Daily Archives: June 5, 2013

Geoff Dyer

The liberal hawks are back. That, at least, is the superficial reading of the shake-up in the Obama administration foreign policy team that was announced on Wednesday, with Susan Rice replacing Tom Donilon as national security adviser and Samantha Power taking her place as ambassador to the United Nations.

Two years ago, Ms Rice and Ms Power played an important role in persuading President Barack Obama to intervene in the conflict in Libya. Given that the administration is now agonising over whether to do the same in Syria, the obvious question is whether their promotions will shift the debate about US involvement in that conflict. 

Sampling wine at a Shanghai wine fair (AFP)

As the China-EU solar dispute deepens, oddly enough, wine has been brought into the fray.

Here are seven interesting factoids you may (not) know about China and wine.

1. Chinese investors have bought up 30 French chateaux vineyards over the past four years and they aren’t stopping at that. There’s another 20 deals in the pipeline. Will they be affected by any probe?

2. Chinese wine importers were prominent bidders in the recent Elysee wine sale.

 

China has declared war on European wine producers, in an apparent tit-for-tat spat about solar panel tariffs.

The move is a canny one on China’s part. Although European wine-makers have historically not been favoured by Chinese consumers, that has begun to change. Between 2008 and 2012 Chinese consumption of European wines rocketed by 445 per cent. This is despite the fact that duties and taxes already account for around half the price of the average imported bottle.

 

It is 60 years since the Korean peninsula was at the very centre of international affairs. After the Korean war, the focus moved on – to Vietnam, eastern Europe, the Middle East, even to Afghanistan. But Korea now has a good claim to be right back at the centre of global concerns. North Korea’s tests of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles earlier this year, as well as its increasingly warlike rhetoric, have made South Koreans and Americans think hard about the previously unthinkable – the possibility that a nuclear war might actually break out on the Korean peninsula. I spent some of last week at the Jeju forum in South Korea, where researchers, politicians and diplomats grappled with a number of terrifying questions: such as what would the impact be of a nuclear strike on Seoul, the South Korean capital; and could South Korea launch a successful pre-emptive strike on the North’s weapons? (Answers: appalling and no.)

 

♦ In cities like Istanbul and Ankara, opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government is strong. Elsewhere, however, the AKP retains a significant amount of support and people are very suspicious of the demonstrators and their motives.
♦ China’s government and Chinese activists were even more active than usual on the Tiananmen anniversary.
♦ Susan Glasser, Foreign Policy’s editor-in-chief, interviews Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister.
♦ When Xi Jinping meets Barack Obama on Friday, look out for Wang Huning, head of the Communist party’s central policy research office. The former university professor is one of the most influential figures in China today.
Venice is drowning in conflicting interests.
♦ Cristina Fernández has a crazy plan to save Argentina’s economy.

♦Want to know what it’s like to be in Taksim Square now? Take a look at Paul Mason’s montage. 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Getty)

The AKP (Justice and Development party) and its charismatic leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have dominated Turkish politics since 2002. Since then, the country’s economy has tripled in size and Turkey has become an ever more influential player in global diplomacy. And yet, as the continuing protests show, many Turks are deeply unhappy with Erdogan and what his critics charge is an increasingly autocratic style of government.

What is it about Erdogan and his government that so polarises opinion in Turkey?

Here are the some of the best reads of recent years on Erdogan and the changing dynamics of his government: 

David Gardner

A view of Qusair (AP)

It would seem that Qusair, the rebel-held town astride the strategic corridor between Homs and the northeast Lebanese border, has fallen to forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. Syrian state media, and al-Manar, the TV station of Hizbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia allied to the Assads, have made the claim. But the situation on the ground was looking desperate for the rebels, despite their attempts to resupply the city. And officials in Damascus have been contacting journalists in the region since late last week, confident they could lay on a propaganda coup once this now emblematic town fell.

Here are some preliminary thoughts on the significance of this battle:

* The fall of al-Qusair is a serious blow to the rebels’ disparate forces. It cuts one of their supply lines from Lebanon to Homs; it restores government control over the Damascus-to-Aleppo highway; and, critically, it reconnects the capital to the north-west coast, the heartland of the Alawite minority around which the Assad clan has built its dictatorship and security state;