Iran-Saudi split damps hopes for regional conflict resolution
The year has begun with a sharp deterioration in the relationship between the two major powers in the Gulf region: Iran and Saudi Arabia. Gideon Rachman is joined by Roula Khalaf, foreign editor, and Geoff Dyer, Washington correspondent, to discuss the regional implications of the dispute.

Melchoir waves to the crowd

It is hard to escape politics in Spain these days, but the controversy sparked by Madrid’s much-loved Cabalgata de los Reyes parade came as a surprise all the same.

Every year, on the night before the January 6 feast of Epiphany, the three kings make a triumphant entry into the Spanish capital, at the end of a vast procession that snakes its way down the Castellana boulevard. By tradition, the Cabalgata parade offers up a peculiar blend of the religious (the kings), the commercial (company-sponsored floats with popular cartoon figures), the military (the Spanish cavalry), the agricultural (geese) and the circus (elephants and camels).

Tens of thousands line the route, hoping to catch a glimpse of the kings – and to pick up their share of the thousands of kilos of sweets that are thrown into the crowd. For children, it is the highlight of Spain’s festive calendar, made more exciting still by the knowledge that there is only one more night to go until they can unwrap their Christmas presents.

This year’s Cabalgata, however, was subtly different. Madrid elected a new mayor last year, ending more than two decades of rule by the conservative Popular party. The new chief is Manuela Carmena, a veteran left-wing judge and activist, who led an alliance of leftist groups to victory in May. Though not a member of Podemos, she is a close ally of Spain’s anti-austerity movement. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
When judging forecasts about 2016, beware of the “continuity bias”. This is the temptation to assume that this year will be a bit like last year — only more so. In fact, recent political history suggests that the events that define a year tend to be the big surprises and sudden discontinuities (call them “black swans” or “unknown unknowns”, if you must).

By Gideon Rachman
In 2015, a sense of unease and foreboding seemed to settle on all the world’s major power centres. From Beijing to Washington, Berlin to Brasília, Moscow to Tokyo — governments, media and citizens were jumpy and embattled.

You know the news, so what do you read next? Here’s a roundup of useful comment and analysis from around the FT and the rest of the web. Read more

Albert Rivera, Ciudadanos party leader

The political headlines in Europe this year have all been about the rise of the political extremes. The National Front surged in France, the Law and Justice Party took power in Poland, the Alternative for Deutschland saw a revival in Germany – and Britain’s Labour Party chose a new leader from its far-left fringes.

The elections in Spain on December 20th, however, offer an interesting contrast to this trend. One of the big stories of the campaign has been the rise of a centrist, liberal party called Ciudadanos. If the polls are to be believed, the ruling centre-right People’s Party (PP) is likely to emerge as the largest single group after Sunday’s vote. But the new party (“Citizens” in English) will be in a close battle for second place with the Socialists and Podemos, a radical left party. Even if Ciudadanos comes in fourth, the party’s position in the political centre-ground could mean that it holds the balance of power. Read more

Repub

The Republican White House contenders took the stage at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas for their fifth and final presidential debate of 2015. With 56 days to go before the first caucus is held in Iowa, Donald Trump looked to have kept his lead in the national polls despite his call to ban Muslims from entering the US. Mr Trump faced a fresh challenger in Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who has displaced Ben Carson as the property mogul’s closest rival. Jake Grovum, US social media journalist, and Emiliya Mychasuk, US Online News Editor, curated the reaction to the debate from the FT’s Washington bureau and political watchers on social media.
 

Has the rise of France’s National Front been halted?
France’s far-right National Front failed to win control of any regions in this weekend’s elections, but its performance was strong enough to shock the mainstream parties. Gideon Rachman asks Anne-Sylvaine Chassany and Hugh Carnegy how worried they should be about 2017′s presidential elections.

Monday night’s pre-election television debate between Mariano Rajoy and Pedro Sánchez was laden with anachronisms – from the look of the studio to the moderator’s opening remarks and the overly rigid format.

