Middle East

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(c) WEF

Holding the World Economic Forum in a ski resort in the Alps sounds like an eccentric decision. In fact, the choice of Davos as a location for the WEF is very clever. It is such a pain to get here that once the delegates are in Davos, they feel compelled to stay. If the WEF took place in a big city, there would be a lot more flitting in-and-out. Read more

  • Donetsk’s $1bn airport was supposed to showcase the country’s prosperity. Instead it has become a battleground, with airliners replaced by a relentless stream of rockets that have reduced the glass-fronted terminal to a skeleton of blasted concrete and warped steel
  • Houthi rebels who surrounded the residence of Yemen’s president have reached an agreement with authorities over constitutional change and power-sharing in the country. But who exactly are the Houthi and what do they want?
  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s new, $600m presidential palace is not merely symbolic of his move to increase his grip over government – with few constitutional checks and balances, it shows who is really in charge
  • Indonesia and Malaysia have often been put forward as examples of modern and moderate Muslim states, yet in both countries there are signs that tolerance is eroding and a more rigid interpretation of Islamic orthodoxy is taking shape
  • In Yemen, the world’s most dangerous jihadi group is both the government’s enemy and its ally of convenience (Foreign Policy)

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France has been through a traumatic period following a spate of terror attacks that killed 17 people, which led to a wave of demonstrations by millions of defiant citizens in response. In the latest edition of the FT World Weekly podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Hugh Carnegy, a former Paris bureau chief, and Michael Stothard, one of the FT correspondents who covered the aftermath of the attacks, to assess the wider impact of the events and discuss whether France can ward off the forces of polarisation.

  • Even before yesterday’s shooting, French authorities had warned of a big terrorist attack for months, their concern fuelled by large numbers of French recruits to Islamist groups in the Middle East
  • Having ended a long civil war and presided over an economic boom, Mahinda Rajapaksa expected to coast to a third term as president of Sri Lanka in today’s election. Instead, he faces a resurgent opposition
  • A new antibiotic that could take several decades for bacteria to develop resistance to is being developed through a public-private collaboration, amid repeated warnings about the dangers of growing resistance
  • Charlie Hebdo: its history, humor, and controversies, explained (Vox)
  • 23 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting (Buzzfeed)

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  • Large-scale intervention in the FX markets, limiting liquidity, further interest rate rises and capital controls are among the options that Russia’s central bank has to stem the rout in the rouble
  • Jeb Bush, the scion of a political dynasty who has declared his interest in running for president, faces a gulf between what the Republican base wants and what US floating voters will tolerate
  • Pope Francis was essential to breaking the deadlock between Cuba and the US that has lasted 50 years, initiating a discussion that led to the secret diplomacy behind the rapprochement
  • The brutal attacks in Peshawar have already backfired against the Pakistani Taliban (Foreign Policy)
  • Saudi cleric wants genders to mix and women to drive – but he is being attacked for it (Your Middle East)

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By Gideon Rachman
Every time Israel holds an election, it makes a point to the world and to itself. The country has suffered widespread condemnation for its military actions in Gaza. But it remains a lonely democracy in the Middle East.

  • Bahrain’s royal family has built up vast private wealth, including a $900m portfolio of UK real estate, after embarking on development projects on disputed reclaimed land in the Gulf kingdom, an FT investigation reveals
  • The prospect of Greece’s self-styled “radical left” Syriza party coming to power has sown panic among investors, but its leader has softened his rhetoric and is changing tactics to reassure the business community
  • Beneath the surface of gridlock and hyper-partisanship in US political life is a national security establishment whose influence endures administrations and constantly seems to evade constraints
  • Narendra Modi has not made many sweeping reforms since he stormed to India’s premiership in May. But he has made some reforms about sweeping – showing his feel for the issues that affect the masses outside the Delhi beltway
  • The extent of the UK’s military and political catastrophe in Afghanistan is hard to overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began, and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money, writes James Meek in the London Review of Books

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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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All smiles: foreign ministers of the six world powers at the nuclear talks in Vienna. Getty

The failure to meet this week’s deadline for a definitive nuclear deal between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (the US, UK, France, Russia and China, the permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) is ominous. True, the negotiations, already extended once after the interim agreement a year ago, have been given a new deadline of June next year. But musings of the glass half full, glass half empty variety under-represent just how difficult it will be now to close a deal, and how much is at stake if this chance to bring the Islamic Republic in from the cold slips away. Read more

US foreign policy after Chuck Hagel’s resignation
This week Chuck Hagel stepped down as US defence secretary at a time when doubts are growing about the administration’s ability to manage growing threats in the Middle East and Europe. Gideon Rachman discusses what the resignation means for American foreign policy with Geoff Dyer and Ed Luce.

  • 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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