Getting Syria Away From the Table

Without indulging in any speculation about whether or not it representsa message of some sort, and if so to and from whom, the Americanspecial ops strike on Syrian territory is likely to have severalconsequences. The first and probably most significant is to make aSyrian-Israel peace deal less likely. Syria might be powerless toretaliate for the humiliation of repeated violations of itssovereignty, but it still has some leverage in the neighborhood, andthis sort of thing won’t make Damascus very enthusiastic about givingit up, especially with the prospect of a Netanyahu government poised to take power in Israel. That in turn clouds […]

Checkbook Diplomacy

I got an email alerting me to MDC’s analysis over at Foreign Policy Watch of the export guarantees proposal for Iranian enriched uranium that I mentioned earlier, reminding me that this was in fact where I first learned of the idea. So a belated citation is in order. He raises a good point about how exactly to determine what constitutes “excess” uranium, considering Iran has no functioning reactors, and the nuclear fuel for the one that’s soon to go online at Bushehr was delivered by Russia. This is, of course, one factor that raised so many red flags about Iran’s […]

The Foreign Policy of Obama and McCain

I just got finished reading David Sanger’s NY Times article comparing the foreign policy positions of the two presidential candidates. Like David Shorr at Democracy Arsenal, I agree that it’s “probably the best stand-in we’ll get for the foreign policy debate that might’ve been,” and an illustration of how the much-derided written press can often confront candidates’ position more effectively than the presidential debate format, which veers towards the theatrical for obvious reasons. Like Shorr, too, I agree that John McCain’s late reversal on the acceptability of an NPT-compliant uranium enrichment program in Iran is probably closer to my own […]

Iran’s Backfiring Deterrent

Good point by Matt Eckel at The Global Buzz regarding Iran’s ability to cut off the flow of oil in the Straits of Hormuz as a deterrent against an American attack, most recently cited by Robert Kaplan in his Atlantic piece on Iran’s asymmetric naval strategy: The problem with Kaplan’s logic, however, is that it assumes Iran is only a crude oil exporter; that by attacking maritime shipping in the Strait of Hormuz it will only reap the bounty of higher oil prices. Except Iran isn’t only an crude oil exporter. It is a major importer of gasoline and other […]

RUSSIAN RIGHTS DEFENSE A POISONOUS AFFAIR — In a twist that could have been lifted from the plot of a dime store spy novel, a Russian human rights lawyer prosecuting the case of an assassinated journalist missed pretrial hearings last week when she and members of her family fell ill after discovering a suspicious substance in their car. Karina Moskalenko has built a career participating in some of Russia’s most notorious cases, defending some of the Kremlin’s harshest critics along the way. Last week, she and her children fell ill with bouts of dizziness, headaches and nausea after discovering balls […]

The Arab Gulf States and the United States are adopting increasingly contradictory positions on Iran. Each side seems bent on undermining the other, potentially leading to precisely the outcome that each side is trying to prevent. Here’s how. There is a strong tendency in the Gulf Arab states to try to co-opt adversaries. The most famous example may be King Abdul Aziz ibn Saud’s propensity for marrying the daughters of rival tribes of the Arabian Peninsula in the early 20th century, but there are many others. The United Arab Emirates exists as a country in part because the richest emirate, […]

COIN as Transfer of Wealth

I’ve mentioned the impact the financial crisis is likely to have on European resolve with regards to the Afghanistan mission. Here’s Charlie from Abu Muqawama on the potential impact Stateside: But if you think the American public is fickle and short-sighted in the best of times, you ain’t seen nothing yet. It’s going to be increasingly hard to justifying long-term occupations overseas…not to mention Army and Marine plus-ups (that budget money is going to go to big ticket hardware items like ships and planes, the kinds of things that create jobs in congressional districts). That touches on something that’s been […]

Taking Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Aspirations Seriously

Three weeks ago, the IAEA’s latest report on Iran’s nuclear program included an oblique but very noticeable reference to the involvement of “foreign expertise” in the program’s currently shuttered weaponization component. Here’s what I said at the time: No mention yet of where that foreign expertise originated from, but look for that as the next front in the campaign of intelligence leaks on past Iranian weaponization efforts. Sure enough, today the NY Times (via Friday Lunch Club) reports that European and American officials have leaked the source of that foreign expertise — a Russian nuclear scientist apparently acting on his […]

Iran’s Place on the SOFA

If you’d like to see the official Iranian position on the U.S-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), here it is. Short version: they’re against it. Not a surprise, of course, but it also squares with something I heard about Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki being under extraordinary pressure from Tehran (as in, diplomatic cables in the form of severed horses’ heads) to include a withdrawal timetable for American troops in any eventual agreement. From recent reports, it looks like that’s been resolved with a conditions-based clause, and that the main point of contention is now jurisdiction over American forces outside of […]