Tunisia is a small country with a population of just less than 11m. But it has played a big role in the upheavals that have shaken the Middle East.
It was in Tunisia that the popular uprisings against autocracy that became known as the “Arab spring” began in December 2010, setting an example that shook the region.
Zine el-Abidene Ben-Ali, Tunisian president, became the first autocrat to be toppled when he fled the country in January 2011. Mr Ben-Ali’s fall helped to electrify the rest of the Arab world as slogans and ideas that had first appeared in Tunisia spread to countries such as Egypt, Libya, Syria and Bahrain.
Four years later, Tunisia is still important — but for different, sadder reasons. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
“American and Chinese presidents do not really know how to talk to each other. They are like computers running on different operating systems.” That was the verdict once offered to me by a US official, who has watched many US-China summits from close quarters.
Who would be a political pollster in Singapore? It is perhaps unsurprising that they are pretty much redundant in Singapore, where every election since the Southeast Asian nation’s independence 50 years ago has been won resoundingly by the People’s Action party . Read more
Flexibility is a prized trait for leaders in a world of uncertainty, constant change, and unpredictable competition. So it is hardly surprising that leaders should seek the same flexibility from their own staff.
Administering such a system of shorter-term or temporary contractors is ostensibly easy, using shift-management software that matches hours required to hours on offer. The economic advantages look attractive.
But if companies treat temporary workers as factors in an equation rather than as individuals, they will undermine the benefits of a less rigid labour system. It is training that will make the difference between a flexible but durable approach, which is of mutual benefit to employer and employee, and one that eventually disadvantages both company and worker.
Keep an eye on Transnistria, the pro-Russian breakaway state in Moldova. On Monday, Dmitri Trenin, one of Russia’s best-known foreign policy analysts and a man with good Kremlin antennae, tweeted: “Growing concern in Moscow that Ukraine and Moldova will seek to squeeze Transnistria hard, provoking conflict with Russia.” On Tuesday, a columnist in the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper warned that Russia “seriously faces the prospect of a repeat of the  situation” – when it went to war with Georgia – “this time around Transnistria”.
What sparked the tensions was a May 21 vote in Ukraine’s parliament to suspend military co-operation with Russia. That included a 1995 agreement giving Russia military transit rights across Ukraine to reach Transnistria, which borders Ukraine’s Odessa region. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
It is half-time in the match between the US justice system and Fifa. In the first half, the Americans took a shock early lead, with the unexpected arrest of several of Fifa’s leading players. But world football’s governing body struck back with a defiant equaliser — re-electing its discredited president, Sepp Blatter.
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
If you think that getting fast-track authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements is hard, just wait for the deal that it is designed to pass.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan and 10 other economies in Asia and Latin America has run into a barrage of criticism. Some of it is probably justified; some of it is not. The problem is that we don’t really know.
The governments involved, and particularly the US administration, have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the negotiating texts secret. Even senators and congressmen are only allowed to look at them in a secure location without taking away notes.
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
The city of Baltimore is in lock-down after a night of riots and violent clashes between police and protesters that followed the funeral of a black man who died in custody.
In scenes that marked the latest episode of unrest over the treatment of African Americans by police, shops were looted, cars torched and 15 officers injured by youths who threw bottles and rocks.
While the convulsions reignited the debate about police behaviour towards ethnic minorities in the US, some commentators have pointed to the city’s high levels of deprivation and inequality as underlying causes of the outbursts.
These charts show the ethnic composition of Baltimore and shed light on some of its socio-economic problems. 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.
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
The scramble by European countries to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is a powerful symbol of the eastward shift of global power
Soldiers of fortune from apartheid-era South Africa that inspired the Hollywood thriller ‘Blood Diamond’ are starring in Nigeria’s attempt to flush out Boko Haram terrorists
Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen’s civil conflict has turned up the heat on a simmering cold war between regional Sunni Arab states and their Shia rival, Iran
If the cries of ‘Je suis Charlie’ were sincere, the western world would be convulsed with worry and anger about the Wallström affair, argues Nick Cohen (The Spectator)
Chad’s strongman president, Idriss Déby, says Nigeria is absent in the fight against Boko Haram as Chadian troops defend Nigerian territory from the extremists (New York Times) Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The story of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is turning into a diplomatic debacle for the US. By setting up and then losing a power struggle with China, Washington has sent an unintended signal about the drift of power and influence in the 21st century.