Monthly Archives: November 2013

• After meeting Hossein Shariatmadari, editor and commentator of Iran’s hardline Kayhan newspaper, the FT’s editor Lionel Barber says the conversation was a reminder that not all Iranians want a nuclear deal and that Iran’s “fractious relationship” with the rest of the world may not be about to end.

• An EU’s “Eastern Partnership” summit is trying to save hopes of a future deal with Ukraine. Russia’s tactics towards ex-Soviet countries preparing to do EU deals have raised questions over the future of an agreement and caused tensions between EU members, reports the FT. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Fears of an accidental conflict are growing following China’s creation of an air defence zone over the Japanese-administered Senkaku islands it claims as its territory, with the US seeing the move as a provocative step, writes the FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo. Read more

It’s back to the pivot. With the Iran deal half-done, the Obama
administration is now starting to shift its attention to Asia. After national
security adviser Susan Rice gave her first speech on the subject last week,
vice president Joe Biden will visit north Asia from Sunday, preparing the
ground for a presidential swing through the region in the spring.

Biden will fly straight into the centre of a new political storm – literally,
in this case – after China declared on Saturday that a large part of the
East China Sea was its own air defence zone
. The new Chinese rules
oblige aircraft of other countries to inform Beijing of their flight plans
through the area, or potentially face “defensive emergency measures”. Read more

International reaction to the Iran nuclear deal
The United States and European Union are clearly delighted with the historic nuclear deal struck with Iran in Geneva last week, but some key US allies in the region, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia are not happy. John Reed, Jerusalem correspondent, James Blitz, defence and security editor and Siona Jenkins, Middle East news editor, join Gideon Rachman to discuss how the agreement will affect the balance of power in the region.

By Luisa Frey

Are the states of the Near East coming apart – especially along faultlines between Sunni and Shia Muslims that run from Beirut to Bagdad?” asks the FT’s David Gardner. The battle between the two groups is destroying the borders drawn up by European imperialists and creating boundaries based on ethnicity and religion.

♦ Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had no choice but to recognise the nation’s desperation for an end to isolation and is now keeping his options open with the nuclear deal, writes the FT’s Roula Khalaf.

♦ The New Yorker has a profile of British blogger Eliot Higgins, know as Brown Moses, who has never been to Syria, but has become “perhaps the foremost expert on the munitions used in the war”.

♦ In Brazil, one more corruption scandal has become public. Investigators claim that a group of tax inspectors allowed construction companies to evade more than $200m in taxes in exchange for bribes, writes the New York Times.

♦ In periods of uncertainty , Switzerland turns to national superhero William Tell. Like Tell, who refused to bow to an Austrian lord’s hat, the country feels put upon by foreign powers that have pressured it to change its ways in the wake of the financial crisis, writes the Wall Street Journal. Read more

By Luisa Frey

Back-channel conversations between the US and Iran paved way for the historic nuclear agreement and broke 34 years of hostility, writes the FT’s Geoff Dyer. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
For Barack Obama, striking a nuclear deal with Iran may turn out to be the easy part. The president’s biggest struggle now is facing down Israel and its supporters in the US as they attempt to rally opposition to the deal. The administration knows this and it is quietly confident that it can take on the Israel lobby in Congress – and win.

By Luisa Frey

♦ Instead of euphoria, relief swept through Tehran after the reach of a historic deal over Iran’s nuclear programme. Although the agreement is an interim one, Iran now hopes for an end to its isolation and the revival of its economy. But the FT’s David Gardner comments that sceptics will want proof Iran is becoming ‘a player for peace’ – “given Tehran’s record, it could hardly be otherwise”. Read more

For the last seven years, Iran and world powers have been engaged in seemingly endless negotiations over whether the Iranian nuclear programme could be curbed. After each failure, diplomats and journalists ended up wondering whether diplomacy would ever prevail – or whether Iran would end up either getting the nuclear bomb or being bombed.

But this autumn three factors came into play to make this the moment when a landmark deal needed to be agreed – and when the years of deadlock and obfuscation needed to come to an end. The agreement, hailed as a historic moment, has halted further progress on the nuclear programme in return for a modest lifting of international sanctions. Read more

I have just spent an interesting day in Washington, part of which was spent listening to European and US officials discussing Ukraine’s decision to halt talks on a bilateral pact with the EU. This decision by the Yanukovitch administration is a big blow to both the EU and the US, which had been hoping to draw Ukraine decisively into the Western orbit. It also a minor triumph for the Russians. One disappointed western analyst says that – “It is the first time that the West has lost a soft power contest with Russia.”

And yet the reaction from Western officials was calmer than I expected. Broadly speaking, the view seems to be that it’s a great shame – but that the biggest loss is to Ukraine itself. In the long-term, it is hoped that this will become apparent and that the Ukrainians will look West again. There is also a strong view that the Russians won this particular struggle through the use of inducements that were not available to the West. As one analyst put it – “In the end, this came down to money. And not money for Ukraine itself. Money for particular groups in Ukraine.” Read more

The FT has chosen World Child Cancer as its partner in the 2013 Seasonal Appeal. In this video, Shawn Donnan introduces the charity, its model, and how it helps children with cancer in the developing world. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ In India, prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi captures the attention of both bitter enemies and fanatical supporters. Even business leaders who admire him admit he could be a risky choice, write the FT’s Victor Mallet and Lionel Barber. Read more

Critics of Germany’s actions in the eurozone debt and banking crisis often berate Angela Merkel, the Christian Democrat chancellor, for lacking a “vision” for Europe. Not me. I am with Helmut Schmidt, West Germany’s plain-spoken Social Democrat chancellor from 1974 to 1982, who once said that people who have visions should go and see a doctor.

