The aftermath of a barrel bombing by Bashar al-Assad’s government in Aleppo on March 18 (Getty)
Earlier this week the famous-for-being-famous celebrity Kim Kardashian regurgitated Syrian regime disinformation about a rebel massacre of Armenians in the town of Kasab in the country’s northeast on her Twitter feed after it was captured by rebels.
The Tweet – Please let’s not let history repeat itself!!!!!! Let’s get this trending!!!!
#SaveKessab #ArmenianGenocide – went viral, further damaging the reputation of Syria’s opposition, a ragtag rebellion struggling to make inroads against Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who continues to massacre hundreds of people daily in bombing raids and inside his dark dungeons. Unlike in Kasab, these murders have been meticulously documented by independent human rights groups and the UN. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Foreign investors have the perception that it is getting harder to do business in China. By forcing multinationals to lower prices and improve their offerings, the Chinese government aims to raise the bar for domestic competitors and show citizens how their lives are improving under the new administration.
♦After travelling to China and meeting its leader, Xi Jinping, FT’s columnist Gideon Rachman comments on how the government is confident that China can keep growing more than seven per cent a year, proving the sceptics wrong.
♦The New York Times reports from Sochi, in Russia, which is preparing to host the Winter Olympics in February. For the narrow costal city, the $50 billion Games project has caused irritation as well as pride.
♦ Meanwhile, Egypt’s deposed president Mohamed Morsi’s trial started in Cairo. Foreign Policy’s Bel Trew describes the controversial court session, which ended with the following words from Morsi: “This is not a court. This is a coup.”
♦ In Syria, Islamist rebels use web postings with bloody portraits of dead fighters as a recruiting tool, reports the Washington Post.
♦ A new digital news startup, Vocativ, is capable of eavesdropping social-media conversations all over the world and running an analysis on the results, writes Jeff Bercovici at Forbes. Read more
By Sally Davies
♦ Qatar looks set to strike a more conciliatory tone in the Middle East, after ruffling feathers with its support of Islamists in Egypt and the rebels in Syria, writes Simeon Kerr in the FT.
♦ Across the gulf, Iran is suffering under anti-nuclear sanctions. James Blitz looks at the prospects for a deal ahead of U.S. secretary of state John Kerry’s much-hyped meeting with the Iranian foreign minister, while Geoff Dyer says Obama has come full circle on Middle East diplomacy.
♦ The Obama doctrine: the president is absorbing some tough lessons from the international conflicts he’s observed – and intervened in – over the last five years, writes David Sanger in the New York Times.
♦ Amway is funding a Harvard scholarship to schmooze bigwigs in the Chinese Communist Party. It seems to be working: the household-goods chain has more than quadrupled its sales in China since the program began.
♦ Christine Lagarde examines how women’s under-participation in the workforce hobbles economic growth, on the back of an IMF report.
♦ The haunted house that gave even China’s Red Guards the spooks. Read more
Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi protest the killing of his supporters by the security forces. (Getty)
Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi on Saturday proposed banning the Muslim Brotherhood group in a move apparently aimed at barring it from participating in politics in Egypt. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The public mood in Egypt is hardening against Islamists since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed – a result of fatigue with the turmoil caused by Brotherhood marches, and hostile local media that refrain from covering the bloody crackdown on Islamist protest camps.
♦ On the flip side, the crackdown on Islamist camps caused the most violent wave of Islamist violence against Christians in modern history, with attacks on 30 churches and at least four Christian deaths.
♦ In the hours before Egyptian security forces launched a crackdown on camps of pro-Morsi supporters, American diplomats were pushing for agreements between the two groups to avoid violence – all of which failed, as generals in Cairo ignored Americans “in a cold-eyed calculation that they would not pay a significant cost.”
♦ An event that brought together India’s prime minister with past, present and future bosses of the central bank yielded some insight into what the future might hold for the volatile economy, including bringing incoming RBI governor Raghuram Rajan on earlier, not adding new capital controls, and narrowing the trade deficit.
♦ Being an American among Brits sometimes “feels like being a guest who shows up at a memorial service wearing a Hawaiian shirt and traumatizes the mourners with intrusive personal questions,” writes Sarah Lyall of her 18 years as the New York Times’ UK correspondent.
