• Lebanon on the brink: political gridlock, economic torpor and the machinations of pro-Syrian Hizbollah have once more pushed the crossroads of the Middle East to the edge of collapse.
• In Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is coasting towards victory in presidential elections, keeping policy vague and democracy off the agenda.
• A plan by Pope Francis to celebrate mass in a Jerusalem room believed by Christians to have hosted the Last Supper has brought criticism, controversy and conspiracy theories worthy of a Dan Brown novel.
• While the public interest case against Pfizer’s takeover of the UK’s AstraZeneca is weak, the tax case for it is compelling, says Tony Jackson.
• The New York Times tells the tale of the plight of those left behind after the elopement of Afghanistan’s Romeo and Juliet. Read more
Is America really prepared to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan at the end of the year? Even the European nations that also have troops in Afghanistan are none too sure. On the one hand, it is assumed in European capitals that the White House statement on Tuesday – saying that the US military had been instructed to prepare for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan – is partly bluff. It is well known that the Americans are getting on very badly with President Hamid Karzai, and want to put pressure on him. On the other, some of America’s Nato allies fear that the US might be using the argument with Karzai, as an excuse to scale back a post-2014 military commitment that they were already uncomfortable with. Read more
♦ From our comment pages: “How a digital currency could transform Africa“.
♦ Pigs’ trotters are crucial to the advancement of lowly Chinese Communist party officials.
♦ Some interpreted the Westgate attack in Kenya as a sign of al-Shabaab’s weakness, but there are signs that it is regrouping and recruiting new members, becoming “an extended hand of al-Qaeda” in the words of Somalia’s president.
♦ US trade policies are driving the global obesity epidemic, even as its own citizens get healthier.
♦ The Dutch real estate market is getting a new lease of life.
♦ A Egyptian general ousted under Mohamed Morsi has been rehabilitated by his protégé Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and put in charge of the general intelligence service.
♦ South Korea is aggressively targeting US technology for its own use in a variety of Korean weapons programmes, according to Foreign Policy.
♦ Modern Korea, with its electrical power lines, is encroaching on older villages and farmland. Villagers have protested through self-immolation, demonstrations in Seoul and even a two-year sleep-in.
♦ The Afghan government attempted to form an alliance with Islamist militants in the hope of taking revenge on the Pakistani military. Read more
♦ Spain may be emerging from the recession with a more competitive economy, but critics claim that confidence in the rebound is premature and potentially dangerous.
♦ A leaked video shows Egyptian Army officers debating how to influence the media before the military takeover.
♦ Patrick Cockburn writes about how media coverage of conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria doesn’t always reflect the whole reality of each war.
♦ Justice officials in Hong Kong admitted to knowing that one of Berlusconi’s allies tried to interfere with evidence in a money laundering case, where Berlusconi’s son is one of the defendents, according to the South China Morning Post.
♦ The stance of some Republican House members on the US government shutdown is generating anger among senior Republican officials, who think the small bloc of conservatives is undermining the party and helping President Obama. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Though it remains unclear whether it is a cause or a symptom of the civil war in Syria, Michael Peel writes there are growing fears that battle lines in the conflict are increasingly being drawn between Sunnis and Shia.
♦ Looking at the modified United States GDP statistics is “viewing the same objective truth through a different coloured lens,” says Gavyn Davies in his analysis of how the revised calculations impact overall picture of the health of the economy.
♦ Germany has found itself the reluctant economic and political leader of the European Union, but this should not be confused with them being the dominant power, writes Timothy Garton Ash. He advises that Germany will need the support of its European partners in building the future of the bloc.
♦ Nearly two-and-a-half years after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the nearby beach Nakoso is returning to a fragile sense of normality, where beachgoers are “greeted by two signs: one advertising Fukushima’s sunshine, the other announcing the water’s latest radiation levels.”
♦ They may be wearing blue jeans and American brands, but interviews with Afghan youth show a generation that is strongly dedicated to conservative values despite their Western trappings. Read more
♦ The FT’s Roula Khalaf says that Algeria’s bloody civil war – which lasted for a decade after the military cancelled an Islamist poll victory in 1991 – has lessons for all sides in Egypt: for the military to not repress the Islamists, for the Islamists not to take violent revenge for the coup that ousted Mohamed Morsi, and for the liberals not to embrace the military’s strongarm tactics.
♦ The model for the Middle East, proving that democracy and Islam could coexist, sued to be Turkey. But this is no longer the case. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of tampering with secularism by promoting Turkey’s “own brand of Sunni Islam,” which has isolated him from both religious and secular forces.
♦ Saudi Arabia and the UAE, delighted at the overthrow of Morsi and the promises of interim authorities to regain stability, have pledged $8bn in aid to Egypt to help fight a slide in the pound and a foreign reserves crisis.
♦ Away from the Middle East, the FT Analysis page looks at the supercomputer. With its politicians mired in budget wrangling that have frozen current funding levels, the US looks set to be surpassed by China in the race to build an exascale supercomputer – a machine 1,000 times faster than the fastest of today. Such computers are vital for scientific simulations, including investigations into everything from earthquakes to the human heart.
♦ Self-imposed currency controls in Cyprus to aid crisis management have led to the devaluing of the euro there, prompting anxiety among business people.
