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US warns of threat from IS militias

The IS threat is "beyond anything we've seen", US Defense Secretary Hagel said. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

 

After the execution of the journalist James Foley, the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Thursday described the IS militias as an imminent threat to US interests and did not exclude the possibility of attacks on their positions in Syria. Commentators warn against the fragmentation of the Middle East and fear the West will move closer to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war against the IS.

Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

Middle East facing Balkanisation

The states of the Middle East threaten to collapse and the West is half-hearted about stopping the process, the liberal business daily Il Sole 24 Ore fears: "We are at a crossroads: either national unity is maintained as is pledged at every conference or we must get used to the idea of the Balkanisation of the Middle East. ... The Europeans are world champions at this, having stood back and watched Yugoslavia fall apart. ... The successful military solution to the conflict depends on the political solution, and this requires the commitment of all the foreign powers who have been fighting a proxy war in Syria and Iraq for years. The other alternative would be to let the caliphate do as it pleases and watch it challenge the West by expelling religious minorities in order to tear the region apart." (22/08/2014)

Milliyet - Turkey

Only Assad benefits from conflict

US airstrikes against the IS militias in Syria would help only one person by giving him the chance to restore his reputation, the conservative daily Milliyet predicts: "The Islamic State has changed the mood in the Middle East. Particularly since the murder of US journalist James Foley, the West seems to be warming to the idea of starting talks with [Syrian President] Assad again. Assad has never opposed Western values and has an image that can convince the Western world. Shaved, with a smooth face and tie, he looks typically Western, and his wife even more so. These are simple and persuasive arguments with which the Western politicians can convince people of the merits of changing their policy. So it is that the IS militia are becoming a catalyst for Assad's salvation, while for others they bring torture." (22/08/2014)

Financial Times - United Kingdom

Finally tackle British extremism

Linguists have identified the murderer of James Foley as British on the basis of his accent in the video of the beheading. It's high time Britain did more to understand why so many young Muslims in the country fall prey to extremism, the conservative daily Financial Times demands: "First, there must be a more honest acknowledgement by politicians that Britain has a problem with Muslim extremism and is fast becoming a renowned exporter of jihad. ... Community leaders - be they from mosques, schools or local government - need to engage in a serious debate about why so many young men feel alienated from society. And so do national political leaders. Nearly a decade after the 2005 bombings, we do not have satisfactory answers." (21/08/2014)

POLITICS

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La Vanguardia - Spain

Ransoms part of the terrorism problem

The states of the West must present a united stance on paying ransoms to terrorists, the conservative daily La Vanguardia demands after the execution of US journalist James Foley, whose kidnappers had demanded 100 million euro: "The US refused to pay them because, like the UK, it has decided not to make concessions to terrorists. ... By contrast countries like Spain, France or Italy have paid ransoms for kidnapped journalists. It is estimated that around 100 million euros have been paid to the terrorists over the last five years for around 50 kidnapped journalists - half of that in the last year alone. Clearly this has been used to finance the terror. The debate about paying ransoms is complex because in certain circumstances saving a life may seem the top priority. But it's clear that a concerted response would strengthen the position of the targeted countries and weaken the terrorists." (22/08/2014)

Népszabadság - Hungary

Everyone biased on Israel-Palestine conflict

In current debate on the War in Gaza, many intellectuals argue in an extremely biased and prejudiced way in favour of one side or the other, the left-liberal daily Népszabadság believes: "The conflict in the Middle East has to be the topic about which my liberal and humanist acquaintances get most upset - regardless of whether they support the Palestinians or the Israelis. And while on the one hand they accuse the people they're arguing with of being biased, at the same time they're all too indulgent with their own biases. The problem isn't that people take sides, but that apparently human suffering is no longer able to elicit sympathy. It's immediately played down and set in comparison with the sufferings on the other side. ... On Facebook in particular, we can now see how one biased belligerent camp does battle against another." (21/08/2014)

Aftonbladet - Sweden

Sweden's jobless can't rely on PM

In Sweden the campaign for the parliamentary elections on September 14 is in full swing. In a televised debate on Thursday the liberal-conservative Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that he personally didn't know anyone who is unemployed. A revealing statement, the left-liberal daily Aftonbladet comments: "Especially dangerous here in Sweden is the problem of long-term unemployment. ... It paves the way for populism, xenophobia and despair and has repercussions for this as well as the next generation. ... Last year the Social Democrats declared it their goal to reduce unemployment in Sweden to the lowest level in the EU by 2020. ... Setting this goal was the best thing [the Social Democratic candidate Stefan] Löfven ever did because it highlights the differences in Swedish politics. Reinfeldt's reaction was important for making clear what this election is really about." (22/08/2014)

Hotnews - Romania

Băsescu supports the young corrupt

The outgoing Romanian head of state Traian Băsescu is endorsing the candidacy of his long-standing confidant Elena Udrea, announced on Tuesday, for the presidential election in November. The 40-year-old was Minister for Tourism from 2008 to 2012. In supporting Udrea, Băsescu is backing a representative of the corrupt young political class, news portal Hotnews laments: "Udrea is the link between the old and the new world, she is Traian Băsescu's connection to the newly emerged political nomenklatura. The main feature of this new wave is that just like the older generation, its members have close ties to the murky world of the secret services. What has changed is that the old generation behaved differently to the new one. It was generally more willing to disdain and abuse the legal system. ... Băsescu has not beaten the old system but merely rearranged it." (22/08/2014)

