Earlier this month, U.S. Marshals arrested Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, who was serving as the deputy consul general at the Indian Consulate in New York City. She was accused of committing visa fraud to bring a domestic worker into the United States and of paying the worker less than the minimum wage. The arrest led to a strong rebuke from the Indian government, which disputed the charges and objected to the way in which the arrest was carried out. Commentators in the Indian media have also reacted harshly. In addition to cancelling certain privileges for U.S. diplomats, the Indian government […]

Last night the Senate passed the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) by a vote of 84 to 15. The bill passed the House by a vote of 350 to 69 last week. The NDAA sets spending priorities for the U.S. military and specifies various rules and reporting requirements. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it. Due to the limited time available, the Senate voted on a version of the bill that had been agreed between the House and Senate, and did not have the opportunity to offer additional amendments. NDAA supporters expressed relief at the outcome […]

Never again. That was the sentiment I remember hearing over and over from developing country officials following the tumultuous completion of the Uruguay Round negotiations in 1993 that led to the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) two years later. Once again, most of them believed, the United States and the European Union had dictated the final terms of a global trade agreement and forced it down the throats of the rest of the world. These countries were determined to have far more say in the shape of any future deals. For the past two decades, until this month’s […]

The Obama administration’s decision last week to continue the dual-hatted arrangement whereby a single military officer runs both the Cyber Command (Cybercom) and the National Security Agency (NSA) is the latest indication that the administration plans to make only modest changes in how the United States conducts offensive and defensive cyber operations in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations of NSA data collection. Instead, the administration’s aim will be to tighten security procedures to prevent yet another massive leakage of sensitive information from a rogue contractor such as Snowden, as well as to minimize further friction with friendly governments. Although […]

Last week the United States government announced that it would suspend nonlethal aid to Syrian rebel groups fighting in the north. This came after the Islamic Front, a collection of Islamist Syrian rebel groups, took over facilities controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the Western-backed rebel alliance. The attack, which resulted in the seizure of nonlethal equipment supplied by the United States, reportedly forced Gen. Salim Idris, commander of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army and one of the main U.S. partners in Syria, to flee. The United States later stated that Idris had been in […]

A concerted effort to portray the protests in Ukraine as a pivotal moment pitting the Euro-Atlantic community against a resurgent Russia has not gained much traction among the American public in general or the Obama administration in particular. Washington apparently has little interest in matching the Russian “bid” for Ukraine, despite dire warnings that a failure to do so will imperil the security of the Western world. Some of this may be due to “revolution fatigue” engendered after a decade of watching the promise of popular uprisings to usher in new eras of freedom, democracy and pro-American governments fade away. […]

The sacrifices of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan have been widely reported, but the U.S. war effort has relied heavily on private firms to provide a variety of services, including armed security for convoys and installations. As NATO draws down in Afghanistan and struggles with budget constraints, the United States and others will almost certainly continue rely on these firms, which have attracted scrutiny and criticism over the years. “After the United States leaves Afghanistan, the private security industry will grow,” explains Sean McFate of the Atlantic Council in an email interview, given that “the United States and others […]

The Middle East has played such a pivotal role in U.S. national security over the past few decades that it’s easy to forget this is a recent phenomenon. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that America’s growing dependence on Middle Eastern oil, concern about expanding Soviet military power and an intensification of the U.S. relationship with Israel elevated the region to the first tier of American security concerns. With the end of the Cold War, the Middle East became paramount in America’s global strategy. Now, in a shift of potentially historic impact, that may be coming to an end. The coming […]

Last week, OPEC decided to leave its production ceiling unchanged at 30 million barrels per day (bpd), the target it set two years ago. On the face of it, this decision seems to reflect the self-proclaimed oil cartel’s satisfaction with current high oil prices. Over the past three years, OPEC has thrived with Brent crude averaging above $100 a barrel, boosting members’ revenues to record highs. High prices have even allowed the Vienna-based organization to become sloppy: OPEC stopped publishing individual country quotas five years ago, and most cartel members are producing all the oil they can; meanwhile, Saudi Arabia […]

During his recent visit to South Asia, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel focused on securing a formal agreement to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and an informal accord to continue drone strikes in Pakistan. These are both important topics, but U.S. policymakers need to devote more attention to other issues that could have an even greater impact on U.S. interests in the South Asian region in coming years. While in Kabul, Hagel did not even try to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has been adding new conditions for a renewal of the Afghan-U.S. status of forces agreement […]

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s party won roughly half of the votes in municipal elections held this weekend, strengthening the government’s position as it confronts an ongoing economic crisis. Maduro has vowed to continue the socialist project of his predecessor Hugo Chavez, and has been taking steps to counter the “economic war” he claims is being waged on Venezuela by foreign-backed business interests. The opposition secured 43 percent of the vote, less than it managed to capture in the presidential election in April, and complained of government interference. Reacting to the results, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the elections […]

The violence that erupted during a coca eradication campaign in Apolo, Bolivia, in October was sadly reminiscent of the violence and conflict that characterized the “zero coca” policies of previous Bolivian administrations. By the time the confrontation ended, three members of the security forces and a doctor were dead, and nearly 30 people were wounded. Fortunately, the Apolo deaths are an anomaly, both because such violence is now extremely rare in Bolivia and because forced eradication is only taking place in very limited areas of the country deemed to have excess coca cultivation. Nonetheless, the incident illustrates the complex political […]

World Citizen: Iran Deal Already Shifting Regional Balance of Power

It took just a few days after the agreement between Iran and world powers was announced in Geneva before evidence started to emerge of a significant strengthening of Iran’s position against its rivals. The interim agreement has not gone into effect yet, but the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East is already changing. The so-called Joint Plan of Action, signed on Nov. 24, is meant as a temporary measure, ostensibly freezing conditions in place for six months while negotiators hammer out a permanent deal over Iran’s nuclear program. And yet, the very fact that Iran […]

U.S. Defense Industry Adjusts to New Fiscal Environment

The United States has long sustained levels of defense spending that dwarf those of other nations, especially over the past decade. This has allowed the Defense Department and the military services to purchase vast amounts of weapons, vehicles and other gear—as well as services—from private defense firms. But in an era when the U.S. is scaling back its offshore military footprint and struggling to get its fiscal house in order, the amount of money available to sustain the defense industry is in decline. Defense is also subject to approximately half of the current sequestration cuts, which amount to approximately $50 […]

As the United States moves toward the final negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 other Pacific Rim countries, some in Congress are seeking greater input into the planned trade deal. If successfully concluded, the TPP would reduce trade barriers and harmonize regulations among partner nations, and would be the Obama administration’s biggest step yet in the direction of trade liberalization. Secretary of State John Kerry has been actively promoting the TPP, which is not yet finalized, in recent public statements. “We still need to unlock the full potential for growth in the Asia Pacific,” he said last month, […]

Strategic Horizons: For U.S. in Afghanistan, Zero Option Not So Bad After All

Hamid Karzai is playing a dangerous game with the security of both Afghanistan and the United States. With NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan ending soon, the Afghan president negotiated a bilateral security agreement with Washington to leave a small U.S. counterterrorism and advisory force in his country. But after convening a national assembly of elders known as the Loya Jirga and gaining their endorsement, Karzai announced that he would not sign the agreement, leaving that to the winner of April’s presidential election. When U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice explained to Karzai that the United States needs the agreement in […]