There is little doubt that the period since November has seen many setbacks for Assad, not the least of which has been the growing co-ordinatiuon – and international recognition – of the opposition. But some senior military and political figures in the Middle East and in Britain remain cautious. Read more
It was always my impression that spies generally try to keep out of the papers, and out of the law courts. Judged by those standards, MI6 is not doing a very good job – and neither is the CIA. Read more
Welcome to a live blog of events in Brussels as European leaders meet for a second day to discuss how far and fast to push integration of fiscal and economic systems in the 27-country bloc. Ben Fenton in London is watching.
14.46: And that seems an appropriately grim note on which to end live-blog coverage of the EU council summit, a meeting of which few had high expectations and yet most observers seem still to have come away disappointed.
Until next time.
14.34: Courtesy of Reuters, we have a jolly Christmas message from Chancellor Merkel:
“One reason I am careful with my forecasts is the adjustment process, the changes that we are going through are very difficult and painful.”
“Next year, and the ECB president said this, we will have very low growth rates, we will see negative growth in some countries, and we can expect very high unemployment levels to continue.”
“On the one hand we have accomplished a lot. But we also have tough times ahead of us that can’t be solved with one big step. There has been lots of talk about the one step, whether it be a debt haircut, euro bonds or some other measure that will solve everything. That won’t be the case.”
It may not be official. But it seems a fair bet that John Kerry will be the next US secretary of state. Susan Rice’s decision to withdraw her name from consideration – a supremely wise one given how much poison is in the air – leaves the Massachusetts senator somewhere close to being a slam dunk for the job. Read more