There are drawbacks to being a satirist from a deeply authoritarian state. Exile is a frequent consequence. But it has its advantages.
“I’m really blessed as an Iranian comedian,” Kambiz Hosseini told the audience of democrats, dissidents and defectors who gathered this week in Norway for the annual Oslo Freedom Forum (or “Davos for dissidents”). “There’s no shortage of material for me.” Read more
One of the most compelling of international relationships was on display in Ankara this week when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The paramount leaders of Russia and Turkey dominate their countries’ politics like few other heads of state, casting long shadows on the world stage. When they appeared together at Mr Erdogan’s $600m new palace on Monday, there was the undeniable crackle of power in the air.
But commentators should beware of bracketing the two men together in too facile a fashion. Read more
• The FT continues its Fragile Middle series with a look at how one in five Chinese are only one pay packet away from losing middle class status.
• War has created civilisation over the past 10,000 years – and threatens to destroy it in the next 40.
• Turkey‘s social media curbs are darkening prospects for its technology sector.
• 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
• Twenty years ago Rwanda descended into the madness of genocide. UN peacekeepers were stretched to breaking point, but one man stood out, taking huge risks to save hundreds of lives.
• Beijing’s military build-up is generating a new Asian arms race as China’s neighbours seek to counter its growing might. Read more
♦ Turkey’s finance minister warns of negative implications for the country’s economy as a corruption scandal engulfs Ankara’s political elite, triggering a slide in the lira.
♦ The uncommon success of the “Common Man” party has upended Indian politics.
♦ Take a look at these photographs showing construction at the Panama Canal.
♦ The increasing cost and shortage of housing has led people to make more and more of less and less space: CNN takes a look at “micro-homes”.
♦ Businessweek looks at the money wasted on the Sochi Olympics. Read more
♦ In Turkey, Gulenists have burnt their bridges with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party, while Mr Erdogan makes no bones about his desire to purge the bureacracy of his former allies. It is, according to one of Turkey’s old secular elite, “like Alien vs Predator“.
♦ Edward Luce points out that the Indian politicians expressing outrage over the strip search of diplomat Devyani Khobragade are suffering from a hypocrisy problem: “So far, no Indian leader has expressed a scintilla of concern about the rights of the Indian domestic servant whom Ms Khobragade had allegedly mistreated.”
♦ Ben Bernanke announced the taper, but minimised market discomfort.
♦ David Pilling considers which events shook Asia in 2013.
♦ James Carroll, a former priest, looks back at the first year of a radical pope.
♦ B.R. Myers, an expert on north Korea, explains exactly what happened to Kim Jong Un’s uncle and why Kim doesn’t look smart taking his wife around with him. Read more
♦ Chequebook diplomacy: With the US becoming an absentee superpower in the Caribbean, the Chinese are moving in.
♦ A corruption investigation has shaken Turkish political and business life with the detention of prominent executives and people close to the government amid a deepening feud within the ranks of a country’s religious conservatives.
♦ In The New Statesman Paul Conroy asks when will people start taking notice of Syria again.
♦ Gun country: The New York Times examines the complicated relationship between the US and firearms, told through the personal stories of Americans. Read more
By David Gallerano
♦ Somaliland works to be the gateway to a landlocked Ethiopia and to secure long –awaited international recognition.
♦ Communal violence rises in the highly Christian-populated cities of Southern Egypt.
♦ Quartz reports on how the Iran government retained control of a skyscraper in Manhattan for 35 years.
♦ The New York Times profiles the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov: “One of the most knowledgeable and respected foreign policy actors in the global village”, a veteran diplomat who enjoys whiskey and cigars, Lavrov is the advocate of an international system based on state sovereignty and status quo stability.
♦ Nonetheless, he is no stranger to the use of questionable sources, and few days ago he used a video analysis by a Lebanese nun to contradict claims that Assad has employed chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict.
♦ Turkey becomes Somalia’s largest non-OECD donor while Somalia returns the favour by granting concessions on key national infrastructures.
♦ A new book claims that Hollywood studios collaborated with Hitler and helped to finance the German war machine. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The pace of events in the Middle East has quickened once again. More than two years since the start of the Arab spring, the facts on the ground can still change so rapidly in the region that western governments struggle to keep pace. Last week Barack Obama had convened an emergency meeting to discuss the violent crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, only for the US president to find himself confronted with an even more dramatic challenge – a chemical weapon attack in Syria.
Turkish actors Kivanc Tatlitug (L) and Songul Oden (R) (Getty)
It looks like the unkindest cut of all. After years in which the march of Turkish soap operas across the Middle East has been hailed as proof of Ankara’s soft power in the Arab world, someone wants to pull the plug.
