• Germany: time for soul searching, by Nils Röper

    “America, you’ve got it better, [...] your heart is not troubled, in lively pursuits, by useless old remembrance and empty disputes.” These words by Goethe in 1827 could hardly be more untimely. Yet, when it comes to the main talking point on both sides of the Atlantic — immigration — Goethe’s wistful envy must capture Angela Merkel’s current thinking all too well. The world’s most powerful woman is struggling as the migration crisis lays bare Germany’s national identity problem.

    The country has come to terms with its past and is praised internationally for this: many polls have #Germany as the world’s most popular country. Today’s Germans have grown comfortable, proudly waving flags when their national soccer team is playing. EU politics in recent years are a testimony to the country’s political emancipation from the sins of the past century. [#st]

  • For one indivisible French republic, by Rabah Ghezali

    What we saw on Friday 13 November was pure evil made manifest. Right now, words are not enough to describe the horror France feels. Nothing prepared us for this, not even the January attacks. If terrorism is said to be the weapon of the weak, the Friday attacks were the use of weapon against the weak and innocent, at very symbolic places.

    France loves intellectual debates. But the discussions between those who argue that radical and violent extremists hate us for our modernity, and those who argue that they hate us for our policies seem, right now, superfluous. The answer is obviously yes to both. There is absolutely no political justification for the mass crime they committed against us. With ISIS (or Daesh), absolute violence and the most absurd sectarianism prevail over everything with an eschatological view of the world as sole justification. They aim at getting closer to end of the world by attacking Paris, as a European city and capital of France. [#st]

  • US and Russia: time for reconciliation, by John Pedler

    In an article published in Le Monde diplomatique’s English blog on 2 July, I suggested that Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin had mutual interests in the Middle East, and elsewhere, which were drawing them together. The rift over Ukraine might well be overcome by diplomacy, provided Obama could divorce the resurgent neoconservatives in Defence, State and CIA, with their ambition to bring about a Unipolar world, and provided Putin listened more often to his foreign affairs advisers and less to his security chiefs and the old KGB ‘Silovki’ that he brought with him when he first became president in 2000. [#st]

  • What the Russo-Turkish incident could mean for Russia, by Andreas Umland

    The immediate fall-out of Turkey’s shooting of a Russian fighter jet may ultimately remain limited. Perhaps, neither Moscow nor Ankara will substantively modify policies towards each other. An ad hoc anti-ISIS coalition that includes both Russia and Turkey could still materialize. However, the indirect repercussions of this brief conflict may still be noteworthy in view of the event’s symbolic and geopolitical significance. The incident (by itself small) has happened at a time of other foreign challenges to Russia’s rulers. It could result in deeper problems for the Kremlin than we can currently see. In one way or another, it will impact both the coherence of Putin’s regime and the effectiveness of Moscow’s foreign policies. [#st]

  • Time to speak out, by Raouf J. Halaby

    Saudi Arabia has condemned Palestinian poet and artist Ashraf Fayadh to death, charging that, as an apostate, he has insulted Islam, the Custodian of the Two Holy Shrines (the Saudi monarchy) and the Wahhabi sect. Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi tenets have been stirring fanatical religious fervor from as far away as Bangladesh, across North and central Africa, and into central Asia and the Caucasus. [#st]

  • Troubles in Kurdish paradise, by Matthew Schweitzer

    On 13 November Kurdish Peshmerga and Yazidi militia liberated the Iraqi city of #Sinjar. The operation ended 15 months of ISIS domination over the strategic point along Highway 47 between jihadi-controlled Mosul and the group’s de facto capital in Raqqa. It opened the possibility for advance into ISIS territory in northern Iraq — and as some analysts have argued, perhaps even to Mosul. [#st]

  • Altiero Spinelli and his European dream, by Peter Fieldman

    The European Union faces its gravest crisis since the common market came into existence at the Treaty of Rome in 1957. Individual states dissatisfied with the technocrats in Brussels are reasserting their right to determine their own policies and laws while many of Europe’s regions are seeking more autonomy or even independence. Concern over the influence of Islam and its radical factions, and massive immigration caused by poverty and military conflicts in Africa and Asia, has led to the rise of populist political parties across the continent, bringing the fear of a return to rightwing extremism.

    Instead of a European utopia, we face the break-up of the EU and the end of the dream, which began on a tiny island off the Italian coast in 1941. [#st]

  • Climate change: two funds, same money, by Deganit Perez

    The United Nations has managed to raise $10 billion to address climate change; that should make it possible to help the developing world reduce its impact and adapt to new environmental conditions.

