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

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  • Owning a top English football club used to be every tycoon’s dream, but five stalled sales this summer suggest the asset appears to have lost some of its lustre
  • Fears are growing that Ukraine’s Right Sector, the only big volunteer battalion Kiev has not brought under regular army control, could turn its fire on the government itself
  • The desire to avoid a power struggle within the Taliban and the Pakistan military’s push for peace talks in Afghanistan explain the silence around the death of Mullah Omar, writes Ahmed Rashid
  • Ankara is organizing Syrian rebels for an assault on the Islamic State’s last stronghold along the Turkish border and could even use its warplanes to support their advance (Foreign Policy)
  • Rohingya female migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar seeking to escape turmoil and poverty are often tricked or forced into marriages to pay smugglers for their freedom (New York Times)

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Turkey steps up its battle on terror
Nato allies have welcomed Turkey’s decision to step up its fight against Isis. But its decision to include Kurdish opponents as the target of its attacks is causing some to question Ankara’s true motives. Siona Jenkins discusses Turkey’s strategy with Daniel Dombey and Alex Barker.

Turkey’s dramatic change of direction
Turkey’s dramatic election results have set back the political ambitions and increasingly personalised rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Gideon Rachman discusses what this means for the country’s future with Daniel Dombey and David Gardner.

A blizzard of anti-western conspiracy theories has hit Turkey in recent months.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month suggested that the western forces who invaded the Gallipoli peninsula during the first world war still wanted to make the country a second Andalusia — the Spanish region that Christians reconquered from Muslims.

Other recent theories in the pro-government press include the idea that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a foreign “project” intended to foil the rise of Turkey. So too were the 2013 anti-government protests and a subsequent corruption investigation into Mr Erdogan’s circle.

Some analysts say Mr Erdogan’s rhetoric is an attempt to shore up the nationalist vote ahead of critical elections in Turkey on June 7 — the run-up to which has become increasingly tense. Read more

Vladimir Putin with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban

In the West, Vladimir Putin is often viewed as something of an international pariah. Shift your perspective, however, and it is quite striking how many international friends, the Russian president has cultivated.

Mr Putin, who enjoys posing bare-chested, is particularly good at making friends with other “strongmen”. His roster of special friends include Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the president of Egypt, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, and Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa. This week, Mr Putin has also been demonstrating that he is capable of finding pals even inside the “enemy camp” – the European Union. The EU may have imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, but that has not stopped Viktor Orban, the prime minister of Hungary – and another self-styled strongman – from rolling out the red carpet for Mr Putin. Read more

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is hoping to further strenghten his AK party's representation in parliamentary elections

It sounds like the guest list for a high-profile dinner party but it could be the future of Turkish democracy.

In the last few days a host of prominent Turks, including the country’s spy chief, the head of its stock exchange, several university heads, top civil servants and the chief of the country’s wrestling federation have all resigned their posts, paving their way to stand in June 7 parliamentary elections.

It is striking that so many people from so many walks of life – many at the pinnacle of their careers – should ditch their jobs to have a bash at electoral politics. The vast majority are thought to be aiming to run for the ruling AK party. 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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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas shake hands in front of 16 soldiers in historic garb at the presidential palace in Ankara (Getty)

The average foreign dignitary visiting Ankara might not expect to encounter an honour guard of 16 men resembling extras from a sword and sandals epic and lining the staircase of a gargantuan presidential palace.

So when Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, was confonted this week by the spectacle of the 16 soldiers in historic Turkic garb, even some Turkish officials confessed they initially thought the resulting images were the work of photoshop.

It was one of the more surreal sights to emerge from Turkey in recent times and has led to much hilarity on social media. But there was a point and purpose to the unusual costumes and their appearance may contain clues to Turkey’s direction of travel under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mr Abbas’s host and the country’s paramount leader. Read more

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  • After a bitter election campaign in which she eschewed market economics and painted her main opponent’s party as bloodsucking bankers, Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff is now adopting the more orthodox economic policies of her defeated rival
  • The “disappearance” and presumed murder of 43 students in Mexico, along with claims of impropriety surrounding president Enrique Peña Nieto, has raised doubts over his ability to deliver much-needed reform
  • Asia cannot replace the west as a source of financing for Russia’s sanctions-hit economy, according to a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, who downplayed Moscow’s attempt to pivot east as Russian companies seek to refinance $40bn in debts maturing this year
  • Turkey must continue the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers Party to prevent sectarian and ethnic bloodshed from spilling over from neighbouring Syria
  • A landmark climate change deal will cut China’s emissions for more than a decade and it is going to be tough for the US to meet its requirements. But it is a good start (Foreign Policy)

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The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has thrust the plight of the Kurdish people into the spotlight. But who exactly are the Kurds and how will their responses to increasing instability define the future of the Middle Eastern region?

Who are the Kurds? Read more

Turkey’s role in the war against Isis
Gideon Rachman is joined by David Gardner and Daniel Dombey to discuss Turkey’s role in the unfolding war against the jihadist movement Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Does Turkey share western war aims or is the government of President Erdogan more interested in crushing the Kurdish movements that are fighting Isis?

For a country that so recently harboured ambitions as a great regional power, Turkey is offering an unedifyingly feeble spectacle on its border with Syria, as the merciless fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) close in on the besieged Kurdish town of Kobani. This could be a defining moment for the Turkey of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the man who has dominated its politics like no other since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who forged the republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

Despite President Erdogan’s regional swagger, and Turkey’s possession of the second largest army in Nato, the country’s neo-Islamist leadership appear unwilling or unable to prevent a bloodbath at Kobani happening within sight of their tanks. This refusal to act could also sabotage an Erdogan legacy project of a peace settlement with Turkey’s large Kurdish minority, a probable casualty of Kobani as Kurds rise across the region in fury that Ankara is not just watching the town’s defenders being massacred by the jihadi fanatics of Isis but obstructing others trying to aid them. Read more

Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the Turkish parliament

Turkey’s parliament has just voted to authorise the army to use force in Syria and Iraq, the dismembered countries to its south where the jihadi extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have declared a caliphate that is menacing Turkish borders.

Criticised abroad for sitting on the sidelines of the emerging coalition against Isis, and at home for a neo-Ottoman foreign policy that has placed Turkey at loggerheads with almost all its neighbours, Thursday’s vote is being hailed by some as a watershed – Ankara’s return to the bosom of Nato, with which Turkey has been allied for more than six decades.

Yet, rather than a clear-cut decision, this looks like more of a complicated juggling act by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who became Turkey’s first directly elected president in August after being prime minister for more than a decade, during which he has left a clear but messy imprint on Turkish policy in the Middle East. Read more

A spike in the cost of government borrowing is raising the spectre of Venezuela defaulting on its more than $80bn of sovereign debt

Italy’s anti-euro, anti-immigrant Northern League party is seizing on the Scottish referendum to relaunch calls for secession of the north of Italy

A meeting between the leaders of China and India next week underscores the slow thaw in the countries’ relations as their economic links strengthen

Isis is recruiting in Istanbul‘s impoverished suburbs, often through religious study groups, to boost its ranks of fighters and populate its self-declared caliphate. Read more

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