Friday’s events from the World Economic Forum feature an address by Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, and sessions looking at the challenges faced by, and presented by, the fast-changing Arab world. Reports from FT writers in Davos and by Ben Fenton, Lina Saigol and Lindsay Whipp in London
17.03: The Davos Live Blog is closing down now but for more reading and insight on today’s events, please visit the FT’s in depth page on the World Economic Forum.
16.41: Gideon Rachman, titular proprietor of this blog, has written his surmise from the earlier session on Syria.
16.16: Asked by the Amercian moderator of his panel session about corruption and banking regulation, Nigeria’s central bank governor Sanusi displays a little frustration:
He said: “We are the only country which has taken people out of banks and put them in jail. No bankers in your countries have gone to jail.”
16.12: Martin Wolf has recorded his view on the politics and economics at play in a “low-intensity” Davos this year:
By Gideon Rachman
In their second terms, many American presidents decide to strut the global stage. Richard Nixon had his overture to China. Bill Clinton became obsessed by the Middle East peace process. George W. Bush was embroiled in the Middle East war process.
It’s too early to pass judgment, said William Hague, British foreign secretary, about Algeria’s handling of the worse hostage crisis in decades. And he might be right.
It is not easy for western governments to strike the right balance between criticism of the Algerian assault on the In Amenas gas plant and the ensuring bloodbath, and the need to appear tough and determined in combating terrorism.
But questions about whether Algeria’s military moved too rapidly on the offensive when jihadi militants took one of the country’s vital gas facilities will have to be asked by governments and by the families of those who died.
Islamist militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar. (AFP/Getty)
A breach of the security at gas and oil installations was the Algerian regime’s nightmare back in the 1990s, when the country was wracked by an Islamist insurgency.
Under intense financial pressure at the time, and desperate to attract foreign investment into its energy sector, installations in the southern part of the country were heavily guarded exclusion zones that seemed a world apart from the heavily populated north.
There are two Algerias, people would say at the time, one soaked in blood, the other peaceful and bursting with oil and gas.
A French army officer stands guard on January 16, 2013 at the military airbase in Bamako (ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)
How justified was France’s decision to intervene in Mali and seek to thwart the advance of the Islamist militants inside the country?
Nearly one week after President François Hollande ordered military action, the question is one which is beginning to reverberate in media commentary. The French have been clear that they need to go into Mali to stop the spread of an al-Qaeda linked movement that has a significant foothold in the country and might ultimately threaten the west. But some figures in the US administration clearly have doubts about the wisdom of the move.
The biggest concerns have been raised in an article in Thursday’s New York Times. The NYT says US officials have only an “impressionistic understanding” of the militant groups that have established a safe haven in Mali. It suggests that some US officials wonder how much of an external threat they pose. The NYT quotes Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, who last June played down the terrorist threat to the United States from Mali. He said that the al-Qaeda affiliate operating there “has not demonstrated the capability to threaten U.S. interests outside of West or North Africa, and it has not threatened to attack the U.S. homeland.”
The French intervention in Mali
Why has France intervened militarily in Mali and what is at stake? William Wallis, Africa editor; Hugh Carnegy, Paris bureau chief, and Xan Rice, FT correspondent in west Africa, join Gideon Rachman.
I just did a quick Google search to see if the French are already talking of Mali as a potential quagmire and – yes indeed – there are several pages worth of references to “le bourbier Malien” (bourbier being the evocative French word for quagmire.)
It is easy to see why they are worried. The early air strikes have already given way to military action on the ground. As Hugh Carnegy, our Paris bureau chief explained to me for my World Weekly podcast, the French have a three-stage strategy. First, stop the rebel advance. Second, re-take the north of the country. Third, leave behind a stable country.
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.