What is the view of Mario Monti, the distinguished former European Union commissioner, who worked closely with Merkel during his 17-month spell as Italy’s prime minister from November 2011 until last April? Monti now chairs a committee on promoting a united Europe at the Berggruen Institute on Governance, a non-partisan think-tank headquartered in California. I contacted him earlier this week in Milan, and as usual his thoughts were perceptive and full of common sense (and quite long sentences). Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Twenty-three years after German reunification, a report shows that east-west migration is fizzling out. As the socio-economic differences become smaller, investors are pumping capital into the ex-communist east, writes the FT’s Stefan Wagstyl.

♦ Slovenia – which cruised to the EU as the wealthiest of the 10 ex-communist members – is now struggling to avoid a eurozone bailout.

♦ In the US, inequality is moving to the front line of politics. The rich-poor gap has long been an issue, but in post-crisis times it seems more difficult to raise hopes of upward mobility.

♦ “Keeping China moving will keep its leaders busy,” comments the FT’s David Pilling. Xi Jinping – “the world’s most powerful leader” – has nine years left at the helm of an economy that could be the world’s biggest by 2020.

♦ In post-revolutionary times, Arab countries are dealing with the task of rewriting history and figuring out how to teach it. Egypt, Lybia and Tunisia are removing from school textbooks the praise they once heaped on former dictators, writes The Economist.

♦ A video report from the Wall Street Journal follows citizens whose lives were upended by the conflict across Syria’s northern border. “I always try to make my students forget what they saw in Syria”, says a teacher in a refugee camp in Turkey. Read more

The tug of war over the future of Ukraine
Ukraine finds itself caught between Russia and the EU ahead of a summit next week in Vilnius, where the country’s president Viktor Yanukovich will have the opportunity to sign a major free trade deal and political association agreement with the EU. Russia has intensified pressure on the country recently not to sign the deal in favour of joining a Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Neil Buckley, Eastern Europe editor and Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief to explain how the situation is likely to develop.

By Richard McGregor

When the US and Australia hold their annual top-level security consultations in Washington on Wednesday, they will doubtless exchange the usual bromides about the enduring value and strength of their alliance.

But the Australia defence and foreign ministers might also want to vent a little as well to their counterparts about the diplomatic mess that the former US intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, has landed them in.

The revelation that the National Security Agency, America’s eavesdropping body, had bugged the mobile phone of German’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, provoked a crisis in Washington’s ties with Berlin. Mr Snowden has given Australia its own “Merkel moment” this week, with the publication of leaked documents detailing how Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate bugged the phones of top Indonesian leaders. Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ Women are leading the revolution in Chile, writes the FT’s Benedict Mander. Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei, who will face each other in the second round of presidential elections, and young communist Camila Vallejo are good examples.

♦ As corruption scandals are revealed in Malawi, even the president has admitted that she does not know where the money has gone.

♦ In Libya, the increasingly violent rivalries between the militias that overthrew the Gaddafi regime are rendering the elected government even more powerless.

♦ “How is Hamid Karzai still standing?” asks the New York Times. As the deadline for registering candidates for next year’s presidential election approaches, Afghanistan’s future seems to depend on the fraught internal family politics of the Karzais.

♦ The New York Times describes how a law from 1938, which allowed Nazis to seize thousands of artworks seen as un-German or Jewish, now makes their recovery difficult.

♦ The Guardian says walls are being built to divide people from their neighbours around the world - from a luxury community in Brazil to barriers along the US/Mexico border and walls that separate ethnic groups in Homs, Syria. Read more

France's Benzema celebrates after scoring the second goal for the team during their World Cup qualifying playoff match against Ukraine at the Stade de France Reuters

If any country is in need of a morale booster, it is surely France. President Hollande’s popularity ratings are in the low 20s. The economy is shrinking. The country’s credit-rating has just been downgraded again. The far-right is on the rise. And a crazed gunman is on the loose in Paris. But amid all this gloom, something good has happened. And the positive news has come from an unlikely source, the national football team. Last night “les Bleus” overcame the odds and notched up the 3-0 victory they needed to defeat Ukraine and get to the World Cup in Brazil. Even the high-brow “Le Monde” had the footballing triumph as its banner headline, this morning. Read more

 

Michelle Bachelet on the campaign trail

Chile is about to have a new female president, Michelle Bachelet. Brazil already has one, Dilma Rousseff. So too Argentina, in the figure of Cristina Fernández. Add up their three economies, and a combined gross domestic product of $3,000bn will soon be presided over by female leaders. Moreover, this is in a continent more often noted for machismo than women’s rights. It just goes to show how often stereotypes can be wrong. Or are they? Read more

By Luisa Frey

♦ The financial crisis has hit a whole generation of English graduates, “for whom a degree has all but ceased to be a golden ticket to a decent job“, writes the FT’s economics correspondent, Sarah O’Connor. Graduates now earn less and owe more in student debt.

♦ “China and Japan are heading for a collision“, says Gideon Rachman, the FT’s chief foreign affairs columnist. The fact that both countries are setting up National Security Councils may be dangerous in times of military jostling related to territorial claims.

♦ In Japan, communities devastated by the 2011 tsunami are receiving support from architects. A project called Home for All seeks to build communal structures incorporating local history and customs, reports Edwin Heathcote.

♦ A middle class is rising in Mexico as the country finally attracts higher-end industries. “Many people are beginning to believe they can get ahead through study and hard work” says the New York Times.

♦ In Syria, veteran commanders say a second civil war has started - in which the goals of freedom, Islam and social equality were replaced by betrayal, defeat and anger towards rival militias, jihadis and foreign powers, reports The Guardian.

♦ “Dispute over gay marriage erupts in Cheney family,” according to the New York Times blog: The Caucus. Read more