King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (Getty)
Over the past few weeks I’ve asked several western officials whether Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen signalled a fundamental change in Riyadh’s behaviour. Should we expect a far more aggressive kingdom under recently installed King Salman, or is Yemen a one-off war to blow off steam? Are we facing a new Saudi Arabia?
The answer has been consistent: we don’t know yet.
Early this morning, at the curious hour of 4 am Riyadh time, King Salman went some way towards providing an answer. In a bombshell announcement, he sacked crown prince Muqrin, who had been close to the late King Abdullah, and elevated Muqrin’s deputy, the security-minded interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef, to crown prince. More importantly – and controversially – he appointed his favourite son, the young Mohammed bin Salman, as next in line for the throne after bin Nayef. 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
Two Israeli men carry their babies after they were repatriated from Nepal. (Getty)
When a jumbo jet from Kathmandu landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport just after noon on Tuesday, the Israelis evacuated from the stricken city included 18 Israeli infants in the care of medical staff.
The tiny evacuees were among 26 babies Israel has airlifted out since Sunday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal – including two prematurely born infants still attached to equipment needed to keep them alive. The infants were born to surrogate mothers in Nepal and claimed by relieved gay and single parents unable to arrange surrogate births in Israel because of a restrictive local surrogacy law. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Google regularly tops the list of companies that students want to work for and, visiting its Silicon Valley campus last week, I could see why. The skies were blue, the temperature was perfect. A group of employees was playing volleyball, while out in the car-park somebody was demonstrating a prototype of a self-driving Google car.
Poland’s prime minister called them a “provocation” that could disturb Poland’s security. Civil groups have called them “criminals”. But to the 100 or so Polish petrolheads that came to welcome Russia’s nationalist Night Wolves biker gang to the country, they were just fellow motorcycle fans. Read more
People celebrate in northern Tehran after the announcement of an agreement on Iran nuclear talks © Getty Images
There was a presidential statement in the Rose Garden of the White House. There were joyous celebrations on the streets of Tehran. There were lamentations in the US Senate. All these events were provoked by the news, earlier this month, of a framework nuclear deal between Iran and the US. Three weeks later, the newspapers are still full of critiques of the agreement.
But all of this fuss disguises an awkward fact. There is no Iran nuclear deal. Read more
By Richard McGregor
Shinzo Abe’s visit to the US this week is by any measure a significant moment. Japan’s prime minister will with President Barack Obama consecrate revised guidelines for the US-Japan security treaty, described by one close observer of Japan as the longest surviving alliance between great powers “since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia”.
The pair will also oversee the final negotiations of one of the largest trade pacts in two decades that will bring together 12 Asia-Pacific countries. Finally, Mr Abe will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress.
In a week of landmarks, then, it may be surprising that much of the focus ahead of Mr Abe’s visit is whether he will “apologise” for Japan’s role in the second world war, which ended in Tokyo’s crushing defeat nearly 70 years ago. 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.
Europe’s Mediterranean migrant crisis
EU leaders are scrambling to respond to the deaths of thousands of refugees who have drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya towards a better life in Europe. Ben Hall is joined by Peter Spiegel and Borzou Daragahi to discuss Europe’s migrant crisis.
Just like the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the violence in eastern Ukraine is attracting foreign fighters – some with the pro-Russian separatists, and some with the Ukrainian government forces.
Many of these fighters are from European countries. This makes it curious that we don’t hear much about this phenomenon from European governments – which are, of course, clamping down on citizens who go to fight in the Middle East. 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
By Gideon Rachman
When 12 people were murdered by terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year, more than 2m came out on to the streets of France to demonstrate in sympathy and protest. It seems unlikely that there will be a similar outpouring of public emotion in response to the deaths of hundreds of would-be migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean over the weekend as they attempted to cross into Europe.
When 12 people were murdered by terrorists in the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, earlier this year, more than 2m came out on to the streets of France to demonstrate in sympathy and protest. It seems unlikely that there will be a similar outpouring of public emotion in response to the deaths of hundreds of would-be migrants - drowned in the Mediterranean over the weekend as they attempted to make the crossing to Europe. Read more
Predictions that the war in Ukraine might be past its worst point can only be advanced with caution and caveats. Over the past 18 months, the western world has been consistently surprised by unexpected escalations and brutal events – from the annexation of Crimea to the shooting down of flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. Even now, fighting continues. Last week, saw an escalation of conflict around Donetsk, with six killed in one day.
And yet, for all that, a cautious optimism is growing in the west that the fighting may be past its worst. There are still armed militias on the ground and intermittent fighting continues. But, against expectations, the Minsk peace accords negotiated last February, seem to have succeeded in damping down the conflict. One well-placed EU diplomat calls the new situation, a “hybrid peace” – a play on the well-known idea that Russia is fighting a hybrid war. Read more
Three weeks to go until the UK general election, and whatever the result – most likely no party with an overall majority in parliament – the remarkable thing is the serious underperformance of the ruling Conservatives.
The Conservatives inherited a nascent economic recovery in 2010 from a desperately unpopular Labour government that had been in power for thirteen years, and, despite questionable economic policies such as excessive austerity, narrowly managed not to screw it up.
But instead of building on their modest 36.1 per cent vote share in 2010, which forced them to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, polls now show the Tories struggling to break above 35 per cent. Read more
Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba: how far can it go?
Gideon Rachman is joined by Geoff Dyer and John Paul Rathbone to discuss the rapprochement between Obama’s America and Castro’s Cuba. How far can it go and what are the international implications?
The European Central Bank’s governing council is meeting against a backdrop of an improving eurozone economy. The ECB kept its benchmark interest rate at a record low 0.05 per cent and its deposit facility at -0.2 per cent on Wednesday and is expected to continue its €60bn a month landmark quantitative easing programme.
But it is not all optimism in the eurozone. The ECB’s bond buying has helped push German 10-year bund yields towards zero raising concerns about the potential for distortions in financial markets, while jitters over the growing possibility that Greece could default on a debt repayment provides a great deal for ECB President Mario Draghi to discuss at his press conference, which starts at 1.30pm UK time. By Ralph Atkins and Lindsay Whipp