Hassan Rouhani

  • The prospect of intelligent machines improving human lives will depend on how the gains are produced and distributed, says Martin Wolf.
  • Hassan Rouhani has fended off the hardliners and can count on the support of the supreme leader, but this depends on his being able to secure a longer-term nuclear deal that leads to a removal of sanctions.
  • If Japan is really to put “women power” to work, it needs more revolutionary change, argues David Pilling.
  • Ugly people are oppressed and to “imagine we could ever completely overcome this kind of natural inheritance… is a fantasy” according to Jonny Thakkar, a lecturer at Princeton.
  • An Italian monastery has become a trendy atelier for brides looking to keep their wedding costs down.
  • Without immigrants, the Swiss football team would be very different.

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By Toby Luckhurst

  • The USA can no longer rely on Egypt as a bulwark of stability in the Middle East, as jihadists return to the country to fight the military authorities.
  • Oligarchs in eastern Ukraine are abandoning President Yanukovich’s regime.
  • Iranian hardliners blocked the broadcast of a live interview with President Rouhani, exposing the political battle developing in the Islamic Republic.
  • Critics question whether Narendra Modi can do for India what he has done for Gujarat if he wins the upcoming general election.
  • Hugh Roberts in the London Review of Books questions the orthodox view of Hosni Mubarak’s deposition as a revolution.

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(Getty)

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.
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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 heavenRead more

James Blitz

Iran's president Hassan Rouhani address the UN General Assembly (Getty)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been at the UN in New York all this week, opening up the possibility of engagement with the US over Tehran’s nuclear programme. One of the most striking features of his performance is the way he has used different settings to push forward different messages about how he views the world.

In his speech to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Mr Rouhani took what sounded like a very traditional Iranian line. It may have had none of the apocalyptic and offensive rhetoric of his predecessor, Mahmud Ahmadinejad, on such occasions. But the speech contained plenty of passages which implied a strong attack on America’s “coercive economic and military policies.” Many experts were disappointed that it failed to deviate from Iran’s traditional script.

Mr Rouhani has also found plenty of time, however, to meet US media, and here his tone has been very different. With CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, he read out a message in English of goodwill towards Americans.

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