The New York Times 2024-02-03 16:27:09


Germany Braces for Decades of Confrontation With Russia

Defense Minister Boris Pistorius has begun warning Germans that they should prepare for decades of confrontation with Russia — and that they must speedily rebuild the country’s military in case Vladimir V. Putin does not plan to stop at the border with Ukraine.

Russia’s military, he has said in a series of recent interviews with German news media, is fully occupied with Ukraine. But if there is a truce, and Mr. Putin, Russia’s president, has a few years to reset, he thinks the Russian leader will consider testing NATO’s unity.

“Nobody knows how or whether this will last,” Mr. Pistorius said of the current war, arguing for a rapid buildup in the size of the German military and a restocking of its arsenal.

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Mideast Crisis : U.S. Strikes Test Iran’s Will to Escalate

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Jerusalem Feb. 3, 7:16 p.m.

American officials say there were no back-channel discussions with Tehran.

As Iran and the United States assessed the damage done by American airstrikes on 85 targets in Syria and Iraq, the ball suddenly shifted to Tehran’s court and its pending decision over whether to respond or take the hit and de-escalate.

The betting in Washington and among its allies is that the Iranians would choose the latter course, seeing no benefit in getting into a shooting war with a far larger power, with all the risks that implies. But it is not yet clear whether the varied proxy forces that have conducted scores of attacks on American bases and ships — who rely on Iran for money, arms and intelligence — will conclude that their interests, too, are served by backing off.

In the aftermath of the strike against Iranian forces and the militias they support, American officials insisted there was no back-channel discussion with Tehran, no quiet agreement that the U.S. would avoid high-value targets like missile sites, drone-launching facilities, ammunition stores and command-and-control complexes, in response to an attack last Sunday that took the lives of American soldiers.

“There’s been no communications with Iran since the attack that killed our three soldiers in Jordan,” John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, told reporters in a call on Friday night after the retaliatory strikes were completed.

But even without direct conversation, there has been plenty of signaling, in both directions.

Mr. Biden is engaged in a military, diplomatic and election-year gamble that he can first restore some semblance of deterrence in the region, then help orchestrate a “pause” or cease-fire in Gaza to allow for hostage exchanges with Israel, and then, in the biggest challenge of all, try to reshape the dynamics of the region.

But it is all happening in an area of the world he hoped, just five months ago, could be kept on the back burner while he focused on competition with China and the war in Ukraine, and in the midst of a campaign where his opponents, led by former President Donald J. Trump, will declare almost any move a sign of weakness.

For their part, the Iranians have been broadcasting in public that they want to take down the temperature — on the attacks, even on their quickly advancing nuclear program — even if their ultimate objective, to drive the United States out of the region once and for all, remains unchanged.

Their first response to the military strikes on Saturday morning was notably mild.

“The attack last night on Syria and Iraq is an adventurous action and another strategic mistake by the American government which will have no result other than increasing tensions and destabilizing the region,” said Nasser Kanaani, the foreign ministry spokesman.

Until Friday night, every military action by the United States has been soaked in calibration and caution, the hallmark of Mr. Biden’s approach. The deaths of the American soldiers forced his hand, though, administration officials said.

He had to make clear that the United States would seek to take apart many of the capabilities of the groups that call themselves the “Axis of Resistance,” a reference to the one concept that unites a fractious, often undisciplined group of militias — opposition to Israel, and to its chief backer, the United States.

And the strikes, Mr. Biden’s advisers quickly concluded, had to aim at facilities used by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

But the president made the decision to strike largely at facilities and command centers, without aiming to decapitate their leadership or threatening Iran’s regime directly.

There was no serious consideration of striking inside Iran, one senior administration official said after the first round of strikes were complete. And the telegraphing of the punch gave Iranians and their proxies time to evacuate senior commanders and other personnel from their bases, and disperse them in safe houses.

To Mr. Biden’s critics, this is too much calibration, too much caution.

“The overriding intellectual construct of Biden foreign policy is avoidance of escalation,” said Kori Schake, a former Republican defense official in the Bush administration who directs foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

“They are not wrong to be worried about escalation,” she said. “But they don’t take into account that it encourages our adversaries. We often seem more worried about fighting wars we can win, and that encourages them to manipulate our fear.”

Syria and Iraq are angered by U.S. strikes, warning they could deepen regional turmoil.

Syria and Iraq condemned U.S. strikes on Iran-backed militias in their countries, saying such attacks only impede the fight against Islamic State terrorists and threaten to drag the region even deeper into instability.

The U.S. strikes overnight hit 85 targets at seven sites in the two countries in retaliation for a drone attack on a remote outpost in Jordan on Sunday that killed three American soldiers. Washington has suggested that an Iran-linked Iraqi militia was behind that attack.

The Biden administration warned these strikes would not be the last.

“These strikes constitute a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, an undermining of the efforts of the Iraqi government,” Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool, a spokesman for Iraq’s military, said late Friday. He called the U.S. attacks “unacceptable” and “a threat that will drag Iraq and the region into unforeseen consequences.”

The Iraqi government said that 16 people, including civilians, had been killed and 25 wounded, and warned that it would summon the U.S. envoy in Baghdad to protest the strikes.

The Syrian defense ministry called the attacks a “blatant air aggression,” according to state media. The strikes targeted 26 sites connected with the Iran-backed militias including bases and grain silos, killing at least 18 members of Iran-backed groups, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group with researchers in Syria.

The Syrian foreign ministry condemned what it called U.S. “aggression” and said that it would weaken Syrian efforts to combat terrorism.

The defense ministry said that the areas targeted were places where Syria’s military was fighting the Islamic State terrorist group, which continues to maintain an underground presence and carry out attacks inside Syria. The United States has hundreds of troops in other parts of Syria focused on fighting the remnants of Islamic State.

U.S. officials said they were confident the strikes had hit “exactly what they meant to hit.”

The targets were all linked to specific attacks against U.S. troops in the region, officials said, describing them as command and control operations, intelligence centers weapons facilities and bunkers used by the Quds Force — the overseas arm of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards — and affiliated militias. The Quds Force oversees Iran’s proxies around the Middle East.

Iran’s interior minister denied that Revolutionary Guards sites were hit in an interview with Al Manar, a Lebanese broadcaster linked to the Iran-backed Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah.

John F. Kirby, a U.S. National Security Council spokesman, said the Iraqi government had been notified ahead of the strikes, which the Iraqi government called a “false claim.”

The United States had telegraphed for nearly a week before the strikes that it intended to retaliate.

But the Syrian Observatory reported that there was confusion among Iran-backed militias in Syria about what might be targeted. Leaders of the groups went to Damascus and Homs provinces and told others affiliated with them to remain in their homes, the Observatory reported.

