Tuesday 21 March 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 21/3/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Leila Molana-Allen

Forward thinking

As the West doubles down on its commitment to the conflict in Ukraine, many have paused over the past few days to look back at the invasion of Iraq on its 20th anniversary. In Iraq itself, there is no great commemoration, rather a sombre reflection. All Iraqis over a certain age will remember where they were when the first US bombs rained down on the Tigris. Iraqi journalists and commentators have looked on in horror at anniversary coverage portraying the invasion merely as a piece in the puzzle of Western history. To ask Iraqis whether it was “worth” toppling Saddam Hussein would be disingenuous, forcing a nation to choose between tyranny or years of slaughter. Few would want him back. But the true question is whether this is how he should have been toppled. As Iraqi poet Sinan Antoon wrote in a personal essay this weekend, “I had always hoped to see the end of Saddam’s dictatorship at the hands of the Iraqi people.”

To compound the issue to many here, it seems that the West has learned little from its misadventure. Current analysis casts it as a memory, a moment in the careers of politicians who have left the world stage. But for the Iraqi people, that fateful decision has defined their past, present and future. The bad governance in place since 2003 is still rife and the sectarianism stoked by the invasion continues to infect politics at every level.

And yet, there is probably more to be hopeful about today than at any point since 2003. Despite the sombre anniversary, the mood in Baghdad is bright, as construction and business investment soar and young people seek new opportunities. The tragedy they have endured means that Iraq’s next generation is tough, optimistic and ambitious. A country led by them could become the independent Iraq that the US and its allies tried – and failed – to create by force 20 years ago.

Leila Molana-Allen is Monocle’s correspondent in Beirut.

House News / Event

Cover story

Tyler Brûlé and the Monocle team are in Dubai this week to celebrate our latest magazine and print releases: including our brand-new title, Spain: The Monocle Handbook. Newsletter subscribers are invited for an evening of drinks, shopping and repartee on Sunday 26 March.

Image: Tony Hay

For more details and to join us, please contact Hannah Grundy at hg@monocle.com; RSVP is essential. We look forward to seeing you there.

Image: Shutterstock

Finance / Switzerland

Taking credit

Swiss banking giant UBS saw its share price fluctuate heavily following the historic takeover of its rival Credit Suisse yesterday. The $3.25bn (€3bn) deal, facilitated by the Swiss government, initially came as a relief to international markets, which rallied after steep declines last week. But some turbulence continued after news of the completion. “There is a lot of concern over some of the terms of the deal. If the regulators couldn’t handle Credit Suisse on its own, what makes them think that they can handle an even bigger giant?” Marion Halftermeyer, a finance reporter at Bloomberg, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “What we’re seeing is not just the tremors of this merger but also what is happening in the US banking world. As much as regulators can play a role, in the end it’s about investor psychology.” The speed with which the Swiss government acted to shore up its banking sector is admirable and should give investors faith for now. That said, confidence in the country’s banking system has been shaken.

For more expert analysis on this story and more, tune in to ‘The Globalist’ at 07.00 GMT/08.00 CET on Monocle 24.

Image: Grimshaw

Aviation / India

Connecting flights

India plans to invest billions of dollars in airports, aircraft and flying schools as the world’s fastest-growing aviation market seeks to meet surging demand. Nearly $12bn (€11.2bn) will be spent on 72 new airports over the next two years, with the aim of connecting the country’s remote regions to bigger cities. If all goes to plan, this would bring the total number of airports in India to 220 by 2025.

Among the most significant developments in the works are the Adani Group’s 11.6 sq km airport in Navi Mumbai and a new facility (pictured) that Zürich Airport International is building near New Delhi, which, once complete, will be able to handle 70 million travellers a year. New airports are also planned for the states of Karnataka, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh. The announcement comes just a month after Air India purchased 470 planes from Airbus and Boeing in the biggest deal in commercial aviation history. If air travel remains high on Narendra Modi’s priority list, we could be looking at the beginnings of the next world-class connecting hub.

Image: Alamy

Urbanism / Japan

Composed response

Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has written to Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, in order to protest the city’s Jingu Gaien redevelopment plan. Led by major real-estate developer Mitsui Fudosan in conjunction with the Meiji Shrine, the project will demolish the city’s beloved Meiji Jingu baseball stadium and chop down almost 1,000 trees, many of which are more than 100 years old.

Though the Tokyo government gave the project the go-ahead, Koike is dodging the issue. At a press conference last Friday, she said that Sakamoto “might as well send a letter to Meiji Shrine, which owns the project”. In response, the composer, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, wrote that “trees benefit everyone without discrimination but a development will only benefit those with vested interests and rich people”. Sakamoto is right to call out developers and fight for the preservation of the few centuries-old buildings and trees that remain in Tokyo. With any luck, the city’s government will realise this before it’s too late.

Image: Alex Cretey Systermans

Culture / USA

Music to our ears

Sales of vinyl records in the US have outstripped those of CDs for the first time since 1987. Last year saw the country’s music consumers buy 41 million vinyl records, while sales of mp3s – once seen as the industry’s saviour in the digital age – fell by 20 per cent compared to 2021. Despite this good news for tangibility, streaming remains the industry’s number-one market, bringing in $13.3bn (€12.4bn) last year, an all-time record that represents 84 per cent of total revenue.

Industry insiders will be keenly poring over today’s Global Music Report from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, hoping for more positive news. Streaming and vinyl sales should be up yet again but spare a thought for the poor music download; it is unlikely to enjoy a similar nostalgic revival.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle 24 / The Global Countdown


Join Fernando Augusto Pacheco for a spin through the hits and misses of the Swedish music charts, from the sublime to the ridiculous and everything in between.

Monocle Films / Global

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi (pictured) talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.


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