WPR on France 24: The World Last Week

I was invited to participate Friday on France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week. We focused primarily on Libya, where the actual initial air strikes had yet to occur, but the discussion holds up notwithstanding. Other guests included France 24’s own Nahida Nakad, the Sunday Telegraph’s Anne-Elisabeth Moutet and Bloomberg’s Craig Copetas. Part one is here. Part two is here. This is one of those rare times where I was able to coherently and effectively express everything on my mind, with no need for clarification or expansion. The only thing I’d add is that, while I have not […]

Global Insider: Belgium’s Post-Election Standoff

Belgium recently surpassed Iraq to become the country that has gone longest without forming a government, after elections in June 2010 handed a plurality to a Flemish separatist party. In an email interview, Dave Sinardet, professor of political science at the Free University of Brussels and the University of Antwerp, discussed Belgium’s long-running political crisis. WPR: Why have tensions between Wallonia and Flanders become so pronounced in recent years? Dave Sinardet: Three key elements can help to explain the complex political crisis in Belgium. First, there is a structural element: the absence of national political parties. All parties are either […]

Why Libya, and not Côte d’Ivoire and Bahrain

There are plenty of compelling arguments against the intervention in Libya. The fact that it takes place as President Barack Obama embarks on his first tour of Latin America highlights the way in which our disproportionate and outdated engagement in the Middle East distracts us strategically from what I consider to be more important priorities in our own hemisphere. The delay in taking action allowed for a broad if fragile multilateral mandate, but also probably reduced the likelihood that the intervention will be immediately decisive and thereby raised the risk of a drawn-out stalemate. I, for one, think we could […]

With All Eyes on Middle East, Armenian Unrest Spreads

In addition to spreading across the region, the Arab uprisings are inspiring peaceful demonstrations away from the Middle East — perhaps most notably, albeit with little international news coverage, in the former Soviet bloc country of Armenia. More than 10,000 anti-government protesters rallied last week in the capital, Yerevan, where according to the Associated Press, opposition leader and former President Levon Ter-Petrosian claimed the demonstration was inspired by the revolts in the Arab world. Outcry has mounted since Serzh Sargsyan, a former prime minister, became the nation’s third president in a disputed 2008 election, the immediate aftermath of which was […]

Libya Process Signals Shifts in Global Order

Pulling back for a second from the debate over whether the U.S. should intervene in Libya, the process by which the actual international response unfolded is cause for optimism. Among the big-puzzle pieces that shifted, I see the following: – The U.S. as “law-abiding” global actor. President Barack Obama has already taken hits for indecisiveness and worse, but the fact that the administration held firm on multilateral mandates highlights its commitment to a multipartner world. – France and Britain as European security guarantors in the Mediterranean and Northern Africa. It remains to be seen how involved NATO will become in […]

Global Insider: Australia-Mongolia Trade Relations

Australia and Mongolia recently signed a number of agreements to increase bilateral business and educational cooperation. In an e-mail interview, Li Narangoa, a professor in the School of Culture, History and Language at the Australian National University, discussed Australia-Mongolia relations. WPR: What is the extent of existing trade between Australia and Mongolia? Li Narangoa: Trade between Australia and Mongolia has been small, with a total value of about $25 million in 2010. Though Australia and Mongolia established diplomatic relations in 1972, a serious trade relationship began only in the 1990s, when Mongolia introduced a democratic political system and free-market reforms. […]

Violence in Côte d’Ivoire, Stalemate at the UNSC

While international attention is focused on Libya, violence has also erupted on the other side of Africa, in Côte D’Ivoire. Tensions have been steadily rising since the country’s incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, refused to step down after challenger Alassane Ouattara was widely recognized as having won November’s election. But intense gun battles erupted last weekend, when, according to the New York Times, forces loyal to Gbagbo began an assault to drive Ouattara’s fighters out of the Abobo district of Abidjan, the country’s financial capital. The escalation in the fighting has prompted roughly 200,000 people to flee the city, and raises […]

Global Insider: Arab Air Forces and the Libya No-Fly Zone

The Arab League’s decision over the weekend to call for a no-fly zone over Libya is seen as a crucial measure of regional support for such an operation. Some have even argued that a Muslim country must be involved in the mission. In an e-mail interview, Yiftah Shapir, senior research fellow and director of the Military Balance Project at the Institute for National Security Studies, discussed the capabilities of Middle Eastern and North African air forces. WPR: Which countries in the Middle East and North Africa have significant air forces? Yiftah Shapir: There are two large air forces in the […]

A Missed Opportunity in Libya

Just a few final thoughts on the opportunity I believe we missed in Libya. To begin with, many of the counterarguments to a U.S. military intervention are sound. As I’ve already agreed, a no-fly zone is unlikely to be decisive. The same holds true for a limited air strike of the kind I suggested. The advantage of the latter is that it very clearly signals our support for the anti-Gadhafi forces, who we could then supply with less-visible logistical and material support, while allowing us to avoid the long-term commitment of forces and resources of a no-fly zone. But in […]

Are Reforms in Egypt Moving Too Fast?

