Monday Headlines

China Cautions Taiwan In Weeks Before Election
Taiwan will have its next presidential election on January 16, as well as elections for a new legislature. Tsai Ing-wen, the leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, who seems to favor an eventual separation from Beijing, appears to be on course to defeat Eric Chu, the candidate of the ruling Nationalist or Kuomintang (KMT).

China has stated several principles that it insists any leader of Taiwan must accept to maintain good cross-Strait relations, but Tsai has not given any indication that she will accommodate to Beijing’s wishes.

For the moment, however, Tsai says she supports the status quo.

“In recent months, I have reiterated the focus of my cross-strait policy – that is, the maintenance of the status quo, based on the values of freedom and democracy that are deeply rooted in the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people,” Mrs Tsai said in an interview with The Daily Telegraph.

Iran-Saudi Arabia Rift Further Complicates Syrian Picture
When the government of Saudi Arabia decided to go forward with the executions of prisoners whom they alleged were terrorists, including Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, they set sectarian tensions afire.

Violent protests in Iran and Saudi Arabia occurred in the hours and days afterward, as did threats and counter-threats. But the severing of relations between the two nations raised the stakes.

Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. mediator for the Syrian conflict, was exepected to travel to Riyadh to discuss upcoming negotiations in Geneva, but diplomatic sources fear the Iran-Saudi conflict could derail the talks before they begin.

The mood “can’t be good,” one U.N.-based diplomat told Foreign Policy magazine.

For Iran and Russia, both of whom back Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad, that could be good news for their self-interests.

“Iran already has ample reason to want to topple the Saudis, who are its main antagonist in the Shiite vs. Sunni conflict that has swept the region amid America’s retreat. The two are fighting a proxy war in Yemen, after a Saudi-led coalition intervened to stop a takeover by Iran’s Houthi allies. The Saudis are also the leading supporter of the non-Islamic State Sunnis who are fighting Syria’s ally Bashar Assad. Russia and Iran are allied with Assad,” argues a Wall Street Journal editorial.

After Recapture Of Ramadi, Horrors Of Life Under ISIS Emerge
In the wake of the Iraqi army’s victory in the town of Ramadi, residents have started to provide details of what life was like under ISIS rule and about the 1,000 or so residents who remain trapped in ISIS-controlled areas, many of whom are being used as human shields, reports CNN.

Government officials estimate that about 80% of Ramadi was destroyed and that the estimated price for reconstruction could be $10 billion.

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