In the days after President Biden said he had decided on a U.S. response to the Jordan attack, Mr. Kirby said it was very possible that the United States would carry out “a tiered approach” over a period of time rather than a single action.

Falih Hassan, Hwaida Saad and Victoria Kim contributed reporting.

U.S. strikes in the Middle East send a message but do limited damage.

The dozens of airstrikes carried out by the United States in Syria and Iraq largely corresponded with the goals of direct American military engagement in the Middle East in recent years: Send a message to enemies while limiting damage and avoiding getting pulled into a wider war.

U.S. officials said the strikes were launched in retaliation for an attack on a military base in Jordan that killed three American service members.

But the United States appeared not only to calibrate the attacks to avoid stoking a broader war, but had warned that they were coming days in advance, giving the militias being targeted and their Iranian advisers time to move.

“There is no desire on the part of the U.S. or Iran to escalate into an all-out conflict,” said Maha Yahya, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut. Instead, she said, both sides had sought ways to attack that remained “below a threshold that would spell an all-out war.”

The stakes of this particular bombing were high, given heightened tensions across the Middle East because of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and related violence it has sparked elsewhere.

Since the deadly Hamas-led assault on Israel on Oct. 7 and Israel’s retaliatory bombing campaign and ground invasion in Gaza, militias have carried out more than 160 attacks on U.S. forces in the region and on commercial ships in the Red Sea.

The United States said it struck only targets associated with militias backed by Iran that had been involved in the attack on the base in Jordan or other offensives against U.S. troops.

But the United States did not attack Iran itself, despite its status as the patron and overall coordinator of these militias. Nor did it strike Hezbollah in Lebanon, the most powerful of Iran’s regional proxies, which has been battling Israeli troops along the Lebanon-Israel border throughout the war in Gaza.

That fits with the United States’ efforts to keep its own military activities separate from those of Israel, which says it is seeking to destroy Hamas.

How successful the new strikes will be in degrading the military capabilities of Iran and its militia or in deterring them from attacking the United States remains an open question.

Iran created its network, with affiliates in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, to extend its influence and give it a way to strike foes without having to do so itself, analysts say.

Anti-Iran hawks in the United States and the Middle East often argue that attacking the proxies without hitting Iran is a waste of time.

Ms. Yahya said she did not expect the new U.S. strikes to drastically change the activities of Iran’s regional proxies.

“The only thing that will get them to pull back would be a clear sign from Iran telling them to pull back,” she said. “But even then, they may listen and they may not.”

That is because Iran does not directly control its proxies, who have significant latitude to make their own decisions, she said.

Israel has been bombing Iranian-backed groups in Syria regularly for years, without stopping their efforts to develop a presence in the country nor cutting off the flow of arms to Hezbollah.

In 2020, the United States assassinated Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, who was a key figure in expanding Iran’s regional militia network and its members’ military capabilities.

Four years later, the militias he fostered are still active, attacking ships in the Red Sea, targeting U.S. forces in Iraq and fighting with Israel along its border with Lebanon.

Hamas signals that wide gaps remain on reaching a cease-fire agreement.

Even as hopes have risen about the possibility of reaching a hostage release deal and cease-fire in the nearly four-month war between Israel and Hamas, substantial gaps between the two sides remain, a Hamas official has said.

A proposal hammered out in Paris last week “is being studied by the movement’s leadership and other resistance factions,” Osama Hamdan, a leader in Hamas’s political wing in Lebanon, told the broadcaster LBC on Friday. “But we cannot say that we have reached a conclusion.”

In the negotiating room, Israel was still insisting that “the military operation in Gaza would continue” after the cease-fire, Mr. Hamdan said, which contradicted Hamas’s condition for a permanent truce. Another key sticking point was an Israeli demand for a buffer zone inside Gaza, he added.

Israeli leaders have said they will not compromise on their goal of toppling Hamas’s rule in Gaza and told the Israeli public to expect months more of fighting. Israeli troops have been destroying buildings to clear out what they have described as a security zone inside Gaza, in an attempt to prevent another surprise attack similar to the Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7 that prompted the war, Israeli officials have said.

Israel and Hamas do not recognize one another and negotiate via mediators, primarily Qatar and Egypt. On Sunday, Israeli, Egyptian and American intelligence chiefs met with the Qatari premier in Paris, working out a framework for a potential cease-fire agreement, which was passed on to Hamas.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas’s political bureau, spoke on Friday with leaders of two other Palestinian armed groups — Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — about the potential deal, his office said in a statement.

In the statement, Mr. Haniyeh emphasized to his counterparts that the talks were aimed at “totally ending the aggression and the withdrawal of the occupation army outside of Gaza.”

As part of the cease-fire agreement, Hamas has demanded that Israel release of the thousands of Palestinians in Israeli prison in exchange for the over 100 Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza. Mr. Hamdan said that would include Palestinians serving life sentences for killing Israelis, such as Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five consecutive life terms in Israeli prison for killings committed during the first and second intifadas, which he led.

“Our demand is for the liberation of all Palestinian prisoners, especially because we have enough imprisoned Israeli soldiers in our possession to enable us to do so,” he said, later singling out Mr. Barghouti by name.

Many Palestinians revere Mr. Barghouti as a courageous resistance leader untainted by the accusations of corruption and rights abuses that dog the current Palestinian leadership. Israeli officials view him as a terrorist mastermind responsible for several deadly attacks.

In a Tuesday speech at a military academy in the occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel appeared to rule out a mass Palestinian prisoner release, further raising doubts on the ability of both sides to reach a deal.

“We will not withdraw the Israel Defense Forces from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “What will happen? Total victory!”

Who were the three soldiers killed in the drone attack that prompted U.S. retaliatory strikes?

Three U.S. soldiers who were killed on Sunday in a drone attack on a military outpost in Jordan had been serving on a team trained to deploy at short notice to build roads, landing fields and protective earthen berms for U.S. forces.

The soldiers, two of them women in their early 20s who had become friends, were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, based at Fort Moore, Ga. Their remains were returned to the United States on Friday, in a solemn ceremony at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware attended by a silent President Biden.

The Pentagon has identified the three as Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46, of Carrollton, Ga.; Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24, of Waycross, Ga.; and Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23, of Savannah, Ga. They died when the drone struck container units that served as their living quarters, according to the Pentagon.

Here are a few details of the three.

Sgt. William Jerome Rivers

Sergeant Rivers grew up in Willingboro, N.J., northwest of Philadelphia. He enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2011 as an internal electrician. In 2018, he spent eight months deployed in Iraq. In 2023, he joined the 718th Engineering Company at Fort Moore, Ga.

He arrived at Tower 22, a logistics supply base in Jordan, near the Syrian border, last October. His work there involved maintaining the base’s electrical systems, repairing short circuits and faulty equipment.

