Monthly Archives: September 2013

Gideon Rachman

Ordinary New Yorkers have good reason to dread “UNGA week” – the five days in September when world leaders descend en masse on New York for the UN General Assembly.

The result is gridlock in Manhattan as the east side of the city, near the UN, is blocked off to allow easier passage for presidential motorcades. On the other hand, the powerful and well-connected can be guaranteed a few good cocktail-party invitations. And interested spectators all over the world can be guaranteed some political theatre. Here is what to look out for this year when the leaders’ speeches get underway on Tuesday: Read more

Philipp Rösler (Getty)

Four years ago your correspondent was treading the streets of Friedrichshain in east Berlin on German election day when an extraordinary number of locals told me they had voted for Germay’s pro-business Free Democratic Party. Read more

Neil Buckley

After a testing two years for Vladimir Putin that saw the first serious protests against his rule, Russia’s president was back to his relaxed, confident and sometimes acerbic self at an annual meeting with academics and journalists on Thursday.

Though avoiding triumphalism, Mr Putin seemed to bask in his diplomatic success over the plan for Syria to hand over its chemical weapons. He also appeared to believe the sting had been drawn out of the demonstrations that followed parliamentary elections in December 2011 and his own decision to return for a third term as president. Read more

By David Gallerano

♦ Angela Merkel’s main competitor in Sunday’s election – Peer Steinbrück – is a man prone to gaffes. His party, the SPD, is desperately campaigning in Germany’s industrialised urban centres to mobilise “an estimated 10m” of voters “who have drifted from the party since 1998”.

♦ Hassan Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s recent presidential election and the war in Syria: two developments that “provide reason to think that diplomatic progress” between Tehran and Washington might be possible, according to the New York Review of Books. The first result of this détente – the New York Times says – might be an agreement over Iran’s nuclear programmeRead more


By Alice Ross
As Germany’s national elections approach on Sunday, what are the core issues that voters are concerned about? Do voters really admire what Angela Merkel has done for the eurozone, or are they more concerned about domestic issues like energy prices or the minimum wage? Read more

A protestor outside the Greek parliament (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

It’s no secret in Athens that austerity-weary Greeks would like to see a grand coalition emerge from Sunday’s elections in Germany. The participation in government of Peer Steinbrück and his Social Democrats, say café pundits, could bring a softening of the “keep-them-on-the-reform-treadmill” approach associated with Angela Merkel’s previous term as chancellor. Read more

It’s no secret that the US is at the centre of global trade. But how is what it trades with the world changing? The US International Trade Commission, the independent government agency which investigates anti-dumping cases in the US and also acts as a trade data clearinghouse, this week put out its annual “Shifts in US Merchandise” report. Here’s four things in the report worth thinking about:

1. Americans love their cars and their iPhones. They were the biggest contributors to the $10bn widening of the US trade deficit in 2012. Read more

By David Gallerano
♦ Ben Bernanke sent “contradictory signals about how the Fed was going to assess the economy”. His is a “confused guidance”, which makes it hard to tell whether the actual policy on tapering is just a pause for the Fed or whether there needs to be clear evidence of acceleration. Michael Mackenzie says the FOMC’s delay of the taper yesterday affects Fed’s credibility.
♦ Syria’s war rages on but Damascus nightclubs remain obstinately open.
♦ The Syrian conflict is spilling over to Iraq with the city of Muqdadiya, in the Diyala Province, becoming the theatre for a “Balkans-style” ethnic conflict with Sunnis supporting the rebels and Shiites backing the Assad government.
♦ The Arabist reports the story of Mohamed Gabr, police chief of a small village in Egypt, who was brutally killed by a group of Islamists.
♦ The United Nations Economic Commission on Africa (UNECA) cancelled Morten Jerven’s presentation of his research “due to lobbying from South African Statistician General Pali Lehohla”. Jerven’s research criticizes several African Statistic institutes and has already raised protests in Zambia and South Africa. Read more

Gideon Rachman

It’s not all bad news from the Middle East. Amid the tragedy in Syria and the bloody repression in Egypt, Iran is providing an unlikely source of hope. A series of official Iranian pronouncements have raised hopes that a nuclear deal might just be possible – after all. The Iranians are clearly on a charm offensive. President Hassan Rouhani – who will be travelling to New York for the UN General Assembly next week – has just given an interview to NBC television, in which he praised a recent letter sent to him by President Obama as “positive and constructive”. There is even talk of a possible Rouhani-Obama meeting next week. Even if that does not happen, you can expect Rouhani to be the star of the show in New York. When President Ahmadi-Nejad went to the UNGA he was treated as a pantomime villain by the Americans and Columbia University was severely criticised for inviting him to speak. By contrast, his successor, President Rouhani, will be the hot ticket at the Council on Foreign Relations next week.

But is all the hype justified? Read more

Is Obama becoming a lame duck?
A week that has seen US president Barack Obama zigzag between diplomacy and military action on Syria and back away from nominating Lawrence Summers as chairman of the Federal Reserve has raised questions about the president’s leadership. Gideon Rachman and Richard McGregor in Washington join Ben Hall to discuss whether the Obama administration has stalled and whether he is in danger of becoming, very prematurely, a lame duck president.