Middle East

Donald Trump – would not rule out the idea of a database to track Muslims in America

Watching the debate on terrorism from the US this week has been a bizarre experience. The attacks took place in France – but it seems to be the US where the political demands for ever-tougher border controls are taking hold. On November 19th (Thursday), the House of Representatives passed the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act (SAFE – get it!) which would stop resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the US indefinitely. By contrast, President Hollande has just reaffirmed that France will take 30,000 Syrian refugees over the next two years. Read more

If Vladimir Putin is looking for a way out of his estrangement from the west over the Ukraine crisis, he sometimes has an odd way of showing it.

Two days after Russia’s president met his US counterpart Barack Obama at the UN Security Council last month and called for an international coalition to fight Islamist terrorism, Russia gave the US just one hour’s notice that it would launch air strikes in Syria. It delivered the message via a Russian general who turned up on the doorstep of the US embassy in Baghdad.

Addressing the annual Valdai Club conference on Thursday, Mr Putin reiterated his appeal for co-operation in Syria – but only after running through a typical litany of complaints about US policy and behaviour.

Yet this was a different Mr Putin from the sour figure who, at the same meeting with foreign journalists and academics a year ago, delivered arguably his bitterest anti-US diatribe since his combative “Munich speech” of 2007.

By shifting the military theatre from Ukraine to Syria – however big a gamble Russia’s military intervention there may be – Mr Putin seemed to feel he had seized the initiative. His acid wit and self-assurance were back. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
How long can a country that represents less than 5 per cent of the world’s population and 22 per cent of the global economy, remain the world’s dominant military and political power? That question is being asked with increasing urgency in the Middle East, eastern Europe and the Pacific Ocean.

Russia raises its profile in the Middle East
Russia has moved fighter jets, tanks and troops into a base in Syria, meanwhile Vladimir Putin, Russian president, is gearing up to make a major speech at the United Nations. What are the Russians up to? Gideon Rachman discusses this question with Neil Buckley and Geoff Dyer.

By Gideon Rachman
Muslims have replaced Hispanics as the focus of verbal attacks on the US campaign trail with Donald Trump shifting his anti-immigrant focus to people of the Islamic faith.

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

Yesterday a colleague asked me what I’m planning to write my next column about – “The migrant crisis”, I said. “Why are we calling them migrants”, he replied. “Why don’t we call them refugees?” It’s a good question and one that has been exercising many commentators. Al-Jazeera, for example, has already said that it will not use the word “migrant” since that implies a choice to move country. The correct term, they argue, is “refugee” – since most of the people on the move are in fear of their lives. David Miliband, the former British foreign secretary and now head of the International Rescue Committee, makes the same argument. He says that the word migrant “suggests these people are voluntarily fleeing, whereas in fact, if you’ve been barrel-bombed out of your home three times, life and limb demand that you flee.” The FT, however, is still running headlines about the “migrant crisis”. So are we wrong? I don’t think so. 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

Behind Turkey’s volte-face on Isis, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fishing for nationalist votes by tarring as terrorists the pro-Kurdish coalition, argues David Gardner

Something is rotten with the eurozone’s hideous restrictions on sovereignty, writes former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, in response to allegations he planned to hack Greece’s tax system 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.

  • 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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  • Angela Merkel is taking her revenge on Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras by insisting there can be no more talks on the country’s debt crisis until after its referendum on the bailout on Sunday
  • After China’s main stock index fell by 5 per cent yesterday, investors are blaming the share collapse on the securities regulator and the shadowy world of margin lending
  • An Egyptian soap opera set in a neighbourhood in old Cairo circa 1948 offers an empthatic portrayal of the Jewish community – and casts Islamists as the bad guys
  • Yes? No? Greek Voters Are Perplexed by a Momentous Referendum (New York Times)
  • In Ramadi, the Islamic State settles in, fixing roads and restoring electricity (Washington Post)

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There are drawbacks to being a satirist from a deeply authoritarian state. Exile is a frequent consequence. But it has its advantages.

“I’m really blessed as an Iranian comedian,” Kambiz Hosseini told the audience of democrats, dissidents and defectors who gathered this week in Norway for the annual Oslo Freedom Forum (or “Davos for dissidents”). “There’s no shortage of material for me.” Read more

A view of the ancient city of Palmyra Getty

By Sam al-Refaie

Palmyra: the pearl of the desert. Every Syrian citizen has mixed feelings about this city. It is a symbol of the Syrians’ historic strength and of their queen, Zenobia, who rebelled against the Roman Empire. But it is also the city that held the dreadful prison in which the Assads, father and son, detained all of those suspected of having political opinions that didn’t suit their regime. Read more

The birch forests and heaths across Estonia are echoing with gunfire, explosions and the heavy crump of artillery as the tiny Baltic state holds the largest war games of its independent history

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma is mired in scandals that have tarnished his and the ANC’s reputation, as a recent wave of xenophobic violence puts his record under fresh scrutiny

South Korea is facing a dilemma over Jehovah’s Witnesses, who conscientiously object to military service but have hope of a softening judicial stance towards their boycott

A team of Syrian investigators have risked their lives to collect secret government documents that provide evidence of war crimes by Bashar al-Assad and his regime. Will an international court ever hear their cases? (Guardian)

The most surprising event of this political era is what hasn’t happened. The world has not turned left despite the financial crisis and widening inequality, writes David Brooks in the New York Times  Read more

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (Getty)

Over the past few weeks I’ve asked several western officials whether Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen signalled a fundamental change in Riyadh’s behaviour. Should we expect a far more aggressive kingdom under recently installed King Salman, or is Yemen a one-off war to blow off steam? Are we facing a new Saudi Arabia?

The answer has been consistent: we don’t know yet.

Early this morning, at the curious hour of 4 am Riyadh time, King Salman went some way towards providing an answer. In a bombshell announcement, he sacked crown prince Muqrin, who had been close to the late King Abdullah, and elevated Muqrin’s deputy, the security-minded interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef, to crown prince. More importantly – and controversially – he appointed his favourite son, the young Mohammed bin Salman, as next in line for the throne after bin Nayef. 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.

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EU officials have come under renewed pressure to take action against flotillas of migrants from Africa following the deaths of more than 1,000 people during attempted Mediterranean crossings over the past week alone.

A massive search and rescue operation remains underway to find survivors among the wreckage of a ship thought to be loaded with more than 800 migrants which capsized over the weekend off the coast of Libya, potentially representing the worst maritime disaster of its type in the Med. Only 27 of those on board have been rescued.

The migrant deaths have shone a spotlight on Libya’s lucrative people smuggling industry. While the human cargo consists mainly of young men from Africa and the Middle East, more than 900 children also embarked on the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2015.

In the aftermath of Libya’s bloody civil war, business is booming for the people traffickers. These figures illustrate why. Read more

  • Despite being accused of naivety in his foreign policy, Barack Obama is showing qualities associated with Henry Kissinger – the arch-realist of US diplomacy, writes Ed Luce
  • Whether by design or accident, Athen’s Syriza-led government has achieved deep European harmony – but this has not produced agreement on a strategy for dealing with the Greek crisis
  • Dubai is hoping to be a bridgehead for deals with Iran as international investors prepare for a gold rush with the prospect of an end to nuclear sanctions in sight
  • Secret files from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) show how former officials under Saddam Hussein helped design a blueprint for the militant jihadi group’s meteoric rise (Spiegel Online)
  • Who or what abdicated power in Grimsby, once the largest fishing port in the world and now a target for the UK Independence party, leaving swathes of it to rot? (London Review of Books)

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