He won a string of medals for participating in 12 years of U.S. military campaigns. Mr. Rivers’s wife, Darlene Lewis Rivers, declined an interview request, saying she had just seen her husband’s body.

Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders

Sergeant Sanders volunteered for the Army Reserves in 2019, and deployed from Fort Moore to Tower 22 in Jordan last October. There she worked on road maintenance, driving heavy machinery to spread asphalt and grade roads.

She was from Waycross, a town in the southeastern part of Georgia where the median household income is half the national average. She lettered in three sports in high school and tried but did not finish college. She then worked at a series of low-paying jobs, and enlisted after speaking to a friend who had joined the Marines.

She was proud of her service, and visited schools to talk to students in Waycross in uniform.

While deployed, she would shop online for rare pairs of Nike Dunks and have them delivered home. Her mother, Oneida Oliver-Sanders, would unbox the sneakers for her on FaceTime.

She enjoyed listening to hip-hop with Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, a friend she met in basic training. Two days after the attack, both were posthumously promoted to the sergeant rank.

Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett

Sergeant Moffett always wanted an Army career, modeled after her mother’s. She participated in R.O.T.C. through high school, and enlisted in the Army immediately after graduating, her mother, Francine Moffett, told an Atlanta TV news station, WXIA.

Like Sergeant Sanders, Sergeant Moffett worked at the outpost in Jordan operating heavy equipment. She drove bulldozers and backhoes around the small base built along a sandy berm known as Tower 22.

Francine Moffett last spoke to her daughter the night before the drone attack, checking that she had received a care package sent from home with the strawberry shortcake and sunflower seeds that the Sergeant Moffett had requested, according to the WXIA report.

The package also contained a real estate book. Sergeant Moffett aimed to become a real estate agent, but only after completing one more Army tour.

“She wanted to become a sergeant,” Mrs. Moffett said.

Iran says an Israeli strike in Syria has killed a member of the Revolutionary Guards.

Iran said on Friday that an Israeli strike early in the morning in the southern district of Damascus had killed one of its military officers in Syria, the latest in a series of recent attacks on Iranian forces.

Iranian media said the slain officer, Saeed Alidadi, was a member of the Revolutionary Guards Corps who had been deployed to Syria as a military adviser. Since late December, at least four other officers in the Quds Forces, the external branch of the Guards that operates in Syria, have been killed in strikes associated with Israel.

Israel did not publicly take responsibility for the strike or comment on it.

A Middle Eastern defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that Israel had killed Mr. Alidadi as part of a wider campaign against Iranians helping militias that have fought Israel on multiple fronts.

Mr. Alidadi was a technical expert who specialized in electronic engineering for missiles and drones, according to a person affiliated with the Guards.

The entire region has been on edge in anticipation of U.S. strikes in retaliation for the killing of three American soldiers in a drone attack at a remote base in Jordan last week. The Biden administration blamed the attack on a network of Iran-linked militias in Iraq, and on Friday the United States launched a series of attacks on military bases in Iraq and Syria that are affiliated with various proxy groups backed by Iran.

Iranian officials had warned all week that if U.S. struck targets inside Iran or killed any of its military personnel, Iran would strike back, though they have stressed they are not seeking a war with America. President Ebrahim Raisi was the latest to voice that position on Friday.

“If an oppressive and bullying power wants to bully, the Islamic Republic will deliver a stern answer,” Mr. Raisi said at a speech in the southern city of Minab.

Iran had taken steps this week to lessen tensions with the United States, in an apparent effort to reduce the likelihood of a strike on its territory or on regional interests it considers vital. At the same time, it has placed its forces on the highest level of alert and has identified a list of American targets to attack if its territory is violated, according to two people familiar with Tehran’s military planning.

On Friday, all Iranian military bases in Iraq and Syria were evacuated and senior commanders of the Guards were placed “out of reach” to protect them, according to an Iranian member of the Guards in Lebanon who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

At the same time, the Iranian intelligence ministry issued a statement claiming it had arrested a network of Israeli spies in Iran. In addition, the statement said Iran had discovered the identities of Iranian spies in 28 countries and planned to work with local authorities to detain them. The Iranian claims could not be confirmed, and the ministry did not offer details on the identities or whereabouts of the accused spies.

Iran routinely labels dissidents, journalists and activists as spies for foreign intelligence agencies and has a track record of kidnapping and killing its opponents abroad.

In Damascus, a funeral procession was held for Mr. Alidadi at a Shia shrine called Seydeh Zeinab, which is considered a holy site, according to photos and reports on Iranian media affiliated with the Guards. His coffin was draped in the flag of Iran, adorned with white flowers, and a banner with his picture and the word, “the martyr of Al Aqsa” a reference to Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, which it named the “Al Aqsa Flood.”

What are U.S. troops doing in the Middle East?

When a drone attack killed three U.S. soldiers at a base in Jordan on Jan. 28, many Americans were left wondering why, years after the U.S. ended its combat mission in Iraq, are the country’s soldiers still in the region?

Where are U.S. forces in the region?

Roughly 40,000 American troops are stationed across the Middle East, mostly in countries with close ties to the United States. There are far fewer in the region now compared with when the United States was trying to oust the Islamic State from Iraq, or during the preceding years of war.

There were more than 160,000 American troops in Iraq alone in 2007, during the war that followed the U.S. invasion. Now there are only about 2,500 U.S. troops there, stationed at installations like Al Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western desert, to support Iraq’s military.

There are currently about 900 U.S. troops stationed in Syria, where they support Kurdish forces and work to enforce U.S. sanctions against Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based group backed by Iran.

Some of those troops are deployed at the Tanf garrison in southeastern Syria, which is served by a border outpost in Jordan, Tower 22. About 350 Army and Air Force personnel are stationed at Tower 22, the site where the three American soldiers were killed in the drone strike.

Most of the U.S. military presence in the Middle East is in countries with longstanding relationships with Washington. At an air base in Azraq, Jordan, the United States has about 2,000 troops, as well as Special Operations forces and military trainers. There are about 13,500 U.S. forces based in Kuwait, and thousands more in countries including Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and Qatar, which helped build an air base used by U.S. Central Command.

Why are so many troops there?

Before the war in Gaza began, the U.S. military presence in the Middle East had been shrinking. In the aftermath of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Biden administration had turned to focus elsewhere, like supporting Ukraine against Russia and potential threats from China.

But American troops have remained in the region in part, U.S. officials say, to project U.S. power — such as deterring Iran from direct war with an American ally, Israel — and to prevent a resurgence of groups like the Islamic State, which emerged from the insurgency and civil war of post-invasion Iraq.

