Monthly Archives: July 2012

Last week, as the battle for Aleppo got under way, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said territorial gains made by Syria’s rebels would eventually result in a “safe haven” inside the country. And she called on the opposition to start preparing for a transition of power.

The rebel commanders too have been talking about Aleppo as their Benghazi ( the wellspring of last year’s Libyan uprising),  insisting that with much of the rural countryside in Idlib already under their control. Taking Aleppo, Syria’s biggest city, would mean they could control territory all the way to the Turkish border. Read more

Youngsters shout slogans during a demonstration in Madrid on March 29, 2012 on a national strike day. (DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images)

FT reporters have written about the issue of youth unemployment around the world as part of our Left Behind series this summer. They covered the fears and hopes of young people struggling to find jobs amid the worst economic crisis since World War II – and the governments’ responses.

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By Gideon Rachman

A cynic inspecting Mitt Romney’s foreign itinerary of Poland, Israel and Britain might mutter: “Polish vote, Jewish vote, Olympics.” But there is also a genuine philosophy behind Mr Romney’s choice of destinations.

Mitt Romney in Israel (Getty)

Mitt Romney has caused something of a stir over recent days with comments that he and his campaign team have made about Iran. On a visit to Israel he and his aides said two things on the Iranian nuclear weapons programme that have left politicians and commentators wondering how he would act on this issue if elected.

First there was a comment made in Jerusalem by Dan Senor, Mr Romney’s senior foreign policy aide, who suggested that his boss supports a unilateral military strike on Iran by Israel. “If Israel has to take action on its own,” Mr Senor said in a briefing, “the governor would respect that decision.” Read more

These are the pieces that caught our attention this morning: 

By Gideon Rachman

After thousands of leaks and teases, most attentive viewers had some advance warning about the contents of the Olympic opening ceremony that took place last night. There would be sheep, there would be techno-music, there would be an artificial cloudburst – and maybe a real one too. Read more

Mitt Romney meets David Cameron (Getty)

American cable television has come a day late to Mitt Romney’s troubled visit to the UK, but is making up for lost time by giving lots of air time to the coverage in this morning’s British press. CNN has been running items every hour about Romney’s procession of gaffes and how they have been received. Pride of place has gone to the headline in The Sun: “Mitt the Twit”. Read more

Here’s what we’ve been reading, while keeping an eye on the Olympics:

Conflict intensifies in Syria
This week the FT’s world news editor Shawn Donnan is joined by James Blitz, diplomatic editor and Abigail Fielding-Smith in Beirut to discuss the conflict in Syria. Violence in the capital Damascus and commercial centre Aleppo, the disclosure that the regime possesses chemical weapons, refugee flight and the risk of instability spreading into Lebanon – is there now a case for western intervention?

You are not alone. The renminbi is with you. But it has managed to pull off the impressive trick of being a lot less undervalued without actually having risen very much.

The IMF said this week what others (especially the Peterson Institute, whose estimates often get a lot of airtime on Capitol Hill) have also suggested: the RMB is a lot less undervalued than a year ago. The Fund, which now combines various different concepts of currency valuation to take a judgment, called it “modestly undervalued” without putting a number on it.

The Peterson gurus are less coy: they reckon the RMB needs to rise just 2.8 per cent in real trade-weighted terms (i.e. against a basket of currencies, adjusting for inflation), and by 7.7 per cent against the dollar, to achieve a sustainable external position. These are big changes from a year ago, where the trade-weighted and dollar undervaluations were 16 per cent and 28.5 per cent respectively.  (Naturally these changes don’t seem to have made much difference to the China-bashers in Congress or out on the campaign trail, who tend to use the Peterson estimates when it suits them and ignore them otherwise.) Read more

Articles you might want to take a look at today:

An amusing little row has broken over the head of the Romney campaign, just as the candidate arrives in Britain for the Olympic opening ceremony. A Romney foreign-policy adviser has been quoted in Britain’s Daily Telegraph, saying that Romney will lay more emphasis on a Special Relationship with Britain because:

“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr. Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.”

This quote has been condemned by some Obama supporters as implicitly racist and has even drawn condemnation from Vice-President Joe Biden. The Romney campaign has moved swiftly to distance itself from this rather maladroit statement.

So which Romney adviser aired these views? Suspicion swiftly fell on Nile Gardiner, a Brit who works at the Heritage Foundation and has been named as one of Romney’s foreign-policy advisory team. Gardiner blogs for the Telegraph and has admitted speaking to the Telegraph journalist who wrote the story – but, despite strong circumstantial evidence, denied being the source of the quote. Read more

Something is changing in the way the US and its allies are analysing the conflict in Syria. For the last sixteen months, it has largely been seen as an appalling and escalating civil war, one which sees the country’s various ethnic factions lining up against one another, and with some 18,000 people now killed.

But after the events of the last week – above all the assassination of four of President Bashar al-Assad’s top aides –  things are different. This is not only a civil war but a conflict that increasingly threatens the stability of Syria’s neighbours and therefore has serious security implications for western states. Read more

Articles piquing our interest today:

Here’s what got us talking this morning:

Rifles on display in a shop at Aurora, Colorado. (Getty)

A gunman killed at least 12 people and injured 59 more when he opened fire on a midnight screening of the new Batman film in Aurora, Colorado last week. The shooting — much like the 1999 attack on a school in nearby Columbine — has revived the debate over just why such massacres happen in the US and whether more needs to be done to crack down on gun ownership. Below are some pieces that examine these issues: Read more

Catch up on some weekend reading and our picks from today:  

No word left minced in this fairly fierce resignation letter (obtained by CNN) sent by Peter Doyle, who is quitting the European department of the IMF after 20 years at the Fund, attacking particularly its role in the eurozone crisis.

The money quotes:

After twenty years of service, I am ashamed to have had any association with the Fund at all…

This is not solely because of the incompetence that was partly chronicled by the OIA [Office of Internal Audit and Inspection, though he may be referring to this document by a different watchdog body] report into the global crisis and the TSR [Triennial Surveillance Review] report on surveillance ahead of the Euro Area crisis. More so, it is because the substantive difficulties in these crises, as with others, were identified well in advance but were suppressed here…

Further, the proximate factors which produced these failings of IMF surveillance – analytical risk aversion, bilateral priority, and European bias  - are, if anything, becoming more deeply entrenched, notwithstanding  initiatives which purport to address them.

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The inability of Russia and the US to forge a collective response to the Syria crisis at the United Nations is a significant moment in the 16-month-long uprising.

It makes it inevitable that the conflict between the Assad regime and rebels will develop into an even more bloody confrontation over the next few weeks, with a potentially significant impact on the wider region. The crisis now poses a range of security risks which will this weekend be much on the minds of policymakers in western states and in the Middle East. Read more

Here are our picks to take you into the weekend: