Are Americans more on board with President Barack Obama’s efforts to clinch massive deals with the Pacific Rim and the European Union than most Democratic lawmakers give him credit for?
This week, the well-respected, bipartisan, NBC-WSJ poll found that 44 per cent of Americans were more likely to vote for a member of Congress who “favours new trade agreements with other countries”, compared to 20 per cent who said they were less likely to; 34 per cent said it made no difference, and 2 per cent were unsure. Read more
For the last seven years, Iran and world powers have been engaged in seemingly endless negotiations over whether the Iranian nuclear programme could be curbed. After each failure, diplomats and journalists ended up wondering whether diplomacy would ever prevail – or whether Iran would end up either getting the nuclear bomb or being bombed.
But this autumn three factors came into play to make this the moment when a landmark deal needed to be agreed – and when the years of deadlock and obfuscation needed to come to an end. The agreement, hailed as a historic moment, has halted further progress on the nuclear programme in return for a modest lifting of international sanctions. Read more
By Luisa Frey
♦ Will the Palestinian economy ever be able to break its isolation? The past two decades’ rounds of failed peace talks didn’t manage to build an independent Palestinian economy which can break free of Israel – the question is now if a new $4bn plan to revive the economy will be able to change that.
♦ Tests taken from Yasser Arafat’s corpse have shown high levels of radioactive polonium-210, suggesting the former Palestinian leader could have been poisoned. Arafat’s widow describes it as “the crime of the century”.
♦ External pressure is also threatening Georgia. The FT’s Neil Buckley reports about the “borderisation” of South Ossetia.
♦ Greece may be the next Weimar Germany, says Greek professor Aristides Hatzis. The parliament contains neo-Nazis, Stalinists, Maoists, populists and defenders of conspiracy theories. Although there is a strong coalition government, failures in implementing reforms seem to be outweighing successes.
♦ Meanwhile, “power, prestige, and influence of the United States in the broader Middle East is in a death spiral”, writes Bob Dreyfuss. He argues in Le Monde Diplomatique that the disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, America’s economic crisis and the Arab Spring contributed to the decay of American influence.
♦ The future of the US-Egyptian relationship is also in focus. Washington’s establishment of relations with former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel al-Nasser “can serve as the most promising template for a stable and productive relationship between the two countries today”, says Robert Springborg in Foreign Affairs.
♦ Peter Baker, from Foreign Policy, writes about how the warm Russian-American relationship became icy. Through interviews and secret notes and memos, he reconstructs the story of former President George W. Bush’s pas de deux with Vladimir Putin, offering lessons for Obama as he struggles to define his own approach to Russia.
By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ Though support for a vote in favour of military intervention in Syria appears to be strengthening in the US, the sceptics still have strong arguments and Obama still has a number of battles to win such as gaining partisan and public support.
♦ A back and forth between the Washington Post’s Max Fisher and writer Teju Cole provides an entertaining and thought provoking exchange on the tone in western coverage of the conflict in Syria, use of chemical weapons and potential western military intervention.
♦ The opening up of the debate on European issues to the wider population afforded by pre-election debates between Merkel and her opponent Peer Steinbrück is a necessary part of moving forward on deepening of the European Union and the healing of the eurozone, says the FT in an editorial.
♦When the Muslim Brotherhood moved to take over the ministry of culture under Mohamed Morsi, Egyptian intellectuals were gripped by a fear “sometimes well-founded, sometimes bordering on hysteria” about the threat of the brotherhood to Egypt’s identity, which helped drive them “back into the reassuring embrace of the military.”
♦ The UK Labour party’s rejection of David Cameron’s proposal for action in Syria is not based on its position, argues David Aaronovitch, but is rather a strategy of following behind the leader to “wait for slip-up and exploit his or her mistakes.” Read more
Obama’s political gamble on Syria
President Barack Obama’s decision to consult Congress before launching any military strikes on Syria came as a surprise to friend and foe alike. How is this political gamble likely to work out and what are the implications for the crisis in Syria and and for the use of American power around the world? Gideon Rachman is joined by James Blitz, diplomatic editor and Richard McGregor, Washington bureau chief, to discuss
By Gideon Rachman
In 1899 Rudyard Kipling, the pre-eminent poet of British imperialism, addressed some stanzas to America. “Take up the white man’s burden,” he urged, “The savage wars of peace/ Fill full the mouth of famine/ And bid the sickness cease.” These days America has a black president and no public intellectual would dare to use the imperialist language of a Kipling. But the idea that the US bears a special burden in policing the world is very much alive. The notion was there in Barack Obama’s call for military action over Syria: “We are the United States,” declared the president – outlining his nation’s special role in creating and defending the post-1945 global order.