By 2015, the Islamic State controlled several cities in Iraq and Syria, including Mosul and Raqqa, as well as a large chunk of territory along the border between the two countries. A military coalition led by the United States, including forces in Syria and Iraq, defeated it. But although the U.S. military declared its combat mission over in 2021, troops remained to help Iraq battle the group’s remnants, and experts warn that regional instability could provide an opportunity for it to grow again.

Are U.S. forces in the region in danger?

Since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attacks on Israel, there have been more than 160 attacks by militias backed by Iran against U.S. forces in Syria, Iraq and Jordan, according to the Pentagon.

The attack on the Tower 22 outpost was the first one known to be lethal, but dozens of service members have been injured. Those include 34 who were wounded at the Jordan base when the drone crashed into the base’s living quarters, and 19 U.S. soldiers who suffered traumatic brain injuries in October attacks in Iraq on Al Asad Air Base and Al Tanf.

President Biden has retaliated with attacks on Iran-aligned militants, hitting groups in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. But top American and Iranian officials have also sought to avoid triggering a direct war, even as they have blamed the other side for stoking regional conflict.

“While we are not seeking war, we are also neither afraid nor running away from war,” Gen. Hossein Salami, the commander in chief of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps, said on Wednesday.

How closely does Iran control the militias it backs? It depends.

Iran projects its military power through dozens of armed groups across the Middle East, but how much does it control their actions?

That question has taken on new urgency as the United States considers its next steps after an attack by an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia on an American base in northwest Jordan. The attack on Sunday killed three soldiers and injured dozens of others.

Iranian-backed groups have varying histories and relationships with Tehran, but all share Iran’s desire for the U.S. military to leave the region, and for Israel’s power to be reduced. Iranian rhetoric, echoed by its allied groups, often goes further, calling for the elimination of the Israeli state.

Like Iran, most of the allied groups follow the Shiite branch of Islam. The exception is Hamas, whose members are predominantly Sunni Muslims.

Iran has provided weapons, training, financing and other support to the groups, particularly to those in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, according to evidence obtained through weapons seizures, after-action forensics, foreign asset tracing and intelligence gathering. Some training is outsourced to Hezbollah in Lebanon, according to U.S. and international experts.

More recently, Iran has also been enabling the militias to obtain some weapons parts on their own, and to manufacture or retrofit some weapons themselves, according to officials in the Middle East and the U.S. In addition, most of the groups, like Hamas, have their own extensive money-making enterprises, which include both legal activities like construction and illegal ventures like kidnapping and drug smuggling.

Despite its support for the militias, Iran does not necessarily control where and when they attack Western and Israeli targets, according to many Middle Eastern and European experts, as well as U.S. intelligence officials. It does influence the groups and at least in some cases seems able to halt strikes.

After Iraq-based militants struck a U.S. base in Jordan on Sunday, the group the Pentagon suggested was responsible, Kata’ib Hezbollah, whose leadership and troops are close to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, announced it was temporarily standing down at the behest of Iran and the Iraqi government.

Each militia, however, also has its own agenda, depending on its home country.

The Houthi movement, for example, had battlefield success in Yemen’s civil war and controls part of the country. But now, unable to feed their people or create jobs, they are showing strength and prowess to their domestic audience by taking on major powers, attacking shipping headed to and from the Suez Canal, and drawing retaliatory strikes by the United States and its allies.

That has allowed the Houthis to claim the mantle of solidarity with Palestinians, and also aligns the group with Iran’s goal of poking at Israel and its chief ally, the United States.

By contrast, Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has the longest-standing ties to Iran, is part of the Lebanese government. Its decisions about when and how much to attack Israel take into account the risks of Israeli reprisals on Lebanese civilians. A 2020 U.S. Department of State report estimated that Iran’s support for Hezbollah was $700 million annually at that time.

Weapons provided to the groups run the gamut from light arms to rockets, ballistic and cruise missiles — and an array of increasingly sophisticated drones, said Michael Knights of the Washington Institute, who has tracked the proxies for many years.

Iran has been providing smaller direct cash subsidies to its proxies in recent years, in part, experts say, because it is financially squeezed by U.S. and international sanctions.

In addition to direct aid, some of the groups have received in-kind funding like oil, which can be sold or, as in the case of the Houthis, thousands of AK-47s that can also be put on the market, according to a November report from the United Nations.

One Yemeni political analyst, Hisham al-Omeisy, speaking of the Houthis, said: “They’re very well backed by the Iranians, but they’re not puppets on a string. They’re not Iran’s stooges.”

Much the same could be said of other groups.

Iran itself sends different messages about the militias to different audiences, said Mohammed al-Sulami, who runs Rasanah, an Iran-focused research organization based in Saudi Arabia, which has long sparred with Iran for regional influence.

When speaking to domestic and Middle Eastern audiences, Iran tends to portray what it calls the “Axis of Resistance” as being under its leadership and control, and part of its regional strategy. But when addressing Western audiences, Iran often contends that while the groups share similar views, the Islamic Republic is not directing them, Mr. al-Sulami said.

“Iran is very smart in using this gray zone to maneuver,” he said.

Vivian Nereim contributed reporting from Saudi Arabia,

Northern Ireland Has a Sinn Fein Leader. It’s a Landmark Moment.

As Michelle O’Neill walked down the marble staircase in Northern Ireland’s Parliament building on Saturday, she appeared confident and calm. She smiled briefly as applause erupted from supporters, but her otherwise serious gaze conveyed the gravity of the moment.

The political party she represents, Sinn Fein, was shaped by the decades-long, bloody struggle of Irish nationalists in the territory who dreamed of reuniting with the Republic of Ireland and undoing the 1921 partition that has kept Northern Ireland under British rule.

Now, for the first time, a Sinn Fein politician holds Northern Ireland’s top political office, a landmark moment for the party and for the broader region as a power-sharing government is restored. The first minister role had previously always been held by a unionist politician committed to remaining part of the United Kingdom.

“As first minister, I am wholeheartedly committed to continuing the work of reconciliation between all our people,” Ms. O’Neill said, noting that her parents and grandparents would never have imagined that such a day would come. “I would never ask anyone to move on, but what I can ask is for us to move forward.”

The idea of a nationalist first minister in Northern Ireland, let alone one from Sinn Fein, a party with historic ties to the Irish Republican Army, was indeed once unthinkable.

But the story of Sinn Fein’s transformation — from a fringe party that was once the I.R.A.’s political wing, to a political force that won the most seats in Northern Ireland’s 2022 elections — is also the story of a changing political landscape and the results of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended the decades-long sectarian conflict known as the Troubles.

“It’s certainly symbolically very significant,” said Katy Hayward, a professor of political sociology at Queen’s University, Belfast. “It tells us just quite how far Northern Ireland has come, and in many ways the success of the Good Friday agreement and use of democratic and peaceful means of achieving cooperation.”

