jihadis

Hugh Carnegy in Paris

France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament on Wednesday, has never faced a greater terrorist threat than that posed by homegrown jihadis who have fought alongside Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq

  • Ten years ago Christine Spolar, FT investigations editor, reported on the Iraq war. She returned last month to find old colleagues and friends living in fear.
  • China’s leaders love watching House of Cards because it confirms their perceptions of the workings of US government.
  • Japan’s yakuza have seen their numbers decline for the first time in years: is it because of a police crackdown, or are they going underground?
  • Francis Fukuyama looks at how effectively the US translates its economic power into foreign and security policies.
  • Tatar leaders war of jihadi-style violence against Russia over its Crimea occupation.
  • Lawrence Summers says the west should make modest promises to Ukraine and then strive to deliver more than it expects.

 

  • Glenn Greenwald has lunch with the FT and discusses his abrasive manner and new online venture.
  • Rahm Emanuel has reinvented Chicago’s political machine: the FT’s Edward Luce looks at whether he’s now aiming for the White House.
  • A divide has opened up among Britain’s high earners: the über-middle, made up of doctors and London finance workers, emerge as big winners, while millions of “cling-on” professions struggle to sustain a middle class lifestyle.
  • Students from as far afield as Mongolia, Guinea and Namibia are heading to study in northern Cyprus, where universities have become the leading sector of the economy.
  • Nicholas Shaxson talks about his work on tax havens and compares the dominance of the financial sector in London to the resource curse on countries in Africa.
  • Jihadi life is no longer the lap of luxury with the odd battle thrown in.
  • The Egyptian government’s heavy-handed crackdown on opposition is widening the generation gap.
  • A different generation game is being played in Tunisia, where there is a battle to keep young people occupied and away from extremism.

 

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.

 

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. 

 

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