With the U.S. presidential election finally decided, attention has now turned to just how President-elect Barack Obama will handle American foreign policy. As a candidate, Obama often displayed the clearsighted vision of a foreign policy realist, while embracing the rhetorical flourishes of an idealist. In WPR’s latest biweekly feature issue, two prominent foreign policy analysts examine the challenges and opportunities that await The Obama Presidency. In Wilsonian Idealist or Progressive Realist? Nikolas Gvosdev, former editor of the National Interest, considers the kinds of “80 percent solutions” the Obama administration might be forced to consider, and whether it will be willing […]

LIMA, Peru — Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim met last week with his Iranian counterpart in Tehran, where the two diplomats discussed expanding bilateral economic ties. Trade between Iran and Brazil quadrupled between 2002 and 2007, and if Iran gets its way, it will further increase as much as five-fold, from $2 billion to $10 billion annually. The move reflects the fact that while Washington’s attention has been focused in recent years on Iraq and the War on Terror, Iran’s influence in Latin America has quietly but steadily grown. In addition to Brazil, Iran has signed dozens of economic agreements […]

Sarkozy’s Obama Gamble

More proof that France really, really, really wants to be Barack Obama’s privileged EU interlocuter: France, currently chairing the six-month rotating European Unionpresidency, is pushing for the bloc to engage more and “without delay”in Iraq, a working paper seen by Financial Times Deutschland reads. . . . The timing of such a move serves the interests of the new U.S. president,as he is set to shift the U.S. focus in its War on Terror from Iraq toAfghanistan and Pakistan. The easy punchline here is obviously that “serving the interests of the new U.S. president” is not how you’d normally expect […]

The Special Ops Option

The NY Times reports that since 2004, the U.S. military in conjunction with the CIA has been authorized by presidential directive to conduct targeted counterterrorism strikes and ground raids within 15 to 20 countries, including Syria and Pakistan, but also Saudi Arabia. I suppose there’s some news value in confirming this sort of thing, but I’m hard-pressed to feel surprised by it. On the other hand, a good part of the story here seems to be why this was leaked now, at such a sensitive moment of transition, and by whom. It seems like it ties the Obama adminstration’s hands […]

How is President-elect Barack Obama planning to shape the foreign policy of his administration? Is he a Wilsonian idealist? A progressive realist? Some mix of the two? How Obama will define his foreign policy still remains somewhat of a mystery. Between now and when he actually begins his term of office, I expect that his rhetoric about U.S. foreign policy and America’s place in the world will become more expansive and lyrical. After all, this is to be expected. American chief executives traditionally use the post-election period, culminating in the Inaugural Address, as a time to appeal to our loftiest […]

FROM SUCCESSFUL CANDIDATE TO PRESIDENT-ELECT — Amid the global euphoria — to say nothing of the often grudging admiration for the United States — following Barack Obama’s landslide victory, European ambassadors in Washington were already cautioning their governments that the new president will be no pushover. One ambassador said Friday, “On many major issues, there’s not a lot of difference in substance between an Obama administration and a McCain administration. However, where McCain could have been unpredictable, the Obama leitmotif has been mending international fences, so we can expect him to be tough, but hopefully open to reason.” While it’s […]

Sadrists Still Reject U.S.-Iraq SOFA

Interesting to note that the election of Barack Obama has not changed all Iraqi parties’ views on the U.S.-Iraq SOFA. Say what you want about Moqtada al-Sadr, but the guy has been remarkably consistent. Who knows? He might even turn out to be right. Meanwhile, as Al-Jazeera reports, the U.S. has returned the SOFA to Iraq with some — but not all — of the revisions requested by Baghdad now written into the document. One thing that I hadn’t realized is that, with all the talk of a firm withdrawal by 2011, the document now requires American forces to withdraw […]

India-Iran Rail Project on the Skids

In his recent WPR piece on the IPI pipeline project, Siddarth Srivastava examined India’s shifting calculus on engaging Iran, now that its nuclear deal with the U.S. has been approved by the NSG and the U.S Congress. Interesting to see that the same difficulties plaguing the IPI are present in a rail project an Indian consortium was developing in Iran as well. Also worth noting is that the country waiting in the wings should India fail to back the project in both cases is China. It’s easy to overlook this little detail, but under normal circumstances, revolutionary communist regimes and […]

Obama Coattails

Among the first buckets of cold water that might be tossed on Barack Obama’s presidency is a hawkish Israeli government shoud Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party win Israel’s upcoming elections. But as the headline to this Haaretz analysis piece puts it, Obama will star in Israel’s election campaigns. Now, Tzipi Livni recently came down against an American-Iranian dialogue [says Matt Eckel at FP Watch: “I must admit I’m a bit baffled here. . . . Livni is supposed to represent the moderate center in Tel Aviv.], and she also recently opposed outgoing PM Ehud Olmert’s Syrian peace track. So it’s hard […]