It is not yet clear what a Sinn Fein first minister will mean for the hopes of those who want to reunite the island after a century of separation. Although Mary Lou McDonald, the president of Sinn Fein, who leads the opposition in the Republic of Ireland’s Parliament, said this past week that the prospect of a united Ireland was now in “touching distance,” experts believe it remains far off.

For now, the territory’s two main political powers — unionists and nationalists — are locked together in the power-sharing arrangement that was laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.

That arrangement had collapsed over the question of how the political powers of Northern Ireland see themselves after Brexit.

Northern Ireland’s leading unionist party, the Democratic Unionists, quit the government in 2022, in the wake of Britain’s exit from the European Union, which had placed a trading border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. Wanting to safeguard ties to Britain, the D.U.P. feared that the sea border was the first step to tearing them apart.

Its boycott of the assembly ended this past week after the British government agreed to reduce customs checks, strengthen Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and hand over 3.3 billion pounds, about $4 billion, in financial sweeteners.

Because it had the most unionist seats in the 2022 elections, the D.U.P. had the right to nominate the deputy first minister on Saturday — Emma Little-Pengelly, who will work alongside Ms. O’Neill.

“The past with all of its horrors can never be forgotten,” Ms. Little-Pengelly said as she described being a child during the Troubles and seeing the devastation of an I.R.A. bomb outside her house when she was 11. But she added, “While we are shaped by the past, we are not defined by it.”

The first and deputy first minister roles are officially equal, with neither able to act alone, to prevent either community from dominating the other. “People like to say here, one can’t order paper clips without the approval of the other,” Ms. Hayward said. But the titles, and the fact that the first minister’s role reflects the largest number of seats, creates a “first among equals” notion.

And Ms. O’Neill’s appointment has inevitably brought to the fore conversations about the prospect of Northern Ireland one day reuniting with the Republic of Ireland.

Experts said that while an ascendant Sinn Fein could provide further momentum to that cause, the party’s rise was more a reflection of the fractures that appeared among unionist parties after Britain left the European Union, rather than a widespread surge in Irish nationalism. Current polling suggests that the majority of the population across the island does not support unification.

“They’ve made the prospect look realistic, and Brexit helped, because support has increased somewhat,” said Jonathan Tonge, a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool who specializes in Northern Ireland, and who has extensively analyzed polling on the issue.

“It’s still got a distance to run,” he said, adding that with an election looming in the Republic of Ireland in 2025, and the potential for a Sinn Fein government there, “it’s huge in those terms.”

He noted that a quarter of a century ago, few would have envisaged a Sinn Fein first minister.

Part of that success is down to Ms. O’Neill and Ms. McDonald, who have helped change perceptions of the party.

“These two women don’t have the baggage of the membership or close association with the I.R.A.,” said Robert Savage, a professor at Boston College who is an expert in Irish history. “They are younger, articulate, popular and astute at addressing the concerns, particularly of younger people.”

Ms. O’Neill, 47, was born in Cork, a county on Ireland’s southern coast, into a prominent republican family from Northern Ireland. Her father, who served time in prison for being an I.R.A. member, later became a Sinn Fein politician. But she has already made an effort to frame herself as a first minister for all. She attended both Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral and the coronation of King Charles III last year.

Many unionists associate Sinn Fein with its I.R.A. history, as do some nationalists and those who do not identify with either group. But increasingly, particularly among a younger cohort, the party has proved appealing.

In the Republic of Ireland, the party won the popular vote in 2020, partly by focusing attention on social issues like housing and positioning itself as an alternative to the status quo. But its popularity did not extend to older voters who remember the violence of the Troubles.

In some ways, the growth of nationalist political representation is unsurprising. Demographics have shifted significantly in Northern Ireland, with the Protestant majority’s slow erosion there first attributed to the Catholic Church’s opposition to birth control and then to economic factors like the decline in industrial jobs, which were held predominantly by Protestants.

Catholics outnumbered Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time in 2022, according to census figures. And Northern Ireland is not the binary society it once was. Decades of peace drew newcomers in, and like much of the world, the island has grown increasingly secular. The labels of Catholic and Protestant have been left as a clumsy shorthand for the cultural and political divide.

A large percentage of the population identifies as neither religion. And when it comes to political attitudes, the largest single group — 38 percent — regards itself as neither nationalist nor unionist, according to the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey.

Since Brexit, there has been a fall in support for Northern Ireland’s remaining in the United Kingdom and a rise in support for Irish unification. Many voters saw the break from Europe as economically damaging and threatening to cross-border relations, as the island had enjoyed decades where E.U. membership helped shore up peace.

For now, the restored government in Belfast has more urgent issues to address. Last month, tens of thousands of public sector workers walked out in protest over pay, in Northern Ireland’s largest strike in recent memory. The health care sector is in crisis, and the rising cost of living has been felt more acutely there than anywhere else in the United Kingdom.

“Look at what happened when people did get around a table and work to create peace here, and the Good Friday agreement came from that,” said Paul Doherty, a city councilor who represents West Belfast, one of Northern Ireland’s most deprived communities. “I think we need to rekindle that spirit we had back in the ’90s.”

The 8 Days That Roiled the U.N.’s Top Agency in Gaza

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When a senior U.S. diplomat called the Israeli military last week to request further details about Israeli allegations against a United Nations agency in Gaza, military leaders were so surprised that they ordered an internal inquiry about how the information had reached the ears of foreign officials.

The allegations were grave: 12 employees of the organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, were accused of joining Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel or its aftermath.

The claims reinforced Israel’s decades-old narrative about UNRWA: that it is biased against Israel and influenced by Hamas and other armed groups, charges that the agency strongly rejects.

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They Run the World’s Biggest Sports, and They Don’t Want to Leave

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The new president of European soccer’s governing body settled into a chair in his glass-walled office in Switzerland, glanced out at the sweeping views of Lake Geneva and insisted he would not be there long enough to get comfortable.

It was 2017, soccer was still emerging from its greatest scandal and Aleksander Ceferin, only a few months into his presidency, was unequivocal that he was already on the clock. The sport, he said, could no longer accept leaders who grew so comfortable with the trappings of power and luxury that they worked the system to remain in their jobs. He would not be like them, he promised.

The three-year term to which he had been elected, finishing out the one vacated by his disgraced predecessor, “is already one term for me,” he said. If he was fortunate enough to earn the two more full four-year terms allowed by the rules, fine. But that would be it. Mr. Ceferin had no interest in being a president for life.

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Turkey’s Central Bank Chief Steps Down Amid Long Inflation Battle

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey appointed a new central bank governor early Saturday, hours after the abrupt resignation of his previous appointee, who said she was stepping down because of “a major reputation assassination campaign.”

