May 11, 2013 by John Lyman
“We have been very clear to the Assad regime…that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus.”
– President Barack Obama, August 20, 2012
There is mounting evidence that Bashar al-Assad’s regime has deployed a limited amount of chemical agents against the rebels who are trying to depose the beleaguered Syrian president. Israel, the UK and now the U.S. intelligence community have asserted that Assad has used chemical weapons against Syrian insurgents.
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, the White House notes, “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.” Hawkish US lawmakers jumped at the White House’s statement that Obama’s “red line” had indeed been crossed and that a more robust policy must be implemented. The inherent dilemma faced by conservative lawmakers is that public support for U.S. involvement hovers around 20 percent, so they have been noticeably vague about what that involvement entails.
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee said on ABC’s “This Week” that “some action needs to be taken” against Assad’s government for its alleged deployment of chemical weapons. Rogers emphasized, the Obama administration’s red line “can’t be a dotted line.”
May 10, 2013 by Binoy Kampmark
In one of St. Augustine’s observations (and there were many on the subject), the absence of morality among states would simply make them aggrandized bandits legitimised by rules of plunder. The Syrian conflict, with bloodied players both internal and external, is demonstrating this sad rule. Conventions heeding the consequences of force have been abandoned.
Foreign policy by the gun (and the bomb) is a gamble when initiated without direct provocation. Suggestion is enough. The attacks by Israel on Syrian targets ostensibly to stop disrupt missile shipments showed again how the moral dimensions of the conflict taking place is not merely murky but nigh obliterated. One might use an old expression Napoleon’s chief of police Joseph Fouché is said to have made on the execution of Louis Antoine, Duke of Enghien – this was worse than a crime, but a mistake.
For one thing, it has pushed the regime of Bashar al-Assad further into the eager and warming arms of Iran and Hezbollah. While the relationship is no secret, the titillation was hardly needed. In Assad’s words to Al-Akhbar daily on Thursday, he claimed that, “We have decided that we must advance toward them and turn into a resistance nation like Hezbollah [did in Lebanon], for the sake of Syria and future generations.” The new level of cooperation entailed that the regime would “give them everything.”
May 9, 2013 by Preston Weaver
While civil war rages in Syria, the US has taken almost no action in helping resolve the conflict aside from calls for Bashar Al-Assad to step down. As the death toll exceeds 60,000 and the possible use of chemical weaponry has come to light, it is time for the US to take decisive action. To combat this dictatorship, the United States should first focus on establishing close ties with the Free Syrian Army. The FSA is the main bastion of opposition to the Syrian government. However, its communication, leadership, and logistics are severely lacking. Providing humanitarian aid to this rebel group is welcome but is simply not enough.
Democrats and Republicans alike have pushed to have Syrian rebels supplied with U.S. weaponry, but president Obama refuses such actions, “One of the things we have to be on guard about, particularly when we start talking about arming opposition figures, is that we’re not indirectly putting arms in the hands of folks who would do Americans harm or do Israelis harm or otherwise engage in actions that are detrimental to our national security.”
April 21, 2013 by Brett Daniel Shehadey
Major events like September 11th, the US invasion of Iraq, and the global financial crisis disrupted the Western-driven globalization process and revitalized a state-centric political model of the world. Although the US chose an economic-centered globalization strategy and relied on international political institutions in the 1990s, national sovereignty became the new norm and the global system shifted from globalist rationale to geopolitical realism. Fear, war, the threat of war, provocation, territory, regional influence and military build-ups weakened international institutions as nation-states countered each other to reassume power.
There is now an unfettered international political instability crisis as a result of stalled engines of globalization all stemming from this neglect of the “political” dimension in the international system. The decline of liberal international foundations did not occur because people no longer desired them, but because of the lack of a strong ideological commitment from the world’s declining superpower and partners. The consequences of rising authoritarian states present crisis conditions for international liberalism and stability. They are also now in direct proportion to the decline of the Western political influence. Thus, as the West weakens, other challengers will present and push their perception of what they desire the global system to become.
Smaller states through international organizations are gaining influence in uniting the world against the economic and political models of Western liberalism. Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran, and Pakistan are making increasingly threatening advances, from warning and rhetoric, to alliance building. These states claim Western “aggression” is pouring into their regional spheres of influence. Regional organizations such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the G77, and the Union of South American Nations are moving past the resistance of collective movements toward promoting an alternative global system. Other states like China and Russia are strictly engaging in increased bilateral diplomacy with smaller states to increase their influence, and these countries’ propaganda and public diplomacy initiatives are far more advanced than the US’s ability to counter it.
April 20, 2013 by Peter Lee
Will President Obama become a late and unlikely convert to realpolitik and allow John Kerry to sacrifice America’s nuclear non-proliferation principles on the battered altar of North Korean diplomacy? And will the fearsome pivot to Asia turn into a dainty pirouette, an American pas de deux with China as the two great powers search for a way to dance around the North Korean nuclear problem?
