Yesterday, when Rishi Sunak stood in front of the portable lectern outside No. 10 Downing Street to make his first statement as prime minister, it marked a watershed in many ways. At 42, he is the youngest prime minister in modern British history; he is also the first person of color to hold the post, and the first Hindu. But the significance goes beyond these symbolic attributes: he represents a possible return to stable government after 44 days of unrelenting crisis under his predecessor, Liz Truss, and after six years of political drama.
Truss is an unusual political character: she lacks charisma or force of persuasion and yet still identifies as a disruptor.… Seguir leyendo »
Liz Truss could not command support for her calamitous – and misnamed – mini-budget. And once her new Chancellor Jeremy Hunt had overturned its provisions, she had no mission or credibility left.
The budget pushed interest rates higher and they did not fall much on the scrapping of it, leaving her open to the charge she pushed up mortgage and interest costs for every person and business in the country. Her apology for ‘mistakes made’ was not going to reverse that, so her MPs were right to tell her to go.
Her departure does mark a victory for at least some of the UK’s institutions, even if it might not seem that way to observers around the world.… Seguir leyendo »
For all the smoke-and-mirrors talk now commonplace about Brexit opportunities, there is real potential that Liz Truss – as the clear frontrunner to be the next UK prime minister – could extract from the aftermath of that upheaval as well as from the turmoil in the world.
But the approach and priorities she revealed during her one year as a better UK foreign secretary than Boris Johnson was – although he did set a low bar – as well as the past three months campaigning for the leadership of her party contain a warning.
She has shown a willingness to aggravate relationships with allies in pursuit of the support of her party faithful, and of a vision of British independence as well as a tendency to dismiss economic analysis when it inconveniently questions her assertions about favoured policies.… Seguir leyendo »
The lights from Committee Room 14 in the House of Commons were shining brightly onto the Thames on Wednesday night, as more than 300 Conservative members of Parliament packed themselves inside to vote on whether to keep Theresa May as prime minister. After three hours, the news came through: A majority had backed May and she had survived.
Yet it resolves nothing in the great Brexit drama that has brought political life to a standstill and cast uncertainty over the daily decisions of the country, its people and its businesses. May must still get support from Parliament for a deal with the European Union — one that very few members of Parliament of any party seem to like.… Seguir leyendo »
The trial of Lubna Hussein, the Sudanese journalist sentenced to 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public, was postponed yesterday, a tribute to her gamble in choosing worldwide publicity rather than accepting the sentence, as most do. The Khartoum police promptly found others to beat — the women who had come to protest.
This story resonates all the more in the month of the Afghan presidential elections. It’s worth making the case for why we should spend money and effort and yes, sometimes, military lives, in defence of women’s rights, in places that barely recognise the concept.
At a tense time in the Afghan mission, it’s an unfashionable point to make.… Seguir leyendo »
Yesterday a Pakistani security official said that if India now put more forces on to the disputed Kashmir border, the Pakistani Army would do likewise. By the way, that would mean that Pakistan put less effort into fighting the Taleban on its western border, he added, in an unsubtle warning to the US and Britain. Pakistan understands only too well that for the West its border with Afghanistan represents the frontline in the war on terror.
On the Pakistani side priorities are different. As the calls go up for a clampdown on terrorists, Islamabad's most urgent desire is not for a Nato-defined victory, but for a peaceful life on its Afghan border.… Seguir leyendo »
Every time there is a chance for the United States to escape from the trap it has created for itself in Guantanamo Bay, it slams the door shut.
The Pentagon's decision this week to seek the death penalty for six men it accuses of the 9/11 attacks, and to try them under the hugely disputed version of military courts that it has devised, is one of the stupidest mistakes that the Bush Administration has made.
Everything about Guantanamo is an affront to the values the US says it is defending in the War on Terror. The principle of holding hundreds of people there without charge, for years; the fluid rules of the “military commissions” used for the very few who will be tried; the torture that the Administration acknowledges has been practised on these six: all these are an assault on the US Constitution.… Seguir leyendo »
Oil at nearly $100 a barrel cannot keep Mahmoud Ahmadinejad safe in the presidency of Iran for ever. Finally, it seems as if his breathtaking economic mismanagement, squandering an unprecedented bonanza, may prise him from office.
His critics have been predicting from his election in June 2005 that his wilful ignorance of economics would lead to his downfall. They have been wrong so far because of oil prices even higher than expected; a still-deep hunger among the very poor for Ahmadinejad's message; and his fortuitously successful handling of the nuclear dispute with the West.
The parliamentary elections in March will be the best test of his support — and of whether clerics and other leading figures now want to turf him out.… Seguir leyendo »
This has been a shatteringly bleak week for Pakistan, but not one that condemns it to being a failed state. The return of Benazir Bhutto, overshadowed by the bomb that killed 140, is a step forward. But although she has been championed in Europe and the US, she is a long way from being the solution to her country’s savage problems.
Pakistan dominates Britain’s foreign worries, officials say, and they are right. It is not just that terrorism is on the increase – as well as the capacity of extremists, in this age of eight-hour direct flights and the internet, to cause mischief in the Pakistani community in Britain.… Seguir leyendo »
The most extraordinary spectacle of the past week has been the apparent desire of the US Congress to pronounce as genocide the 1915 massacre of Armenians by Turks, even though there is nothing more provocative to Turkey, and no worse time at which to do it.
Why take up an historic cause with such passion? And why now, when the most precarious planks of US foreign policy rest on already fraying relations with Turkey? It is not just the Bush Administration that has asked Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives, to desist. Eight former secretaries of state, of all political hues, have signed a petition calling for the same.… Seguir leyendo »
Is anguish about the US’s sour relations with the world a problem of the past?