♦ A brand new 64,000 sq ft military headquarters in Kandahar province that will never be used is being held up as an example of the massive scale of US wastefulness in Afghanistan as its military prepares to withdraw. Read more
♦ Manufacturing is on the rise in Nigeria, as the global recession cuts returns in developed countries. But the country faces great challenges — political discord, corruption, broken infrastructure and a high poverty rate.
♦ Vali Nasr, a former senior adviser to Richard Holbrooke, criticises the Obama administration’s tough yet diffident and contradictory approach to the Middle East and its eventual retreat in his new book.
♦ Foreign Policy’s flagship blog chronicles the Wikipedia war over whether military intervention in Egypt deserves to be called a ‘Coup.’
♦ The New York Times remembers the 19 Arizona firefighters who died battling a fire outside the old gold-mining village of Yarnell in poignant vignettes.
♦ The New York Times chronicles the lead up to the Egyptian coup, as President Morsi refused to deal with the Americans or with his minister of defence, General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. As Egypt’s economy faces a tough transitional period during the post-Morsi period in the midst of political unrest, the central bank governor flew to Abu Dhabi to raise financial support. Read more
♦ The BBC visits two Goodyear-owned tyre factories in Amiens, north France, to look at how the country is getting to grips with labour reform.
♦ The nuclear stand-off with Iran can be resolved now that Hassan Rohani has been elected, writes Ayatollah Seyed Salman Safavi.
♦ Thousands of mainland Chinese have permanent residency in The Gambia – as the fastest and cheapest way for a Chinese citizen to gain right of residency in Hong Kong is to first gain permanent residency in mainland Africa’s smallest country.
♦ For the first time in human history, overweight people outnumber the underfed, and obesity is widespread in wealthy and poor nations alike.
♦ The US scrambles to save Taliban talks after an Afghan backlash. Also, take a look at the Taliban’s new Doha office.
♦ With protests continuing in Brazil, it’s a good time to take a read through our São Paulo correspondent’s feature on BBQ activists. Read more
A Syrian flag flies over the clock town in Qusair (STR/AFP/Getty Images)
By James Blitz and Elizabeth Rigby
Senior parliamentarians and government officials in Britain believe it is highly unlikely that the UK will transfer arms to moderate Syrian rebels at some future date because they believe David Cameron has lost the political support needed to make such a move.
For many months, Britain’s prime minister has been the most forward-leaning of western leaders in arguing that the moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime may soon need arms from the west, partly to tilt the battlefield in their favour.
Last week, Mr Cameron’s position received strong support from the Obama administration in the US, which finally announced that it would transfer arms to the rebels. However, any attempt by the UK to support such a move is now so firmly opposed by Mr Cameron’s own Conservative MPs that he would be unlikely to win a vote in the House of Commons, leading politicians have told the FT. Read more
♦ Why was the Turkish media’s coverage of the protests so inadequate? – it is a “compromised media sector that is largely the property of conglomerates with wide-ranging interests, and a Turkish state that exercises particular sway over business life.”
♦ The protests have shaken Turkey but will not topple the prime minister, says Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol.
♦ Protesters are using gaming lingo in their fight against the government.
♦ Poetry magazine has dedicated their June issue entirely to poetry composed by and circulated among Afghan women.
♦ The IMF admits to errors in its handling of Greece’s first bailout. Here’s some context from FT Alphaville’s Joseph Cotterill.
♦ Take a look at the BBC’s view from Qusair, of a city that has disappeared. Read more
♦ Ireland’s head of state says the EU must drop its “hegemonic” economic model and reform the ECB, or risk social upheaval and a loss of popular legitimacy.
♦ The Great Tax Race series turns to Ireland, looking at how Ireland has remained attached to aggressive tax policies that favour businesses even as ordinary people have struggled to get by. (If you’re trying to get your head around how all of this even works, watch this handy explainer from Matt Steinglass)
♦ Richard McGregor thinks President Obama needs to circumvent Congress if he wants to get his agenda moving.
♦ Western clothing companies are scrambling to address public concerns over working conditions in Bangladesh – the Walt Disney Company ordered an end to the production of branded merchandise in the country before Rana Plaza collapsed. John Gapper today makes the argument against western companies withdrawing: “Despite everything, the industry provides better-paid jobs than the alternative – working on rural farms – and has helped to emancipate women.”
♦ Despite violence and corruption, Afghan entrepreneurs are still making opportunities for themselves.
♦ The Kremlin is putting pressure on VKontakte, a Russian Facebook clone, pushing CEO Pavel Durov to leave the country.
♦ Slate is publishing a series of excerpts from the memoirs of Mohamedou Oul Slahi who was a prisoner at Guantánamo for nearly 11 years.
♦ Mafia historian goes underground into the bunkers of the Ndrangheta, Europe’s biggest cocaine traffickers and Italy’s most powerful organised crime group. Read more
The former Republican senator can expect a bumpy ride as he answers questions on how he would play the role of President Obama’s new defence secretary. Hagel needs to persuade at least five of his former colleagues to support him to avoid a filibuster that would torpedo his appointment.
Ben Fenton, from the FT’s Live News Desk, and Johanna Kassel follow the hearing.
By Daniel Dombey, US Diplomatic Correspondent
Fly into Islamabad. Offer military aid. Deny conspiracy theories. Suggest that it wouldn’t be too bad an idea for Pakistan to go after Islamist extremists more vigorously. Read more