Monthly Archives: June 2014

  • The FT’s Richard McGregor reports on how detainees at Guantánamo Bay are growing old in limbo.
  • Algeria’s mostly French-bred football team highlights the failure of homegrown African football.
  • The Kurdish forces are unlikely to lose a war to Isis should it choose to launch a full-scale attack, but the fight could be costlier than its leaders let on.
  • In Jordan, officials fear that Isis is gaining support in poor communities such as Ma’an, or in the teeming northern refugee camps and border towns where many of those who have fled from Syria live.
  • The US State Department began investigating the security contractor Blackwater’s operations in Iraq in 2007, but the inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager there issued a threat: “that he could kill” the government’s chief investigator and “no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq”. Weeks later, the firm’s guards killed 17 civilians.
  • One of Egypt’s leading novelists, Ahdaf Soueif, has accused Egypt’s military-backed authorities of “waging a war on the young”.
  • Buzzfeed looks into the Russian collective that calls itself the Anonymous International: “Completely unknown just months ago, the group has become the talk of Moscow political circles after posting leaked documents detailing elements of Russia’s annexation of Crimea; covert operations in eastern Ukraine; the inner workings.”
  • The flawed response in Saudi Arabia to an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome could have contributed to its spread.
  • In the Netherlands, sandcastles are being used to educate schoolchildren the dangers of rising sea levels.

 

A fighter from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant (Isis) brandishes the Isis flag on the streets of Mosul (Getty)

At Baghdad airport, the creeping sense of dread is apparent. As harried passengers are ferried between multiple searches, drivers of the black SUVs chartered to take them into the ultra-secure facility from a boarding point outside the airport are nervous. 

Gideon Rachman

In an effort to make sense of Britain’s European predicament, I decided that I needed to put some distance between myself and the inglorious events in Brussels. So I have travelled to Brazil, where there appears to be some sort of football tournament going on.

In fact, there are certain obvious parallels between what happened to David Cameron in Brussels and what happened to the England team in Brazil – ignominious defeat being the clear link. However, it seems to me that the England team at the World Cup were actually rather better prepared and more professional than the British government in Brussels and that was reflected in the margin of defeat: 2-1 rather than 26-2. 

Tony Barber

It’s the fashion these days for outsiders to lecture France as if it’s a talented but obstinate schoolboy failing his grades. The idea seems to be that the more you tell the French off, the faster they’ll pull their socks up. This approach is wrong. We should, instead, smother France with love.

Like anyone, the French like to hear from time to time that they are clever, beautiful, funny, kind and successful. But for the past 10 years or so, the outside world has spoken fewer nice words about France than about any developed country.

It’s reached ridiculous proportions. Anyone would think, from all these foreign sermons, that French civilisation was falling apart. This is hardly the way to get the best out of any nation, not just the French. We need to stop finding fault and start smothering France with love. 

By Lucy Hornby

It was a vintage 1950s moment as foreign diplomats based in Beijing streamed into the Great Hall of the People this weekend for a ceremony designed to re-establish China’s international leadership as an advocate for poorer countries and an alternative to the US.

China’s growing commercial clout is giving it international sway that it has not enjoyed since the 1950s. At the time, Jawharlal Nehru of India allied with charismatic Chinese premier Zhou Enlai to promote the non-aligned movement of countries loyal to neither the US nor the Soviet Union, most of which had only recently broken free of the British Empire.

China is now putting forward a revived vision for how it can use its growing power — at the same time as tensions are flaring along its maritime borders. 

Tony Barber

(Getty)

“There is a tide in the affairs of men

“Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”

So said Brutus in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and the same thought was surely the cause of much rejoicing on Friday among the main political party groups in the European Parliament. Seize the moment, and victory will be yours.

The parties’ success in forcing the EU’s national governments to nominate Jean-Claude Juncker as the next European Commission president is one reason why Friday’s EU summit in Brussels will go down in history. The parties, using the European Parliament as their lever, have rebalanced the distribution of power among the EU institutions in their favour. 

Tony Barber

Don’t mix football with politics, goes the old saying – and Belgians are learning the lesson well.

Often depicted (wrongly, in my view) as an artificial, politically divided country doomed to disintegration, Belgium is cheering with one voice as its football team delights fans at the World Cup in Brazil. The streets of Brussels and other cities are festooned with black-yellow-red national flags – symbols of unity under which, at least during a football match, most Belgians can gather. 

Who are the winners and losers in a Juncker presidency?
With Jean-Claude Juncker increasingly likely to be appointed as the next president of the European Commission, Gideon Rachman is joined by Tony Barber, Europe editor, and Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief, for an in-depth look at what this would mean for the UK and for Europe as a whole. Also on the agenda are the growing dominance of Germany in the EU decision-making process and this week’s European Council meeting in Ypres

Every World Cup needs a villain, and Uruguay’s Luis Suárez must have been the pre-tournament bookmakers’ favourite to fill the role. Now he has obliged, for the second World Cup running. In 2010 he did it by saving a last-minute Ghanaian shot with his hands. He was sent off, but Ghana missed the subsequent penalty, and Uruguay went on to the semifinal.

On Tuesday the apparent bite he took out of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini provided possibly the first iconic moment of this World Cup. Fifa’s disciplinary committee has yet to give its verdict, but the vast majority of global non-Uruguayan opinion seems to believe it was a bite. Jim Boyle, head of Fifa’s refereeing committee, told British TV: “Once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism.” Once again Suárez’s personal dysfunction is being displayed before the world, and once again he has only his compatriots to defend him. 

After all the UK press has written about him over the past few weeks, it is good to see Jean-Claude Juncker still has a sense of humour.

The former Luxembourg prime minister has largely kept his head down since he emerged as the front-runner for the European Commission presidency – and came under fire from UK prime minister David Cameron and the pro-Conservative battalions of the British media.

On Tuesday Mr Juncker broke cover to deliver a speech at a Berlin security conference – he had, he said, accepted the invitation before becoming embroiled in the latest battle of Brussels.

Explaining that he was between jobs – having handed over the reins in Luxembourg in December and yet to be installed in a new post – he added with a smile: “I am a transgender person, in the political sense.”