Sadly not, argue a quartet of French and American think-tankers in a persuasive pamphlet which is more precise and practical than the genre normally delivers.
Iraq isn’t the lasting problem, they maintain, even if it was the cause of so much tension. Nor was the Bush Administration’s high-handed pursuit of national interest entirely to blame, they say (and Gary Samore, one of the authors, adds that not only has the Bush team softened its rhetoric, but that the next president is certain to be milder in tone).… Seguir leyendo »
There is a sense that the heat from Pakistan’s immediate crisis is evaporating. But not because the country is on course for democracy - more because President Musharraf has half-stitched together a formula for his own survival, and with it, for a kind of short-term stability.
Nawaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister, who is now under an ambiguous form of detention in Saudi Arabia after his attempt to return last month lasted only a humiliating five hours, symbolises the democratic failings of the plan. His future may even depend on Benazir Bhutto, his one-time ally and now bitter rival - in which case it is a fair bet she will keep him out in the cold.… Seguir leyendo »
The Senate came into its own yesterday and put to General David Petraeus the central weakness of his case. Senator Joe Biden, a Democrat sceptical of the war and of the US’s attempts to hold Iraq together, challenged Petraeus, the US commander, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker to explain why present military success meant lasting political improvement.
Even if the military tactics have worked, he argued, while Iraq lacks a government that will embrace all factions, then when US forces go home, Iraq will fall apart.
It is hard to argue against that, and Petraeus and Crocker did not do so. In analysis of Iraq, they are towards the upbeat end, but not to the point of implausibility.… Seguir leyendo »
If Britain had not just clashed with the US over its plans to leave Iraq, it might have been easier to avoid the rising tension over Afghanistan. But not very easy: there are half a dozen disagreements over tactics, and a longer-term distinct difference of interest.
Tension was on the cards since Tony Blair decided that Britain should take a leading role in Afghanistan, giving it a responsibility for the overall outcome that it would never have had in Iraq. From the beginning its aims and style of operation have been different from those of the US.
Washington wanted the capture of Osama bin Laden, the expulsion of the Taleban, the installation of a pro-Western government, and enough stabilisation to stop Afghanistan remaining a fountain of terrorism.… Seguir leyendo »
There is no foreign country that matters more to Iran than Iraq (except perhaps the US). The puzzle is why the US imagines that Iranian involvement in Iraq will melt away if it protests angrily.
Yesterday’s skirmish, in which the US arrested eight Iranians in Baghdad and then let them go after consulting the Iraqi Government, was trivial and irrelevant to the broader clash between the two countries. However, it is another small sign that Iraq’s Shia-led Government is prepared to side with Tehran against the US, if only to avoid antagonism.
There is no reason – although Tehran may not need one – to connect the incident with President Bush’s speech the previous night, in which he declared that Iran’s nuclear ambitions put the region “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust”.… Seguir leyendo »
The success of Abdullah Gül in becoming Turkey’s new President is a victory for democracy. But it is a blow for secularism, in that it accurately reflects the new strength of the conservative, low-key Islamic voters from the heart of Anatolia at the expense of the secular cities.
At the expense of the army, too. Despite the threats on Monday from the head of the armed forces that he saw “centres of evil” trying to undermine Turkey’s secular character, the scale of popular support for Gül’s AK party, and its big majority in parliament, has given the military little choice but to stand back.… Seguir leyendo »
The storm over India’s new nuclear pact with the US, which now threatens to bring down the Indian Government, illustrates the only good thing about the deal – it is an antidote to anti-Western reflexes in the country that still run deep.
Other than that, the deal is a worry, for all the reasons that the US Congress has asserted: it is an extravagant breach of the spirit of non-proliferation treaties, showering the benefits of US nuclear help on India even though it acquired nuclear weapons.
But the row is a reminder that Indian stability and prosperity are surprisingly fragile, given the country’s remarkable growth.… Seguir leyendo »
Is Russia managing to build a rival to Nato? More than you would have thought last year and more than is comfortable in Europe and the US.
The summit yesterday of Russia, China and their Central Asian neighbours was dubbed the “anti-Nato” by Izvestia, the Russian daily newspaper, and it has a point. Iran, as an “observer”, added a new and menacing tone to the group.
Russia’s main frustration in its ambitions for the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation (SCO), as the 11-year-old group is formally called, is that China wants the club to focus on economics and energy more than security and shares none of Russia’s delight in picking a fight with the US.… Seguir leyendo »
The crisis now rocking Pakistan springs directly from the disaster of Partition 60 years ago. The cards that it scooped up, in the rush to carve out a separate Muslim state, were not just inferior to India’s; they were inadequate to build any kind of stable nation.
In this week’s commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the independence of India and Pakistan from British rule, Pakistan’s desperate struggles have often been treated merely as a foil with which better to display the shining performance of its giant neighbour. India, revelling in its status as the world’s largest democracy, has arrived at the memorial date at the crest of a glittering boom, while Pakistan is a military dictatorship on the brink of emergency rule.… Seguir leyendo »
It makes sense to try to rescue the West Bank from Hamas, after the shock of the militant Islamic group’s seizure of Gaza. But the promise by the US and European Union yesterday to pour in aid to the West Bank, while ignoring Gaza, sidesteps the problems.
It is at least better than the reflex, which seems predominant in the Israeli Government, to seal off Gaza completely. That idea amounts to a wager that Gazans will blame Hamas rather than Israel for the disintegration of daily life — and it looks like a terrible one.
The best that can be said about the rush by the US and EU to pour in aid to the new Government of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, is that it is an overdue move to strengthen moderate Palestinians, such as they are.… Seguir leyendo »