Unpacking the IAEA’s Iran Report

The IAEA just released its latest report on Iran’s nuclear program (available here for download as a .pdf file via Arms Control Wonk), and if the past is any indication, expect the accompanying spin and analysis to be a bit misleading. According to the actual report, the IAEA essentially determined that Iran has continued running the centrifuges it already has online and has added some more, and that the efficiency of the centrifuges already online has improved. The Iranians, meanwhile, once again refused to allow the more rigorous and transparent inspections mandated by the Additional Protocol, used a loophole to […]

In Defense of the F-22

Depending on who you listen to, the F-22 is either a boondoggle, or the key to America’s air superiority in the coming century. One thing that’s interesting to note, though, is that Israel, Japan and Australia would all love to get their hands on it, but can’t due to the U.S. export ban on the aircraft. (Okay, there’s a bit of sticker shock, too.) One of the big arguments against expanding orders for the F-22, besides the fact that we’re kind of hard up for cash these days, is that it plays no counterinsurgency role. My hunch, though, is that […]

The results of Israel’s recent elections, combined with the 22-day offensive against Gaza, have led many to wonder about the future of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority. But the jockeying for power in Israel between the centrist Kadima party and the right-wing Likud overshadows another significant obstacle standing in the way of any future peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians: namely, determining who, between the more secular Fatah leaders in the West Bank and the Islamist Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip, represents the Palestinian people. “No matter the outcome [of negotiations to form an Israeli government], the fact […]

World Citizen: Syria Peace Efforts on the Horizon

Last week’s parliamentary elections in Israel saw the country take a collective step to the right, but it is incorrect to conclude, as conventional wisdom seems to be doing, that the vote marks the end of peace efforts. Instead, the elections could take those efforts in a different — and possibly even fruitful — direction: Israel’s next government could end up playing down the Palestinian track in favor of a major push to reach a peace agreement with Syria. Negotiations to form a new government are just getting started, and there is no certainty about how they will conclude. The […]

The Urgency of the Abyss: Arab Reconciliation

Marc Lynch has a must read post on Arab efforts to forge some sort of common ground between “rejectionists” (Hamas, Qatar, Syria) and “moderates” (Saudis, Egypt), with a discussion of the implications in terms of Hamas-Fatah powersharing talks, Hamas-Israeli ceasefire negotiations, and subsequent Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Syria, not surprisingly, plays a prominent role in the equation, as does Qatar. For all the pessimism that followed the Gaza War and the subsequent Israeli elections, the urgency of the abyss seems to be playing a positive role, at least with regards to mending Arab/Palestinian internal rifts. It remains to be seen whether […]

State sovereignty can be likened to a living organism. It casts off meanings, sometimes splits, and reunites as it evolves in response to changing global values. Over the years, those global values and the subsequent meanings of sovereignty have often reflected the interests and preferences of hegemonic states. While a superpower like the United States cannot change the meaning or interpretation of sovereignty on its own, its political, economic, and military muscle give it a greater chance of mobilizing resources and support to influence the direction of the new meaning than a smaller country. States, multilateral organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and […]


“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama, Feb 5, 2008. Reports of the demise of the Westphalian system are premature, but the shifting of the relative balance of power between states, threats to states, and the populaces these threats emerge from is undeniable. A “populace-centric” approach to foreign policy would recognize the emergence and enduring nature of popular power, and free U.S. interests from becoming mired in fleeting governments or threats. The Westphalian system […]

On July 12, 2006, highly-trained Hezbollah militants managed to kill several Israeli soldiers and kidnap two others in a carefully coordinated raid into Israel near the Lebanese village of Ayta ash-Shabb. Ever since Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah had sought to kidnap Israeli soldiers in order to then exchange them for Lebanese prisoners held in Israel. The 2006 operation was the first time since an initial effort in 2000, though, that it succeeded. The raid, whose fire and withdrawal plan suggested careful planning and rehearsals, was executed without the knowledge of the government of Lebanon. Even Hezbollah’s […]