Trud - Bulgaria

Bulgaria's demonstrators don't want to govern

The deadline for parties to register for Bulgaria's early parliamentary elections in October expired on Wednesday. In view of numerous demonstrations in Bulgaria that have toppled two consecutive governments, the daily Trud is surprised to see that there is no party representing civic society: "Anyone who has followed the events in Bulgaria in the last two years would no doubt have got the impression that its citizens' political awareness has been awakened. They took to the streets to bring down first Boyko Borisov's government and then the coalition made up of Socialists, the Turkish minority party and nationalists. After all these protests you would expect a record number of civic organisations to take part in new elections. But wrong! As it turns out the only ones willing to be politically active for their country are the good old parties, those that gobble up subsidies, as well as a few exotic communist nostalgics." (21/08/2014)

REFLECTIONS

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Ir - Latvia

Dainis Īvāns recalls the domino effect of the Baltic Chain

On 23 August 1989, the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, over a million people joined hands to form a 600-km human chain stretching from Vilnius via Riga to Tallinn. Dainis Īvāns, former chairman of the Latvian Popular Front and an organiser of the protest, looks back on the event and its impact in the webmag Ir: "The human chain was the expression of direct democracy, a popular vote from the depths of the totalitarian jail in which so many people were trapped. … In Latvia it wasn't just Latvians standing hand in hand, but also Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, Belarusians, Russians and Georgians who were living here. They all wanted to return to Europe as a free nation. … After the Baltic Chain came the fall of the Berlin Wall, and in Prague Václav Havel, who had just been released from prison, spoke to thousands who longed for their freedom. An insurrection broke out in Timişoara that soon spread across Romania and led to the fall of the dictator Ceaușescu. ... And the Ukrainians' current courageous struggle for freedom and integration in Europe can be seen as the continuation of the process set in motion by the Baltic Chain." (21/08/2014)

MediaPart - France

French intellectuals call on the world to be firm with Israel

A group of French intellectuals has published an appeal to the UN and the states of Europe to stop the killing in Gaza in the internet magazine Mediapart: "We cannot hold our tongues in view of the continued murderous war and the attacks on freedom of opinion. We demand that the United Nations threaten Israel with sanctions if it does not permanently withdraw its troops from Gaza, that it send in a protection force for the Palestinian people, and put an end to the ground, maritime and air blockade. The European Union must suspend its association agreement with Israel, and France must immediately end any form of military cooperation with Israel and impose a weapons embargo. ... Palestine must be recognised as a full UN member. ... We demand more resolve on the part of France's democratic media and public sphere to uphold international law and to show Israeli society that it is on a suicidal dead-end path, and that it must look reality in the face." (21/08/2014)

ECONOMY

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Večer - Slovenia

Don't commercialise public services

23 international partners, including the EU and the US, are currently negotiating the so-called Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) which foresees the far-reaching liberalisation and deregulation of services. The conservative daily Večer sees the fact that this extends to public services such as drinking water as a major risk: "Seeing this service as a commodity is the consequence of a fundamental lack of understanding of public services that only creates new privileges for the richest citizens - at the expense of those most in need of development. Such agreements deliberately promote commercialisation. And even the most passionate supporters of free trade must admit that this game has winners and losers. ... TISA only expands what is already wrong with this world. ... And Brussels' assurance that each EU member can decide for itself which services are deregulated to what extent is a bad argument and a cynical consolation." (22/08/2014)

CULTURE

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Večernji List - Croatia

Sarajevo Film Festival a web of lies

The Sarajevo Film Festival is currently celebrating its twentieth anniversary. But all the glamour can't conceal the worrying state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the conservative daily Večernji List comments: "The hedonist red carpet is a colourful web of lies used to attract the superficial world press, on which the stars and starlets show off their bow ties and ball gowns. But these stand in the crassest contrast to the situation in which Bosnia has found itself for years. ... The red carpet conveys the impression that there's a functioning state in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that's far from being the case! ... People forget that none of the important cultural institutions have enough funds to survive, and are unable to show tourists the treasures they have to offer. And even the Film Festival isn't really about films, but simply about a red carpet." (22/08/2014)

SOCIETY

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tagesschau.de - Germany

Germany failed in NSU investigation

The committee of inquiry of the local government of the German state of Thuringia published on Thursday its report on the right-wing terrorist National Socialist Underground (NSU), accusing the authorities of committing serious mistakes in its investigations. The report paints a dismal picture of state incompetence, the portal of the public broadcaster tagesschau.de writes: "Even the harshest critics of the German intelligence services didn't think such a sloppy job on the part of the police, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the judiciary was possible. From stupidity to sabotage, every form of state error is coolly documented in this report, which makes it all the harder to swallow. Day after day the Munich trial against [NSU member] Beate Zschäpe and others showed how almost everyone involved acted as if they were blind, deaf and dumb, and how an entire milieu - right up to the highest social circles - passively tolerated or even secretly sympathised with the radical xenophobia of the NSU. That too is a lesson to be learned from this report, which well deserves its place in the history books." (21/08/2014)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

Courageous climbers ridicule Putin

Russian mountain climbers ascended a Stalin-era skyscraper in Moscow on Wednesday, where they painted the Soviet star atop the building blue and yellow and hoisted the Ukrainian flag. For the liberal daily Gazeta Wyborcza the action is the biggest affront to President Putin since the start of the Ukraine crisis: "This exceptionally courageous gesture has far more significance in the Russia-Ukrainian conflict than any amount of artillery fire in the Donbas. And that despite the fact that in Moscow no one fired a single shot at the climbers. Because the 'beloved leader' Putin, who is so convinced of his own merits, suddenly had to acknowledge that he was being made fun of. Four young people from the empire's capital threw down the gauntlet and showed that they're not afraid of him. And for this tyrant who's almost drunk with an imperial sense of pride, ridicule is the biggest challenge of all. Let's not forget: nothing in the past has annoyed him more than artistic provocations - for example that of Pussy Riot." (22/08/2014)

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