Egypt

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  • Following the military coup and counter-revolution, Egypt’s main problem is the restoration of the security state, which is using the judiciary as one of its arms to stifle dissent and ringfence the army’s privileges
  • Russian president Vladimir Putin cancelled construction of a strategically important gas pipeline following opposition from the EU and sanctions, but Moscow will instead develop a gas hub to southern Europe via Turkey
  • Lines of frustrated shoppers have replaced socialist rallies and posters of Hugo Chavez as the most ubiquitous images of Venezuela, with the situation set to worsen after Opec resisted Caracas’s calls to boost the oil price
  • The booming trade in jade in Myanmar – like blood diamonds in Africa – is turning good fortune into misery, as the spoils remain in the hands of the military and Chinese financiers who collude to smuggle the gemstone (NYT)
  • Jihad isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, say disgruntled Isis recruits from France, who complain of iPods not working, being forced to do the dishes – and threats of execution if they attempt to flee (The Independent)

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  • Magnus Carlsen retained his crown as world chess champion without the aid of supercomputers or a huge team of assistants – reinforcing the view that he is the best player the game has ever seen
  • Foreign travellers are returning to the pyramids in Giza and Cairo’s ancient markets as Egypt’s tourist industry picks up, a sign that the country’s broader economic picture may be improving
  • “Lung washing tours” are the new thing in Chinese tourism, as smog drives mainland tourists into novel migration patterns to escape the worst days of autumn
  • As China increasingly uses its state-owned television network as an arm of the law, not only are its journalists embarrassed to wear its logo in public – they don’t even believe the things they report (Foreign Policy)
  • Mumbai gangsters have returned to targeting Bollywood celebrities in an effort to find a “new business model”, police in India’s commercial capital say (Guardian)

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Roula Khalaf

 

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (Getty)

Has Qatar’s luck run out? Just a year ago the small, rich Gulf state was at the top of its game, well on its way to establishing itself as a regional political and global financial force.

Splashing its gas-fuelled wealth across the globe it accumulated a multibillion-dollar portfolio of assets, and spread its influence in an Arab world in turmoil, setting itself as the champion of rising Islamist powers.

So confident was its emir of his own standing that in June 2013 he abdicated in favour of his son, in an attempt to demonstrate that Qatar is the most progressive among Gulf states stubbornly attached to the status quo.

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By Gideon Rachman

In America, they have Super Tuesday. Europe is about to have a Super Sunday, with elections for the European Parliament taking place across the 28-member EU, ending on May 25. That same Sunday, Ukraine will be holding a presidential election. The next day, Egypt will hold its own presidential vote. And then, towards the end of that week, on May 29, President Vladimir Putin’s pet project – the formation of a Eurasian Union – will receive the formal go-ahead with a signing ceremony between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Gideon Rachman

 

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks on on the Middle East in London on April 23, 2014. (Getty)

There are plenty of people who will simply refuse to listen to anything that Tony Blair has to say about the Middle East – on the grounds that he is an idiot or a war criminal, or some combination of the two. I am not one of them. On the contrary, I think that the speech that Blair has just given on the Middle East is worth reading. He is intelligent, passionate and well-informed. But I still think he is wrong or, at the least, unconvincing, on a number of crucial points. Read more

  • “When a man becomes a high official, even his chickens and dogs go to heaven”, but a Chinese corruption investigation means the route for Zhou Yongkang, his chickens and his dogs might well lead somewhere else.
  • Hollande’s drubbing is not a blank cheque for France’s mainstream right
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former premier and now a presidential candidate, urges the west to bolster the country’s military defences and impose “immensely strong” economic sanctions on Moscow.
  • Meanwhile a visit to Donetsk shows how private donations are helping Ukraine’s underfunded army with everything from food to funds to create a ‘Maginot line’ to halt Russia.
  • The Middle East Institute tracks the history of terrorism in Egypt’s Sinai with an interactive graphic.

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Gideon Rachman

What is it about the last week of May and elections? I already have the elections to the European Parliament marked in my diary. They are scheduled to take place in 28 EU nations between May 22 and May 25, and the European Parliament has modestly billed them as the “second biggest democratic exercise in the world”. The biggest, obviously, is the Indian elections – the results of which will have been declared just a week earlier. The Indian and European elections were scheduled some time ago. But we now also have the Ukrainian presidential election - an event that has taken on global significance – scheduled to take place on May 25. Meanwhile, Egypt has just announced that it too will hold a presidential election on May 26-27. Read more

Roula Khalaf

 

Egyptian policemen standing guard outside the courthouse in Minya during the trial of some 683 Islamists on March 25, 2014. AFP/Getty Images

That Egypt’s judiciary is politicised is nothing new. Usually, though, at least it goes through the motions of a trial, allowing some form of defence and taking its time in issuing controversial verdicts.

A court in the southern city of Minya, however, has dispensed with all formality, opting instead for an absurd and outrageous miscarriage of justice. On Monday, it delivered the biggest mass death penalty in the country’s modern history, sentencing 529 Muslim Brotherhood followers to death for an August attack on a police station, in which the deputy police chief was killed. The defendants’ lawyers were not allowed into the proceedings – which lasted a mere two days. Read more