Getting to Gaza

The problem with any analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that if it gets too bogged down in details, the problems become intractable, and if it treats the issues too generally, it has little practical use. Yesterday, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing on the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts in the aftermath of Gaza, and this testimony by Ziad Asali (.pdf) is well worth a read. Asali gives both immediate and longterm background on the Gaza War and the rise of Hamas, as well as a post-action report that gives a sense of the actual task […]

INTEL CHIEF SIGNALS CHANGE — Adm. Dennis Blair, President Obama’s new director of national intelligence, has lost no time living up to his reputation as a hard-driving boss. The intelligence community has been at work since last December compiling the 2009 Annual Threat Assessment, which the new director submitted to Congress Thursday. According to a well-informed source, when Blair arrived to take up his post some days ago, the finished draft was handed to him, but to almost everyone’s consternation he rejected it. Intel officers had to scramble to produce a new version shifting the emphasis from terrorism to the […]

The Israeli Interregnum

Counterintuitively, the interregnum period following Israel’s elections offer something of a window of opportunity in terms of negotiations both to secure a durable ceasefire in Gaza and to obtain the release of Galid Shalit, the Israeli soldier kidnapped near Gaza and held for three years now. Because the political component of who on the Israeli side might benefit from concessions is momentarily suspended, the room for dealmaking seems to have been expanded. At any rate, there have been reports from Cairo all week that point to an imminent announcement of an 18-month truce. The rest of the formula — the […]

Turkish Exit Route from Iraq?

Turkey, whose refusal to allow American forces to invade Iraq from its territory tested our relations back in 2003, is ironically in discussions with American military planners to allow us to withdraw from Iraq using Turkish territory. (That follows on the news that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was in Baghdad earlier this week.) That’s as it should be, of course, since we have every reason to leave Iraq more carefully, and with broader support, than we entered it. That means, too, listening to our friends a bit more than we did six years ago: The same official said Turkey advised […]

Israelis went to the polls to clarify a confusing political situation. What emerged was an even more unclear picture, with all parties performing less well than they expected and several declaring victory even if no one won. After the two leading contenders for the top spot declared themselves the winners, it is now up to the president to decide who will officially receive the order to go forth and form a government. Even that part of the process, which is usually not contentious, is now controversial. At the latest count, Kadima, the party of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, looked set […]

The Neo-Eurasianist movement has been a curious feature of the Russian intellectual landscape throughout the post-Soviet years. It is dominated by a single figure, the monk-bearded Aleksandr Dugin, who argues that Russia is not a European country but an Asian one, and advocates a grand alliance with the Turkic and Arab worlds, India, Japan, Iran and even Israel, to counter American influence, which it regards as an existential threat to Russia. Dugin’s theories are larded with a significant amount of the occult, are complex and often contradict each other. But their anti-American emphasis and open call for return to empire […]

WPR on France 24

World Politics Review managing editor, Judah Grunstein, appeared on France 24’s panel discussion program, The Debate, to discuss the Israeli elections alongside Hanan Ashwari, J.J. Goldberg, and Danny Danon. Part one can be seen here. Part two can be seen here.

Needing Russia Less

The interesting thing about walking back our objectives (and/or additional troop deployments) in Afghanistan is that it instantly reduces our need for Russia’s help. Add to that an (admittedly still theoretical) warming of relations with Iran, and you’ve got further lightening of need for Russian support (on the nuclear standoff), as well as a diversified energy source for Europe. There are still plenty of areas where our interests overlap with Russia’s, and it seems silly to needlessly antagonize Moscow, especially if it’s to cultivate alliances with unreliable and/or unstable states like Georgia and Ukraine, or to deploy unproven and not […]

The Oft-Maligned but Resilient Iran NIE

Good thing I complained to Hampton earlier about finding absolutely nothing interesting to write about today. He sent word that DNI Adm. Dennis Blair is testifying before the Senate Select Committee for Intelligence today, and attached his testimony (.pdf). As I flipped through it, I couldn’t help but feel like I’d read the passages on pp. 19-20 (i.e., the parts about Iran’s uranium enrichment and weaponization programs) somewhere before. And it turns out I had, because the entire bit is pretty much a word for word copy-and-paste from the 2007 Iran NIE. The very same 2007 Iran NIE that, according […]

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