While American policymakers are fond of repeating the mantra that “all options are on the table” when it comes to dealing with Iran and its nuclear program, the president publicly took one option off the table during his recent visit to Israel: Speaking to college students, Barack Obama reiterated, “Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. This is not a danger that can be contained.” If the Obama administration has indeed definitively rejected containment as an option, the United States will not develop contingencies for if and when Iran crosses the nuclear threshold. That means Washington is now committed to […]

AMMAN, Jordan — Two years after the start of the Arab Spring, Jordan’s King Abdullah II has launched what he says is a third way. His approach, the king maintains, will bring peaceful democratic change, empowering the people and modernizing the country, while averting chaos and preventing extremist parties from emerging victorious. It’s a tall order, and one that has met with doubt among many skeptics and critics. So far, the Arab uprisings have given people of all political persuasions a reason to feel anxious. Arab liberals have not made any significant gains. Islamist groups, the principal winners until now, […]

The recent 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq sparked a flurry of attention. Op-eds, blogs, conferences and panels of all sorts sprouted, most dealing with the “lessons” the United States should draw from its initial decision to invade and subsequent long involvement in the country. As the lesson fest subsides, attention is shifting to Iraq’s current security predicament and its relationship with the United States. Unfortunately, it is not a pretty picture. With war raging in neighboring Syria and the Shiite-dominated regime in Baghdad continuing to exclude Sunni Arabs as much as possible, al-Qaida is on the rebound […]

This weekend’s visit by Xi Jinping to Moscow, his first trip abroad as China’s new president, resulted in no revolutionary agreements. The biggest “deliverable” to emerge from the summit — the major oil deal the two sides signed — was overshadowed by their continued failure to agree on a price for Chinese purchases of Russian natural gas. Yet expectations were low for the summit, so the lack of headline agreements came as little surprise. More surprising, however, was the extent to which Xi aligned Beijing’s foreign policy views with those of Russia in his public statements while in Moscow — […]

Last week, a ceremony was held at the headquarters of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to mark the mission’s 35th birthday. The operation began in March 1978 to patrol southern Lebanon after Israel mounted an offensive against Palestinian fighters in the area. Since then, UNIFIL’s history has been punctuated by crises. In 1982 and 2006, the peacekeepers were sidelined during further Israeli incursions into southern Lebanon. The mission was heavily reinforced in August 2006 after the inconclusive war between Israel and Hezbollah, and it still totals roughly 11,000 blue helmets. But UNIFIL is currently facing potentially more-serious […]

Xi Jinping has arrived in Moscow, having chosen Russia as the first country to visit since his inauguration last week as president of China. After meeting with President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials, Xi will then leave to attend his first BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa, where he will hold talks with the leaders of the “rising and resurgent” bloc of nations comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. In particular, he will have an opportunity to engage one-on-one with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the BRICS meeting. From South Africa, Xi will […]

From the moment the White House announced that President Barack Obama would travel to Israel, the administration undertook a systematic effort to lower expectations, calling the trip a “listening mission.” On that count, the president’s trip succeeded before it started. Practically no one expects the Obama visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan to achieve any kind of a historic triumph. Given the deliberately minimized ambitions of the trip, how will we know if this much-anticipated tour was worth the president’s time? How can we judge if it truly was a failure or a success? The idea of nipping […]

Strategic retrenchment is all the rage among America’s national security experts. There is increasing agreement that the global strategy of the past two decades is politically and economically unsustainable, so Washington must cut its security commitments and scale down engagement around the world, particularly when it involves the U.S. military. This is not a new idea. After World War II, some political leaders and opinion shapers encouraged President Harry Truman to follow American tradition and disengage from Europe and Asia. That pressure ended only when the extent of the Soviet threat became clear and North Korea invaded South Korea. After […]

The Obama administration’s decision to adapt U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in response to the threat posed by North Korea’s long-range missile and nuclear programs provides an opportunity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to set aside the protracted, debilitating, but unnecessary dispute with the United States and its NATO allies over missile defense. On Friday, the administration announced that it would deploy an additional 14 interceptor missiles in Alaska to address North Korea’s recently demonstrated capabilities to launch a long-range missile as far as North America and Pyongyang’s refusal to cease testing nuclear weapons. The administration also decided to […]

Last week, European leaders did one of the things they do best: look hesitant over how to handle a pressing foreign policy question. As the European Union’s leaders gathered for a summit in Brussels, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President François Hollande declared the bloc should end its arms embargo on Syria, enabling them to send weapons to the rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad. But their counterparts appeared convinced that this would only exacerbate the conflict. German Chancellor Angela Merkel seemed especially unfavorable toward the proposal, observing that “the fact that two have changed their minds” didn’t oblige […]

Perhaps it is time to start taking Hamid Karzai at his word. Every time the Afghan president criticizes the United States or constrains the operations of foreign forces in Afghanistan, U.S. officials deploy the gamut of explanations to downplay his behavior. These have ranged from the tactical (he’s trying to build up his nationalist credentials among the populace), to the pharmacological (he’s “off his meds”). Karzai’s latest bombshell, delivered during Chuck Hagel’s inaugural visit to Afghanistan as the new U.S. secretary of defense, was to suggest that the United States is colluding with the Taliban in attacks throughout the country […]

With less than 100 days left until Iran holds presidential elections, the field of candidates remains surprisingly unclear. The regime is taking pains to make sure there is no repeat of the 2009 fiasco, when a strong reformist movement mounted a powerful showing and challenged the official results, threatening the stability of the Islamic Republic. This time, the regime is keeping a much tighter rein on the process and, it hopes, on the ultimate repercussions. It is all but certain that when the votes are counted after the June 14 polls close, the winner will be a conservative, loyal to […]

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Today, North Korea is the most dangerous country on earth and the greatest threat to U.S. security. For years, the bizarre regime in Pyongyang has issued an unending stream of claims that a U.S. and South Korean invasion is imminent, while declaring that it will defeat this offensive just as — according to official propaganda — it overcame the unprovoked American attack in 1950. Often the press releases from the official North Korean news agency are absurdly funny, and American policymakers tend to ignore them as a result. Continuing to do so, though, could be dangerous as events and rhetoric […]

In recent weeks, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other Turkish officials have threatened to abandon decades of effort to join the European Union (EU) and instead seek membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Their remarks should not have been so surprising, since Ankara has become increasingly skillful at leveraging Turkey’s new ties with its eastern partners to gain advantages in the West. In addition to reflecting a genuine concern about Turkey’s perceived mistreatment by the EU and an effort to gain easy popularity with domestic constituents by attacking an unpopular target, Erdogan and other Turkish leaders see […]

Does China have any real interest in cooperating on international crisis management with the West? Chinese officials at the United Nations have sided with Russia over Syria and refused to countenance a new sanctions resolution against Iran. These issues, coupled with Beijing’s assertive approach to sovereignty disputes in the western Pacific and Southeast Asia, have overshadowed those cases in which China has pursued cooperation, including efforts to stop a war between Sudan and South Sudan. Last week, however, there was a fillip for those who hope that China will invest more in collective security arrangements. On Thursday, the U.N. Security […]

Most of the U.S. foreign policy community assumes that relations between the United States and Venezuela can only improve in the aftermath of Hugo Chavez’s death. Exemplifying this optimism, the Obama administration’s initial reaction was to note that as a “new chapter” begins in Venezuela, Washington reaffirms “its interest in developing a constructive relationship with the Venezuelan government.” The U.S. response was based on the hope that any successor to Chavez will be interested in repairing the breach that opened up between the two nations during the almost 13 years of Chavez’s tenure. But nothing should be taken for granted. […]

As one of the founders of the original Non-Aligned Movement, India has often found itself standing between opposing camps, trying to keep from becoming entangled in the disputes that divide them. In the current environment, however, with a globalized economy and a shrinking, interconnected world, the feat of staying out of international conflicts poses especially complicated and potentially costly challenges. That is most evident as India tries to navigate its important trade relationship with Iran, while continuing to expand its valuable commercial, diplomatic and strategic links with the U.S. and Israel. The difficulty of maintaining relations simultaneously with bitter geopolitical […]

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