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France

French weekly magazines review 5 July 2015

media DR

This week's magazines look at Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi and his efforts to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East. There's a profile of the Bush political dynasty in the United States as another brother prepares to compete for the Republican presidential ticket. And there's Greece.

Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi is probably not the sort of chap you'd be happy to see your sister bring home. Unless you really dislike your sister.

Mr Baghdadi is on the front page of this week's Le Point magazine where he is described as "The man at war with the world". He is, of course, the leading light of the dark force known as Islamic State, despite the fact that said organisation is not a state and has very little to do with islam.

No one is sure if Baghdadi is still alive, nor if he's really active in the day-to-day business of burning, beheading and generally blackguarding backsliding Muslims. But he's certainly a nightmare, Le Point judges, with his plan to establish a sharia caliphate on whatever will remain of Iraq and Syria when the dust of current conflict settles.

French former minister of foreign affairs Hubert Védrine says the strength of Baghdadi's operation is based on the weakness of his opponents. First, the precursors of Islamic State profited from the political implosion of Iraq after the American invasion in 2003. More recently, the collapse of central government in Syria again created a vacuum in which Sunni-Muslim hardliners were only too happy to align themselves with the man with the plan.

Since the Americans don't want to risk another land war in the Middle East and are not prepared to form a fighting alliance with Russia, Iran or the Turks, Abou Bakr al-Baghdadi is able to go unhindered about his bad business of redrawing the regional map.

L'Express also gives the front page honours to the misnomer that is Islamic State, suggesting that the recent spate of attacks in France, Kobane, Tunisia and Kuwait are a sign of the growing power of the international arm of the terrorists. They recruit using internet, they can strike anywhere. The front in this bizarre war is the corner of your street.

L'Express cheerfully assures us that terrorism is going to be a part of everyday existence in the 21st century, as various geopolitical chickens come home to roost. We are going to have to accept life in the shadow of fear, warns L'Express, since in the war against fundamentalism, to be surprised is already to be half beaten.

I take the main story in Le Monde Magazine to be another sort of warning. The article is headlined "The Bush dynasty" and it is chiefly concerned with the fact that Jeb Bush, younger brother of "W", is in the running to be the Republican candidate for the American presidency in the 2016 race for the White House.

Jeb is said to be the bright one. When asked if he thought his brother had made the right decision in invading Iraq, Jeb replied "yes," without hesitating. Clearly, intelligence is a relative value.

John Ellis Bush did not go to Yale and did not make his money from Texas oil. He's a real estate agent in Florida who speaks fluent Spanish and converted to Catholicism to marry his Mexican wife. Jeb's family is listed as "Hispanic" on the Florida electoral role. So he's not that daft after all.

However things work out for Jeb, Le Monde warns us that we have not heard the last of the Bush babies: Jeb's eldest son, George - what else? - has already been elected commissioner in the Texas Land Office and had already addressed the conservative party's convention in 1988 when he was only 12-years-old. This latest George is said to be well on the way to perpetuating the family monopoly of Republican power.

Mercifully, Marianne is the only weekly to give the front-page treatment to Greece. The main story is headlined "The euro or democracy", suggesting that today's referendum is a conflict between bureaucrats and voters. Not everyone accepts that simplification, summarised by the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras when he said of Brussels "I don't think they really want to force us out of the euro, they just want to kill off any hope of a political alternative to austerity."

Dossier: Independence for South Sudan

That's certainly how today's clash of ideologies is being seen by Podemos in Spain and by the left-wing alliance in Portugal, a sort of vaccination against change. As Marianne points out, a democracy which excludes alternatives is not much better than a dictatorship.

Le Nouvel Observateur devotes an article to what the magazine calls "The forgotten hell of South Sudan".

The writer celebrates the logic of the referendum held exactly four years ago, which saw South Sudan become an independent country, thus erasing one of the anomalies imposed on Africa by careless colonial administrators.

Tragically, within less than two years, the old north-south conflict had been replaced by an ethnic one, with sacked vice-president Riek Machar's Nuer fighting the Dinka of President Salva Kiir. The humanitarian disaster is total, says L'Obs, with thousands dead, millions pushed from their homes, no crops sown for next year.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

Neither the UN, the African Union or the mainstream media are seriously interested. And that's a mistake, says Le Nouvel Observateur, if only for the selfish reason that soon thousands of South Sudanese refugees will join the queue of those hoping to cross the Mediterranean for a better life in Europe.

The far-right Front National can't take all the credit for the idea of solving the French unemployment problem by sending foreign workers home.

According to weekly satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné, back in 1979 conservative president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing told his government to organise the arrest and deportation of 100,000 Algerian workers.

When it was pointed out that such a plan was illegal, at least because it would deny the right of French citizenship to the children of deported workers born in France, Giscard told his ministers to round up 35,000 adults for deportation and to make sure they were all bachelors. The plan was rejected by the government, almost unanimously, and Giscard dropped the idea in 1980.

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