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 >>
With protests now into their second week in Hong Kong, many are asking what it will now take to get the city back to normal. While schools and government offices are back open, many key roads in three of Hong Kong’s main business districts remain behind the barricades. Though protester numbers have dwindled, previous efforts to remove them have merely served as a rallying cry. So what’s the likely endgame? Read more >>
By Gideon Rachman
Is Vladimir Putin a wimp? The Russian president has a macho image and has shocked the west with his annexation of Crimea. But, in Moscow, there are hardliners who seem frustrated that he has not gone further.
The similarities are many: a former British colony, a population ruled by a political party that’s been in power for about half a century, a postage-stamp sized land mass and a big Asian financial centre that is attracting global capital.
Singapore and Hong Kong share much in common. But this weekend the big difference is that Singapore’s streets are quiet, with traffic flowing as normal, while Hong Kong is on edge as the Occupy movement mobilises masses of protesters against widely unpopular electoral arrangements foisted on its people by Beijing.
Singapore, a tightly governed island nation, has been watching closely what has been happening over the past week in Hong Kong. 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 >>
The 115 members of the International Olympics Committee, the self-appointed “supreme authority” of the Olympic movement, seem to leave nothing to chance when it comes to their own personal comfort.
Should Norway have been chosen to host the 2022 Winter Games, IOC executives were expecting a formal reception on the runway at Oslo airport, then to be whisked along dedicated lanes through a city in which locals had been “encouraged to take a vacation” to limit the traffic, say local media. Read more >>
Abubakar Shekau has been killed and resurrected so many times now he is using up his proverbial nine lives .
The leader of Nigeria’s Boko Haram extremists appeared on Thursday in a fresh video released to the French news agency AFP, declaring the border areas with Cameroon as “Muslim territory” and boasting that only Allah could take his breath away. Read more >>
Hong Kong’s political crisis
The scale and persistence of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have taken many by surprise. Gideon Rachman is joined by David Pilling, Asia bureau chief, and Tom Mitchell, Beijing correspondent, to discuss the crisis and China’s response.
European Central Bank president Mario Draghi is set to reveal details of an ambitious plan to buy hundreds of billions of euros of repackaged debt in order to kick-start bank lending. The ECB’s monthly press conference, held in Naples, Italy, takes place against a backdrop of growing concern about economic stagnation as growth in the eurozone stutters to a halt.
By Ralph Atkins and Claer Barrett