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In defence of individualism

It’s the funniest scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. A parable-seeking mob gathers outside Brian’s home. They think he’s the messiah and will dispense some wisdom they might live their lives by. Instead he tells them to think for themselves, because ‘You are all individuals’. ‘We are all individuals,’ the mob intones, robotically. ‘I’m

China: the Middle East’s new power broker

It’s exactly ten years since Iranian dissidents first blew the cover of a secret uranium-enrichment facility under a mountain at Natanz, in a bleak stretch of desert near Isfahan. Ever since, relations between Israel and Iran have headed inexorably towards war. Israeli leaders have insisted that they are ready to launch a military strike —

First Syria, then Lebanon

  Beirut On New Year’s Eve 2011, I asked a senior Swedish diplomat, who had just crossed over from Damascus and was ready to see in the New Year Beirut-style, how long he gave Bashar al-Assad as Syrian president. ‘Longer than we think, but not as long as he thinks,’ he said with a wink.