Revisiting Obama as Hamlet

I wanted to revisit this post on the growing meme of President Barack Obama as weak and vacillating, in which I said that on Israel-Palestine, Afghanistan and Iran, “there definitely seems to be a hesitation on following through on initial convictions and openings. . . . Obama has blinked.” Because in trying to address a number of interconnected trains of thought, I might have crossed some of the tracks up. To begin with, on Afghanistan, I don’t think Obama is wrong to pause and consider the strategic objectives before signing off on the resources requested. The problem is that I […]

No Good Options on Iran

When it comes to making sense of the options on Iran, the frustrating thing is that none of them are likely to work. That leads to debates where everyone very smartly rebuts the opposing viewpoint, only to defend an equally unsatisfactory proposition. I accept that actually getting meaningful sanctions applied — that is, overcoming Russian and Chinese obstructionism — is a longshot. I also concede that sanctions might not succeed in changing Tehran’s political calculus regarding its nuclear program. But most people who advance those two arguments tend to use them to justify one of three approaches: accept a nuclear […]

Obama as Hamlet

Let’s face it, the meme that’s currently taking shape is that President Barack Obama is weak and vascillating. And that’s a particularly lethal meme for a foreign policy oriented around engagement, cooperation, shared responsibility and a careful husbanding of dwindling U.S. power resources. Is it a fair characterization? It leaves out a number of policy positions where he has taken bold initiatives and followed them up well. His nuclear nonproliferation agenda, for instance, which I initially dismissed but have since come to appreciate, offers promising openings on a number of fronts. His handling of the much-needed U.S. image makeover, too, […]

Technology, Censorship and Iranian Popular Culture

Iran produces a wealth of homegrown popular movies, music andliterature. Iranian popular culture thrives under the watchful eyes ofgovernment censors — in part by creatively pushing the boundaries ofwhat is permissible, and in part by using the Internet and technology to avoid those limitsaltogether. Worldfocus correspondent Bigan Saliani and producer Richard O’Regan report.

Saudi Arabia Looks Beyond an Oil Economy

In an interview with PBS’ Nightly Business Report, Saudi Arabian oilminister Ali al-Naimi talks about his country’s plans to move beyond aneconomy that is so heavily dependent on oil, and about the opening of themulti-billion dollar King Abdullah University for Science andTechnology in Thuwal, Saudi Arabia.

NATO Commodore Steve Chick on Pirates

Royal Navy Commodore Steve Chick, seniorofficer of a NATO counter-piracy force on the Gulf of Aden, discussesthe state of Somali piracy, during a visit to the U.S.S. Donald Cook inSeptember 2009. Video by David Axe.

Iran’s Second Enrichment Facility?

Update: The IAEA press office has just released a statement to the effect that the enrichment facility referred to in the news report is a pilot fuel enrichment facility that is now under construction. Iran informed the agency of its existence on Sept. 21, stating that enrichment will be up to 5 percent, and that no nuclear material has yet been introduced to the facility. This would call for dialing down the following post a few notches in terms of urgency, since the facility is not a fully operational one that had been kept from IAEA inspectors. But the general […]

Obama, Sarkozy, Brown on Iranian Nuclear Facility

U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Nikolas Sarkozy, and U.K.Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced the discovery of Iran’s covertnuclear facility at the G-20 economic conference in Pittsburgh.

A Comprehensive Peace Agreement: A Palestinian View

Amjad Atallah of the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force speaks with Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO executive committee, the highest decision-making body of the PLO, which has responsibility for negotiating with Israel and the United States over a comprehensive peace agreement.

The Iran Nuclear Impasse

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev emerged from a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama with a more open attitude toward tougher sanctions against Iran in the event negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program don’t produce results. That’s a pretty quick dividend from the missile defense decision, but I think Nikolas Gvosdev is spot on here: But the crux of the matter for the U.S. is not when Tehran crosses theline and has a working bomb, it is trusting Iran to have a nuclearinfrastructure like Japan’s. I think that Russia will be far moresupportive of “trusting” Iran with nuclear technology than a U.S. […]

JERUSALEM — History will record Tuesday’s trilateral summit at the Waldorf Astoria hotel as the moment when U.S. President Barack Obama recognized that his initial strategy for bringing Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table had become counter-productive. Realizing he was on the wrong course, Obama began a gradual shift toward a less dramatic, less public, and potentially more successful route. At the end of the gathering with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama sounded impatient and more than a little frustrated. If you listen carefully, there was a most definite change in tone […]

Obama Speaks to Press During Netanyahu, Abbas Meetings

After the President held separate bilateral meetings with PrimeMinister Netanyahu of Israel and President Abbas of the PalestinianAuthority at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, Sept. 22, he spoketo the press before beginning another trilateral meeting.

The armored truck came apart in a puff of smoke and debris. It was Aug. 20, election day in Wardak province, Afghanistan, southwest of Kabul. U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan had braced for increased levels of violence on this day. But the massive bomb — constructed of a plastic barrel with a nitrate fertilizer filler — that struck the American truck was more than anyone expected. Of the two U.S. Army soldiers riding in the front of the vehicle when the bomb struck, one was seriously injured. Specialist Justin Pellerin, 21, the driver, died instantly. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are taking […]

The decision by the Obama administration to drop the missile defense plan in Eastern Europe was based on a revised perception of Iran’s long-range missile threat. The move is bound to have multiple and contradictory effects on the thorny issue of Iran’s nuclear program, which is slated to be a central subject of multilateral discussions at the opening of the U.N.’s General Assembly this week, as well as at the G-20 gathering in Pittsburgh days later. Diminishing the threat perception of Iran’s missile program from previous assessments under the Bush administration is certainly conducive to the IAEA — that is, […]

CIA Chief Panetta on Afghanistan, Iran, Interrogation

In this interview with Gary Thomas of Voice of America, CIADirector Leon Panetta says President Hamid Karzai will in alllikelihood still emerge as the winner of the presidentialcontest in Afghanistan, even after contested votes are thrown out.Panetta also says there aredifferences among Iran’s leaders about whether to actually build anuclear bomb, and he talks about the CIA’s reaction to the general’s investigation into interrogation techniques.

Gates: U.S. Intelligence on Iran Prompted Missile Defense Policy Shift

Defense Secretary Robert Gates says the decision to abandon the Bushadministration’s plans for a land-based missile defense system inEastern Europe came about because of a change in the U.S. perception ofthe threat posed by Iran. The Associated Press reports.

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