The post-coup government in Egypt, which is barely on talking terms with Turkey, appears to be encouraging a boycott of Turkish soaps, a move that not only hits a showpiece cultural export but comes at a time when Ankara is confronting a host of problems in the Middle East.
The glory days of August 2011, when prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was greeted by thousands of sympathisers at Cairo airport, seem very far away. Indeed the upheaval in the Arab world, which once seemed set to bolster Turkey’s influence, is turning into a serious headache on issues ranging from soap operas to shootings. Read more
♦ Eike Batista built an empire and became Brazil’s richest man with the OGX oil company. It now stands on the verge of bankruptcy, however, after it turned out the oil fields meant to produce more than half of Brazil’s current national production were duds.
♦ Raghuram Rajan has his work cut out for him as the new head of the Reserve Bank of India, with the rupee at fresh lows and the slowdown of quantitative easing on the horizon. Rajan, who warned about the crisis , is expected to take a tough stance on moral hazard.
♦ In an analysis of how Egypt’s rocky present could forecast Turkey’s future if the AKP does not distance itself from Erdogan’s brutal crackdown and drive for Islamisation, Timur Kuran argues that political Islam must gain power legitimately through the creation of democratic systems.
♦ “Once you spend more than $100m on a movie, you have to save the world,” Hollywood blockbuster writer Damon Lindelof tells New York Magazine in this profile the of the U.S. film industry.
♦ A pension crisis is drawing nearer in Chicago, as the retired teachers’ pension fund stands at risk of collapse and in 2015 state law will require it to pay $1bn more a year into city pension funds to make up for years of underpayments. Read more
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Getty)
The coup in Egypt might be bad news not just for Turkey’s government, which had cultivated ties with Cairo’s Islamist leadership, but also for the thousands of demonstrators who have protested against Ankara in recent months. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, appears to have toughened his stance towards the protesters in the wake of the army intervention against his allies in Egypt. 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
Erdogan with Major General Hassan al-Roueini in Cairo, 2011 (Getty)
Two years ago, Egypt was the scene of one of Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s greatest foreign triumphs. Now it is a country that he and much of Turkey look on at with anguish, a reminder that many of Ankara’s ambitions for the Middle East have come crashing to earth.
Turkey invested heavily in the Egyptian revolution and also in the government of Mohamed Morsi. Mr Erdogan was one of the first international leaders in early 2011 to call on then President Hosni Mubarak to heed the message of the demonstrators clamouring for his exit.
When, months later, Mr Erdogan visited Cairo, thousands of supporters greeted him at the airport.
Nor did ties end there. Ankara announced the extension of a $2bn loan to Cairo. Mr Morsi was acclaimed by the congress of Mr Erdogan’s ruling AKP last September. Just a few days ago, the Turkish prime minister discussed his plans to visit the Gaza Strip – which he would almost certainly travel to via Egypt. That trip looks much less likely today.
In sum, the Egyptian coup may be a devastating blow to Turkey’s vision of a more democratic, more Islamist-leaning Middle East in which Ankara plays a leading role, partly by virtue of philosophical ties with governments in the region, partly because of its own experience in beating back military influence. Read more
The Istanbul protests and the future of Turkish politics
What prompted the unrest in Istanbul? What does it mean? What does the future hold for Turkish politics and the wider region? Dan Dombey, Turkey correspondent, and Lex’s Vincent Boland, a former Turkey correspondent, join Gideon Rachman.
By Aranya Jain
♦ Ewen Macaskill describes how and why Edward Snowden revealed himself to the Guardian, starting with emails in February.
♦ Geoff Dyer examines the extent of government surveillance and why we might need a ‘Church committee for the digital age’.
♦ Turkey – The struggle for Taksim continues, and the stand-off is here to stay – any new developments will likely come from within Erdogan’s own party.
♦ A plea for help from Masanjia labour camp in China was hidden in Halloween decorations and found by a woman in Oregon, leading to an exposition of the camp’s brutal system.
♦ The North Pond Hermit of Maine has committed at least 1,000 burglaries over 27 years, while living alone in the woods. Read more
♦ The NSA whistleblower has revealed himself via a video interview with the Guardian – find out more about Edward Snowden elsewhere on this blog.
♦ Edward Luce argues that President Barack Obama has hurt himself and business over the issue of privacy.
♦ In Turkey, members of every sector of society have united against Erdogan, whose intransigence could split his party.
♦ The Washington Post reports on the mourning parents of Newtown.
♦ The Obama administration has begun helping Middle Eastern allies to build up their defences against Iran’s cyberweapons, and will be doing the same in Asia. Read more