Potentially, the North Korean nuclear crisis is a good thing for the US and South Korea–and perhaps even for China!—if President Obama is ready to bend on some cherished non-proliferation beliefs. That’s what the North Korean leadership is begging him to do, amid the nuclear uproar.
Obama’s Secretary of State, John Kerry, seems to be interested in getting, if not on the same page, in the same chapter with North Korea, and maybe pick up a geopolitical win (with Chinese acquiescence) similar to the successful effort to push Myanmar (Burma) out of its exclusive near-China orbit.
April 15, 2013 by William Thomson
During 2013 the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will continue to reduce its footprint in Afghanistan as coalition partners rapidly withdraw troops ahead of the end of the NATO Afghan mandate in 2014. However, 2014 will not be the end of the US or the International Community’s (IC) mission in Afghanistan. 2014 will mark the beginning of a new chapter for IC engagement in Afghanistan. To be successful NATO and the IC must immediately take several aggressive steps in order to prepare for the political transition.
Significant efforts have been made both in Europe and the US to set the stage for negotiations with the Taliban. The hope is that such negotiations will ready Afghanistan for a more productive post-2014 political environment. Despite the international community’s presence in country for more then a decade, these discussions are premature because of the inability of the Afghans and the IC to push for a robust internal Afghan political settlement. If Afghans cannot get along with each other internally, they certainly cannot coherently negotiate with an external force.
Rather than focusing on settling disputes between competing factions within the Afghan government in order to create a coherent and effective Afghan government, the IC has left such discussions up to the Afghans, and in doing so has allowed for the continuation of the inept and corrupt Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA). In many respects this failure can be traced to the reason the IC remains in Afghanistan. Except for security, IC support in Afghanistan has failed to reform its political system, advance its economy significantly, or address systemic corruption in any substantive way. This failure is the result of competing internal political factions within the Afghan government.
April 12, 2013 by James J. Coyle
Last week’s nuclear talks between U.S. and Iranian officials in Kazakhstan stalemated, despite positive statements before the meeting. Negotiators could take a lesson from their hosts, who in the early 1990s surrendered their nuclear capability to Russia. Kazakhstan gave up 898 warheads and, by 1996 had destroyed its missile silos originally designed for the SS-18. Ukraine and Belarus also gave up its nuclear capabilities. Azerbaijan and the Baltic republics transferred their nuclear weaponry to the Soviet Union before its demise. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan moved their weapons to Russian territory by May 1992.
Anti-nuclear sentiment is strong in the post-Soviet Republics. The late President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan declared nuclear weapons “a threat to mankind.” He told the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization that “The main goal of mankind is to stop the production of nuclear weapons, or at least the goal should be to stop testing them.” Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev closed the Soviet test site Semipalatinsk even before the dissolution of the Soviet Union. “Thousands of Kazakhstan citizens of different ages joined together in the anti-nuclear movement, which overwhelmed the whole country.”
March 31, 2013 by Conn M. Hallinan
In some ways the Syrian civil war resembles a proxy chess match between supporters of the Bashar al-Assad regime— Iran, Iraq, Russia and China—and its opponents— Turkey, the oil monarchies, the U.S., Britain and France. But the current conflict only resembles chess if the game is played with multiple sides, backstabbing allies, and conflicting agendas. Take the past few weeks of rollercoaster politics.
The blockbuster was the U.S.-engineered rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, two Washington allies that have been at loggerheads since Israeli commandos attacked a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza and killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. When Tel Aviv refused to apologize for the 2010 assault, or pay compensation to families of the slain, Ankara froze relations and blocked efforts at any NATO-Israeli cooperation.
Under the prodding of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and buried the hatchet. The apology “was offered the way we wanted,” Erdogan said, and added “We are at the beginning of a process of elevating Turkey to a position so that it will again have a say, initiative and power, as it did in the past.”
March 27, 2013 by Daniel Wagner
Although all of Syria’s neighbors have been negatively impacted by the country’s crisis, Iraq’s sectarian tensions and the religious, historical and cultural bonds between Syrians and Iraqis connect the two states’ political fates. While many of Iraq’s Sunnis support the Syrian opposition, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki continues to lend considerable support to Damascus, not only as a proxy for Iran, but also fearing that Al Qaeda affiliates and anti-Shia groups may gain safe haven in a post-Assad Syria, and in turn wage war against Baghdad. Recent events suggest that the Syrian crisis may ultimately push Iraq back to renewed sectarian civil war.
Given Mr. Maliki’s orientation toward Iran and Syria, Washington realizes that Baghdad is not aligned with the interests of the U.S. and its regional allies. Despite the Obama Administration’s efforts to convince Iraq to deny Iran its airspace in an attempt to impede the flow of weapons to President Assad, Iraq continues to allow Iran’s shipments to occur. Baghdad has every reason to continue to support the transfer of Iranian weapons into Syria, because the rise of Sunni Islamists with an extremist ideology in Syria pose an existential threat to the post-Saddam Shia-led order in Iraq.
