Iran to Issue Foreign Currency Debt Instruments

Reuters is reporting that Iran has allowed its banks to issue debt instruments in foreign currencies. While the report describes the move as a way of attracting foreign investment capital to make up for reduced oil revenue, it also portrays the Iranian central bank’s attitude as pretty nonchalant about the whole matter. The emerging consensus on Iran, Russia and Venezuela is that falling oil prices are going to limit their ability to realize their ambitious troublemaking agendas in their respective parts of the world. That’s very likely. And to the extent that Ahmadinejad and Chavez used their oil revenue to […]

The Operational Impact of the Iraq SOFA

Nathan Hodge, on assignment in Iraq and writing over at Danger Room, discusses the operational adjustments required by the soon-to-take-effect SOFA: The new catchphrase here is “warrant-based targeting”: U.S. forces willneed to secure warrants from Iraqi judges in order to conduct missionsto detain suspects. How this will work in practice, however, is stillsomething of an open question. This had struck me upon reading the document last month, but it’s worth pointing out that despite the emphasis placed on a light fingerprint in the COIN tactics that guided the Surge, “light” is used in comparison to war zone environments. What we […]

F-22: Ain’t Buying It

I mentioned my email correspondence with Sam Roggeveen, editor of the Interpeter. Here’s a note he sent me regarding a recent post on the increasingly endangered F-22 procurement program: You raise the possibility that US stimulus spending might find its way to the arms industry and that items like the F-22 will be offered toJapan and Australia. I really wouldn’t worry too much. Arms spending may be stimulatory inthe US, because it is domestic spending. But although Japan andAustralia are not as hard hit by the global financial crisis as the US,it is biting, so both countries will want to […]

While many observers of U.S. foreign policy have in recent years lamented the state of U.S. public diplomacy, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is widely seen as a bright spot amid a dim post-Cold War record of communicating and promoting U.S. values and interests to the world outside the United States. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty serves as a “surrogate” free press in countries around the world where such doesn’t exist, charged with promoting “democratic values and institutions by disseminating factual information and ideas,” as its mission statement puts it. Through the Internet and over the radio, RFE/RL broadcasts in 28 languages […]

Regionalism and the Fragmentation of Power

I’ve been thinking a lot about regional approaches the last few days, ever since this sentence from David Axe’s WPR piece on the India-Pakistan rivalry set off some bells and whistles: The State Department’s approach to Centraland South Asia is still based on what [the RAND Corporation’s Seth Jones] called a “Westphalian” model,with U.S. ambassadors in each country pursuing separate, strictlynational strategies. “State’s responses tend to be more diplomacywithin country, instead of at regional level.” “Ideally, therewould be a White House position that is much moreregional[ly-focused],” Jones said. “It’s been floated by some in theObama campaign.” The way in which […]

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s chances of returning to power in Israel received an unexpected and potentially devastating blow following Tuesday’s primary vote by members of his party. Likud voters watered down their party leader’s entire electoral strategy, thus reviving the chances that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and her Kadima party will have another opportunity to form a government. The conventional wisdom — and what all opinion polls still predict — is that Netanyahu will become Israel’s new prime minister after next February’s election. And yet, conventional wisdom is often wrong, and this may well prove one of those times. […]

The Economics of COIN

I’ve written before about the macroeconomics of a counterinsurgency-based security posture, and specifically how COIN resembles a transfer of wealth, as compared to WWII, a.k.a. the “public works program” that ultimately got us out of the Great Depression. Andrew Exum of Abu Muqawama obliquely makes a similar point in a post titled “When Guns = Butter”: This is a genuine conundrum.Does one, in an effort to trim the budget, cancel the F/A-22 program?Or does one, in the midst of a severe recession, keep what has become afederal jobs program? In addition to trimming the budget, the justification for cutting the […]

BLAIR’S OPTIMISM — Thetrouble with Tony Blair is that he’s so good with words that you tendto forget the message and just sit back and enjoy the music. Thinkingback on it, though, his report on the state of play in theIsraeli-Palestinian impasse, delivered in Washington to members of theCouncil on Foreign Relations, seemed to offer little concrete evidenceof progress. The former British prime minister has spent thepast year as the Middle East Quartet’s point man in the region. Hisfour-point plan for jump-starting the peace process was clearlyaddressed to the Obama administration. (What isn’t, these days?) But toborrow a current Afghan […]