The Saudi-Iranian Cold War

James Brazier has a piece worth reading in Diplomatic Courrier on the Saudi-Iranian “Cold War” and how any accomodation of the Taliban in Afghanistan will come at the expense of Tehran. In terms of order, though, it seems obvious that a prior breakthrough on Israeli-Palestinian and/or Israeli-Syrian negotiations seriously strengthens Obama’s hand to bargain with the Iranians. But a political breakthrough that secures a meaningful stability in Afghanistan might have the same impact. Again, it’s important to point out that the talks in Riyadh were exploratory, that the Taliban are an unsavory lot who will be difficult to sustain any […]

Obama and Petraeus

Rob at Arabic Media Shack makes a good point: If we made a list of the top 10 American global securitychallenges, probably 9 would be directly or indirectly related to theMiddle East. Therefore, wouldn’t it be logical to pick someone who isa specialist on the region? Someone who could go to a conference ofMiddle Eastern scholars and hold their own discussing regional,history, politics, and culture and not purely strategy from a narrowperspective of American interests? None of the last four NSA’s(Rice,Hadley, Berger, orLake) were experts on the Middle East. Has policy been especially stellar during this period (1993-2008)? I’d argue […]

Sarkozy and Obama

Nikolas Gvosdev wonders out loud whether Nicolas Sarkozy is hoping to play trans-Atlantic interlocutor between America and Russia. I’ve argued before that a good deal of Sarkozy’s conciliatory posture towards the U.S. — which has gotten him accused here in France of an Atlanticist alignment with Washington — was in fact a gambit designed to make Paris the fulcrum upon which American-EU relations pivot. Sarkozy has been very careful to balance his gestures towards Washington with demands for concessions (NATO vs. EU defense, for instance), and has also not been reluctant to oppose American positions (on NATO expansion, for instance) […]

NEW DELHI — The Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline — a proposed $7.5 billion, 2,700-kilometer pipeline linking Iran’s abundant natural gas reserves to energy-hungry Pakistan and India — has been under consideration for years. But despite both India’s and Pakistan’s desperate need for energy sources, progress on the project has been hampered so far by strategic calculations, mutual suspicions and disagreements on pricing and tariffs. Indications, however, are that the Iran-Pakistan stretch of the pipeline may take off soon. And with the U.S.-India nuclear agreement now concluded, India might be giving it more serious consideration, too. Officials in India’s foreign ministry […]

Second Wind for the Union for the Mediterranean

It’s very possible that when push comes to shove, the Union for the Mediterranean will stand as Nicolas Sarkozy’s lasting legacy. Le Monde reports that the details that seemed to be blocking progress as recently as Sunday were ironed out at a conference of foreign ministers in Marseille. The headquarters will be in Barcelona, and in what was underlined as the result of a compromise, the Arab League will be a full participant in return for Israel assuming one of the permanent Asst. Secretary General seats. No word yet on what the Union will actually do. But it looks more […]

Sarkozy as Blogger

Art Goldhammer and I recently traded a back and forth and back about Sarkozy’s handling of the financial crisis, and France’s EU presidency in general. I think this takeaway from a NY Times piece on same is a decent synthesis of our differening perspectives: Sarkozyhas worked politically without any real ideology in this crisis,promising safety to the French, appealing to nationalist instincts andtrying to play an important role in Europe, and he has helped himselfin the polls, said Pierre Rousselin, the foreign editor of LeFigaro. “Sarkozyis a bit a magician without clothes, but the important thing is theperception, and he’s […]

G.I. Jane in Iraq

Somewhere there’s a doctoral thesis waiting to be written on Hollywoodand the rehabilitation of war in the post-Vietnam era. I’d suggest thatG.I. Jane represents the culmination of a trend that began with Officer and a Gentleman and Taps,fully integrating the third wave feminist movement into the militarycode of honor and combat. I mention it only because by some oddcoincidence, I watched G.I. Jane (overdubbed into French) on the télélast night, only to stumble across this Army Times reviewof a new PBS documentary, “Lioness” (on women who have served in combatroles in Iraq) this morning. As the review and documentary make […]

BURMA LEADER MARKS 13 YEARS OF IMPRISONMENT — The first lady of Burmese politics, pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, marked 13 years under house arrest on Oct. 25, as supporters around the world continued their calls for her release. Australia’s The Age called the date a prominent illustration of the “bitter tyranny” existing in Burma, noting that “the Lady’s unjust imprisonment is a powerful reminder of a brief moment of freedom realized by Burma’s people and the dream that remains unfulfilled.” The anniversary happened to coincide this year with the seventh Asia-Europe summit meeting, a major gathering of government […]

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