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.
Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on an anti-Islamist protester's placard. US president Obama is depicted as a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood. Getty
When the army and security forces ignored pleas for restraint from Egypt’s allies in the US and Europe, moving to crush the Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that spread across Cairo after the July 3 coup d’etat that toppled President Mohamed Morsi, they had reason to feel supremely confident.
What General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his colleagues have done is to restore the security state – an action that should not be confused with re-establishing security.
This restoration is edging towards the status quo ante the Tahrir revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. It started before the coup, with the constitution Morsi and the Brothers railroaded through last December. Most of the controversy excited by this Islamist-tinged charter was caused by the way it ignored liberal, Christian and women’s concerns over fundamental rights and freedoms. Alarmingly little attention was paid to the way the Brotherhood sought to co-opt the military by embedding the army’s privileges and prerogatives even beyond the powers it enjoyed under Mubarak. Read more
♦ Keeping Brussels on board in its counter-terrorism data-gathering operation has arguably been Washington’s most important diplomatic concern with the EU. However, this has been put at risk after the recent revelations from Edward Snowden. Indeed, the US and the EU might need couple-therapy.
♦ A Syrian hacktivist has set up an alert system to warn Syrians about incoming missiles – but Assad is already trying to take it down.
♦ A former member of Nirvana and Soundgarden has become a war hero.
♦ Legendary British war photographer Don McCullin recounts his life, capturing international conflicts.
♦David Gardner warns Egyptians cheering the armed forces to remember that “there is no such thing as a liberal coup d’etat”.
♦And as Egypt hurtles further into political crisis, Robert Springborg asks if the army can really control the forces it has unleashed. Read more
G8 summit There have already been rifts over the issue of armaments in Syria.
♦ While leaders have been at loggerheads, Assad’s regime has been able to take advantage of the lack of US leadership, writes Roula Khalaf.
♦ The decision to send unspecified military support to the rebels will be dangerous, but it is more risky to stay out, says David Gardner: “Leaving Syria to its present devices will create an Afghanistan in the eastern Mediterranean”.
♦ Maureen Dowd thinks that Obama is being “schooled” by the Clintons: “After dithering for two years over what to do about the slaughter in Syria, the president was finally shoved into action by the past and perhaps future occupant of his bedroom.”
Tax avoidance will be another G8 hot topic: Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, thinks corporate tax systems need to be simplified. If you want to read more about the debate so far, take a look through our reporting on the Great Tax Race.
♦ Mayor Bloomberg takes on a new cause: making it mandatory for New Yorkers to separate their food scraps for composting.
♦ Food for thought: is marriage in decline because there is less demand for husbands?
♦ China plans to move 250m rural residents – that’s about five times the population of South Korea – into newly constructed towns and cities over the next 12 years. Elsewhere in the world, cities are turning into vast gated communities for the one per cent.
♦ The BBC speaks to Sonali Deraniyagala, who lost everything in the 2004 tsunami. Read more
By Aranya Jain
♦ Max Fisher speculates on how the US will react to Syria’s use of chemical weapons – large changes in policy are unlikely – while Geoff Dyer examines the reasons behind the uncertainty of the US response.
♦ Genes isolated directly from humans are no longer patentable, as the US supreme court has ruled that only synthetic versions of DNA, known as complementary DNA, can be patented. New access to previously company owned DNA may improve and lessen the cost of treatment, but the loss of patents may also cause a loss of incentive for companies to conduct new research. For those who have more time this weekend, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a novel that grapples with these issues, examining the legacy of a woman whose DNA has become one of the most important tools in medicine, and yet has remained virtually anonymous, never receiving the rights to her own genes.
