Obama, Right and Wrong

Another thing about Giovanni Grevi’s notion of an interpolar world is that it seems very consistent with the Obama administration’s emphasis on a “multipartner” world.Significantly, in this context, the major objective in internationalrelations shifts from advancing individual interests toward identifyingcommon ones, in order to convince the increasing number of players thatnow wield de facto vetos to lift them. Obama seems to get the importance of this kind of consensus-building, even if his knee-jerk criticsdon’t. The most recent case in point is China’s vote at the IAEA to censure Iran, which is apparently a direct result of Obama’s allegedly “deliverables-free” China […]

A United Front Against Iran

The IAEA has censured Iran and is demanding Tehran freeze nuclear operations at asecret facility. The stern move by the agency is a victory for theObama administration says Iran expert Ervand Abhrahamian. WorldFocus’Martin Savidge talks with the history professor about what thecensure could mean for United States global positioning among powerssuch as Russia and China.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have ranged over the years from coolly cordial to openly hostile. After all, the two countries see themselves as rivals in the quest for regional influence and for leadership of the Muslim world. They have very different histories and conflicting political ideologies, and they stand on opposing sides of the Shiite-Sunni divide. In recent months, strains in the relationship have greatly intensified. Today, the differences between Tehran and Riyadh have brought the neighbors dangerously close to open confrontation. How serious is the crisis? Consider the recent headline in the respected pan-Arab newspaper Alsharq al-Awsat: […]

Hamas and Israel Come Closer to Prisoner Exchange

Though no official deal has been signed between Hamas and Israel, thereis growing speculation that the two sides are nearing a deal to releaseIsraeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinianprisoners. Though there has been a media blackout on negotiations forthe soldier’s return, spectators say movement in recent days could meana decision is coming.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China’s defense minister gets face time with Kim Jong-Il on the third day of his visit to North Korea. – A high-ranking Chinese military envoy was in Moscow for discussions with Russia’s defense minister. – A high-ranking Chinese political envoy was in Quito to discuss deepening ties with Ecuador. Among the deals signed was a credit line for Ecuador to purchase Chinese military aircraft. That’s pretty remarkable, given the extent to which Ecuador’s military has historically been U.S.-trained, equipped and oriented. (Little-known fact: There’s a small but visible Chinese expat population spread throughout Ecuador. Second little-known fact: Ecuadoran-style Chinese […]

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Two years after its formation, a controversial military program to embed civilian social scientists inside combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan is scrambling to recover from a string of crises. How the so-called “Human Terrain System” responds to a spate of combat deaths and a disastrous employee pay cut will determine whether the program survives in its current form. Human Terrain System, headquartered at Fort Leavenworth, in Kansas, is the brainchild of Montgomery McFate, a Harvard- and Yale-trained anthropologist. In a series of journal articles(.pdf) in 2005, McFate outlined the basic shape of what would become HTS. […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– The unofficial U.S. ambassador to Taiwan said that Chinese Preseident Hu Jintao was more interested in “scoring points” on the Tibet issue than on Taiwan in his talks last week with President Barack Obama. – China and South Korea will be expediting negotiations for a free trade agreement. It’s pretty surprising that the EU already beat the U.S. to a FTA with South Korea. But if China does, too, that would be incredible. A number of obstacles remain, though, including U.S. opposition. – Islamabad unveiled a package of political and economic reforms aimed at tamping down separatism in Balochistan. […]

Since August, the Yemeni government has been engaged in an offensive against insurgents in Yemen’s northern Saada region — the sixth it has waged there since June 2004. President Ali Abdullah Saleh has long accused Tehran of aiding the Houthi rebels, portraying the local conflict as part of a larger regional struggle against Iran. Earlier this month, that conflict escalated dramatically when Saudi Arabia bombed Houthi positions along the Saudi-Yemeni border, following a Houthi attack on Saudi border guards. While evidence of direct Iranian involvement remains questionable, Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of Iran’s General Staff recently remarked, “Saudi Arabia’s effort to […]

Iran: The Deal is Not the Problem

Since forward-moving talks in Geneva four weeks ago, nuclear talks withIran have seriously deteriorated. WorldFocus interviews U.S.-Iranrelations expert Trita Parsi who says that changing dynamics in Tehranare to blame for the current situation and that there is little outsidefactors will be able to contribute to quell the issue. Parsi says it isnot the deal itself that is the problem, it is the fissures in Iranthat are impeding progress.

