of the economy. In the 1960s and 1970s, he introduced a mandatory education system for girls despite conservative opposition, and sought a more modern, open Saudi Arabia. However, he was shot and killed by his nephew, although the real reasons behind this act remain unclear.

However, there are significant differences between the reforms of MBS and King Faisal. King Faisal acted cautiously and gradually, avoiding abrupt changes, while MBS aims for rapid results, often causing social upheaval. King Faisal was more diplomatic in his approach to opponents, whereas MBS employs harsh methods to suppress adversaries of reform. The anti-corruption campaign and its mass arrests have become part of MBS' strategy to consolidate power, which critics see as authoritarian.

Rising external tensions

The United States remains Saudi Arabia's primary strategic partner, but relations between the two countries have often been strained due to MBS' policies. After the Khashoggi murder, the US Congress and the Biden administration sharply criticized the crown prince. The CIA linked this crime directly to MBS, which led to sanctions against several Saudi officials and complicated relations with Washington. The US also expressed concern over the war in Yemen. President Biden announced the end of US support for the Saudi campaign and reviewed arms supplies. An additional source of tension was the October 2022 OPEC+ decision led by Saudi Arabia to cut oil production, which raised energy prices and angered the Biden administration.


The US didn't care for Yemen, it cared that Saudi was pivoting to the multipolar alliance.


Saudi Arabia and Iran have traditionally been regional rivals, supporting opposing sides in conflicts in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon while also competing for influence in the Persian Gulf. The severing of their diplomatic relations in 2016 and mutual accusations of destabilizing the region heightened enmity between Riyadh and Tehran. Saudi Arabia criticizes Iran's nuclear program and supports sanctions against Tehran, fearing the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons. However, in March 2023, with China's help, the two nations agreed to restore diplomatic relations, opening a new chapter in the Riyadh-Tehran dialogue and promising a potential reduction in regional tensions, though the fundamental causes of competition and rivalry remain.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has traditionally been a close partner of Saudi Arabia in the region, but the ambitions of its leader, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), create friction. The UAE seeks to become a regional economic hub, which creates competition between Dubai and Riyadh. Saudi Arabia requires international companies to move their headquarters to Riyadh to secure contracts in the kingdom, which displeases Dubai. In Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the UAE fight the Houthis together but pursue different goals: the UAE supports the Southern Transitional Council (STC), which seeks southern Yemen's independence, while Saudi Arabia advocates a unified Yemen. In relations with Israel, the UAE normalized ties through the Abraham Accords in 2020, promoting regional cooperation, while Saudi Arabia remains hesitant to follow suit due to concerns over internal backlash.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have official diplomatic relations, but against the backdrop of common opposition to Iran, both states are cautiously moving towards rapprochement. Tehran remains the main adversary for both countries, providing a basis for informal security cooperation. Israel offers Saudi Arabia support in countering the Iranian threat. In the framework of the Abraham Accords, several Arab countries have normalized relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia has yet to grant official recognition, but negotiations were actively ongoing until the conflict in Gaza erupted in October 2023.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Türkiye improved after a period of tension over the Khashoggi murder. Türkiye seeks to strengthen its influence in the Middle East, competing with Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Ankara had strongly criticized Riyadh's actions in Yemen and its blockade of Qatar. In 2022, MBS visited Turkey, and the two countries agreed to improve relations. This demonstrates MBS's pragmatic approach to cooperation, even with those who have criticized him in the past.

In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, led by the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain, imposed a blockade on Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and of maintaining close ties with Iran. This created deep regional divisions and strengthened Türkiye's and Iran's influence over Qatar. However, in January 2021, Riyadh and Doha signed an agreement to restore relations and ended the blockade. Nevertheless, mutual distrust remains.

In the changing global world, Saudi Arabia faces difficulties as MBS seeks to pursue a sovereign and diversified foreign policy. Western criticism often stems not only from human-rights issues and the crown prince's harsh governance methods but also from his desire to develop relations with Russia and China. Riyadh sees China as a strategic partner in trade and investment. Saudi Arabia and Russia cooperate within OPEC+ on oil-price regulation. Riyadh maintains contacts with Moscow despite Western isolation of Russia due to the war in Ukraine.

MBS' domestic and foreign policies, despite complicated relations with many countries and forces, reflects his desire to strengthen Saudi Arabia's position as a regional leader and to reshape the kingdom. However, his harsh methods and uncompromising struggle against the opposition have intensified criticism from global and regional players, creating new challenges for the crown prince. Therefore, potential assassination attempts on the de-facto leader of modern Saudi Arabia may not be fake in the future.