The departing central bank chief, Hafize Gaye Erkan, was the fifth in five years, and the first woman to hold the post. The bank’s deputy governor, Fatih Karahan, was swiftly promoted to take her place.

The surprise change-up came about eight months into a shift in Turkey’s economic program aimed at taming a yearslong cost-of-living crisis that has been painful for many Turks. Annual inflation as of last month was about 65 percent.

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Lights! Camera! Modi! It’s a One-Man Show on Indian Television.

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The people streaming into the holy town came on an intimate quest: to be among the first to seek the blessings of a beloved god they said was returning home after 500 years.

These Hindu devotees took leaves of absence from work. They ate with fellow pilgrims, slept in the cold and sipped tea at roadside joints as they waited to see the dazzling new temple devoted to the deity Ram. Early in the morning, as a soft devotional melody played from speakers strung to electric poles, they took purifying dips in a river.

But it was another, smaller group, camped on the riverbank in Ayodhya, that made sure the moment was as much about India’s powerful prime minister, Narendra Modi, as it was about Lord Ram.

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In the West Bank, Palestinians Struggle to Adjust to a New Reality

Yara Bayoumy and

Reporting from multiple cities in the West Bank

At one of the main checkpoints between the West Bank and Jerusalem, only two of four lanes were open recently and the hours of operation were shortened to 12 hours a day.

Haneen Faroukh, 26, said she now had to wait for hours to run simple errands. Israeli soldiers had sown panic among ordinary Palestinians who make the crossing frequently to reach jobs, doctors, relatives or just their homes.

“They yell at us all the time,” said Ms. Faroukh. “We’re too scared to say anything.”

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Cleaning Latrines by Hand: ‘How Could Any Human Do That?’

When he came to fully realize exactly what his parents and older brother did for a living, and what it likely meant for his own future, Bezwada Wilson says he was so angry he contemplated suicide.

His family members, and his broader community, were manual scavengers, tasked with cleaning by hand human excrement from dry latrines at a government-run gold mine in southern India.

While his parents had tried hard to hide from their youngest child the nature of their work as long as they could — telling Mr. Bezwada they were sweepers — as a student Mr. Bezwada knew his classmates viewed him with cruel condescension. He just didn’t know the reason.

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He Cracked Down on Gangs and Rights. Now He’s Set to Win a Landslide.

Reporting from Soyapango, El Salvador

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El Salvador’s government has jailed thousands of innocent people, suspended key civil liberties indefinitely and flooded the streets with soldiers. Now the president overseeing it all, Nayib Bukele, is being accused of violating the constitution by seeking re-election.

And even his vice-presidential running mate admits their goal is “eliminating” what he sees as the broken democracy of the past.

But polls show most Salvadorans support Mr. Bukele, often not in spite of his strongman tactics — but because of them.

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Israel Signals Its Military Will Move Into a Gazan City Turned Refuge

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Israel’s defense minister has signaled that ground forces will advance toward the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, which has become a refuge for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians pushed from their homes by nearly 13 weeks of war.

Rafah, which has also been a gateway for humanitarian aid, is a sprawl of tents and makeshift shelters crammed against the border with Egypt. About half of Gaza’s 2.2 million residents have piled into and around the city, where about 200,000 people lived before the war, the United Nations said on Friday.

The city is one of the last in southern Gaza that Israeli ground forces, which have been fighting house-to-house battles in nearby Khan Younis, have not yet reached.

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What Withholding Funds to UNRWA Means for Gaza

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The main United Nations agency that provides food and services to Palestinians in the beleaguered Gaza Strip warned this week that it could soon run out of money after at least a dozen countries temporarily suspended funding amid accusations that some agency employees participated in the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel.

The agency, known as UNWRA, receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually to aid Palestinians in Gaza, and it provides needed services in which the Hamas government has shown little interest, including operating schools and maintaining health clinics. Since the start of the war, UNRWA has coordinated the distribution of relief to Gazans suffering from displacement, hunger and illness.

“Withdrawing funds from UNRWA is perilous and would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza,” U.N. officials said in a statement on Wednesday.

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What to Know About the Return of Power-Sharing in Northern Ireland

After two years of political gridlock, Northern Ireland is set to finally have a functioning government again. Elected representatives will meet in the Assembly building on the outskirts of Belfast on Saturday and revive the power-sharing government that rules the territory.

There will be one significant change since the last time they gathered: The first minister role will be held for the first time by a Sinn Fein politician, Michelle O’Neill, a significant moment in the history of Northern Ireland.

Here’s what to know.

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What You Can Still Complain About in Russia: A Cat Thrown From a Train

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The tragedy gripped Russia for days. Federal lawmakers convened a special committee and an investigation was launched, as hundreds of volunteers searched for the victim in subzero temperatures, and state news media ran live updates on the fallout.

Eventually, the victim — Twix the cat — was found dead.

A national outcry over the demise of a pet who was mistakenly thrown from a long-distance train by an attendant has highlighted both the limits of and the demand for an emotional outlet in wartime Russia.

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For New Moms in Seoul, 3 Weeks of Pampering and Sleep at a Joriwon

Four mothers sat quietly in the nursing room around midnight, breastfeeding their newborn babies. As one mother nodded off, her eyelids heavy after giving birth less than two weeks earlier, a nurse came in and whisked her baby away. The exhausted new mom returned to her private room to sleep.

Sleep is just one of the luxuries provided by South Korea’s postpartum care centers.

The country may have the world’s lowest birthrate, but it is also home to perhaps some of its best postpartum care. At centers like St. Park, a small, boutique postpartum center, or joriwon, in Seoul, new moms are pampered for a few weeks after giving birth and treated to hotel-like accommodations.

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London’s Highline Will Echo Its New York Inspiration, With Local Notes

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The derelict rail bridge stretches across a busy north London street, green foliage peeking out of the gaps between the beams overhead, where bright blue paint flakes from rusting steel.

Farther east, the railway’s grand Victorian-era arches span a small slice of park wedged between two streets, where tents belonging to homeless people, a discarded mattress and broken bottles are scattered about.

While the elevated train line and some of the areas it cuts through may look neglected now, if all goes according to plan, it will become the site of the Camden Highline, a planned public park that aims to turn this disused stretch of the city into a thriving green space.


Map locates the proposed Camden Highline in Camden Town in north central London. It also locates the town of King’s Cross, east of Camden Town.

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An Italian Town Full of the Elderly Wants to Feel Young Again

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As the traveling brass band ended San Giovanni Lipioni’s annual holiday concert with a rendition of Wham’s “Last Christmas,” the gray-haired villagers seated in the old church of the central Italian hill town gazed dotingly at the few young children clapping to the music.