March 14, 2013 by Daniel Wagner
Although Afghan President Hamid Karzai would like the world to perceive him otherwise, Karzai finds himself in an untenable position. As the U.S. prepares to withdraw the majority of its remaining troops, the country’s security forces remain woefully unprepared to assume responsibility for the country’s security, corruption remains endemic, and many observers admit that Afghanistan is in reality little better off today than it was when Karzai assumed power in 2004. With his leadership slated to end next year, there is little reason to believe that his successor will do any better in meaningfully addressing Afghanistan’s plethora of problems.
Hamid Karzai has never hesitated to challenge the U.S. publically, whether for a domestic or international audience, but the pace at which he is forcefully challenging the U.S. now is unprecedented. Equating the U.S. with the Taliban as forces working to undermine the government really is over the top, particularly given the tremendous resources the U.S. has provided to Karzai’s government over the past decade – and that he owes his position, as well as any progress that has been made to date – to the U.S. It is a little late to be attempting to change his image as “America’s Man”. We find ourselves wondering why he would be trying to do so in the first place. His legacy is clear to all. No pandering to domestic political interests is going to change that.
March 11, 2013 by Franz-Stefan Gady
In the kaleidoscopic world of power politics in Asia, the United States’ pivot to that region may yield the unintentional consequences of fostering closer strategic ties between the two Asian giants – China and India – which could result in a strategic alliance ostensibly hostile to Western interests in the region.
Analysts will be quick to point out that the ‘all weather friendship’ between the two countries, has hit a natural ceiling due to the strategic competition between the (re)emerging powers. For example, China is deepening its ties with Pakistan militarily (both countries signed a military cooperation agreement in September 2012), provides nuclear support, and has finally taken over management of the port of Gwadar on Pakistan’s Makran coast. India on the other hand is trying to counter China’s influence in Asia by fostering closer ties with the countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), especially in the field of naval cooperation, which adversely affects China’s position in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Both countries’ increasing energy demands also put the two giants on a collision course.
February 21, 2013 by Kerry Sun
The situation in Syria is in a dire state. Since the uprising began in March, 2011, over 60,000 Syrians have been killed and 600,000 displaced. With a recent petition by 58 UN member states to refer Syria to the ICC and the head of Syria’s opposition being invited to Moscow, Bashar al-Assad’s days in power are numbered. What would a post-Assad Syria look like? Would it even be peaceful? The sad reality is that the killings have just begun.
Assad bears sole responsibility for starting the unrest, but he does not bear sole responsibility for crimes already committed or for crimes yet to come. We will bear witness to the world’s next genocide against the 2.5 million Alawites and possibly other ethnic minorities once Assad is overthrown. As the bloodshed continues, Syria is now entrenched along ethic and sectarian lines. Despite being a Sunni majority country, Syria’s economic, political and military leaders hail from the Alawite minority.
February 18, 2013 by Conn M. Hallinan
Now that the dust has settled—literally and figuratively—from Israel’s Jan. 29 air attack on Syria, the question is, why? According to Tel Aviv, the bombing was aimed at preventing the transfer of sophisticated Russian SA-17 anti-craft missiles to Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, which one former Israeli military intelligence officer said would be “a game-changer.” But there are major problems with that story.
First, it is highly unlikely that Damascus would turn such a system over to Hezbollah, in part because the Russians would almost certainly not have allowed it, and, secondly, because the SA-17 would not be terribly useful to the Lebanese Shiite organization. In fact, we don’t even know if an SA-17 was the target. The Syrians deny it, claiming it was a military research center 15 miles northwest of Damascus that was bombed, killing two and wounding five. The Israelis are refusing to say anything. The story that the anti-aircraft system was the objective comes mainly from unnamed “western officials.”
February 15, 2013 by Eric Muller
Roughly a month after France began its aerial bombardment of Islamic extremists in Mali, Canada’s offering to the western response has remained largely unchanged: one C-17 heavy-lift cargo plane, and $13-million in humanitarian aid announced at an International donors’ conference in Addis Ababa.
The government’s reluctance to pledge more resources has come amidst consternation from foreign policy watchers at home. Historically Canada has had a significant presence in Mali as a major donor. It remains one of the Canadian International Development Agency’s (CIDA) focus countries, and is home to significant Canadian mining interests. According to Natural Resources Canada, in 2010 there were 15 Canadian mining and exploration companies in Mali with an estimated $230 million in assets.
February 10, 2013 by Timothy W. Coleman
International sanctions are often used as the stick component in a carrot and stick approach to resolve international diplomatic disputes, especially with non-compliant nation states that operate outside the normative behavioral standards. Iran has long flouted and disregarded international norms. In fact, it has come to relish its role as an uncooperative state, which views itself beyond reproach. Iran’s conduct, consequentially, has subjected it to increasing economic and military sanctions.
Sanctions against Iran were initiated under President Carter and have been in place since the late 1970s. Additional sanctions on economic and military assets continued under President Reagan, and saw an increase under President Bush as well as President Obama. All the while, Iran has still refused to cave into demands by the international community to change its malicious behavior or become transparent about it nuclear weapons development effort.