His reforms are opening a new chapter in Saudi Arabian history, but they also highlight the difficulty of modernizing the kingdom amidst contradictions and resistance from various segments of society. The Vision 2030 program remains an ambitious attempt to make the kingdom more progressive, modern, and sustainable in the future, despite the many challenges on this path. After all, not everyone is interested in a strong and sovereign Saudi Arabia.
The developments in Saudi Arabia are particularly notable considering in just the last month or so there's been: a thwarted coup attempt in Turkey, with Erdogan allegedly specifically targeted; the suspicious assassination attempt of Slovakia's Fico; DR Congo's thwarted coup attempt, with evidence of American mercenaries; and the allegedly accidental death of President Raisi in Iran.

Furthermore, following those, there was also a threat made against the life of Serbia's President Vucic.

Perhaps one thread running through all of these is the desire of these leaders and nations to adopt friendly relations with Russia, and China (and, in effect, Iran), contrary to the schemes of the nefarious actors in the West-Israel; who are notorious for their involvement in coups and assassinations :


USA

Best of the Web: DR Congo military thwarts 'attempted coup', claims American mercenaries arrested


Comment: Multiple assassination attempts on world leaders in recent days, including an apparent accidental death of one, and now this. It's all 'quickening'...


congo coup
© Guerchom Ndebo/AFPMilitary says coup was 'nipped in the bud' by the forces and the perpetrators were arrested, including foreigners.

A DR Congo military spokesman said the perpetrators of the failed takeover, including several foreigners, had been arrested
Three people have been reported killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo's (DR Congo) capital following a shootout between armed men in military uniform and guards of a top politician, an incident the army described as an attempted coup.

Two police officers and one of the attackers were among those killed in the shootout that started early on Sunday.

The armed men attacked the Kinshasa residence of Vital Kamerhe, a federal legislator and a candidate for speaker of the National Assembly of DR Congo, but were stopped by his guards, Kamerhe's spokesman Michel Moto Muhima said on social media.

Comment: There certainly seems to have been an uptick in the number of incidents that can likely be attributed to the machinations of the West, and this is happening alongside a number of more overt actions:


Evil Rays

Best of the Web: 'You're next': Man arrested for threatening Serbia's President Vucic on social media

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic
© RIA NovostiFILE: Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic
A man has been apprehended in Serbia after allegedly making threats against President Aleksandar Vucic, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior Ivica Dacic, as reported by local media and BTA.

The individual, identified as D.M. from Sombor, has been placed under arrest and held in custody for 48 hours, as announced by the Serbian Ministry of the Interior in a statement relayed by Tanjug news agency.

The threats against President Vucic surfaced following his expression of shock over the recent assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. Vucic had conveyed his prayers for Fico's recovery, referring to him as a close friend of Serbia. Subsequently, menacing messages appeared on Vucic's social media post, suggesting that he could be the next target.

Comment: Whilst people behaving untoward on social media is nothing new, given the new suspicions behind Fico's assassination attempt, the suspicious death of Iran's President Raisi, and considering Serbia's relatively Russia friendly policies, in addition to the various other seemingly related incidents that have occurred of late, the threat is worth noting: See also:




Newspaper

EU doesn't tolerate freedom of speech - Moscow

Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Public Council Vyacheslav Volodin.
© Sputnik/Alexey MaishevChairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the Public Council Vyacheslav Volodin.
Brussels talks about free speech but doesn't uphold it, the chairman of Russia's lower house of parliament has said

Russia's State Duma chairman has accused the EU of censoring alternative opinions and curtailing freedom of speech, with the goal of deceiving citizens.

Vyacheslav Volodin was commenting on Brussels' latest ban on Russian media outlets, which has sparked a warning of countermeasures from the Foreign Ministry in Moscow.

On Friday, the European Council announced it was suspending the broadcasting activities of four additional media organizations, claiming that they "spread and support" Russian propaganda.

The blacklist includes RIA Novosti news agency, newspapers Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and the Czech-based portal Voice of Europe.

Writing on Telegram on Saturday, Volodin described the move as showing the EU's desire "to close access to objective and reliable information" for residents of member states.

According to the lawmaker, "the policy of double standards has become an integral part of European structures" as they only "talk about freedom of speech, but do not tolerate it in reality".

Officials in Brussels have no arguments to convince EU citizens that they are right and as soon as they see any problems, they just block "any alternative point of view, destroy freedom of speech, and violate the right to freely disseminate and receive information," Volodin stressed.

"In fact, they introduce censorship with the only purpose - to deceive their citizens and stay in power," he argued.

