Monthly Archives: January 2012

By Gideon Rachman

It took an economic crisis in Greece in 1947 to force the United States to assume world leadership. Now, more than 60 years later, another Greek crisis is showing what the world feels like without US leadership.

In my last post, I quoted an anonymous German decisionmaker saying that the ratings agencies were deliberately trying to destabilise the euro. But this kind of paranoia is now being spouted, on-the-record. This morning’s FT contained these two choice quotes. Martin Schulz, MEP, called the S&P downgrade “a targeted attack” on the euro, designed to distract attention from the US budget deficit. (That would be the same S&P that downgraded the US itself, over the summer?) Elmar Brok, another German MEP, said the agencies were pursuing “Angl0-American interests.” I do wish Brok would stop beating about the bush. Read more

Nigerian unions may have agreed to suspend strike action and call off protests after the government partially caved into demands for the restoration of the longstanding fuel subsidy. But President Goodluck Jonathan is not out of the woods yet. Read more

Conspiracy theories about the euro crisis go all the way to the top. A few weeks ago, I heard a key German decision-maker suggest that the ratings agencies are deliberately trying to stoke up the crisis, because they stand to profit from it. (He didn’t explain quite how.) No sooner have things calmed down a little, fumed this individual, then the ratings agencies will leak some depressing bit of analysis, and the markets start to panic all over again. Read more

The Eurozone, the Hildebrand affair and prospects for political reform in Myanmar

As Greece continues to haunt the Eurozone, Berlin bureau chief Quentin Peel and Europe news editor Ben Hall join Gideon Rachman to discuss the latest developments in the crisis. Also, Zurich correspondent Haig Simonian discusses the fallout from the Philipp Hildebrand affair at the Swiss National Bank, and Gwen Robinson, south east Asia correspondent, discusses the prospects for political reform in Myanmar

Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad’s “Hate America Tour” continues. First stop was the obligatory visit to Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, the Iranian president’s usual window onto the region. Then Nicaragua, to attend the inauguration of newly re-elected president Daniel Ortega. Today it’s the turn of the Castro brothers in Cuba. Tomorrow it is Ecuador. Read more

In his second video on the US 2012 presidential election campaign, FT columnist Edward Luce considers whether anything or anyone can stop Mitt Romney from winning the Republican party presidential nomination after his wins in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The euro has fallen to a 16-month low below $1.27 – run, run for your lives! Or recognise that it’s still around the trade-weighted average for the past decade and only slightly weaker in real terms than when it launched, that a weaker currency is just what a stricken economy needs and that there isn’t much sign that the fall is disorderly and hence generally hitting confidence in eurozone assets. (The eurozone authorities are doing that.) Read more

At least five Iranian scientists believed to have links to the country’s nuclear programme have been attacked in the past two years, four of them fatally.

Iran maintains that its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes; western powers say Tehran is seeking to develop atomic weapons. Read more

My friends in the press will do their utmost to keep a sense of excitement going, as the US presidential election heads to South Carolina and Florida. But the fact is that yesterday’s primary result in New Hampshire is clearly very good news for Mitt Romney. He is cruising towards the Republican nomination. But while this week has demonstrated Romney’s strength in the Republican race, it has also revealed a lot about his potential vulnerabilities in a face-off with President Obama. Read more

Mercifully for the pollsters, New Hampshire ducked an opportunity to belie expectations on Tuesday night when it handed Mitt Romney a strong victory. Mr Romney’s big win, which he followed with what sounded like a dress rehearsal for a nomination speech, means that he has now won two out of two – even if his first victory in Iowa last week was by a nanometre. If he can pull off a hat trick in South Carolina at the end of next week, it will be hard to see what could stop him.

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Bashar al-Assad was as arrogant as ever when he delivered a 100-minute speech that promised more of the same for Syria’s beleaguered population.

The Syrian president’s answer to the uprising that has been raging for more than 10 months was to give a lecture on Arabism, lambasting neighbouring states which have frozen Syria’s membership of the Arab League, and declaring that Damascus was more Arab than any of them.

It was, he reminded his audience at Damascus University, the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser who declared that Syria was the beating heart of the Arab world. “Can a body live without a heart?” he asked. And who are these Arabs who are preaching reform? He asked. They are, he said, “like a smoking doctor who wants to convince his patients to stop smoking.” Read more

By Gideon Rachman

The old is dying and the new cannot be born: in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms will appear.” That statement from the Prison Notebooks of the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci was a favourite of student Marxists when I was at university in the 1980s. Back then it struck me as portentous nonsense. But Gramsci’s observation does resonate now – in an age of ideological confusion.

It is hard not to be struck by how uniformly negative the foreign coverage of the centenary celebrations of the African National Congress has been. Until recently, the ANC was regularly lauded as one of the world’s most successful and honourable liberation movements. But this piece by the FT’s own Andrew England, rightly highlights some of the ANC’s recent lows, including the terrible new media law. Meanwhile Richard Dowden, a veteran Africa-watcher who covered the ANC in exile with great sympathy, is unsparing in his critique. Dowden highlights the policy of “Black Economic Empowerment” as a potent source of corruption. Read more

Which way forward? Photo: Getty

Welcome to our first eurozone live blog of 2012. By John Aglionby, Tom Burgis and Esther Bintliff on the news desk in London with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.

It may be a new year but it’s the same old eurozone crisis. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel held a bilateral summit in Berlin this morningRead more

Back in 1990 it looked as if events in Myanmar were part of a great wave of democratisation that was washing around the world, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. But while eastern Europe broke free from dictatorship – and democracy came to countries as diverse as Indonesia and South Africa in the 1990s – the democratic wave receded in Myanmar. But might Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi have better luck this time? Read more

In the first of a series of weekly videos, Edward Luce, the FT’s US columnist, discusses the race for the Republican party’s presidential nominee with Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute and Bill Galston of the Brookings Institution.

The Financial Times has decided to change its style and from today will use the name Myanmar rather than Burma.

Is this premature, too late or just wrong? Please send us your comments or tweets at @ftworldnews

The reasons for the change are explained in the following editorial, which appeared in today’s newspaper: Read more

The race for the White House: what’s next after Iowa

Will Mitt Romney secure the Republican candidacy? How far will the economy determine the course of the US election? Is Obama’s position looking weak or is he poised for a better second term? Anna Fifield, White House correspondent, and Edward Luce, chief US commentator, join Gideon Rachman for a discussion of what’s next after Iowa.

Rick Santorum may have lost the Iowa caucus by a hair’s breadth. But he clearly won the battle for sound bite of the night, his battle-cry of “game on” crisply defined the idea he wants to convey: the Republican race is still wide open – and it is now Santorum who is the major challenger to Mitt Romney.

Many commentators argue that this is a discouraging result for Romney, since it shows that the majority of the Republican Party still don’t like him much. Ed Luce makes this case persuasively. But I’m inclined to the opposite view. My guess is that Santorum will not prove to be a very strong rival to Romney, who will continue to roll relentlessly towards the nomination. Read more