This Week’s WPR Video Highlights

Here are a few of this week’s highlights from WPR’s video section: PresidentBarack Obama held one of his now-classic town hall meetings in Shanghaiwith Chinese students. The twist? Carefully picked attendees andquestions. In this video, Jim Lehrer interviews human rights experts who saythe Internet, a topic Obama made sure to mention in his talk with thestudents, is the key to human rights in China. Former Secretaryof State Henry Kissinger says the Obama administration has made greatgains for U.S.-Russian relations in this interview with Russia Today. IraqiVice President Tariq al-Hashemi has brought a much anticipate electionin Iraq to a halt. In […]

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China’s foreign minister visits Japan for the first time since the DPJ took power. – China and Vietnam agree to boost economic ties. – China and Burma agree to establish railroad and banking links to facilitate resource flow. – Remarks by President Barack Obama in Korea reflect how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have transformed U.S. forces stationed there — like the Army reserves back home — into an operational, as opposed to a strategic, reserve. – The leader of the Hurriyat, a Kashmir political coalition advocating for self-determination, declared his support for the U.S.-China joint declaration regarding […]

It is a strange kind of republic in which presidents serve for life. It is an even stranger one in which rulers inherit power from their fathers. Yet, that is the direction in which the Arab Republic of Egypt is headed. Egypt has experienced hereditary rule for millennia, from the pharaohs who began their reign 5,000 years ago to most (but not all) of the dynastic rulers who have called Cairo home for the last thousand years. The dissolution of the Egyp­tian monarchy in 1952 marked a turning point in Egyptian politics, ushering in military control and eliminating privileges that […]

Tariq al-Hashemi Defends His Election Law Veto

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemitalks about his decision to veto a key law that would enable electionsin Iraq to move forward. He contends that his decision will onlybriefly delay the impending election. Al-Hashemi’s veto was spurred bya stipulation in the election law that he felt would misrepresentexiled Iraqis.

Off the Radar News Roundup

– China plays both sides of the DMZ, hosting the speaker of the ROK Parliament and a high-level DPRK military envoy at the same time. – New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key has refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, explaining, “The reason simply is I’ve decided that I wouldn’t get a lot out ofthat particular meeting.I’ve seen him in the past, I may see him in thefuture.” If there’s a foreign policy equivalent of Maslow’s pyramid of needs, defending human rights would figure on the high end. That’s why the Dalai Lama will have an easier time getting meetings […]

Pushing India toward Iran

One of the consequences of the U.S. dependence on Pakistan to achieve its goals in Afghanistan is the way in which it drives India and Iran closer. That’s because their interests in Afghanistan largely converge, in opposition to those of Pakistan. It’s also obvious that U.S. interests in Afghanistan more closely align with those of India and Iran than with those of Pakistan. But to actually operationalize that would essentially turn the Afghanistan war into the Pakistan war. Clearly, the ideal solution would be for India and Pakistan to resolve their differences, and for the U.S. and Iran to do […]

Middle Eastern diplomacy has intensified enormously in recent months, but don’t expect to see peace break out any time soon as a result of that new burst of activity. That’s because the latest wave of diplomacy has surfaced in a most unlikely place: South America. In November alone, Brazil is playing host to the presidents of Israel, Iran and the Palestinian Authority. Why have these leaders, all facing pressing problems at home, suddenly decided to travel thousands of miles to spend time with the heads of developing nations? The visits are hardly routine. When Israeli President Shimon Peres landed in […]

More Israel, Syria, France and Turkey

Two alternate takes on the Israel-Syria mediator sweepstakes, by Jeb Koogler here, and Yigal Schleifer here. I think Koogler overstates the degree to which a French role would undermine an American involvement, or represents an attempt to rival America. That’s usually the rap France gets. But in this case, like many others, everyone knows that no deal is possible without American involvement. Still, the question of when America steps into the negotiations is significant. Getting France and Turkey to do some of the initial lifting can help avoid outcomes like the Obama administration’s initial setbacks on the Israeli-Palestinian track. (I’m […]

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