“Today there is a little movement,” Cesarina Falasco, 73, said from the back pew. “It’s lovely. It’s different.”

San Giovanni Lipioni used to be known — if at all — for the discovery in its countryside of a third-century B.C. Samnite bronze head, a rare Waldensian Evangelical community and an ancient annual pageant with pagan roots that venerates a circular cane garlanded in wild cyclamen flowers. (“It represents the female genital organ,” said a tourism official, Mattia Rossi.)


Map locates the the town of San Giovanni Lipioni in the Abruzzo region of Italy, as well as the town of San Salvo, also in Abruzzo. It also locates the region of Molise, south of Abruzzo, and the cities of Bologna, and Ribordone in northern Italy.

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New Utopian Enclave? Or a Testament to Inequality?

Simon Romero and

Reporting from Guatemala City

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Try going for a stroll in much of Guatemala City: It is a pedestrian’s nightmare.

Motorcycles speed down crowded sidewalks. Rifle-grasping guards squint at each passerby, sizing up potential assailants. Smoke-belching buses barrel through stop signs.

But tucked within the chaotic capital’s crazy-quilt sprawl, there is a dreamlike haven where none of that exists.

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‘Frozen Garlic!’ Taiwan Likes Its Democracy Loud and Proud

Chris Buckley and

Chris Buckley and Amy Chang Chien visited rallies in several cities and counties in Taiwan and interviewed dozens of voters, politicians and performers. It was fun.

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Huang Chen-yu strode onto an outdoor stage in a southern Taiwanese county, whooping and hollering as she roused the crowd of 20,000 into a joyous frenzy — to welcome a succession of politicians in matching jackets.

Taiwan is in the final days of its presidential election contest, and the big campaign rallies, with M.C.s like Ms. Huang, are boisterous, flashy spectacles — as if a variety show and a disco crashed into a candidate’s town hall meeting.

At the high point of the rally, the Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, Lai Ching-te, was introduced to the crowd in Chiayi, a county in southern Taiwan. Ms. Huang roared in Taiwanese, “Frozen garlic!”

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A Child of Another War Who Makes Music for Ukrainians

When the owner of an underground club in Kyiv reached out to Western musicians to play in Ukraine, long before the war, there were not so many takers.

But an American from Boston, Mirza Ramic, accepted the invitation, spawning a lasting friendship with the club’s owner, Taras Khimchak.

“I kept coming back,” Mr. Ramic, 40, said in an interview at the club, Mezzanine, where he was preparing for a performance during a recent tour of Ukraine.

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A Woman Who Shows Age Is No Barrier to Talk Show Stardom

Pushing a walker through a television studio in central Tokyo earlier this week, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi slowly climbed three steps onto a sound stage with the help of an assistant who settled her into a creamy beige Empire armchair.

A stylist removed the custom-made sturdy boots on her feet and slipped on a pair of high-heeled mules. A makeup artist brushed her cheeks and touched up her blazing red lipstick. A hairdresser tamed a few stray wisps from her trademark onion-shaped hairstyle as another assistant ran a lint roller over her embroidered black jacket. With that, Ms. Kuroyanagi, 90, was ready to record the 12,193rd episode of her show.

As one of Japan’s best-known entertainers for seven decades, Ms. Kuroyanagi has interviewed guests on her talk show, “Tetsuko’s Room,” since 1976, earning a Guinness World Record last fall for most episodes hosted by the same presenter. Generations of Japanese celebrities across film, television, music, theater and sports have visited Ms. Kuroyanagi’s couch, along with American stars like Meryl Streep and Lady Gaga; Prince Philip of England; and Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union. Ms. Kuroyanagi said Gorbachev remains one of her all-time favorite guests.

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They Thought They Knew Death, but That Didn’t Prepare Them for Oct. 7

At 76, David Weissenstern has collected the remains of the dead for most of his adult life. But after the Oct. 7 attacks, in which Hamas-led fighters killed about 1,200 people along Israel’s border with Gaza, he can no longer stand the smell of grilled meat. The odor, he says, reminds him too much of burned human flesh.

His son Duby Weissenstern, 48, has lost track of time after working successive days and nights to recover those killed on Oct. 7. He now marks time in relation to that date.

And his son-in-law Israel Ganot, 32, now gags at the smell of food that has turned rotten. He was in the second wave of recovery workers who reached bodies that had been trapped under rubble for weeks.

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The Year in People: Our 12 Favorite Saturday Profiles of 2023

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A teenager jailed in Egypt, determined to bear witness to the abuses he suffered during years of detention. A proponent of peace in Colombia, shadowed by death threats. A father in India, fighting his own patriarchal impulses to give his two daughters a better life.

With reports from six continents and 34 countries, the Saturday Profile in 2023 revealed people making a difference, mostly under the radar. Every week, our correspondents often sought out not the famous nor the powerful, but the unheralded with stories worth hearing.

A Muslim cleric in Ukraine, now a medic on the front lines of the war. An anticorruption whistle-blower in Bangkok, with (he’d be the first to admit) a disreputable past. A scientist and hair salon owner in Paris, dedicated to styling curly hair.

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For Archbishop of Canterbury, Heading Anglican Church Is ‘High-Wire Act’

When the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, welcomed friends to sing Christmas carols at his London residence last week, his remarks ran, as they often do, to his coronation of King Charles III in May.

The vaulted chamber in which his guests were gathered, he told them, had been used to rehearse the ceremony twice a week over four months. Members of his staff were assigned to play Charles and other royals in a rotating cast. “I always played the archbishop,” he said dryly.

Then he ran through the script a few times with the actual king. “We practiced putting it on and screwing it down,” Archbishop Welby said later of the 17th-century St. Edward’s Crown. “It’s a wobbly old thing.”

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Russian Skaters Stripped of Olympic Gold, Setting Up New Fight for Medals

International skating’s governing body on Tuesday sought to put an end to a two-year-old controversy by revising the disputed results of a marquee figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. But in stripping Russia of its victory in the team event, awarding the gold medal to the United States and denying Canada the bronze it had been expecting, the sport may have only set the stage for yet another protracted legal fight.

The revised finishes were announced by the skating body, the International Skating Union, one day after the teenage Russian star Kamila Valieva was banned for four years for doping. Disqualifying Valieva, a 15-year-old prodigy who had led Russia to an apparent victory, had the most immediate effect on the Olympic team standings: elevating the U.S. to gold and Japan to silver, while, surprisingly, dropping Russia just enough that it could still claim the bronze.

Within hours, Russia’s Olympic committee, already furious about Valieva’s ban, announced that it would appeal any outcome that denied it the team gold. Canadian officials quickly threatened to appeal the ruling as well. That left skating officials and the International Olympic Committee, which had chosen not to award medals in the team event until Valieva’s doping case was resolved, wondering how they could at last arrange a “dignified Olympic medal ceremony” for an ugly dispute that appeared nowhere near its end.

