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French weekly magazines review 12 April 2015

Mixed reactions to the recently signed nuclear deal with Iran, a profile of the most influential man in France, a warning about the dangers posed by robots and the challenges facing Nigeria's newly crowned Emir of Kano. All this, plus the Frenchman who joined 10 political parties features in this week's French magazines!


Most of this week's magazines look at the implications of the nuclear deal sealed earlier this month with Tehran.

Le Point says the agreement is as much a reflection of the social and economic crisis inside Iran as of the weakness of the United States, desperately seeking a strategy and allies in the war against violent Islamist groups.

Sadly, according to Le Point, the warming of relations with Iran does little to change a volatile regional situation, with Palestinians and Kurds fighting for national liberation, civil war in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, religious conflict between Sunni and Shia-Muslims and the "holy war" being waged against practically everybody else by Islamic State armed group.

Dossier: War in Mali

L'Express warns that the 2 April deal merely masks a deep confusion, with former enemies forced into fragile coalitions to serve short-term interests: just look at the fact that Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan now have a convergent desire to weaken Iran.

L'Obs says the Lausanne agreement at least has the advantage that it may finally allow the majority of ordinary Iranians to begin living more freely and prosperously.

L'Obs devotes six pages to an investigation of the individual the magazine calls "the most influential man in France".

No, it's not Manuel Valls or Marine Le Pen or even Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The most influential man in this country is the son of an Algerian taxi-driver and his name is Ramzi Khiroun.

You've never heard of him?

Well, he's not very well known by anybody but he's been circulating in the same zone as the rich and famous for several decades, and he's just been nominated by President François Hollande to receive the Légion d'honneur, a sort of republican knighthood.

Ramzi used to be Dominique Strauss-Kahn's chauffeur. Then, in a remarkable ascension, he became press attaché for the IMF boss. Eventually he organised an exclusive interview with Vladimir Putin for his journalist friend, Jean-Pierre Elkabbach. Who introduced him to François Hollande. Who needed help to get the French hostages out of Syria. Ramzi's precise contribution to that release remains unclear, but was clearly crucial. Now he's on first-name terms with the French president, at the same time as working as a senior executive for the media rich kid, Arnaud Lagardère.

Dossier: The Strauss-Kahn affair rocks France, IMF

What's interesting is that nobody has a bad word to say about him, even anonymously. Perhaps that's explained by his friend Elkabbach's observation that "he never forgets those who do him wrong. He takes his time. But they end up as corpses. Well, not exactly corpses but you know what I mean."

No, Mr Elkabbach, we don't know what you mean. A corpse is a dead person. How dead is "not exactly" a corpse?

The other interesting thing about our man Ramzi Khiroun is that no one knows how he came by all these contacts. He knew Commandant Ahmed Shah Massoud in the pre-Taliban days in Afghanistan; he's welcome at the Elysée; he knows everyone in the media. His business methods are said to be muscular. He drives a Porsche Panamera. He tried to stop L'Obs from publishing their completely inoffensive article about him. He thought it was going to be a tract in praise of a man who has risen from nothing to become a captain of industry. When it turned out to be a series of question marks about a remarkable, but largely inexplicable, rise to riches, Ramzi got cold feet and sent in the legal heavyweights. L'Obs told them to sod off.

If Mr Khiroun is listening and feels that I have done him wrong by talking about an article he didn't want to see published in the first place, my message is a simple one: I'd rather be "not exactly" a corpse than the other thing. Thanks very much.

If the cover story in L'Obs is to be believed, the far-right Front National needs to stop worrying about immigrant workers taking the few remaining jobs. The real threat is posed by a new breed of employee who doesn't take time off, get pregnant, go on strike or take holidays. They don't even have to be paid. They're called robots, and they're the future.

This year the global market for robots in defence, industry, business and the home is worth about 27 billion euros. L'Obs says that figure will more than double over the next 10 years, leading to a whole new phase of underemployment for mere humans.

Which jobs are most threatened by the new scourge of technological unemployment?

Artists and doctors are likely to get off lightly, suggests L'Obs, as are top decision-makers and the people who programme the machines who'll be doing most of the work within the next 20 years. Journalists are probaly OK, too. Administrative staff, farm and factory workers and builders had better start looking for an alternative day job.

On the question of whether the machines offer us a better future or an apocalyptic dole queue, the magazine's two philosopher analysts are divided. The economist says it's a major challenge, but one that human ingenuity can surmount. The philosopher says it's a catastrophe, which will simply reinforce the already dangerous power of corporations like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

L'Express looks to Nigeria with a profile, not of the newly-elected president, but of the recently-crowned Emir of Kano, His Royal Highness, Muhammad Sanusi ll. Only the Sultan of Sokoto is more important in the Muslim hierarchy of Nigeria's troubled north.

Dossier: Sharia wars - Boko Haram v the military in northern Nigeria

The emir was not on good terms with outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, whose Democratic Popular Party tried to keep Sanusi out of the top job in Kano, only to change tack when the riots got blazing. Sanusi is Oxford-educated, was chosen by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 most influential personalities and has earned the unholy hatred of Abubakar Shekau, who runs the Boko Haram murdering, book-burning, child abducting enterprise that has turned north-eastern Nigeria into a wasteland.

Muhammad Sanusi, like the new Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, is a Muslim. But Sanusi likes to distance himself from the barbarity being perpetrated in the name of the prophet by Boko Haram, saying he's a Muslim of the 21st century not the seventh. He has already survived at least three attempts on his life and Shekau has sworn to get him.

Muhammad Sanusi says his new job as leader of a state with five million inhabitants is the same as his old job as director of the Nigerian Central Bank: you can close your eyes and shut up or you can face up to your responsibilities. The new man in Kano plans to do just that, L'Express says.

The investigating judge Marc Trévidic is quoted in Le Point as saying that the proposed law on information does nothing to protect the ordinary citizen, and could be a dangerous political tool in the wrong hands.

The same Le Point quotes Green Party senator Jean-Vincent Placé lamenting the divisions in the ecology movement on a possible return to government. Placé astutely observes that, if you want to score a goal, you've a better chance if you're actually on the pitch.

Finally, spare a thought for Achraf ben Brahim, who is a card-carrying member of no fewer than 10 French political parties. A political science student, Achraf is comparing the lot of party activists in the various groups. He describes himself in L'Express as a "liberal revolutionary communist with socialist-conservative leanings". That'll cover it.

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