Iran

IAEA inspectors at Natanz nuclear power plant earlier this year

It all seems so simple: Iran’s aggressive expansion of its – officially – civilian nuclear programme has brought it within months of being able to enrich enough uranium to make an atomic bomb. The world has punished the Islamic republic with sanctions and now nobody is happy. So, as per an agreement last November called the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), the world’s big powers (the five members of the UN security council plus Germany, or P5+1) want to reduce Iran’s bomb making potential – the so-called breakout time – in return for sanctions relief.

Briefly put: the P5+1 want Iran’s breakout time to go from under 6 months to at least 12. Iran wants to export its oil and use the world’s banking system. And there the simplicity ends.

Beyond the stated goals is a fiendishly complex jigsaw of negotiating positions, all complicated by questions of transparency and trust. Below is an outline of some of the technical terms that may help to understand what is being discussed. Read more

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• Despite the undue frostiness that has greeted Iran’s nuclear spring, politicians and diplomats are convinced Tehran wants a deal.

It took just four years for Kim Yong-chul to go from chief lawyer at Samsung to working in a bakery. Now the most high-profile whistleblower in South Korean history is back in the spotlight.

China is unlikely to have a Lehman-style moment – but danger is lurking in the shadows. Read more

♦ In the new cold war, Russia could hit the US where it hurts – in Iran.

Vladimir Putin has confounded three US presidents as they tried to figure him out.

♦ The decision in Egypt to hand the death sentence to 528 Muslim Brotherhood members was widely condemned, but Egyptian TV told a different story.

♦ The US is losing its edge as an employment powerhouse after its labour participation rate fell behind the UK’s.

♦ Russia’s actions in Crimea have sent a chill through its former Soviet neighbours in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

♦ American economist Hyman Minsky is back in vogue as his ideas offer a plausible account of why the 2007-08 financial crisis happened.

♦ A report on how former Tunisian president Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali changed the rules of business underlines the challenges still facing the country. Read more

  • Chris Giles warns that the message from the data behind the UK Budget is that the country’s public finances were terrible, are terrible and still need lots of work to repair.
  • A Russian journalist who wrote a satirical letter to Putin asking him to send troops to restore the rights of Russians in Russia itself found the president was not amused.
  • Iran’s traditional entertainers are having a hard time cheering Iranians as economic gloom blights new year festivities.
  • Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny tells the west how to really punish Russia over its ‘little war’ in Crimea.

 Read more

  • Enrico Letta, the Italian prime minister, is fighting for survival and faces calls for a handover of power to “demolition man” Matteo Renzi
  • Jabhat al-Nusra is now one of the most effective and dangerous groups battling the Assad regime. The FT looks at how the al-Qaeda affiliated jihadis have won popular support despite their hardline stance
  • While countries in southern Europe are beset by youth unemployment, German companies are desperately trying to hold on to older workers
  • A Sudanese tycoon talks to the FT about doing business against a backdrop of sanctions and crises
  • Iran has become a hub for IVF treatment in the Middle East and would-be parents are trying to reconcile their treatment with Islamic law

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Philip Stephens argues that the people making the strongest case for Scottish independence are the English.
  • There is open mutiny at the New York Times against the editorial page and its editor, Andrew Rosenthal.
  • Saudi Arabia is obsessed with the news, from thriving broadsheets to social media, and much of the interest lies in the uncensored press.
  • Deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak accidentally let slip on Russian surveillance of journalists and their shower habits in his anger at the negative press response to Sochi’s unfinished accommodation.
  • Heavy snow has forced the Iranian government to ration gas in a bid to meet rising domestic need, especially in the country’s northern provinces.
  • There are fears that Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is fomenting complacency, with Norwegians taking more and more time off work.

 Read more

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.

 Read more

By Toby Luckhurst

  • Iran is facing a water crisis so severe that President Hassan Rouhani has identified the problem as a national security issue and contingency plans exist for water rationing in the greater Tehran area.
  • Parental pressure on Chinese women has led to the growth of a boyfriend rental industry to fool families into believing that their daughters are on the path to marriage.
  • Obama’s ambitious free trade agenda threatens to split the Democratic Party.
  • The Sochi Winter Olympics are under threat from “black widows” – wives of rebels killed by the Russian state in the volatile Caucasus region.
  • Radical protesters in Ukraine are in the minority, but play an increasingly prominent role, write Neil Buckley and Roman Olearchyk.

 Read more

Gideon Rachman

Simply by coming to the World Economic Forum, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is sending a message. He is the first Iranian president to have spoken in Davos for a decade. In a public speech at the forum and in private meetings with journalists, the president has sought to present a smiling and conciliatory face.

Certainly his personal style is a marked contrast to that of Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, his predecessor. While Ahmadi-Nejad was all staring eyes and confrontation, Rouhani has a ready laugh and listens carefully to questions. Read more

Courtesy of FastFT:

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is giving a high-profile keynote address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday. Read more