Monthly Archives: July 2014

Israel’s Operation Protective Edge entered its 24th day on Thursday, and is now one of the longest-running conflicts for a country that typically fights short wars.

The Israeli military is moving deeper into Gaza, inflicting a level of civilian casualties during its war on Hamas that troubles the international community’s conscience, but which it has been unable to stop.

Behind the scenes, serious diplomatic manoeuvering to end the war is starting. As the stronger party by far in the conflict, Israel holds most of the cards in any ceasefire agreement.

But there are other players too: Egypt shares an interest with Israel in disarming Hamas, an ally of its suppressed Muslim Brotherhood, and restoring calm to a troublesome border region. Hamas, too, needs to calculate what it can get out of its third war with Israel, as talks on a post-war order involving the US, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar and other countries get underway.

As they do, a few end-game scenarios are emerging (the assessments of each one’s likelihood of coming to pass are my own): Read more

Ebola: what risk does the virus pose to Africa and the wider world?
Parts of Western Africa are gripped by the Ebola virus, with more than 670 dead in the current outbreak. Gideon Rachman is joined by Clive Cookson, science editor, and Javier Blas, Africa editor, to discuss how serious a threat the virus poses to the region and to the wider world, and what the international community can do to thwart its progress.

• Squeezed between government forces and Russian-backed separatists, civilian casualties in east Ukraine continue to mount, diminishing the chances of postwar reconciliation.

• Meanwhile in Russia, President Vladimir Putin is feeling the chill from the struggle for Ukraine as he attempts to appease both business tycoons and nationalists.

• The Guardian’s Shaun Walker tracked down the feared rebel leader Igor Bezler- thought to be behind the MH17 crash and regarded as something of a loose cannon, even by other rebels. The encounter ended with Mr Bezler threatening to execute the interviewer.

• Europe is bankrolling Al Qaeda by paying ransoms. An investigation by The New York Times found that Al Qaeda and its direct affiliates have taken in at least $125m in revenue from kidnappings since 2008, of which $66m was paid just last year. Read more

Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary, has just cemented his reputation as the problem child of the European Union with a speech in which he argued that “liberal democratic societies cannot remain globally competitive”. All EU countries are meant to subscribe to a set of values that could broadly be described as liberal and democratic. But Mr Orban suggested that the Hungarian government is now looking elsewhere for inspiration – citing China, Russia, Turkey and Singapore as potential role models. Read more

The consensus, such as it is, on the eurozone crisis was neatly summed up on Monday by Hugo Dixon, author and editor at large of Reuters News: “The euro crisis is sleeping, not dead.”

What about the crisis in Greece? Over the past four to five years Europe, supported by the International Monetary Fund, has invested more time, effort and money in Greece than in any other struggling eurozone state. The aim is to reform a country so inefficiently governed, so riddled with corruption and so burdened with debt that it seemed, for certain spells in 2011 and 2012, to pose a threat to the eurozone’s survival.

So it seems reasonable to ask: if this time, effort and money have not changed Greece for the better, what has it all been for? Read more

By Gideon Rachman
Back in 1992 I was watching from the balcony of Madison Square Garden as Bill Clinton accepted the Democratic party nomination for the presidency. On stage with him was his wife, Hillary, and their young daughter, Chelsea. The music that blared from the loudspeakers as the Clintons took their bow was Fleetwood Mac singing “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow”. It was a quintessentially American message – optimistic and forward-looking.


Part of the wreckage of MH17 that broke up over eastern Ukraine

After three fatal airline disasters in a week, coming just months after the mysterious disappearance of Flight MH370, aviation safety is under more scrutiny than at any time since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks.

Not surprisingly, there has been a marked increase in chatter on social media in the last few days about fear of flying. But short of not getting on an aircraft, is there anything nervous flyers should know or do before getting onboard? Read more

It began in a blaze of British hubris. But three weeks later, as the Tour de France heads to the finish line on the Champs Elysees, the Brits have sunk without trace and the race has instead seen a striking renaissance of French cycling. Read more

Israel set itself clear goals when it launched its assault on Gaza. Stop the rocket fire into Israel and close the tunnels that might allow Hamas to infiltrate fighters into Israel. Some 18 days into the offensive, and these goals have not yet been achieved. But that is not the only sign that Israel’s Gaza offensive is going wrong. On the contrary, there are multiple signs that Israel is losing control of the situation: Read more

Images of death and destruction in Gaza dominate TV screens in the Arab world. With turmoil spreading, Roula Khalaf, the FT’s foreign editor, talks to Gideon Rachman about why Arab support for Hamas is starting to fade.