♦ The partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who revealed surveillance programs by the NSA using documents passed to him by whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained for almost nine hours by UK authorities in Heathrow airport to be questioned under the Terrorism Act 2000.
♦ After almost 60 years, the US intelligence community has openly acknowledged that it was behind the controversial overthrow of Iran’s former prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.
♦ Turkey’s greatest writer Orhan Pamuk converses with Simon Schama about recent developments in his country, including the “wonderful” uprising in Taksim square and the twilight of prime minister Tayyip Erdogan, and allows him to step into his home that has been transformed into a “Museum of Innocence.” Read more
In a rambling weekend statement, Egypt’s state information service complained of “severe bitterness” towards some western media coverage, which it deemed “biased” in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood. Forget that the Brothers had won legislative and presidential elections and are now facing one of the most brutal crackdowns in their more than 80-year history; they are, says the statement, terrorizing citizens, killing innocent people, and attacking the police. And they are being aided in their devious acts by al-Qaeda.
The police and army, meanwhile, are the heroes who have rushed to protect the people and their revolution and are now standing in the face of “terrorist” attempts to “fling the country into violence.”
Expressing dismay that several western media have been focusing on the outraged reaction of some western governments, the statement recommends that they pay closer attention to the support in Egypt’s war against terrorism delivered by the likes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (the autocratic supporters of the anti-Brotherhood campaign.) Read more
Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi are detained by security forces at the Rabaa al-Adawiyya protest camp. Getty
Egypt’s security forces on Wednesday launched a much-anticipated operation to clear supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi from two protest camps in the capital, leaving scores dead and prompting protests around the country from Mr Morsi’s Islamist sympathizers, who clashed with police and attacked churches in southern Egypt.
Polarisation between opponents and supporters of the president increased dramatically in the wake of the popularly-backed coup that removed Mr Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, from office on July 3. He has languished in detention since, prompting his supporters to accuse the security forces of undermining democracy. Opponents of the former president accuse him of trying to impose an Islamist vision on Egypt and say the military coup was needed to ‘save’ the country. International efforts to mediate between Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and the interim government, backed by the powerful defence minister Gen Abdel Fattah Sisi, failed as neither side showed willingness to compromise.
As the Islamist protest camps became increasingly disruptive in the traffic-choked capital and leaks of an imminent operation to clear them grew, the protesters vowed they would remain until Mr Morsi was restored to power, with some claiming they would rather die as martyrs than give up their protest. Warnings by activists, rights groups and some politicians that their forcible removal could ignite a cycle of violence were ignored and the Arab world’s most populous nation is once again riven by unrest.
Here is our pick of background reads on the latest episode in Egypt’s turbulent transition. Read more
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Civil activism in China is becoming a force the Chinese government can no longer ignore as activists increasingly unite to rally with broader demands, largely through the growing platform of social media.
♦ Following the initial applause for getting Israel and Palestine to the negotiating table for the first time in four years, US secretary of state John Kerry is facing deep scepticism about the two-day talks in Washington D.C.
♦ Borzou Daragahi argues that in the wake of Mohamed Morsi’s ouster in Egypt, Islamists should investigate their own role in contributing to the tensions in the years leading up to the coup.
♦ Alexei Navalny is hitting the streets “western-style” to revamp his mayoral campaign in Moscow six weeks before the vote.
♦ France’s culture minister Aurélie Filippetti has survived a tough first year in office, representing her party by bringing “extravagant” French culture to the level of the people, while still fighting for France’s “cultural exception.” Read more
Chief justice Adly Mansour is sworn in as interim president the day after Mohamed Morsi is ousted (Getty)
Among Egyptians of all political stripes, there is a pervading conviction that talented and top-notch specialists who know their jobs well can help fix the nation’s myriad problems. The interim government installed by the military after the overthrow of Mohamed Morsi’s Islamist-dominated government has begun a flurry of appointments of so-called technocrats to key government posts.
It has appointed economist Hazem Beblawi as prime minister and named another noted economist, Ahmed Galal, as finance minister. It has begun assembling a constituent assembly that will be filled with experienced judges and legal experts. Mohamed ElBaradei, the former UN nuclear chief and Nobel laureate, has been sworn in as a vice-president for foreign affairs.
But the belief that a government of competent, cleverly-placed and politically neutral technocrats can solve problems as deeply entrenched as those Egypt faces is at best questionable and at worst fantasy. 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