The swiftness with which the global media spotlight withdrew from Egypt’s Tahrir Square has been rivaled by the break-neck pace at which Egypt is implementing reforms. In what today’s Washington Post called a “crash course in constitutional confusion,” 40 million Egyptians are expected to vote Saturday on proposed constitutional amendments, the most significant of which would curb runaway executive powers that were exercised for more than 30 years by ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Noting the referendum is “the first in decades that doesn’t amount to a sham,” the Post cited pundits and politicians expressing “deep concern that citizens are ill-prepared […]

Will Mideast-Style Unrest Spread to China?

Over the weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered a glimpse into China’s apprehension toward the popular uprisings in the Arab world when he rejected comparisons between China and the Middle East. “We have followed closely the turbulence in some north African and Middle Eastern countries,” said Wen, according to the Associated Press. “We believe it is not right to draw an analogy between China and those countries.” His remarks coincided with two worthy op-eds in the U.S. media questioning the likelihood that unrest may spread to China. “The communist government in Beijing is clearly worried,” wrote Francis Fukuyama in the […]

Changing Business as Usual in Libya and at Home

I have to admit that I have been very tempted by the argument — best expressed, to my mind, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, here and here — that the U.S. should take some sort of military action to make sure that Moammar Gadhafi does not hold onto power in Libya. The idea that there are no American interests at stake is based on such a narrow definition of American interests that I find it not very compelling at all. And the calls for restraint, while sound as a guide to U.S. policy in general, seem strikingly out of place here. […]

Global Insider: Brazil-Venezuela Relations

Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota recently paid his country’s first high-level visit to Venezuela since the inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in January. In an e-mail interview, Kurt Weyland, professor of Latin American politics at the University of Texas at Austin, discussed Brazil-Venezuela relations. WPR: What is the recent history of Brazil-Venezuela relations? Kurt Weyland: Economic exchange between Brazil and Venezuela has intensified greatly in recent years, and political relations have been officially close, despite a divergence of interests beneath the surface. Brazil has taken great advantage of the oil-fueled boom that Venezuela experienced in the 2000s, selling increasing […]

WPR on France 24: The World Last Week

I had the pleasure of taking part in France 24’s panel discussion program, The World This Week, on Friday. The other guests were Matthew Saltmarsh of the IHT, Billie O’Kadameri of Radio France International and Simon Kuper of Financial Times. The discussion focused on events in Libya, but we also covered Ivory Coast and the resignations of former French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie and former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodore zu Guttenberg. Part one can be found here. Part two can be found here. I recommend the discussion on Libya in particular, because Billie O’Kadameri offered some very useful insights into […]

Global Insider: Eurasian Rail Network

Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan recently signed a series of railway agreements aimed at implementing the North-South Transport Corridor, including constructing rail links to connect the Iranian cities of Qazvin, Rasht and Astara. In an e-mail interview, Taleh Ziyadov, a doctoral fellow at Cambridge University, and Regine A. Spector, a visiting research fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute, discussed transport cooperation among Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan. WPR: How extensive are the existing transportation links among the three countries? Taleh Ziyadov and Regine A. Spector: Azerbaijan and Russia are connected by railroad and by a recently constructed modern highway linking […]

Global Insider: China-Kazakhstan Relations

A recent visit to China by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev resulted in deals that further expanded China’s extensive energy and infrastructure investments in the Central Asian country. In an e-mail interview, Niklas Swanström — director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy and executive director of ISDP’s Central Asia-Caucasus Institute and its Silk Road Studies Program — discussed China-Kazakhstan relations. WPR: What is driving the recent expansion of China-Kazakhstan trade relations, on both sides? Niklas Swanström: The most obvious factor behind the expansion is China’s willingness and ability to invest in economies in the region, particularly in energy-rich Kazakhstan. […]

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