The international spotlight might be focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to change the tone of its dealings with Iran. But while global attention concentrates on the new U.S. approach, Iran’s regional relations with countries in the Middle East and beyond are undergoing a dramatic transformation, with repercussions that reach across the globe. A growing number of Arab countries have engaged in open diplomatic confrontation with Tehran. To compensate for the loss of friends in its own neighborhood, Iran has increasingly forged ties with leftist governments in Latin America, using its growing presence there to find novel ways to help […]

The UAE’s Arms Buildup

I’m not quite sure what to make of this, because it’s one of the more curious patterns I’ve spotted recently in my generally random, undirected news scanning. But the UAE is now the world’s third-largest arms purchaser, behind China and India. That’s a jump from 15th place between 1999-2003. The Al Jazeera article explains it in the context of the rising threat fom Iran. But from what I’d understood, the UAE was more of a hedger on Iran than other Sunni Arab states. In her WPR Briefing on the U.S.-UAE civilian nuclear deal last March, Elizabeth Zolotukhina pointed out that […]

What to Watch if U.S. Joins Iran Talks

The news that U.S. representatives will join the P5+1 talks with Iran is significant, but not really news. Same goes for the reaction from Tehran, which remains cautiously receptive and noncommittal. I’m more curious about the reaction from the EU3, particularly France. My hunch is that that will have a lot to do with what “reaching out to Iran on a one-to-one basis” — as per White House officials cited by the NY Times — amounts to. If that takes place on a strictly defined, single-issue basis — i.e. Iraq security cooperation, or Afghanistan supply routes — it shouldn’t cause […]

As part of hitting the “reset button,” the Obama administration has decided to focus its Russia policy for now on the urgent need to replace an expiring Russian-American nuclear arms control treaty. The approach represents a reversal of the Bush administration’s stated goal of collaborating with Moscow on a broad range of issues, and also contrasts with the posture the Obama White House has adopted toward China. Unresolved Russian-American differences concerning strategic offensive arms control could impede this focused effort. And past experience makes evident that unrelated issues might easily disrupt the strategic arms control dialogue. The two strategic arms […]

Shaping Opinion on Iran Nuclear Program

A month ago, I argued that “[g]etting Iran to reimplement the Additional Protocol, and not the suspension of its uranium enrichment, should become thefocus of American policy moving forward.” If this Financial Times article is any indication, it looks as if the first efforts to shape public opinion in that direction have now officially begun. Tom Barnett responds with his inimitable sangfroid: The slim hope here that Obama clings to is that, if we acceptenrichment, Iran will stop short of weaponizing, taking a sort of Japanapproach to the question. I honestly don’t think that will be enough for Iran in […]

The Changing Political Calculus of U.S.-Israel Relations

I thought I’d dash off a quick and breezy morning post on an issue that’s about as quick and breezy as a hand grenade. Any trouble I get myself into is entirely Matt Eckel’s fault: So, we’re now in a position where if the Israeli government does whatNetanyahu is hinting it might do [i.e., bomb Iran’s nuclear installations], the Obama Administration will have toeither be blamed by association and throw its whole Middle Easternagenda to the dogs, or publicly and severely sanction Israel and openup a political s%&! storm in Washington that could derail anynumber of other projects. Support for […]

The Obama administration’s emphasis on “smart power” is by now well known. To most observers, that has meant the need to “balance and integrate all elements of our national power” in order to deter and defeat emerging threats, as President Barack Obama himself put it in a speech at National Defense University in Washington on March 12. Many have focused on Obama’s insistence, in the same speech, that “we cannot continue to push the burden on to our military alone” and his commitment to “comprehensive engagement with the world.” What has gotten less attention is the central role Obama foresees […]