Crisis over the MH17 atrocity
Russia and the west have been increasingly at odds following the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine, an atrocity that has been widely blamed on pro-Russian separatists. What are Vladimir Putin’s options, and what diplomatic accommodation be can be found to make the situation less volatile? Katherine Hille, Moscow bureau chief, and Neil Buckley, east Europe editor, join Gideon Rachman.

Sam Rainsy greets supporters at Phnom Penh International Airport after arriving in Cambodia on July 19, 2014 (Getty)

I’ve just got off the phone with Sam Rainsy, leader of a Cambodian opposition that has, in one form or another, been trying to dislodge Prime Minister Hun Sen from power for 30 years. After five hours of talks, Mr Rainsy on Tuesday agreed a deal with the country’s leader to end nearly a year of political standoff that has plunged the country into a sometimes violent crisis.

Under the deal, the opposition Cambodia National Rescue party will end its boycott of parliament and take up the 55 seats it won in last July’s election. (Officially, Mr Hun Sen’s Cambodian People’s party won 68 seats, but the opposition says it cheated.) In return for participating in parliament, the opposition will gain a greater say in how the Election Committee is constituted, a concession that is supposed to ensure a fair and transparent election next time round, probably in 2018. Eight opposition members accused of insurrection were also released on bail and will receive parliamentary immunity from prosecution if they take up their seats.

Here are some excerpts from the interview. Direct quotes are indicated as such. Read more

Attempts on Monday by Russia to shift the blame for the shooting down of Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine away from the separatist rebels have had a few western analysts scratching their heads.

The Russian military gave journalists a high-level and highly detailed briefing of its take on the situation in the area where the Malaysian airliner was shot down. The presentation came just as the first apparent hard evidence was emerging from the crash site that the jet was hit by a large surface-to-air missile, similar to an SA-11 launched by the Buk-M1 system. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Just a couple of months ago it was fashionable to laud Vladimir Putin for his strategic genius. American rightwingers contrasted his sure-footedness with their own president’s alleged weakness. In a column entitled “Obama vs Putin, The Mismatch”, Charles Krauthammer argued: “Under this president, Russia has run rings around America.” Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, praised Mr Putin’s decisiveness and cooed: “That’s what you call a leader.” Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence party, said Mr Putin was the world leader he most admired.

International investigators are on their way to the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which came down on Thursday in eastern Ukraine killing 298 people. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has accused pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the Boeing 777 airliner. At a meeting of the UN Security Council, the US has said the aeroplane was shot down by a surface to air missile and that it would have been hard for the pro-Russian separatists to operate a complex missile system by itself. The separatists are denying any involvement.

International calls for a full and transparent inquiry into what happened to the downed airliner are mounting.

By John Aglionby and Mark Odell


Here are three reasons why some of Italy’s EU partners don’t want Federica Mogherini, the Italian foreign minister, to become the 28-nation bloc’s next foreign policy supremo.

Only one is to do with her. The second is about the distribution of big EU jobs among nations. The third, most important reason is about Italy and why its foreign policy may not suit the EU as a whole. Read more

Palestinian employees of Gaza City City's al-Deira hotel carry a wounded boy following an Israeli military strike on the nearby beach in which four children were killed on July 16, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

While the current Gaza war between Israel and Hamas looks ominously as though it may intensify, exacting a yet greater toll in Palestinian civilian deaths, there is a pattern to these conflicts: they usually end after an episode of appalling carnage that shocks international actors into action. Read more

Gaza crisis: what does current conflict mean for Netanyahu, Hamas and the wider middle east?
As bombing reaches its ninth consecutive day, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu is facing criticism abroad for causing unnecessary bloodshed, and at home for not sending troops into Gaza. Gideon Rachman is joined by Siona Jenkins, Middle east news editor, and from Gaza by John Reed, Jerusalem bureau chief to look deeper at the broader Israeli/Palestinian conflict and how Hamas has been able to use the current crisis to drum up support as chaos in the Middle East reaches levels unparalleled in recent decades.

By Delphine Strauss in London and Claire Jones in Frankfurt

If France’s government is serious about promoting use of the euro to challenge the dollar’s dominance of global finance, it will find itself fighting the recent trend in markets. Read more