Iraq

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The vote to determine who will lead the Fed will be “razor thin,” and there are a lot of questions about White House favourite Larry Summers’ record on regulation, which suggest that though he might embrace tough capital and liquidity requirements, he is likely to be less sympathetic towards structural proposals.
♦ The question of military intervention in Syria on the backdrop of deteriorating US-Russia relations is dominating the G20 meeting and bringing to light just how reluctant many western powers are to engage in global policing, which raises the question of who will enforce global rules.
♦ The reluctance to intervene is often blamed on the shadow of US intervention in Iraq, but some say the situation in Syria should rather be compared to the sectarian Bosnian civil war where a US-led bombing campaign was hailed as bringing peace. Regardless of the outcome of Obama’s vote on Syrian intervention in Congress, the US President will still lose – either his integrity, or his domestic authority and will alienate all his “friends and frenemies.”
Top secret documents revealed by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that US and UK intelligence agencies successfully developed methods to crack encryption used to protect online privacy, compromising all internet security guarantees.

 Read more

Chris Cook

Should the west intervene in Syria? Whatever it does, it will do so in the shadow of the war in Iraq. Tony Blair, the prime minister who led the UK into that war, has come out in support of action. Read more

♦ The ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ talks to the FT about dividing his time between the UK and Iraq.
♦ Edward Snowden has managed to stir up “the biggest bout of anti-Americanism since the Iraq war.”
♦ Edward Luce thinks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are wrong about US debt – “At 4 percentage points of GDP, the salient worry is whether it is falling too rapidly.”
♦ China’s government may be less fixated on GDP targets, but it still needs to sustain confidence in the economy.
♦ Chairman Mao banned golf in China as a bourgeois frippery and China’s first golf course is younger than Tiger Woods, but the game is catching on fast – Chinese wunderkinds are being incubated and some are infiltrating the game at the highest levels.
♦ A new language has been discovered – Warlpiri rampaku is spoken only by people under the age of 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village in northern Australia.
♦ Charles Pierce pens his furious response to the verdict over Trayvon Martin’s death: “Of course, black kids can’t win fights without getting shot through the chest. They are supposed to act very politely, speak when spoken to and, maybe, just get off the sidewalk when they come in contact with people like George Zimmerman”. 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

♦ Prime Minister Erdogan blames protesters for falling stocks and does not admit to domineering policies, including plans to turn Gezi Park into a shopping mall.

♦ Patrick Cockburn predicts diplomacy will fail in Syria, as more countries and sects enter the fray.

China buys the most Iraqi oil, the New York Times reports.

Reinsurance prices fall, for the first since Katrina, as investors seek hurricane protection.

♦ The Israeli government wants mandatory military service for ultra-conservative Jewish men. Read more

David Gardner

Bashar al-Assad in 2001 (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty)

Almost exactly 10 years ago, a senior American diplomat looked out of his office window in Damascus and watched Syrian secret policemen brazenly set up a jihadi recruiting station right opposite the US embassy.

Bashar al-Assad’s regime, which had curried favour with Washington after 9/11 by sharing its files on Islamist radicals with the CIA, now decided it would funnel jihadi volunteers from across the Arab world into Iraq, to bleed the Anglo-American invasion and occupation.

No friend of al-Qaeda or Sunni radicalism, the Assad regime, built up over four decades around the heterodox Shia, minority Alawite community, has nevertheless always been flexible in its choice of guns for hire.

This week, al-Qaeda in Iraq announced that Jabhat al-Nusra – the Sunni jihadist front spearheading the fight against loyalist forces in northern Syria – had merged with it. The news has been contested, not least by Nusra itself.

But Assad regime hierarchs have in any case had plenty of time to parse the full meaning of “blowback”. The jihadis whose path Damascus smoothed into Iraq do not need any help, or indeed mergers, to find their way back. The tactical promiscuity of the Assads has always looked like a strategic liability.

Bad news for the Assad clan and its crumbling regime is not necessarily good news for Syrians and the future of their country, pulverised by two years of war.

Tuesday’s message, posted by the al-Qaeda front in Iraq, that “the Nusra Front is simply a branch of the Islamic State of Iraq”, as the US has long argued, is chilling, whether true or not. And the Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Joulani’s denial is hardly reassuring, given that he pledges allegiance to Ayman Zawahiri, global leader of al-Qaeda.

If the al-Qaeda worldview puts down roots in Syria – a tolerant if traditional society with a mosaic of religions, even if the Sunni are a majority – a rebellion to break free from tyranny could morph into another war between anti-Assad secularists and theocratic extremists.

Memories of what happened in Iraq loom large in Syria. The butchery of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the late al-Qaeda leader in western Iraq, unleashed ethno-sectarian carnage between Sunni and Shia (the majority in Iraq). Minorities such as the Christians were crushed between them until the Sunni tribes turned against the jihadis. Read more

On the Cyprus crisis:

In other news…

 Read more

 Read more

 Read more

 Read more