Editor's note

It’s been a tense few days in the Middle East, with mixed signals from US President Donald Trump on whether he’ll retaliate against Iran for a strike on oil processing facilities in Saudi Arabia that disrupted global oil supplies.

Trump has talked – or tweeted – tough on Iran. But as Ben Rich explains, he has little credibility when it comes to following through on threats of military action.

This is what Iran is counting on, Rich says. Isolated diplomatically and suffering economically, its goal is to sow discord in the Middle East and inflict pain on energy markets – without crossing a threshold that prompts retaliation.

This is a fine line to walk at the best of times. And without one of the world’s most unpredictable leaders in the White House.

Justin Bergman

Deputy Editor: Politics + Society

Top story

This week’s attack on Saudi oil facilities appears to be the latest effort by Iran to escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf to push back on the US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions campaign. Pavel Golovkin/EPA

Iran wants to create chaos in the Middle East. But conflict with the US remains a limited, if worrying, possibility

Ben Rich, Curtin University

Iran's goal is to sow discord and inflict pain on energy markets, while avoiding crossing a threshold that prompts retaliation from the US. This is a fine line to walk at the best of times.

A researcher completing bleaching surveys in the southern Great Barrier Reef after a major bleaching event. ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE FOR CORAL REEF STUDIES

‘This situation brings me to despair’: two reef scientists share their climate grief

Jon Brodie, James Cook University; Alana Grech, James Cook University

Few feel the pain of the Great Barrier Reef's decline more acutely than the scientists trying to save it. Ahead of a UN climate summit, two researchers write of their grief, and hope.

3D mammograms may be useful in investigating abnormalities, but as a means of routine screening, they may do more harm than good. From shutterstock.com

For routine breast screening, you may not need a 3D mammogram

Meagan Brennan, University of Sydney

3D mammography is becoming more widely available, but is it superior to the traditional 2D technology for breast cancer detection? The answer isn't clear-cut.

The signature pirate voice is from the West Country in south-west of England. But why West Country? IMDb

Why would anyone shiver their timbers? Here’s how pirate words arrr preserving old language

Kate Burridge, Monash University; Howard Manns, Monash University

We may no longer say ‘shiver me timbers’, but we still use plenty of pirate words for other things.

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