Tunisia is a small country with a population of just less than 11m. But it has played a big role in the upheavals that have shaken the Middle East.
It was in Tunisia that the popular uprisings against autocracy that became known as the “Arab spring” began in December 2010, setting an example that shook the region.
Zine el-Abidene Ben-Ali, Tunisian president, became the first autocrat to be toppled when he fled the country in January 2011. Mr Ben-Ali’s fall helped to electrify the rest of the Arab world as slogans and ideas that had first appeared in Tunisia spread to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain.
Four years later, Tunisia is still important — but for different, sadder reasons. Read more
Ed Miliband outlines his foreign policy plans at Chatham House in London
If Ed Miliband becomes Britain’s prime minister next month what will this mean for the country’s foreign policy? The question is one that the UK’s allies should start considering because the prospect of him winning power is growing. Betting companies believe there is now a greater chance of Mr Miliband entering Number 10 after the May 7 election than of David Cameron returning to office.
When 12 people were murdered by terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, earlier this year, more than 2m came out on to the streets of France to demonstrate in sympathy and protest. It seems unlikely that there will be a similar outpouring of public emotion in response to the deaths of hundreds of would-be migrants - drowned in the Mediterranean over the weekend as they attempted to make the crossing to Europe. Read more
Nigerian teachers at a rally in Lagos protesting against the abduction of 200 schoolgirls and the killing of 173 of their colleagues by the Islamist Boko Haram group. Getty
Osama Bin Laden must be chuckling from his grave on the ocean floor. In the wake of 9/11 he explicitly targeted Nigeria as a new front-line in his global jihad. When the UN Security Council on Thursday blacklisted Boko Haram alongside al-Qaeda and its other affiliates, Nigeria had formally arrived.
It is the latest in a series of international gestures intended to isolate the group, which provoked international outrage for a series of atrocities including abducting more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and threatening to sell them into slavery. But its value is little more than symbolic.
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
Will France, Britain and the US come to regret their decision to topple Colonel Muammar Gaddafi? Nearly two years after these three states began their mission to remove the Libyan leader, the question is one which some commentators are starting to ponder.
Nobody would deny there was a strong humanitarian interest for the US and its allies to intervene in Libya in the spring of 2011, stopping what would otherwise have been Gaddafi’s massacre of his rebel opponents in Benghazi. But nearly two years on, some might be tempted to argue that his removal ran against the west’s strategic interest, given the course of subsequent events in north Africa and the Middle East. Read more
Mitt Romney makes remarks on the attack on the US consulate in Libya (Reuters)
There are moments that can indelibly brand a politician and Mitt Romney may just have met his.
The alacrity – and brittle certainty – with which the Republican nominee responded to the violence against US diplomats on Tuesday night offers a snapshot of why his candidacy has failed to attract true believers. On Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton read out a sombre statement condemning the killing of Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans. Forty minutes later, Barack Obama followed suit. Both focused on Mr Stevens’ tragic death. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
“No one can here understand how the international community can let this happen.” So said Marie Colvin, in an interview given from Homs, just a day before she herself was killed by a Syrian bombardment.
By Gideon Rachman
It has been many centuries since the Mediterranean Sea was the centre of civilisation. But in 2011 the Med was back – not just as a holiday destination – but at the very centre of world affairs. This was a year of global indignation, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the Moscow election protests and China’s village revolts. It was popular protests on either side of the Mediterranean – in Tahrir Square in Cairo and Syntagma Square in Athens – that set the tone for 2011.
Protesters clash with riot police near Tahrir Square. Photo AFP/Getty
Welcome to our live blog of the turmoil in the Middle East. Written by John Aglionby and Tom Burgis on the news desk in London and with contributions from correspondents around the world. All times are GMT.
- Where next for Egypt now that the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have rejected the ruling military’s offer of an accelerated handover to civilian rule?
- After three broken promises, Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of Yemen, has finally bowed to mounting pressure and signed a deal to begin the transfer of power
- A major report on human rights in Bahrain has been published – and is analysed here by a Chatham House expert
- Syria remains in crisis
18.52 That brings us to the end of our live coverage of the Middle East today. See FT.com through the night for updates from Tahrir Square and analysis of what Saleh’s promise to depart means for Yemen. We’ll leave you with this exclusive analysis on the political implications of today’s report into abuses by Bahrain’s security forces from Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow in the Middle East and North Africa programme at the Chatham House think-tank (emphasis ours). Read more
With foreign intervention in Libya now formally over, after the UN vote yesterday, military strategists and diplomats are trying to make sense of the conflict. Here in Washington, there is a feeling that it was a “close run thing” (as Wellington once said of Waterloo). Military victories often take on the aura of inevitablity, after the event, but US officials are acutely aware how stretched the Nato alliance was by the Libyan war. Read more
Muammer Gaddafi’s end was destined to be bloody. A few months ago, when the rebels were struggling and their western backers were losing patience, he could have saved his skin and that of his children and fled into exile, with the consent of his Libyan opponents and their western backers.
Even the indictment by the International Criminal Court seemed, at least for a while, open for some compromise. Read more
Just a day after the visit to Tripoli by Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron, the Libyan National Transitional Council played host to another foreign leader – Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. The Brits and the French might have regarded it as a bit cheeky of Erdogan to roll up in Tripoli to try and bask in the success of the revolution, given that the Turkish prime minister had initially opposed Nato intervention. But the Turks saw it a bit differently. Some of the papers here in Istanbul reported that the British and the French leaders had rushed to Tripoli to upstage the Turkish prime minister. Erdogan himself seemed to see things this way, remarking sniffily – “We’ll see who gets the better reception.” Read more
Libya, the eurozone, and anti-corruption in India
In this week’s podcast: Libya – a week on from the fall of Gaddafi; the eurozone and the state of play as we come out of the summer break; and, an Indian hunger striker forces parliament to support his anti-corruption crusade. Read more
Is the world about to witness another epic manhunt? It took almost ten years to hunt down Osama bin Laden. The search for Saddam Hussein took nine months, during which the Iraqi insurrection took hold. The fear must be that if Colonel Gaddafi remains at large for too long, he too will be in a position to severely damage the new Libya. Read more
Gaddafi, gold, Gaza
In this week’s podcast: Is the conflict in Libya finally coming to an end? The world’s new craze for gold; and, Gaza, renewed violence dashes hopes for ceasefire. Read more
Watching Oana Lungescu on the BBC’s Newsnight last night, I was grimly amused by a slip of the tongue from NATO’s spokesperson. Colonel Gaddafi, she proclaimed, was now “part of Libya’s blood-spattered future, I mean past.”
An unfortunate slip, which I will forebear from calling “Freudian”. Still, it does raise the question – is Nato close to saying “mission accomplished” in Libya; or is western involvement only just beginning? Read more