Syria

Broken-hearted by Brexit, thousands of Britons are applying, or thinking of applying, for citizenship in another EU country. All I can say is, unless you have recently won the BBC television quiz shows Mastermind or University Challenge, forget Denmark.

According to Inger Støjberg, Denmark’s integration minister, more than two-thirds of the first batch of foreign applicants who took a new Danish citizenship test in June have failed the exam. Only 31.2 per cent passed, she announced on Tuesday. Take a look at some of the questions, and you will see why most people have flunked the test. Read more

Iraq and Syria fall apart
Iraq and Syria are coming apart, divided into warring factions that seem unable to reach an accommodation. Gideon Rachman talks to FT Middle East experts David Gardner and Erika Solomon about fading hopes for peace and what this means for the fight against Isis.

By Gideon Rachman

Last week, as President Obama entertained the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner and Britain indulged in a bizarre debate about whether Hitler was a Zionist, more than 200 people were killed in a brutal bombardment of Aleppo. The breakdown of Syria’s fragile ceasefire promises yet more suffering in a five-year long war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and created millions of refugees.

 

What are we to make of President Barack Obama’s on-the-record criticism of the role of UK Prime Minister David Cameron over Libya? I would make four points. First, Mr Obama is trying to protect himself from criticism. Second, broadly speaking, Mr Obama is right. Third, that said, it is not clear that there were good alternatives in Libya that Mr Cameron somehow failed to embrace. Fourth, the larger context is US exasperation and alarm at the decline of Europeans as effective security partners in the Middle East and elsewhere. Read more

Some of the thousands of refugees and migrants queuing at the Greek-Macedonian border

Rarely has the EU needed Turkey so badly. And rarely has Turkey looked like such an unattractive partner.

The EU’s strategy to end its “migrant crisis” hinges on an effort to persuade Turkey to stop the flow of would-be refugees heading from Turkish shores to Greece. That plan will be the focus of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels on March 7th. So it is particularly unfortunate that the Turkish government should have chosen the days before the summit to raid and effectively take over the country’s largest opposition news group in an apparent bid to end its critical coverage of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Russia’s foreign policy resurgence
Russian air power has changed the course of the civil war in Syria and its annexation of Crimea remains largely unchallenged. Gideon Rachman talks to Neil Buckley, FT East Europe editor, and Sam Jones, defence and security editor, about Russia’s renewed confidence on the global stage and whether this is justified.

Sergei Lavrov and John Kerry in Munich

The situation in Syria is so horrific that it is tempting to grasp at any straw. The news that world powers have agreed a route to the declaration of a ceasefire, in a week’s time, may be just such a straw. Of course, any prospect of a stop to the killing has to be welcomed. Yet, at the same time, there are obvious grounds for scepticism, based both on the details of the agreement and on the record of the parties involved – above all, the Russians. There are many difficult conditions to be fulfilled, before the ceasefire would come into force. The likelihood that some of these conditions will not be met would give Russia a giant loophole to justify the continuation of its bombing campaign in and around Aleppo. And, unfortunately, the record suggests that Russia is very good at dragging the west into negotiations – as cover for its continued military campaign. Read more

What happens if Aleppo falls?
Syrian government forces backed by Russian air power are on the brink of encircling the northern city of Aleppo, a stronghold of the moderate rebels in what could prove to be a decisive moment in Syria’s murderous civil war. Ben Hall discusses the implications with Erika Solomon, FT Middle East correspondent, and Geoff Dyer, FT US diplomatic correspondent.

Paris atrocity exposes European security shortcomings
The Paris terror attacks have exposed Europe’s security and intelligence shortcomings and fulfilled officials’ worst fears about blow back from Syria’s bloody civil war. Ben Hall discusses the attacks and their implications with Sam Jones, defence and security editor, and Roula Khalaf, foreign editor.

Key points

  • The investigation into last week’s attacks spread across borders, with arrests in Germany as it emerged French police are hunting for not one but two surviving attackers.

  • France carries out fresh air strikes on the Syrian city of Raqqa overnight

  • Russia also steps up its air campaign as the Kremlin announces it has doubled the number of aircraft carrying out strikes against Isis in Syria.

  • Russia’s FSB says it has proof the Russian plane that crashed in Egypt last month was brought down by a bomb.

By Josh Noble, Mark Odell, John Murray Brown and Rob Minto

 

By Gideon Rachman
In the 1930s, the Spanish civil war sucked in outsiders, with Nazi Germany backing the nationalists, the Soviet Union backing the Republicans and foreign idealists flocking to the country to fight on either side of the conflict.

George W Bush famously said that he had looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and “got a sense of his soul”. Maybe he did – for the former US and current Russian presidents are beginning to look like soulmates, when it comes to the idea of a “war on terror”. Like President Bush, President Putin has decided to deploy his country’s military in the Middle East, as part of a war on terrorism. And like President Bush, the Russian leader has argued that he is engaged in a struggle on behalf of the whole civilised world, while appealing for global support. 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

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

  • Palestinian leaders and activists have welcomed the re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as a propaganda victory that will strengthen their case for international recognition
  • An account of the fall from grace of a Ukrainian oligarch, removed from his regional governor post by Kiev over fears that he had become too powerful
  • The European Commission plans to reboot its digital market reforms with measures to abolish mobile roaming fees, end ‘geoblocking’ of online video and change copyright rules
  • As Iran and Hezbollah try to drive back rebel fighters in southern Syria, they threaten to spur a larger conflict in one of the Middle East’s most volatile regions (Foreign Policy)
  • It’s fine to be gay on Japanese TV — if you’re outlandish and outrageous (Washington Post)

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Despite a collective show of mourning for the assassinated opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, the prospects for Russia’s anti-Putin movement remain bleak

In one of his last interviews days before he was murdered, Boris Nemtsov told the FT that Russia had become a “country of war, of humiliated, hypnotised people” and that Putin had “brought Nazism into politics”

The egregious anomaly of the non-dom status, where the wealthiest enjoy the privilege of UK residency without paying their fair dues to the exchequer, should be scrapped, says the FT

Anatomy of a Killing: How Shaimaa al-Sabbagh Was Shot Dead at a Cairo Protest (Vice News)

‘Jihadi John’: a graduate of my radical London university, a place where extremism can fester and Islamist views were prevalent (Washington Post) Read more

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.

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The US and its allies are at war with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. ISIS is at war with the Syrian government. So does that mean that the West is now in alliance with the Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad? Logic would suggest that – objectively speaking – this must be the case. Talk to western officials, however, and you are told a much more complicated and confusing story. Read more

  • Relations between Beijing and Tokyo are at a 40-year low amid territorial disputes and rising nationalist rhetoric, but with the leaders set to meet, can they do anything to ease tensions?
  • Catalans will turn out on Sunday to cast votes on the region’s independence despite Spanish courts suspending the ballot, said a leading grassroots activist who called for unity in the separatist movement
  • After mass protests in Taiwan earlier this year against perceived moves towards closer ties with China, Beijing’s plan to lure back Tapei into its embrace risks backfiring
  • Myanmar has given its Rohingya minority a dispiriting choice: prove your family has lived here for more than 60 years and qualify for second-class citizenship, or be placed in camps and face deportation, reports NYT
  • A chilling video dispatch by Vice on the creeping presence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) in Lebanon

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