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FIFA Convictions Are Imperiled by Questions of U.S. Overreach

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Nearly a decade after police officers marched world soccer officials out of a luxury hotel in Zurich at dawn, revealing a corruption scandal that shook the world’s most popular sport, the case is at risk of falling apart.

The dramatic turnabout comes over questions of whether American prosecutors overreached by applying U.S. law to a group of people, many of them foreign nationals, who defrauded foreign organizations as they carried out bribery schemes across the world.

The U.S. Supreme Court last year limited a law that was key to the case. Then in September, a federal judge, citing that, threw out the convictions of two defendants linked to soccer corruption. Now, several former soccer officials, including some who paid millions of dollars in penalties and served time in prison, are arguing that the bribery schemes for which they were convicted are no longer considered a crime in the United States.

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Depardieu Sexual Assault Suit Dropped Over Statute of Limitations

A sexual assault lawsuit filed against Gérard Depardieu by a French actress has been dropped because it was past the statute of limitations, prosecutors in Paris said on Monday, but the French actor is still under investigation in a separate case.

In the lawsuit that was dropped, the actress Hélène Darras had accused Depardieu of groping her on the set of “Disco,” a comedy released in 2008. Her suit had been filed in September but was made public only last month, shortly before she appeared in a France 2 television documentary alongside three other women who also accused Depardieu of inappropriate comments or sexual misconduct.

The documentary, which showed Depardieu making crude sexual and sexist comments during a 2018 trip to North Korea, set off a fierce debate in France that prompted President Emmanuel Macron and dozens of actors, directors and other celebrities to defend Depardieu, splitting the French movie industry.

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An Olympic Dream Falters Amid Track’s Shifting Rules

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Maximila Imali, a top Kenyan sprinter, did not lose her eligibility to compete in the Paris Olympics because she cheated. She did not fail a doping test. She broke no rules.

Instead, she is set to miss this year’s Summer Games because she was born with a rare genetic variant that results in naturally elevated levels of testosterone. And last March, track and field’s global governing body ruled that Ms. Imali’s biology gave her an unfair advantage in all events against other women, effectively barring her from international competition.

As a result, Ms. Imali, 27, finds her Olympic dream in peril and her career and her livelihood in limbo.

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Luis Rubiales, Ex-Chief of Spanish Soccer, to Face Trial Over World Cup Kiss

Luis Rubiales, Spain’s onetime soccer chief, is due to be tried over his nonconsensual kiss of a star player during the Women’s World Cup medal ceremony last summer after a judge recommended on Thursday that he face a court’s judgment in a high-profile case that has upended the sport in Spain.

The judge also recommended that Mr. Rubiales and three officials with the Royal Spanish Football Federation, soccer’s governing body in the country — including Jorge Vilda, who was fired as the women’s team coach in the wake of the incident — be tried on charges of coercion for exerting pressure on the player, Jennifer Hermoso, to show support for Mr. Rubiales in the immediate aftermath of the kiss.

The judge concluded that the kiss by Mr. Rubiales, after the Women’s World Cup final in Sydney, Australia, “was nonconsensual and was a unilateral and surprise act.” The judge also found that even if the kiss was more celebratory than sexual in nature, Mr. Rubiales’s behavior was within the bounds of the “intimacy of sexual relations” and he should be held to account.

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Elecciones en El Salvador: se proyecta un triunfo demoledor de Bukele

Reportando desde Soyapango, El Salvador

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El gobierno de El Salvador ha encarcelado a miles de personas inocentes, suspendido libertades civiles cruciales de manera indefinida e inundado las calles de soldados. Ahora, el presidente detrás de todo esto, Nayib Bukele, está siendo acusado de violar la Constitución al buscar la reelección.

E incluso su compañero de fórmula para la vicepresidencia admite que su objetivo es estar “eliminando” lo que él considera la democracia rota del pasado.

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La primera dama y el bolso Dior: una crisis política sacude Corea del Sur

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El presidente estaba enfrentando una economía en desaceleración, una mortífera avalancha humana y amenazas nucleares de un vecino beligerante. Luego se presentó un escándalo mucho más personal: las imágenes de una cámara oculta que mostraban a su esposa aceptando como regalo un bolso Dior de 2200 dólares.

Se ha convertido, rápidamente, en una de las mayores crisis políticas para el presidente Yoon Suk Yeol de Corea del Sur, quien se ha destacado en la política exterior al alinear su país más estrechamente con Estados Unidos y Japón, pero se ha visto empantanado con controversias en casa. Y muchas de ellas involucran a la primera dama, Kim Keon Hee.

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La censura china busca acallar a las voces que critican sus políticas económicas

Daisuke Wakabayashi y

Reportando desde Seúl

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La principal agencia de inteligencia de China emitió el mes pasado una ominosa advertencia sobre una amenaza creciente para la seguridad nacional del país: los chinos que critican la economía.

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En una serie de publicaciones en su cuenta oficial de WeChat, el Ministerio de Seguridad del Estado pidió a los ciudadanos que comprendieran la visión económica del presidente Xi Jinping y no se dejaran influir por quienes buscan “denigrar la economía de China” mediante “falsas narrativas”. Las autoridades del ministerio dijeron que, para combatir ese riesgo, los organismos de seguridad se centrarán en “reforzar la propaganda económica y la orientación de la opinión pública”.

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Surgen detalles sobre personal de la ONU acusado de ayudar a Hamás en un ataque

A uno se le acusa de secuestrar a una mujer. Otro habría repartido munición. Un tercero fue descrito como participante en la masacre de un kibutz en la que murieron 97 personas. Y se dice que todos eran empleados de la agencia de ayuda de Naciones Unidas que escolariza, alberga y alimenta a cientos de miles de palestinos en la Franja de Gaza.

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Las denuncias figuran en un expediente proporcionado al gobierno de Estados Unidos en el que se detallan las acusaciones de Israel contra una decena de empleados del Organismo de Obras Públicas y Socorro de las Naciones Unidas que, según afirma, desempeñaron un papel en los atentados de Hamás contra Israel del 7 de octubre o durante sus repercusiones.

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El abrumador trabajo de verificar datos en Medio Oriente

Tiffany Hsu y

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En las frenéticas primeras horas del 7 de octubre, entre el llanto de las sirenas y noticias de tiroteos a lo largo de la frontera sur de Israel, Achiya Schatz se apresuró con su niño pequeño y su esposa, que estaba embarazada, a resguardarse en un refugio antibombas cerca de Tel Aviv.

No se quedó mucho tiempo.

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