Order from Middle East chaos; Iran and regional instability; a weakening Europe; Russia's economic woes; England's preventable flooding

A roundup of global commentary for the Jan. 18, 2015, weekly magazine.

Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP
Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. Protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fires to the Saudi embassy in Tehran.

Al Jazeera America / New York
A new order must come from Middle East chaos
“Just days into 2016, the world is witnessing a new stage in the unraveling of the Middle East...,” writes Rami G. Khouri of the heightened tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “This will not stop until a new regional order emerges. Regional powers must learn to live with one another in nonthreatening ways. Global powers must adjust to the new roles of emboldened regional powers. Nonstate actors and militias must integrate their identities and capabilities into new structures of statehood that are more stable and legitimate. All this will require a genuinely negotiated social contract that is more participatory, equitable and accountable than anything the Middle East has experienced in recent history.”

The National / Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Iran is to blame for regional instability
“The Iranian state’s disrespect for diplomatic protocol was the reason for the recent escalation of tension with Saudi Arabia and its allies...,” states an editorial. “The Gulf states have the right to be irritated. Despite previous tensions, Iran continues to meddle in the affairs of the region and violate established international rules that protect the sovereignty of states.... At times of broader regional instability, in which Iran and Saudi Arabia support opposing sides in Syria and Yemen, it is wise to show restraint and avoid direct conflict that will only further destabilise the region. International leaders are right to call on both sides to repair ties and work together to resolve regional issues.”

Kathimerini / Neo Faliro, Greece
Europe’s weakening confidence
“Europe is feeling vulnerable and under fire from all sides, and Greece is still the weak link. From an economic perspective it appears unable to push ahead with reforms and keeps falling victim to its inadequate institutions and political personnel. It is also floundering in regards to the refugee crisis, as the state lacks the structures needed to rise to such a challenge,” writes Alexis Papachelas. “We’ll see how Europe fares over the next three or four years. The threat of a mixture of nationalism, isolationism and populism is already evident as a reaction to the growing pauperization and insecurity of a large part of European societies. Even in the US, insecurity among the middle classes is breeding extreme political reactions....”

The Moscow Times / Moscow
Russia’s struggles to find economic footing
“The accelerating decline in world oil prices and the steady strengthening of the US dollar in the second half of 2015 have imposed a double whammy on the Russian economy...,” writes Martin Gilman, a former senior representative of the International Monetary Fund in Russia. “The external environment is not benign: there are just too many accidents waiting to happen in economic and financial terms, whether in the Eurozone, the Middle East, China, or Japan. And more fundamentally, if Russian policy-makers cannot summon the political will to promote a thriving private sector, then productive investment as the critical driver of long term sustainable growth will not materialize.”

The Guardian / London
England’s flooding was preventable
“Building higher walls will not, by itself, protect our towns. We need flood prevention as well as flood defence,” writes George Monbiot. “This means woodland and functioning bogs on the hills. It means dead wood and gravel banks and other such obstructions in the upper reaches of the streams.... It means creating buffer zones around [riverbanks]: places where trees, shrubs, reeds and long grass are allowed to grow, providing what engineers call hydraulic roughness. It means the opposite of the orgy of self-destruction that decades of government and European policy have encouraged: grazing, mowing, burning, draining, canalisation and dredging. Natural flood management of this kind does not guarantee that urban floods will never happen. But its absence exacerbates them. ”

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