World roundup: February 5 2024
Stories from Israel-Palestine, Ukraine, Haiti, and elsewhere
TODAY IN HISTORY
February 5, 1810: A French army begins the two and a half year Siege of Cádiz, which had by this point in the Peninsular War become the capital of the rump government resisting Napoleon’s occupation of Spain. The defenders managed to hold out, even taking time to write a new Spanish Constitution (which was later discarded), until the Duke of Wellington led a British-Portuguese-Spanish army to victory at the Battle of Salamanca in July 1812. Suddenly facing the possibility that his besieging army could be cut off and surrounded, French general Jean-de-Dieu Soult lifted the siege and retreated. The Peninsular War continued until Wellington and the armies of the Sixth Coalition defeated and ousted Napoleon in 1814.
February 5, 1862: Alexandru Ioan Cuza, prince of both Moldavia and Wallachia, becomes Domnitor (Principe Domnitor, “prince regnant”) of the new united nation of Romania. Cuza had de facto joined the two principalities three years earlier, when he came to rule both of them in personal union, but this marks the point at which the name “Romania” was applied to both lands in concert. Both Moldavia and Wallachia were still nominally part of the Ottoman Empire at this time and Romania would not emerge as an independent kingdom until the 1877-1878 Russo-Ottoman War. Cuza was long gone by then, having been ousted in a coup in 1866 and replaced with Carol I of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Saudi Arabia on Monday on the first leg of his latest Middle East excursion. This is the fifth time he’s visited the region since October 7 and there’s no reason to believe this trip will be any more successful than the last four. The main item on his agenda is the latest ceasefire proposal, which Hamas leaders have been deliberating long enough to squelch any sense of optimism that might have surrounded the negotiating process last week. That said, there remains some hope that an agreement will emerge before the Israeli military turns the full force of its Gaza operation on the desperately overcrowded city of Rafah.