South Africa: Up the creek

A WHITE woman in the fluorescent-yellow jacket of a freelance parking attendant steps into the road, gesticulating at an empty bay outside a restaurant in Johannesburg’s rich northern suburbs, as black drivers in luxurious German cars swish past, their darkened windows sealed against the chill evening air. Few scenes illustrate more starkly the erosion of white privilege since the end of apartheid two decades ago.Inequalities remain—the median wage of whites is still four times higher than that of blacks.

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Libya: Out of control

Why Tripoli is short of petrol THE evacuation, when it came, was not by helicopter from the embassy roof but in a convoy of cars from its front gate. Yet the effect of America’s withdrawal from Tripoli, Libya’s capital, on July 26th was almost as grim. It was a signal that for the moment international diplomacy to stem Libya’s strife had ground to a halt.The embassy had endured two weeks of rockets landing close to its fortified building near Tripoli’s international airport

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The Syrian war: A pincer move

WHEN an alliance of disgruntled Sunnis led by the Islamic State (IS), an extremist group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), streaked across Iraq in June and proclaimed a caliphate in the territory it holds on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border, Syrian rebels with a more national focus thought their day had come. Surely, they surmised, America and its Western allies would not sit by and allow to prosper a group that had grown out of al-Qaeda in Iraq and killed American soldiers during the war there in 2003? Bar the Americans getting involved militarily, the only way for them to push back IS in Syria would be to bolster the more moderate rebels there.A little more weaponry, mainly anti-tank missiles, did indeed arrive for eight vetted groups that have been supplied by a covert programme that since last year has been run by America and states in the Gulf and Europe that want to see the back of Bashar Assad, Syria’s president.

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Iran and its nuclear plans: Time out

AFTER some unconvincing last-minute brinkmanship, Iran and the six world powers it is negotiating with decided on July 18th to extend the deadline for an agreement by four months. The negotiators, seeking to secure a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for the removal of sanctions, are taking a break until September.

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Iraq’s Christians: Nearly all gone

At least he’s alive—among the Kurds FEW of the Christian women fleeing to safety in northern Iraq arrived wearing rings in their ears or on their fingers. Fighters of the Islamic State, the self-proclaimed new name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the jihadist group that captured Mosul last month, relieved them of just about everything valuable—except their lives.A week ago the Christians in the city were told they had until July 18th to convert to Islam, pay a special tax, leave, or, in the words of a statement by the jihadists, they would have “nothing but the sword.” But then the jihadists changed their mind: paying the tax was no longer an option.

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Chad and its neighbours: Africa’s jihadists, on their way

SQUINT a little and the region skirting Lake Chad in central Africa resembles Mosul and Tikrit in northern Iraq: dried-out canals, scrubby plains, ragtag bands of Islamists with guns beneath an unrelenting sun. Thanks to satellite television, the long-suffering residents around the lake, which abutted Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria until it began to dry up and shrink over the past few decades (see map), have a rough understanding of what has happened recently in Iraq.

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