Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s centrist president, last week marked his government’s 100th day in office by releasing a report on the economy. It painted a grim picture, but rather than blame this on international sanctions Mr Rouhani said the populist policies of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, were largely responsible for the mess.
Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s government enjoyed a record $600bn in oil revenues during eight years in office – the equivalent of what the country had earned in the century since it first discovered oil.
Despite the boost in income, Mr Rouhani said he inherited an empty treasury, at least $80bn in debt and a combination of high inflation (40 per cent) and economic stagnation (the economy shrank by 5.8 per cent), which was unprecedented in the past 50 years. “The previous government was the wealthiest and most indebted government,” he said.
Many economists are asking how any government can inflict such damage on an economy during an oil boom, with some saying Mr Ahmadi-Nejad’s policies should be taught in economics courses to show how a populist president can turn golden opportunities into disasters. Read more
♦ US Budget Deal: here are the details on the deal that was made. Ed Luce considers how the Republican party’s brinkmanship has squandered so much in such a short time and achieved nothing . The New Yorker has ten neat takeaways from the GOP cave-in. It seemed that despite the Senate being dominated by men, women in both parties were the driving force behind negotiations and compromises.
♦ Hassan Rouhani seeks to counter the commercial reach of the Revolutionary Guards as his government attempts to revive the economy and break free from international sanctions.
♦ Yevgeny Roizman’s victory in the Yekaterinburg mayoral election was a blow to the Kremlin, but he is keeping a low profile, aware of the price paid by previous opponents.
♦ Foreign Policy looks at Syrian refugees’ harrowing experiences of trying to get to Sweden and ending up in an Egyptian jail.
♦ Steven A. Cook at the CFR looks at why “Egypt has reached the stage where, despite a roadmap for reconstituting an electoral political order, the goal remains for one group or another to impose its political will on the others, just as it has been since February 2011.” Read more
♦ The value of the drone market has soared to more than $5bn in just a few years, helped by Pentagon and CIA reliance. However, privacy worries are threatening the burgeoning domestic market.
♦ The fourth-largest auction house in the world is run by Wang Yannan, the daughter of former Chinese leader Zhao Ziyang and child of the cultural revolution. Its success has come from Chinese collectors and investors seeking art that might have destroyed lives during the cultural revolution.
♦ The “Death to America” slogan has been a feature of public life in Iran for more than three decades, but Hassan Rouhani’s push for moderation has prompted calls for the slogan to be dropped.
♦ Some Republicans are sceptical that a default would actually be a catastrophe for the US.
♦ David Gardner thinks Bashar al-Assad’s diplomatic luck could run out as the “killing machine grinds forward”.
♦ Islamists entering Syria are starting to prefer transit towns, with good food and video games, to the fighting front.
♦ Gulf states are going to test people to “detect” homosexuals entering their countries. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The Middle East has a way of provoking wild mood swings. The Arab spring of early 2011 was greeted with euphoria in the US and Europe. A month ago, after the coup in Egypt and the chemical weapons attack in Syria, the mood was despairing. Now, hopes are surging again, after a historic phone call between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani, the US and Iranian presidents.
♦ The FT’s James Politi visits a military base struggling to cope with the effects of sequestration.
♦ One of the FT’s new readers had some questions about her first edition of the pink paper, including: “Why is George Osborne taking legal action against the EU cap on bankers’ bonuses when it says here that these chaps at ICAP were demanding bonuses in return for manipulating the Libor market?”
♦ Hassan Rouhani has raised hope among his countrymen of a solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme.
♦ The ebb in support for Argentina’s president Cristina Fernández has been matched by the rise of Sergio Massa, one of the strongest potential candidates for the 2015 elections.
♦ News reports of the US-intercepting messages between the heads of Al-Qaeda and AQIM, discussing an imminent terrorist attack, have caused more immediate damage to counterterrorism efforts than Edward Snowden’s leaks.
♦ The New York Times profiles Rosario Crocetta, the gay, Catholic leftist taking on corruption in Sicily.
♦ In Damascus, a war-weariness has settled over the city: “there is a sense that the war will continue, perhaps for years, making the country’s rifts progressively harder to heal.”
♦ When Romanian prosecutors announced that Alexandru Visinescu would be put on trial over his role in Communist-era abuses, it raised hopes that Romania may be able to shake off its national amnesia about its brutal past. Read more
♦ Philip Stephens argues that the best hope of preventing nuclear proliferation in Iran is to persuade Tehran that its strategic interests are otherwise.
♦ Rural Ireland is struggling to bounce back, even as cities such as Dublin and Cork start to grow again.
♦ Thomas Erdbrink at the the New York Times looks at how Fars news agency, once a defender of Ahmedi-Nejad and an influential conservative voice recently, reported on the translation of Hassan Rouhani’s comments about the Holocaust.
♦ The University of Alabama has ranked the states of America by some unsavoury categories, and set up a map showing which states are worst for binge-drinking and bestiality.
♦ Aidan Hartley speaks to two friends about how they survived events at Westgate mall.
♦ Wired magazine takes a tour through Github’s new hacker heaven. Read more