Foreign affairs

I was at the Greek archaeological site of Delphi last weekend, attending a conference on Europe’s future, when the news arrived that Jeremy Corbyn, a 66-year-old leftwinger, had been elected as leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party. I climbed up the hill and asked the Oracle for some predictions.

TB: Oh, Oracle, will the world see Corbyn’s triumph as irrelevant? After all, Labour’s never going to win a general election under him, so he will never be prime minister.

ORACLE: Not irrelevant, my friend, but illustrative. The world will see Corbyn’s success as one more that Britain, like a snail, is retreating from the international stage and withdrawing into itself. Read more

Tony Abbott

  © Getty

In a country that has had more leadership heaves of late than elections, Malcolm Turnbull’s ousting of Tony Abbott caught a surprising number of people off-guard. Mr Abbott himself was so stunned that it took him more than 12 hours to speak to the media since losing Monday’s Liberal party vote by 54 to 44. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
There is a comforting cliché in Brussels that the EU needs crises in order to progress. But the current cocktail of problems facing Europe — refugees, the euro and the danger that Britain might leave the union — look far more likely to overwhelm the EU than to strengthen it.

On Friday morning Petro Poroshenko announced a small breakthrough in the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian president said that for the first time in a year and a half, a full day had passed without a single artillery shell being fired on his country’s soil. It was the latest sign that the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine – called for under the Minsk peace accords – may finally be beginning to take hold.

The Ukrainian leader was speaking at the annual Yalta European Strategy meeting in Kiev. (The meeting used to be held in Yalta but that is in Crimea – which is now under Russian occupation). After his speech, I interviewed Poroshenko on stage and asked him about the other provisions of the Minsk accords that have not yet been met – including demands for the withdrawal of troops and for the Ukrainian-Russian border to be sealed by the end of the year. Poroshenko told his audience that Russian troops and heavy weaponry remain on Ukrainian soil. When I pressed him about what should happen if these troops remain in place and the border stays open, the president was rather vague – insisting that there was no alternative to the full implementation of Minsk. There were no details about what he plans to do, if that doesn’t happen. Read more

Lebanon and Turkey struggle to meet the needs of Syrian refugees
The future of Syria and its neighbouring states, Lebanon and Turkey, remains unsure as they are struggling to cope with millions of refugees from the Syrian conflict. Gideon Rachman talks to Erika Solomon, FT correspondent in Beirut, and Dan Dombey, former FT bureau chief in Istanbul, about the political and societal strains caused by the refugee crisis

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Who would be a political pollster in Singapore? It is perhaps unsurprising that they are pretty much redundant in Singapore, where every election since the Southeast Asian nation’s independence 50 years ago has been won resoundingly by the People’s Action party . Read more

By Gideon Rachman

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, is right that the current refugee crisis is forcing Europe to consider whether it can live up to its own, self-proclaimed values. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be “No”.

Rupert Murdoch has been on a month-long working holiday in Australia – and judging by his Twitter feed he is not enamoured with the state of politics in his native country.

“Great month in Oz – beautiful country, gtreAT [sic] people but with large problems,” declared the 84-year-old media mogul in the first of a series of tweets. Read more

Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim

Not content with threatening to cut off funding for artists she deems disloyal to Israel, Miri Regev, Israel’s far-right culture minister, is apparently seeking to project power onto her country’s preeminent foreign policy issue: the recently signed nuclear deal with Iran. Read more

Ukraine faces battles on two fronts
Rising violence in eastern Ukraine has prompted the leaders of France, Germany and Ukraine to convene an emergency summit to try to halt the fighting; at the same time Kiev’s negotiations with its creditors are reaching a critical point. Ben Hall discusses the twin crises with Neil Buckley and Elaine Moore.

In recent days North and South Korea have resurrected the practice of blasting threats and propaganda at each other across their shared border. But last weekend, amid all the sabre-rattling, one South Korean turned some of his country’s border loudspeakers to a more harmonious use.

Won Hyung-joon, who has been trying to organise a cross-border concert for seven years, deployed them on Saturday at a concert in which Antoine Marguier, conductor of the UN Orchestra, led South Korean instrumentalists through Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and the Korean folk song ArirangRead more

  • Owning a top English football club used to be every tycoon’s dream, but five stalled sales this summer suggest the asset appears to have lost some of its lustre
  • Fears are growing that Ukraine’s Right Sector, the only big volunteer battalion Kiev has not brought under regular army control, could turn its fire on the government itself
  • The desire to avoid a power struggle within the Taliban and the Pakistan military’s push for peace talks in Afghanistan explain the silence around the death of Mullah Omar, writes Ahmed Rashid
  • Ankara is organizing Syrian rebels for an assault on the Islamic State’s last stronghold along the Turkish border and could even use its warplanes to support their advance (Foreign Policy)
  • Rohingya female migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar seeking to escape turmoil and poverty are often tricked or forced into marriages to pay smugglers for their freedom (New York Times)

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Monitors check-in: The Athens Hilton

During Greece’s first and second bailouts they were known as the “troika”: three bureaucrats in suits endlessly following each other into a Greek government ministry in local television news clips.

