By Gideon Rachman
It has been many centuries since the Mediterranean Sea was the centre of civilisation. But in 2011 the Med was back – not just as a holiday destination – but at the very centre of world affairs. This was a year of global indignation, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Moscow election protests and China’s village revolts. It was popular protests on either side of the Mediterranean – in Tahrir Square in Cairo and Syntagma Square in Athens – that set the tone for 2011.
With just days to go before the Republican Party caucus in Iowa, Ron Paul, a 74-year-old libertarian, is now in the lead. Up until now the MSM (that includes me) have written Paul off as just too kooky to win. But maybe he really will emerge on top, when Iowans vote next week.
I wouldn’t count on it, however. Not for nothing has the Republican race been compared to a circular firing squad. The pattern is now well-established. A candidate briefly emerges from the pack, and is then subjected to withering fire from all the other hopefuls. Once the new front-runner is mown down, Mitt Romney bobs up again as the leader. So we have had the Rick Perry boomlet, followed by the backlash. Then Herman Cain led and was destroyed by stories of sexual harassment and adultery. Then Newt Gingrich rose to the top – before being dragged back by stories of adultery, lobbying, hypocrisy etc etc. Now it is Ron Paul’s turn to lead – and to be subjected to a fusillade of criticism in his turn. This long piece from the New York Times details his appeal to unsavoury groups like the Montana militia. Read more
Every year, I try to make sense of the preceding 12 months, by writing a column that lists the five most significant events of the year. Here are my efforts from 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.
This year, there are plenty of big events jostling for attention – and I would like to appeal to readers of the blog for some help. Which ones should I focus on, in my end-of-year column, due on December 30th? The Arab Spring obviously – but does one episode rank above another: the flight of Ben Ali, the fall of Mubarak, Nato intervention in Libya. Maybe they all deserve separate listings? It’s a similar question with the European debt crisis. This was a year-long event, but was there a particular moment that stood out? Read more
Arab Spring special
Gideon Rachman is joined on the podcast by David Gardner, international affairs editor, and Roula Khalaf, Middle East editor, to discuss the major geopolitical upheaval of 2011: the Arab Spring.
By Gideon Rachman
For half a decade the war in Iraq was the most controversial and important issue in international politics. But when the American military slipped out of the country last week, the world hardly noticed
The eurozone after Cameron’s veto, and the Durban climate talks
Shawn Donnan, Ben Hall and Peter Spiegel discuss the eurozone crisis following Cameron’s treaty veto, while Clive Cookson talks to Pilita Clark about the outcome of the Durban climate change talks.
A fairly extraordinary attack by Christian Noyer, the head of the Bank of France, on the credit-rating agencies and on Britain’s AAA rating seems to confirm what Le Monde was saying last night – a French downgrade is on its way.
It’s all pretty grim, even if you are sitting smugly on the other side of the channel. So it is nice to find something to laugh at. This comment from Tom K beneath the FT’s story on Noyer’s comments, made me laugh: ‘your mother is a ‘amster and your father smells of elderberries’ :-)) I fart in your general direction
life imitates art…
Normally I disapprove of quoting Monty Python. But I think it’s fair enough in this case. Read more
It is not for the first time that late-night eurozone summit announcements are looking ragged in the daylight.
The €200bn the EU was supposed to contribute to the IMF (€150bn eurozone, €50bn non-eurozone) turns out not to include certain contributors (for example the UK, until the initiative turns into a global funding round, and Estonia).
The global funding round won’t happen until the eurozone gets its act in gear, and the odd numbers that are dribbling out of capitals so far — maybe €10bn from Moscow, maybe €8bn-€10bn from Brasilia — are underwhelming. Read more
The latest polls in the race for the Republican Party nomination are pretty stunning. One puts Newt Gingrich no less than 17 points ahead of his nearest rival. If Gingrich does indeed win the nomination, it will be striking proof that political commentators are not nearly as powerful as some people reckon. In recent days, Gingrich has been the subject of some devastating attacks. Strikingly, the most withering articles have actually come from the ranks of his fellow conservatives. Read more
The Russian winter has helped the country to repel foreign invaders, from Napoleon to Hitler. Might it now also help Vladimir Putin to hang onto power? Read more