Gates on Strategic Balance

Defense Sec. Bob Gates gets the last word on yesterday’s asymmetric blog war, in a Foreign Affairs essay that should put to rest any doubts about whether or not he should have stayed on at the Pentagon. The entire piece is too well-constructed to dissect, so I recommend just clicking through and reading it all. But the operative word is balance, and as a reflection of how well the piece achieves that balance, all the concerns and criticisms that I cited yesterday are represented: the need to build capacity for the wars being fought balanced by the emphasis on conventional […]

The Carter Curse

In the National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev suggests that in order to avoid the kind of infighting that led to the paralysis of the Carter administration’s foreign policy, President-elect Obama should task his national security team based on their constituencies, and then manage them properly to keep them out of each other’s lanes. It makes sense, but there’s one thing that’s always escaped me about the “Carter paralysis” analogy: Given the hand he was dealt in terms of the post-Watergate institutional crisis of the presidency, and the post-Vietnam crisis of American global influence, not to mention the domestic faultlines and divisiveness […]

Timing Engagement with Iran

Given that President-elect Barack Obama campaigned and won on a platform of engaging Iran diplomatically, the question now becomes not only how, but when. The timing is complicated, as Blake Hounshell of FP Passport points out, because of Iran’s upcoming presidential election, with some analysts (Brookings and CFR in a joint report) urging immediate steps, and others (CEIP’s Karim Sadjadpour) cautioning against giving Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s hardline foriegn policy a diplomatic victory to run on. Foreign Policy Watch’s MDC argues that current circumstances — including Obama’s popularity in Europe — provide America with a strong bargaining position, and has […]

Asymmetric Blog Warfare

An asymmetric blogwar just broke out regarding the Army’s latest doctrinal manual on Stability Operations (see Jack Kem’s WPR feature for background). Before diving into the fray myself, here’s the sequence so far: Jason Brownlee attacks the manual as an imperialist handbook, whereby the operational doctrine facilitates and drives the strategic urge for imperialist occupations. Andrew Exum attacks Brownlee, arguing that the army would be irresponsible if it didn’t equip its junior officers and troops with the operational tools necessary to wage the wars America is actually now fighting. Any imperialist urge would come from the subsequent civilian misuse of […]

When formulating a practical and forward looking policy towards Iran, which marks the 30th anniversary of its Islamic revolution this February, the Obama administration would do well to heed certain realities. Thirty years of muscular posturing by five successive administrations have not afforded the White House a handle on the Islamic Republic. Neither have they ushered in a new dawn of Middle Eastern stability or, for that matter, Israeli security. Instead, the United States must lead the way in establishing a strategic partnership with the Islamic Republic of Iran, in the context of a more engaged foreign policy. Iran is […]

Who Will Mediate for Turkey?

Is it possible that Turkey has been so busy lately mediating other countries’ disputes that it’s got no time to resolve its own? Hurriyet reports: Turkey has made no effort to ease tensions with Greece to defuse a long-running territorial dispute, Greece’s foreign minister said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday. “While we made a conscious effort from the Greek side — such as the Greek prime minister’s visit to Ankara — Turkey did not reciprocate,” Bakoyanni told Reuters. On a related note, a quick check through the Turkish press revealed almost nothing but bad news: a bomb explosion […]

PA Could Okay Deal without Hamas

The Middle East Times talks to Maen Rashid Areikat, deputy head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s (PLO) negotiations affairs department, who has this to say about the divide in Palestinian leadership: “Hamas is not only aPalestinian problem. Hamas is a regional problem; Hamas is aninternational problem,” said Areikat. “You cannot simply make themdisappear.” “We don’t have the military power to remove Hamas by force,” said Areikat, “and we don’t want Israel to do it for us.” So far, not that much different than what most people have been lamenting for the past two years. What’s interesting about Areikat’s comments, though, […]

Obama, LBJ and Nixon

Dave Dilegge at the Small Wars Journal blog put together a useful overview of reaction to Obama’s national security team. I think Laura Rozen nailed it, too, when she described the event and the team as “sober.” Add an “m” and you’ve got the mood that will probably apply come Jan. 20, when the gang starts realizing the task they’re up against. I want to avoid getting too deep into the “rotisserie league” diplomacy game. There’s no real way to predict how all the parts will ultimately fit together once they are in motion. And to paraphrase the wartime cliche […]

Most Americans realize that President-elect Barack Obama will inherit the most disastrous economic and foreign policy legacy since FDR took charge of the Great Depression or Abraham Lincoln inherited a country on the brink of Civil War. America’s standing in the world is at a low ebb, even among our friends and allies. Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left the U.S. military stretched to the breaking point. North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and proliferated nuclear technologies to Syria and other nations. Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear weapons state. Even if they were not occurring […]

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