Monthly Archives: September 2011

Ever since I first saw the Besiktas football ground in Istanbul, I have wanted to watch a match there. It is the most spectacularly situated stadium I have ever seen – right in the centre of the city, just above the Bosphorous on the European side.

Tonight I had a chance to mix pleasure with business, since Besiktas were playing Maccabi Tel Aviv. Given the state of relations between Turkey and Israel, this felt more like a political event than a mere football match. Read more

Here come the Brics, ready to bail out the eurozone. Really? We heard this before with China and Greece. It was implausible then – unless we are talking about China snapping up a few real assets going cheap rather than buying sovereign debt – and it is implausible now. Read more

It is safe to say that the US government is dreading the prospect of a UN Security Council vote on Palestine’s bid for statehood later this month. At present the Americans reckon they could well lose such a vote 14-1, which would be a humiliation. It is possible that Britain, France and Germany (in particular) might abstain – but the Americans aren’t counting on it. Read more

By David Oakley

A decision by ratings agency Moody’s over whether to downgrade Italy’s triple A sovereign rating is imminent. As the debacle this summer over S&P’s decision to downgrade the US illustrated, such a move could have major repercussions in the markets. So, just what is going on? How worried should we be? And might there be more downgrades to come in the eurozone?

What is Italy’s current investment rating?

Moody’s announced that it had put Italy on watch for downgrade in the middle of June. The agency gives itself a deadline of three months to make a decision, which should be in the next few days. Read more

I usually turn to the sports pages for some light relief from the cares of the world. But the euro-crisis is not so easy to get away from. Reading an account of Arsenal’s preparations for their away game in Germany tonight, I saw that their revered manager, Arsene Wenger, is thinking about more than the state of Jack Wilshere’s ankle. At yesterday’s press conference, he mused  – “I believe that Europe overall, as a unit, is going towards a massive crisis, which nobody really expects now. I am convinced that Europe will go into a huge financial crisis within the next three weeks or three months and maybe that will put everything into perspective again.” Read more

Since the eruption of Syria’s uprising six months ago, one thing has been clear, for the protestors and the world alike: there would be no international military intervention to get rid of Bashar al-Assad.

Syrians are far too nationalistic to accept anything resembling outside military involvement, the argument went, and the Libya mission was too messy, too fraught with risk, to be attempted again. Read more

China’s definition of what constitutes its “core interest” appears to be spreading. Such interests used to be confined to a few areas, about which the Communist party would brook absolutely no dissenting view. These included its national security, national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Tibet, where there is a strong separatist element, quite obviously forms part of China’s definition of territorial integrity. So does the island of Taiwan, ceded to Japan in 1895, and now a self-governed democracy. Beijing has made clear that, if Taiwan were ever to declare formal independence, it would invade. More recently, the term has been applied to Xinjiang, the huge area of western China that has been the scene of clashes between local Muslims and Han Chinese. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

This week marks not just the tenth anniversary of 9/11 – it is also the third anniversary of 9/15, the day when Lehman Brothers collapsed. But while world politics is no longer dominated by the “war on terror”, a different form of terror is stalking the world’s financial markets.

The crisis in Israel’s relations with Turkey and Egypt - combined with the anniversary of 9/11 - casts an interesting light on the question of Israel’s relations with the neocons in America. If you remember, at the time of the invasion of Iraq,  one of the most popular conspiracy theories was that US policy was being driven by a cabal of neoconservative thinkers – many of them Jewish – who were accused of acting at the behest of Israel.

There is no doubt that many of the neocons were and are strong supporters of Israel. But there were actually always philosophical differences between important neocon thinkers like Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol, and the Netanyahu government. Above all, they differed on the desireability of democracy in the Arab world. Read more

American business and political leaders reflect on the 9/11 terror attacks and how they changed the US and the world.

The legacy of 9/11

We devote this week’s show to the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the United States and the decade that has followed. We talk to the editor of the Financial Times, Lionel Barber, about his memories of the time and we hear from FT correspondent Matthew Green about life on the Afghan-Pakistan border, in 2011. Read more

I thought that Wolfgang Schauble, the German finance minister, was a bit of a headbanger on the need for austerity in the euro-zone, until I read this morning’s piece by Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister. He makes Schauble sound like an indulgent uncle. Read more

The days when a foreign correspondent occasionally felt like George Smiley died with the fall of the Berlin Wall. But in South America, if you squint, those old John Le Carré days of Russian espionage can sometimes seem as though they are back  – at least if the Gazprom representative that I met recently in Bolivia is anything to go by. With his watery smile, impeccable manners and icy handshake, he seemed to have stepped out of KGB central casting. Read more

Some concern among Republicans about the anti-China belligerence in Mitt Romney’s big jobs speech on Tuesday. (Ironically it was Greg Mankiw, one of Romney’s economic advisers, who said one of the bravest and most sensible things on economics to come out of the Bush administration, and was forced to apologise for it.)  Read more

By Gideon Rachman

“When she walks into the room, everybody falls silent. It’s like the headmistress coming in.” That, according to one senior politician, is the impact that Angela Merkel has when she enters the regular gatherings of conservative leaders from across Europe.

The news that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, is considering visiting the Gaza Strip raises the possibility of a sharp escalation in Turkey’s dispute with Israel. The two countries dispute dates back to 2010 and Israel’s storming of the Mavi Marmara, a ship that was trying to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza – some eight Turkish citizens were killed during the Israeli attack. Read more

Libya, the eurozone, and anti-corruption in India

In this week’s podcast: Libya – a week on from the fall of Gaddafi; the eurozone and the state of play as we come out of the summer break; and, an Indian hunger striker forces parliament to support his anti-corruption crusade. Read more

I am sometimes warned by economist friends that analogies between the economics of a household and the economics of a state are inherently suspect. Politicians may like to say that, like any good housewife, a government needs to balance its books. Economists say that it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The trouble is that while all such analogies may be flawed, they are also inevitable. Economics is complicated and abstract. Voters and politicians inevitably translate these abstractions into everyday terms. There is little point in trying to stop them. Read more

The “drugs war” is stuck in an expensive and gory rut. The 40-year old policy of prohibition has failed. Production of illegal drugs has increased, so too consumption, and the violence associated with trafficking has only got worse – last week’s massacre of 53 people at a Monterrey casino in Mexico is just the latest grotesque incident. Read more