Perhaps the most peculiar throwback, however, was the decision to invite only the Spanish prime minister and the leader of the Socialist opposition. As the two men engaged in their ill-tempered two-hour duel, the absence of two other party leaders – Pablo Iglesias of Podemos and Albert Rivera of Ciudadanos – was palpable. Read more

By Gideon Rachman
The relative strengths of nationalism and internationalism were tested in France over the weekend. And this time the internationalists came out ahead. In Paris, Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, was able to bring down his flashy green gavel and announce that almost 200 nations had agreed a climate change deal.

Brazil’s political quagmire
Brazil’s economy is shrinking, President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity is at an all time low and now opposition politicians have begun impeachment proceedings against her. Gideon Rachman asks John Paul Rathbone and Joe Leahy what this means for the country and whether things can get any worse?

By Gideon Rachman
Something is changing in the west’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. You can read it in the newspapers. You can hear it from politicians. And you can see it in shifts in policy.

By Gideon Rachman
When the House of Commons set out to debate military intervention in the Middle East this week, the technical issue at stake was whether the UK should extend its bombing of Isis from Iraq into Syria.


Mario Draghi has announced further measures to stimulate the eurozone economy after the central bank revised downwards its inflation projections. However, the measures seem to have disappointed market participants who were expecting even bolder steps.

Key developments

  • ECB’s inflation projections revised downwards

  • Deposit rate cut to -0.30%

  • QE extended until at least March 2017

  • The size of asset purchase programme remains unchanged

  • Local government bonds added to programme for the first time

  • Markets generally disappointed by lack of more stimulative measures

  • FT correction: Report on the ECB

By Sarah O’Connor and Ferdinando Guigliano

 

There are many moving parts in Brazil’s crisis, all of them deeply entwined, and none of them travelling in the right direction. The economy is suffering its worst recession since the 1930s. Congress is gripped by the so-called Lava Jato probe into Petrobras’s giant corruption scandal – a Senator was arrested last week. And now proceedings have opened to impeach the President, Dilma Rousseff. Can it get any worse? The short answer is: yes.

The proximate reason for Rousseff’s possible impeachment is the charge that her government fiddled the 2014 public accounts – normally a technical issue. But the reason why the proceedings have been launched now is pure politics. Read more

Kurdish Peshmerga forces detain suspected members of Isis on November 16

What should we call the world’s deadliest terrorist group? Should it be Isil, Isis, Islamic state, so-called Islamic State, or Daesh?

Like other news organisations, we at the Financial Times have debated which name to use and whether it matters. Politicians too have grappled with the question. France has settled on Daesh. David Cameron, British prime minister, now recommends the same.

 Read more

What hope for the Paris climate talks?
How much progress is likely at this week’s global talks on combating climate change? Gideon Rachman discusses the prospects for agreement on reducing carbon emissions with Michael Stothard and Martin Sandbu.

How is Mariano Rajoy, Spain’s centre-right prime minister, planning to win re-election when voters elect a new legislature on December 20? Read more

By Gideon Rachman
I have a nightmare vision for the year 2017: President Trump, President Le Pen, President Putin.
Like most nightmares, this one probably won’t come true. But the very fact that Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen are running strongly for the American and French presidencies says something disturbing about the health of liberal democracy in the west. In confusing and scary times, voters seem tempted to turn to “strong” nationalistic leaders — western versions of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

The latest round of global talks on climate change, dubbed COP21, begins today in Paris. Environmental campaigners want leaders to agree on emissions cuts, with the goal of limiting temperature increases to 2C.

However, prospects of a deal remain uncertain, in part because rich and poorer nations are struggling to agree on how those cuts should be paid for. Developing countries believe that those who have already become wealthy on the back of burning fossil fuels should shoulder most of the financial burden.

Key developments

Read our bluffer’s guide to the talks here.