Then they began slipping into buildings by a side door, protected by security guards to avoid anti – austerity protesters blocking the main entrance

Then they vanished altogether, banned from visiting Athens by the leftwing Syriza-led government.

Even their name was officially deleted: the troika became the “institutions” after their employers – the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

Now, after six months of being non – persons in Greece, the bailout monitors are back. Read more

Turkey steps up its battle on terror
Nato allies have welcomed Turkey’s decision to step up its fight against Isis. But its decision to include Kurdish opponents as the target of its attacks is causing some to question Ankara’s true motives. Siona Jenkins discusses Turkey’s strategy with Daniel Dombey and Alex Barker.

Once again, it was an agonisingly long piece of Greek parliamentary theatre. But once again, in the early hours of Thursday morning, Alexis Tsipras came out on top.

For the second time in a week, the prime minister survived a mini-rebellion in his radical leftist Syriza party and, with the help of opposition parties, passed a set of reforms required to secure a new, €86bn financial rescue from Greece’s international creditors. Read more

Iran nuclear deal: historic breakthrough or mistake?
Years of painstaking negotiations between Iran and the world powers have finally led to a deal. Was it the biggest international diplomatic breakthrough in decades or a historic mistake? Roula Khalaf, FT foreign editor, and Najmeh Bozorgmehr, Tehran correspondent, debate the pros and cons.

Alexis Tsipras and Vladimir Putin at a meeting in the Kremlin in April

We learned on Monday that Yuri Milner, the billionaire Russian entrepreneur, is to spend $100m of his own money over the next 10 years to fund a project searching for alien civilisations beyond our solar system.

According to my calculations, that is $100m more than the Russian government has offered in financial aid to Greece since the radical leftist Syriza party, often presumed to be close to Moscow, came to power in January.

During Syriza’s chaotic six months in office, the notion has cropped up time and again that Alexis Tsipras, the prime minister and party leader, would like to play a ‘Russian card’ to ward off pressure from Greece’s eurozone creditors.

There is something to this, but the picture is more subtly textured than first impressions might suggest. Let’s look below the surface and find out what’s going on. Read more

  • Amid the political noise, the historic nuclear deal between Iran and international powers is a victory for pragmatism in Tehran, writes Roula Khalaf
  • Greece’s creditors have destroyed the eurozone as we know it and demolished the idea of a monetary union as a step towards a democratic political union, argues Wolfgang Münchau
  • Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump offers a megaphone to the noisy minority of Americans who believe they are losing the battle with modernity, writes Ed Luce
  • Europe’s creditor-in-chief has trampled over values like democracy and national sovereignty, and left a vassal state in its wake. Which country will be next? asks Philippe LeGrain (Foreign Policy)
  • We apologise to Marxists worldwide for Greece refusing to commit ritual suicide to further the cause. We elected a good, honest and brave man, who fought like a lion, writes Alex Andreou (Byline)

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The day after Vienna won’t look different. More blood will be spilled in the Middle East; more pain will be inflicted. In Iran beleaguered hardliners who never wanted the nuclear agreement may plot new mischief in the region; in Israel, the Gulf states and Congress, opponents of the deal will continue to protest. Some of Iran’s neighbours may resolve to pursue their own nuclear ambitions.

The details of the accord reached in Vienna after weeks of tortuous negotiations will be ripped apart according to political attitudes – those who favour Iran’s rehabilitation will highlight Iran’s concessions; those against it will play up American compromises. A glass half full to some, half empty to others. Read more

It is not just the Greeks who are lamenting a humiliating defeat in Brussels.

The Spanish government, too, has suffered a stinging setback. The headlines on Tuesday morning told the story: “Spain left without influence in the EU,” declared El Mundo. The El País daily, meanwhile, bemoaned the “diplomatic incompetence” that produced this latest Spanish “failure”.

Despite furious lobbying from Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, and despite the support of Germany, Madrid failed to get what it so badly wanted: the appointment of Luis de Guindos as the next president of the eurogroup. “De Guindos loses and plunges Spain into political irrelevance,” remarked el diario, the Spanish news website. Read more