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Reuters blog archive

from Breakingviews:

Jumbo $6 bln bank IPO shows Saudi too big to miss

By Una Galani

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

Saudi Arabia’s jumbo bank offering shows the soon-to-open emerging market is too good to miss. The kingdom’s top lender by assets is planning to sell shares worth $6 billion, making it the biggest-ever initial public offering in the Middle East and second only to China’s Alibaba in the world this year. For most outsiders, it’s a reminder of the opportunities that will open up when foreign investors are granted direct access to the country’s $584 billion stock market next year.

In keeping with past privatizations, the government is pricing National Commercial Bank to fly. The IPO price values NCB at 2 times its book value at the end of 2013 – below the average of 2.2 times for the kingdom’s 11 other listed banks, according to Eikon. The discount looks even more generous given NCB’s 18.8 percent return on equity last year. The sector average is just 13.4 percent.

Though the offer is only open to Saudi nationals, a few outsiders may be able to get in early by investing indirectly through swap agreements. These are expensive and lack voting rights, hence constitute less than 5 percent of the total market. Foreign investors may miss out on the initial pop, but NCB will still look attractive even if its shares surge the maximum permitted 10 percent on their debut.

from Full Focus:

Fleeing the Islamic State

Refugees from Syria flood into Turkey and Lebanon to escape advancing Islamic State militants.

from Compass:

To build a coalition against Islamic State, U.S. should try a little humility

U.S. President Barack Obama chairs the U.N. Security Council summit in New York

When President Barack Obama assumed the presidency of the United Nations Security Council Wednesday, he summoned the full weight of U.S. power to a cause with seeming universal appeal: defeating the barbarism of Islamic State -- or, as Obama calls the militant group, Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL).

Much of the world, however, will question how Washington can hope to achieve this without launching a wider political agenda for accountable government in the failing states of the Arab world.

from The Great Debate:

Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media

jihad tweet President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

The Internet has largely sustained the jihadist movement since 9/11. With this powerful tool, jihadists coordinate actions, share information, recruit new members and propagate their ideology.

from The Great Debate:

Avoid a classic blunder: Stay out of religious wars in the Middle East

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Muslims in the Middle East are fighting wars of religion. Like the carnage between Protestants and Catholics that haunted Northern Ireland during the last third of the 20th century, there is little anyone can do until local peoples crave peace so intensely they are willing to cultivate it.

History shows that outside meddling only intensifies sectarian fury. Stopping internecine war begins at home. President Barack Obama imperils Americans by trying to excise an abscess that can be cured only from the inside out. The decision to re-engage in Iraq, and the wider Middle East, also contradicts the president’s other, bigger objective: to exit the nanny business.

from The Great Debate:

Obama is picking his targets in Iraq and Syria while missing the point

U.S. President Barack Obama makes remarks on the situation in Syria, in Washington

“We are now living in what we might as well admit is the Age of Iraq,” New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks recently wrote.  There, in the Land of the Two Rivers, he continued, the United States confronts the “core problem” of our era -- “the interaction between failing secular governance and radical Islam.”

Brooks is wrong. For starters, he misconstrues the core problem -- which is a global conflict pitting tradition against modernity.

from The Great Debate:

If U.S. joins Islamic State fight, how will it get out?

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a statement from Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

When President Barack Obama makes the case for military action against Islamic State militants on Wednesday night, it won't be hard to convince Americans to get involved in the conflict. The hard part will be explaining how we get out.

The president is speaking to the American people -- not to Congress. He may not even ask Congress to authorize the use of force. Just to fund it. Which they will do because they don’t want to undercut the U.S. military.

from The Great Debate:

Israel appropriated 1,000 acres of the West Bank. Why now?

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Last week, Israel announced that it was appropriating nearly 1,000 acres of private Palestinian land near Bethlehem. The seizure, which one anti-settlement group called the largest in 30 years, was condemned by Palestinians, the United Nations, and criticized by the United States.

Israel has said that the move is retaliation for the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers. Settlement has long been considered a fair response to Palestinian attacks by some parts of Israeli society, and appropriation of Palestinian land has been a consistent policy of every Israeli government since Israel became a state in 1948. In the West Bank alone, close to 250,000 acres were appropriated since 1979, using a legal mechanism based on an interpretation of Ottoman law.

from Jack Shafer:

What’s more rare — a unicorn or an Al Jazeera America viewer?

 A man works at a desk in the Al Jazeera America broadcast center in New York,

Al Jazeera America draws such a teensy audience -- 15,000 on average during prime time, according to Nielsen -- that if you dropped all of the fledgling cable news channel's viewers into a modern NBA arena you'd leave a couple of thousand vacant seats. To place Al Jazeera America's audience in perspective, it's less than half of that once attracted by Al Gore's Current TV, the channel it replaced last August. Ratings leader Fox News Channel pulls in an evening average of about 1.6 million.

Such miserable ratings would be understandable if Al Jazeera America produced its shows on a shoestring, as did Current TV, or if it marginalized itself by broadcasting bonkers propaganda like RT (formerly Russia Today), or if most cable households couldn't receive it.

from Expert Zone:

India’s Iraq problem

(This piece comes from Project Syndicate. The opinions expressed are the author's own)

Iraq seems to be falling apart, with the rapid advance of the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) threatening to lead to the country’s division into Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish entities, while blurring its border with its turbulent western neighbor. Moreover, the tumult is now threatening to spread to two more nearby countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which already are facing myriad internal challenges. For India, the message is clear: its national security interests are at risk.

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