♦On a lighter note, the US navy will soon stop shouting its communications as messages no longer have to be written in all capital letters.
♦Foreign Policy brings you the fashion highlights from the Iranian election campaigns.
♦And if you have a spare moment, Satan has a few words to say on the Murdoch divorce.
By Aranya Jain
♦Hassan Rohani, the only moderate candidate left in Iran’s upcoming elections, promised reform and unveiled his past in a documentary aired on state TV.
♦ Japan attempts to increase entrepreneurship by making taking out loans easier and encouraging innovation, but changing the system will not be easy.
♦ We are entering a new age of big data, and have yet to understand what this will mean. Our lack of privacy does not end with the NSA, as many big data companies are also able to collect our data trails, and infer things about us from them.
♦ Post-Arab Spring North Africa remains fragile, and is reminiscent of post-Communist eastern and central Europe, but what Africa needs is a role model for democracy.
♦ Snowden claims that the NSA has been hacking China and Hong Kong for years will test Sino-US ties.
♦ This website, via interactive graphics and charts, allows you to explore information about land deals, from a web of which regions are investing in each other to charts that delineate what the land is being used for.
♦ What Mandela’s legacy can leave behind – Roy Isacowitz argues that Israel should emulate Mandela to pursue peace but that it will not do so. 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
♦ We love our multilateral organisations here at the FT, so we’ve taken a close look at how Roberto Azevêdo managed to win the WTO DG nomination – visiting a mere 47 countries along the way. Mr Azevêdo struck a pragmatic note in an in interview with the FT, saying a year-end Bali meeting would focus on the “do-able”: “It’s… about instilling confidence that we can still negotiate, that we can still deliver multilaterally.”
♦ After David Cameron welcomed Uhuru Kenyatta to London this week, Richard Dowden considers the diplomatic earthquake that could occur when Kenyatta is expected to report to the ICC. Will Britain “abandon the ICC or isolate their closest political and security ally in East and the Horn of Africa”? Will Kenyatta run the country from a Dutch prison using Skype?
♦ Israel has warned the US about an imminent Russian deal to sell ground-to-air missile systems to Syria.
♦ US military camouflage has developed from two types to 10, just one example of inefficient duplication between different government agencies.
♦ Arguably the most haunting photograph of the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh. Read more
♦ Martin Wolf argues that forcing the eurozone to mimic Germany’s path to adjustment makes stagnation likely.
♦ US intervention in Syria becomes more difficult with time because of sequestration. “If you ask me today, we have forces that can go,” says General Ray Odierno, the army chief of staff. “I think it will change over time because the longer we go cancelling training and reducing our training, the readiness levels go down.”
♦ Researchers have identified two dozen 15,000-year-old “ultraconserved” words, which suggest the existence of a proto-Eurasiatic language that was the root of about 700 contemporary languages.
♦ Film director Ann Shin discusses her film about the human smugglers who extract people from North Korea and why so many of them are women. Read more
Rand Paul (Getty Images)
Rand Paul’s marathon filibuster last week – aimed at holding up the confirmation of John Brennan as head of the CIA – was much more than a parliamentary stunt. It has opened up interesting new debates and divisions on the future direction of US foreign policy.
Senator Paul’s highlighting of the Obama administration’s use of drones for “targeted killings” of terrorist suspects, has established an unlikely alliance between the libertarian right and the liberal left. Until Paul took up the drones issue, it was mainly the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union, who were making the running in criticising the drone strikes. But, as Paul illustrated, there is a good libertarian case for suspicion of the over-mighty covert state. Even more interestingly, Paul’s stand placed him directly at odds with the neoconservative wing of his own Republican Party.
The Wall Street Journal has denounced Paul for appealing to “impressionable libertarian kids” – a condemnation quoted with approval by John McCain, one of the party’s leading foreign-policy hawks.
Conveniently for President Obama, this argument between the two wings of the Republican Party places the president somewhere in the middle. He will never be as hawkish as the Republican neocons, many of whom are pressing for intervention in Syria, an assault on Iran and denouncing cuts in the Pentagon budget. On the other hand, the president’s expansion of the drone war and his unwillingness to rein in the burgeoning national-security apparatus makes him very far from being a “libertarian kid”. Read more