    But the U.N. pot - known as the Green Climate Fund - is now facing competition from a similar fund at the World Bank. The Climate Investment Fund was only meant to act as an interim trustee, administering money earmarked to combat climate change while the U.N.’s fund got underway. [#st]

  • Who is my Neighbour?, by Raouf J. Halaby

    While the sordid refugee drama, a tragedy of epic proportions, was unfolding in the Levant and Europe, Americans spent their Labor Day weekend water skiing, picnicking and camping at resorts, national parks, beaches and lakes, watching sports events, and driving their gas-guzzling SUVs (thanks to $2 per gallon petrol). For a backdrop to this celebration of the good life, Americans were treated to a stream of holier-than-thou, made-for-telly sermons on moral behavior. To the best of my knowledge, there’s not been a single American minister, priest, rabbi or imam who delivered a significant sermon on the unfolding refugee crisis in Europe. Meanwhile, American politicians delivered hate-laced speeches appealing to xenophobia. Like a truant criminal, immigration was personified and became the primary whipping boy. Donald Trump and his cohorts insist that a wall must be built on America’s border, a “permanent wall” so high it would hermetically seal America’s borders to keep the riff raff Latinos and Muslim terrorist types out. [#st]

  • Is Trump the American Berlusconi?, by Carlo Invernizzi Accetti and Francesco Ronchi

    For a long time Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi appeared as an impenetrable phenomenon to foreign observers. He was routinely dismissed as an exotic anomaly tied to the idiosyncrasies of Italian political culture.

    Today, he might not seem so unfamiliar. There are striking analogies between Italy’s former prime minister and the current front-runner in the Republican presidential nominee race — and not just that both are flamboyant billionaires and former entertainers running for office on anti-establishment platforms.

    Although Berlusconi’s political fortunes now appear to be on the wane, looking back at reasons for his erstwhile success might shed light on the current fascination with Donald Trump’s US presidential bid. [#st]

  • And when Abbas goes?, by Nadia Hijab and Alaa Tartir

    The Palestinian National Council (PNC) is expected to meet this month in its first session since 2009 to accept the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), along with more than half the Executive Committee’s 18 members. The PNC does of course have the option of rejecting some or all of the resignations, and in any case Abbas still wears several hats: he remains head of state, President of the Palestinian Authority, commander-in-chief, and head of the Fatah political party. Moreover, all those who resign are free to stand again. [#st]

  • Chemicals don’t discriminate, by Ross Eventon

    For almost four decades now the planes have been departing Colombian airstrips with a single purpose. The objective in sight, the pilot dips in low. The chemical payload is released. The tank emptied, the mission is complete. The plane turns back for base.

    Over time the target has changed: first it was marihuana, then coca leaves, later opium poppies. The weapon too has evolved, settling eventually on the glysophate-based Roundup Ultra, manufactured by the Monsanto corporation. The operators have changed too: once just local Colombian forces, today there are US pilots flying US-made planes spraying a US-made product in fulfilment of a multi-million dollar contract granted by the US government to a US corporation. [#st]

  • Rainbow of misunderstanding, by Heidi Morrison

    The US Supreme Court’s recent decision on marriage equality led to celebrations around the world. A strong, loud message of support came from Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar, who painted large rainbow stripes on the Israeli separation wall at the Qalandiya checkpoint. He titled the work Through the Spectrum, intending the rainbow — an icon of freedom, love and humanity — to juxtapose the oppression represented by the wall. Graffiti art, including works by Banksy, cover the 700-km wall that has turned the West Bank into an open-air prison. [#st]

  • Little to celebrate in South Sudan, by by Antony Loewenstein

    The UN Security Council recently imposed new sanctions on #South_Sudan including travel bans on six South Sudanese citizens. Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, praised the move saying: “The Security Council took strong action in support of a peaceful end to the conflict in South Sudan by sanctioning six South Sudanese individuals for fuelling the ongoing conflict and contributing to the devastating humanitarian crisis in their country.” [#st]

  • Hope at last for Ukraine?, by John Pedler

    US Secretary of State John Kerry’s tweet (CNBC, 12 May 2015), ‘Had frank discussions with President Putin & FM Lavrov over key issues including Iran talks, Syria, Ukraine’, is truly historic. For it could signal a determination on President Obama’s part to use the last 17 months of his presidency to usher in a period of cooperation in world affairs, ending the resurgent neo-conservatives’ push for a ‘unipolar’ world dominated by the US. If followed through — and it’s a big if — despite Republican opposition, there is real hope that the US and EU can work together with Russia to make Ukraine the benign hyphen, joining the EU west and Russian east of Europe, that it should be, instead of the present bone of contention. [#st]

  • Big Oil’s ethical violence, by Lara Montesinos Coleman

    International attention has once again turned to the murky record of BP’s oil operations in Colombia. The High Court in London is to hear a case against BP, filed on behalf of Gilberto Torres, a former trade unionist who was kidnapped and tortured by state-linked paramilitaries in 2002. In a trial in Colombia, the kidnappers said that they took direct orders from pipeline operator Ocensa, in which BP had a 15% stake. They stated that Ocensa paid them an extra $40,000 for the job. [#st]

  • Al-Sisi’s Berlin charm offensive, by Allison West

    Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi was recently welcomed in Berlin amidst the most serious human rights crisis in Egypt’s modern history. Many, especially in Egypt, saw the red carpet rolled out in Germany for the army general-turned-autocrat as a success for al-Sisi. But reaction he received in Berlin was mixed, and he cannot be so sure that his “stability” image will succeed on the international stage. [#st]