Monthly Archives: November 2009

This post by the Financial Times looks at the big powers – Russia and China included – uniting to insist Iran closes down its second secret enrichment plant. 

Alan Beattie

By Alan Beattie, world trade editor

If anyone can explain this to me, I’d be very grateful. I have been reading everywhere that Dubai has no modern bankruptcy law, meaning you can go after your debtors with criminal sanctions if they default. 

By Victor Mallet, Madrid bureau chief
The Philippines has had a reputation as a violent archipelago ever since Ferdinand Magellan failed to circumnavigate the globe (though some of his sailors did make it all the way round and thus immortalised his name) because he was killed on a beach on the island of Mactan near Cebu in 1521.

Yet the massacre of 46 people on Monday in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in the southern Philippines plumbs new depths of violence and cruelty. It appears that gunmen loyal to a local politician attacked a convoy of his opponents and slaughtered them, as well as 12 accompanying journalists, with M-16 rifles and machetes. 

By Geoff Dyer, China bureau chief

Barack Obama has already moved on to the next aspiring Asian superpower – today he meets India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh – but plenty of people are still trying absorb what really happened on his visit to China last week. 

By James Blitz, the FT’s defence and diplomatic editor

Britain’s official  inquiry into the Iraq war begins today, amid much speculation that it will be a “whitewash”. One of the main reasons for this is that Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman, is the very model of a British civil servant and a man who looks unlikely to wield the knife when it comes to an inquiry of this sort. Besides, argue the critics, the other members of the inquiry team have all been selected by Downing Street, suggesting to some that they are not truly independent and likely to pull their punches.

I’m not so sure about this. Having covered the four previous inquiries into the Iraq war, I’d beware of making any prediction on the outcome of this one. One thing I do know: the media has misjudged what the eventual outcome of all the previous Iraq inquiries would be and I expect will do the same again this time.

Take the 2003-04 Hutton inquiry into the death of weapons scientist Dr David Kelly. There was a near universal assumption in the British media when the inquiry began in the autumn of 2003 that it would destroy Tony Blair. In fact, Hutton  did the exact opposite. His inquiry almost completely exonerated Blair over the handling of the Kelly affair but instead found heavily against the BBC over aspects of its reporting -  leading to the dismissal of the two leading figures in the BBC. 

Gideon Rachman

By Gideon Rachman

If the answer is Herman Van Rompuy and Cathy Ashton, what the hell was the question? Europe’s choices for its new “president” and “foreign minister” are like the result of some sort of computer-dating programme that has gone badly wrong. If you fed in all the criteria for the jobs into your computer and it spat out the names – “Van Rompuy” and “Ashton”, you would ring the systems department and tell them that there had been some sort of catastrophic breakdown. 

Alan Beattie

By Alan Beattie, the FT’s world trade editor

Look, not my specialist subject, but here’s my eurocent’s-worth on the appointment of the Baroness High Representative and the Lord High Everything Else.

(Incidentally, I’d have stuck with the classic original song for this blog post title, but if there’s one thing Brussels isn’t short of, it’s lawyers.)

The biggest problem with these posts isn’t the final personnel decision, though that’s certainly in the top two. It’s that no matter who fills them, there’s no there there. Pick any important foreign policy question of the last twenty years – Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine – and it’s clear that what you need for influence is one or all of:

1. veto power on the UN Security Council

2. troops you can send into battle (a shooting war, not peacekeeping)

3. foreign/military aid big enough to matter that you can use for political ends 

Gideon Rachman

By Roula Khalaf, the FT’s Middle East editor

Ingram Pinn Illustration 

By James Blitz, defence and diplomatic editor, in Kabul

President Hamid Karzai’s inauguration speech has long been seen as a critical moment for him to spell out his determination to improve Afghan governance in his second term of office and begin the fight against corruption.

But the part of the speech that will make the headlines tonight in the US and Europe is his commitment to get the Afghan National Army and police into a position where they can manage the nation’s security alone by the middle of the next decade. 

By Geoff Dyer, FT China bureau chief

Barack Obama made one last final attempt to speak directly to ordinary Chinese people at the end of his three-day visit, giving an interview in Beijing yesterday to Southern Weekend, one of China’s more outspoken newspapers.