The Russian Foreign Ministry, commenting on Brussels' move, noted that Moscow has repeatedly warned the EU that "repressive measures" against Russian media will not go unanswered.

Comment:
1) For more on this story, see EU to sanction more Russian-language news outlets For insight into how western agencies worked in Russia, consider: On the leash of the US State Department and MI6: how western military-intelligence structures finance and arm the Russian opposition to foment chaos and terror in the country

2) When the article writes:
"In fact, they introduce censorship with the only purpose - to deceive their citizens and stay in power,"
Couldn't the above be said of media elsewhere? Sure, but what is the degree of lying, distortion and manipulation? Here again the opinions will differ, but either way, there is probably no other remedy than for the readers to try and piece together what is, based on what can be accessed.. Using different search engines can help, as can looking into media, also from other countries that are (still) not sanctioned. If there is a language issue, translation tools often work reasonably well.

2) The European Council has for Russia this page, where one can find their Russia related sanctioned media. They include:
Izvestia, Katehon, New Eastern Outlook, NTV/NTV Mir, Oriental Review, Pervyi Kanal, REN TV, RIA Novosti, Russia Today and subsidiaries, Rossiya RTR / RTR Planeta, Rossiya 24 / Russia 24, Rossiya 1, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Spas TV Channel, Sputnik and subsidiaries, Tsargrad TV Channel, TV Centre International, Voice of Europe.
3) For media blocked in Russia, there is this Wiki. Most have been banned due to how they reported the conflict in Ukraine. Testing the pages on this test site, dedicated to VPN reviews, reveals the blocking is effective. Unfortunately, I could not find a similar testing site for the EU. Maybe that is actually a good thing, as there appears to be some variation.

4) From the same source, there was recently an article that shows how the EU can react to measures that might reveal their own efforts to influence a non EU country, without there even being limitations to what is published:
19 May, 2024 00:54
Georgian president vetoes controversial 'foreign agents' bill
The proposed legislation was slammed by the EU and sparked protests and clashes in Tbilisi

Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili has vetoed the government's divisive "foreign agents" bill, arguing that, if signed into law, it would undermine the country's aspiration to join the EU.

The Transparency of Foreign Influence Act, which sparked weeks of street protests and clashes with police in the capital Tbilisi, was passed by Georgia's parliament on Tuesday.

The legislation would require NGOs, media outlets, and individuals receiving more than 20% of their funding from abroad, to register as entities "promoting the interests of a foreign power" and disclose their donors. Failure to comply would be punishable by a fine of up to $9,500.

The critics have labeled the bill "a Russian law," comparing it to legislation that was passed in 2012 in Russia and has since been significantly expanded. They argue that, if passed into law, the bill would be used to crack down on the opposition.

In a video address posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday, Zourabichvili said the bill contradicts the Georgian constitution and "all European standards," serving as "an obstacle to our European path."

"This veto is legally sound and will be delivered to the parliament today," she continued, arguing that "this law is not subject to any changes or improvements, making it an easy veto."

The presidential veto is seen as largely symbolic, as parliament is controlled by the ruling Georgian Dream party, which is expected to overrule it.

The bill, which has been widely criticized by US and EU officials, was first announced in March 2023, but the government was forced to back down after large-scale protests erupted in the capital.

The riots occurred again last month when the government said it would proceed with the legislation despite pressure from the opposition.

The White House has threatened Georgian officials with sanctions for "undermining the democracy," while the EU said Tbilisi could lose its candidacy status that was granted in December. Brussels is also reportedly considering a reversal of the visa liberalization for Georgians.

"The adoption of this law negatively impacts Georgia's progress on the EU path. The choice on the way forward is in Georgia's hands," the EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell said this week.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze has previously defended the bill, arguing that it is needed to ensure more transparency, and does not violate EU standards. He invited protesters on Friday to delegate representatives who would join a public discussion with him on the matter.
When the EU raises such a noise about a legislation, that does not even prohibit any media, just asks them to register if they receive a lot of funding from external actors, then one is justified in wondering if the EU and NATO could be successful expanding into Georgia, strategically located on the border with Russia, if they did not have a propaganda arm working the public opinion. See also Georgia accuses NATO countries of trying to orchestrate coup.


TV

Russian media banned from displaying national symbols at Olympics

Russian flag
© Sputnik / Grygory Sysoev
The same restrictions apply to spectators and sports fans attending the Summer Games in Paris

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned journalists covering this year's Summer Games in Paris from displaying national symbols of Russia and Belarus, TASS reported on Friday, citing a spokesman for the organization.

Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to participate in the Olympics only under neutral status this year. The spokesman noted that under the IOC guidelines, this means they will be prohibited from displaying any national symbols, including the national flag, the state emblem, any military symbols, the colors of the St. George ribbon, or playing the national anthem.
"The same applies for media personnel, as well as for all spectators, as specified in the document," the spokesman was cited as saying.

Comment: See also:


Helicopter

Best of the Web: Iranian president confirmed dead in helicopter crash

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi
© Iranian Presidency/Getty ImagesIranian President Ebrahim Raisi
Iranian president confirmed dead in helicopter crashEbrahim Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, after a decades-long career in the judiciary

Iranian state media have confirmed that President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday in the northwestern province of East Azerbaijan.

His entire entourage, including Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Governor of East Azerbaijan Malek Rahmati, also perished.

Comment:
See also:
1) Best of the Web: Helicopter carrying Iranian president crashes - reports

2) The Israeli press has fresh comment on the significance for the political situation in Iran and the Middle East
Haaretz attributing The Associated Press writes:
Iran's Foreign Minister, a Hard-line Diplomat and Hamas, Hezbollah Point Man, Dies in Helicopter Crash

During the Israel-Hamas war, he met with foreign officials and the leader of Hamas and Hezbollah. He also threatened retaliation against Israel and praised an April attack on Israel

The Associated Press May 20, 2024 10:07 am IDT

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, a hardliner close to the country's paramilitary Revolutionary Guard who confronted the West while also overseeing indirect talks with the U.S. over the country's nuclear program, died in the helicopter crash that also killed the country's president, state media
The Times of Israel:
Iran's Raisi confirmed dead in helicopter crash near Azerbaijan border
Officials declare deaths of president and foreign minister after lengthy overnight search in difficult conditions; Hamas conveys 'deepest condolences' to the Iranian government
By AGENCIES and TOI STAFF Today, 9:08 am
[...]
The charred wreckage of the helicopter, which crashed on Sunday carrying Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with seven others, was found early on Monday after a 15-hour search in foggy weather conditions.
There is also an opinion piece by LAZAR BERMAN, The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter:
19 May 2024, 9:46 pm Updated: Today, 7:36 am
Raisi's death doesn't change Iranian policy, but will spark fight for power
After fatal crash of Iran's president and potential Khamenei successor, deep stable of figures aiming to fill the vacuum his loss creates may test supreme leader
[...]
Raisi "works for the Supreme Leader," noted Ori Goldberg of Reichman University. "Certainly this guy, because he was elected in the least democratic elections the Islamic Republic ever had."

At the same time, however, the sudden loss of Iran's president creates a power vacuum that senior figures will start maneuvering to take advantage of.

According to Article 131 of Iran's constitution, in the case of the president's death, the first deputy temporarily assumes the presidency. Mohammad Mokhber, a Khamenei loyalist, currently fills that role.

Elections must be held within fifty days.
There is no shortage of powerful officials who have been waiting for an opportunity like this to move further up the regime's power structure, and the sudden shock of the death of Iran's president now presents itself as a test for Khamenei.

"He has to show that he can carry, not the country, but the leadership, through this transition," said Goldberg.

But more importantly, Raisi had been seen as the leading candidate to replace Khamenei. He was immensely experienced — a cleric, ex-chief justice and former head of a massive foundation, in addition to being president.

"To have him off the field or incapacitated, dead, what have you, is a real shock for the politics of the system," said Brodsky.

While overshadowed by Raisi, the loss of Amir-Abdollahian is also significant, as he has been an extremely effective foreign minister, overseeing a successful reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and navigating a series of difficult crises, including with powerful neighbor Pakistan.

Though Iran's broad foreign policy won't change, having to deal with unexpected political upheaval is expected to take attention away from the multi-front fight against Israel.

The country can now be "a little more self-engaged, wrapped up in internal politics, as it sorts out the election for the next president," noted Michael Makovsky, CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.
3) The Iranian Press TV was initially slow to comment on the missing helicopter, but this morning there is an the indication of a twist to the crash, whether that is to cover up internal incompetence, to unite the nation, or allude to what led to the crash:
'Saddened and shocked': World leaders extend condolences after President Raeisi's martyrdom
Monday, 20 May 2024 6:51 AM [ Last Update: Monday, 20 May 2024 7:12 AM ]
World leaders have extended condolences to the Iranian government and nation over the martyrdom of President Ebrahim Raeisi in a helicopter crash in the country's northwest.
The above article has statements from India, Pakistan, Venezuela and Iraq.

4) It is not yet clear what caused the crash, apart from it being damned stupid to fly in poor conditions, in difficult terrain after going to a neighbouring country to inaugurate a mere dam. However, given that the pilot was probably experienced, that the other two helicopters did manage and that there was a lot at stake for some foreign governments, the investigation into the reason for the crash could prove interesting.


