BRUSSELS: There are times when the decisions taken at European Union summits are so complex that even those most experienced at reporting these events admit that they are struggling to understand what it all means.
After last night, and a 14 hour negotiating session, what I wonder is how many of the leaders themselves understand what they have agreed to and how it might play out?
CAIRO: An announcement by Egypt's ruling military council that it has granted itself sweeping new powers has led to talk among those who made last year's revolution of a "constitutional coup", and the country's "official transformation into a military dictatorship".
So, if we watched the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak with such interest because of this country's traditional role as a leader of the Arab world, how should these events be interpreted, and what might their influence on the region be?
The latest round of defence cuts involves 3,800 redundancies, and it is clear from the Ministry of Defence's figures that just under one third of those going have been given no choice in the matter.
The department stressed on Tuesday that these figures are part of previously announced plans to reduce the armed forces by 17,000, but it is worth looking at the decline in the UK armed forces over the longer term.
"Maybe the kids will make the difference", US Senator Lindsey Graham reflected yesterday after seeing the shocking images of dead toddlers from Syria.
But those who are hoping that the events around Houla might prove to be a tipping point in prompting international intervention are likely to be disappointed, and it is worth looking at the role of the United States in this.
As we have heard many times, the exit strategy for Afghanistan relies upon setting up substantial local security forces to take over.
With leaders of Nato and other donor nations heading for a summit meeting in Chicago on Sunday, there are clear signs that an Afghan "Plan A" is no longer possible because people no longer feel able to fund it.
The kindest way of describing the government's U-turn over its new F35 fighter fleet is to point out that it should never have rushed to decide on the subject back in its Strategic Defence and Security Review or SDSR of October 2010.
Today a defence source conceded, "it's taken 18 months to figure out all of the detail".
PARIS: The first round of the French elections has provided a salutary lesson in the effects of the economic crisis in a Western democracy.
There has been polarisation to the extremes, a refusal by many to engage with the country's basic economic dilemmas, taking refuge instead in fundamentalist ideas about the country's ills, and the search for scapegoats.
What does the wave of spectacular attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan on Sunday tell us about the capabilities of the Taliban? Very little, since it was not the Taliban, narrowly or correctly defined, that is believed to have carried them out.
The bloodshed does though give us some insights into the increasingly fraught endgame being played out by actors in the Afghan tragedy.
PARIS: In the presidential election campaign going on here, the candidates must tailor their message to a public that wants to protect the "French model" of a welfare state, coupled with a high-profile role in international politics and a strong defence.
Somehow, the public seems to believe these things possible despite a public spending crisis, France's adherence to the new European Union Fiscal Compact (that will supposedly compel deficit reduction), and needing to improve its international competitiveness.
Reports suggest that opposition fighters have been forced out of the city of Idlib, close to the Turkish border in northern Syria.
Following on from their abandonment of the Baba Amer district in Homs, it has prompted resignations in the rebel leadership as well as questions over their poor judgement in trying to hold ground, inviting large scale government military operations in response.
The charge that an American soldier murdered 16 civilians near Kandahar, most of them children, is one of those moments where the Western view of events in that country tends to differ vitally from that of Afghans.
Having visited Afghanistan many times over the space of 25 years, I would wager that the average person there is more angry about the Americans burning Korans at Bagram airbase.
Talk to General Mansour Dhao, one time head of Muammar Gaddafi's People's Guard, a paramilitary force of regime loyalists, and one of his right hand men, and you get the impression that the late dictator's Green Revolution is still alive and vibrant.
"Gaddafi is dead, that's true," he told us, "but his ideas as a philosopher or as a thinker will live on".
SIRTE - The fate of this city, ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's hometown, symbolises what may await supporters of dictatorial leaders across the Middle East.
From the grizzly end meted out to Gaddafi himself, to the suffering of those who once supported him, it serves as a reminder of the dire price of failure, as well as the human consequences of revolution.
TRIPOLI: On the outskirts of Misrata, there is a poster by the roadside. It is a slickly produced ad, funded by local businesses, carrying the slogan "Tomorrow Will Be Better."
Does it represent the kind of inherent optimism you find in many Islamic countries? Or is it an admission that, one year after the revolution to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi began, there are many respects in which there is disappointment and apprehension?
In the aftermath of the failed UN vote, the countries of the Saudi Arabian led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have expelled Syrian diplomatic missions, and there is credible talk that leading members of that alliance intend to step up arms supplies to the Free Syrian Army.
But do the UK and France, who have been vocal in support of the same Arab countries, share the same objectives?
When we came here in December, it was 26 against one, with Britain facing public opprobrium for standing in the way of agreement. Now it is 26 against one, with Germany insisting that its views prevail on austerity and the bail-out funds, but all the other countries too frightened of the economic crisis to criticise - or to do so out loud at any rate.
So what happened to Britain's stand in defence of the 'UK national interest' and in particular the City?
The decision by the French group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to withdraw its fieldworkers from prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata is an important and disturbing indicator of the situation in that country.
While some NGOs are guilty of trying to apply western 'best practice' in unrealistic ways, or to put the safety of their own teams ahead of project work, MSF's reputation, built over decades of operations in the most inhospitable parts of the world, suggests they should be listened to carefully both by the interim government in Libya and the western countries that assisted it to overthrow Muammar al Gaddafi's regime.
Mark has covered diplomatic and defence matters for more than 20 years at the BBC.
His major stories have included: the 1990 invasion of Iraq and subsequent Desert Storm campaign; the collapse of the Soviet Union; the Oslo peace process in the Middle East; the wars that broke out in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s as well as the diplomacy that stopped them; the Second Palestinian Intifada; 9/11 and its aftermath; the Coalition campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq; and the Arab Spring.
Before joining the BBC as a reporter he was Defence correspondent for The Independent newspaper for four years, covering the end of the Cold War and the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan.
He is also the author of several books on military matters, both current and historical. Mark read International Relations at the London School of Economics and served for a short time in the British Army.
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