As I point out in my column in the October issue of the magazine, sanctions ain’t what they used to be. They are more like giving a corporation a highly contagious disease, so that, for example, India’s Reliance oil company has to weigh up whether to ship 30,000 barrels of gasoline to the mullahs, or forfeit a US$500 million contract to supply jet fuel to New York’s JFK airport.

 Oil companies are the most immoral in the world – see the new book Crude World by Peter Maass reviewed in today’s Wall Street Journal – but they are also mutlinationals who do most of their business in the developed West.

There has been much huffing and puffing about President Obama’s decision to scrap the (unworkable) missile defence system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Yesterday, the US embassy announced a high level agreement between the US and Russian chiefs of staff – exchanges of officers and cadets and joint exercises on piracy and air craft hijackings – which suggest there is more going on, in addition to Russia’s newfound willingness to consider stringent sanctions against Iran.

An autumn note

“For many, the end of this uneasy year cannot come quickly enough”

An ordinary killing

Ian Cobain’s book uses the killing of Millar McAllister to paint a meticulous portrait of the Troubles

Greater—not wiser

John Mullan elucidates the genius of Charles Dickens