Pistol

Best of the Web: Slovakian government suspects gunman who attempted to assassinate PM Robert Fico 'was not working alone'

fico shooting slovakia
The man suspected of attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Robert Fico may not have been working alone, Slovakia's interior minister says.

A team is investigating the possibility Wednesday's attack was not carried out by a "lone wolf", as previously believed, Matus Sutaj Estok told reporters on Sunday.

Mr Fico's life is no longer in danger following hours of surgery, but the 59-year-old still requires intensive care, his deputy said earlier.

On Saturday, the man charged with his attempted murder was placed in custody until his trial.

The alleged assailant has not been formally named, but Slovak reports have widely identified him as 71-year-old Juraj Cintula from the town of Levice.

Local media have described him as a poet who has been involved in political organisations with various ideologies.

Comment: We'll take the Mossad-CIA-MI6 trifecta for $600, Alex.


Cult

Canada's CSIS claims those who oppose gender ideology are a 'violent threat'

trudeau pride parade lgbt woke ideology
© Associated PressPrime Minister Justin Trudeau waves a flag as he takes part in the annual Pride Parade in Toronto, July 4, 2016
CSIS suggested that Canadians having issues with the gender ideology are driven by "beliefs stemming from misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, religious interpretations, conspiracy theories, or a generalized fear of sociocultural change."

In its annual report for 2023 the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) says that Canadians opposed to gender ideology are a possible "violent threat."

The annual report states, "CSIS assesses that the violent threat posed by the anti-gender movement is almost certain to continue over the coming year and that violent actors may be inspired by the University of Waterloo attack to carry out their own extreme violence against the 2SLGBTQIA+ community or against other targets they view as representing the gender ideology agenda."

Comment: Woke ideology has brought a once-great country low. On every front Trudeau has caved to the furthest left-wing policies enforced in brutal authoritarian fashion.


Russian Flag

WaPo grudgingly admits Russia already outperformed Ukraine's 2023 counteroffensive

russian soldiers donetsk
© Alexander NEMENOV / AFPRussian soldiers patrol a street on April 11, 2022, in Volnovakha in the Donetsk region.
Russian forces have taken more territory in six weeks than Ukraine managed in six months last year, the Washington Post admitted on Friday, describing the 2023 effort by Kiev as "lackluster" and "disappointing."

The spring counteroffensive was war-gamed by British and American generals in Germany and supplied with 1,500 armored vehicles - including Leopard, Challenger and Abrams tanks, and Bradley armored vehicles. Once it finally began in June, it got stuck in Russian defenses and resulted in gains of only 199 square miles (515 square kilometers) worth of territory by December, according to the Post.

Russia has taken 553 square miles (1,432 square kilometers) so far this year, of which 294 (761 square kilometers) just since the beginning of April, the US outlet noted.

Comment: What the western military brass cannot seem to get through their heads is that the goal of Russia's SMO was never about territory. It was about demilitarization. And given quotes from the poor Ukrainian grunts on the front lines, it appears to be working very well. The West has no more significant weapons its willing to give (with Israel being a bigger priority), and tragically, Ukraine appears to be truly fighting to the last man.


Attention

Media Research Center: Liberal billionaire George Soros has spent $80 million to 'silence' Americans

Soros free press censor conservative media control
© Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images / AP NewsroomFree Press, a media group financed by liberal billionaire George Soros, "is looking to incorporate global pressure to push Big Tech platforms to juice their censorship operations before the 2024 U.S. presidential election."
'Leftists are trying their best to shut down the voices of half of America,' Dan Schneider says

Free Press, a media group financed by liberal billionaire George Soros, "is looking to incorporate global pressure to push Big Tech platforms to juice their censorship operations before the 2024 U.S. presidential election," according to the Media Research Center (MRC).

Free Press, which is not affiliated with journalist Bari Weiss' The Free Press, bills itself as an organization that "closely watches as the decisions shaping the media landscape are made and sounds the alarm when people's rights to connect and communicate are in danger." However, in a new report, the conservative MRC found that Soros gave over $80 million to affiliated groups calling for "censorship" ahead of November's critical election.

"One of the wealthiest men in the world is using his vast wealth and power to silence regular Americans ahead of the 2024 election. At a time when defending free speech is key, leftists are trying their best to shut down the voices of half of America, especially those who disagree with the radical agenda promoted by Biden, Soros and most Big Tech executives," MRC Free Speech America vice president Dan Schneider told Fox News Digital.