Brazil, U.S. Deepen Ties Ahead of Obama’s Latin America Week

April 10, 2012 by

Kicking off what some here have called President Barack Obama’s “Latin America Week”, the president and his Brazilian counterpart, Dilma Rousseff, touted a deepening of bilateral ties in her first visit to the White House as president of South America’s superpower. Adding to a growing basket of “presidential dialogues” that were sealed during Obama’s visit to Brazil in March 2011, the two leaders announced the creation of a “Defence Co-operation Dialogue” that will convene in the Latin American giant in two weeks.

See You in Nuclear Tehran

April 6, 2012 by

If someone wanted to back out of the April 13-14 meeting between Iran and the P5+1 group of international mediators to discuss Iran’s nuclear program, here is an excuse – Tehran has suddenly asked to move the venue from Istanbul to Baghdad. Now the question is whether the key participant in the talks, the United States, wants talks to go forward and why. On the one hand, one gets the impression that the Obama administration considers any form of communication with Tehran to be distasteful and would like to have an excuse to back out of talks. But, on the other hand, failing to produce any results is no good either.

The Foreign Policy President?

April 3, 2012 by

Elections are decided by economics. Voters respond to pocketbook issues and are swayed by the huge sums that candidates lavish on advertising. Foreign policy issues, by contrast, are what the British call “noises off,” those sounds from off-stage that you hear occasionally to punctuate the main actions, sounds like exploding bombs and the distant cries of suffering people. According to recent polling, global issues barely register at all with Americans right now.

The U.S. Presidential Candidates on Cybersecurity

March 24, 2012 by

In January 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense released its new strategic guidance outlining plans for a “leaner” U.S. military. The plans envision budget reductions of $487 billion over 10 years. Cybersecurity, however, continues to rise as a priority: the strategy calls for increased investment in cyber capabilities.

Disengagement the Best Engagement for North Korea

March 21, 2012 by

It took a record one month for U.S.-North Korean talks over a food for nuclear freeze swap to fall into the all too common war of words where Pyongyang threatens with war against the U.S. and South Korea. And while admittedly this game of hot and cold isn’t anything new, what’s different this time is the record speed in which it happened.

North Korea’s Space Program Not to Lift off Any Time Soon

March 19, 2012 by

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) is making a third attempt to convince the world that it can launch spacecraft. Although Pyongyang claims that two satellites have been orbited, independent analysts are unable to detect them. Even if the third launch attempt proves successful, it is unlikely to be completely functional.

Grasping the Syrian Quagmire

March 7, 2012 by

One of the most significant and enduring consequences of the Arab Spring has been the bloody uprising in Syria. For almost a year cities across the Levant have been defying the iron grip of the Assad regime and challenging the police state of the Ba’ath party. Of all the countries engulfed by the revolutionary fever encompassing the Arab World, Syria, a country of 23 million, epitomizes the toughest case.

Syria: A Way Out

March 3, 2012 by

There are two tales about the crisis in Syria. In one, the vast majority of Syrians have risen up against the brutality of a criminal dictatorship. The government of Bashar al Assad is on the ropes, isolated regionally and internationally, and only holding on because Russia and China vetoed United Nations intervention. U.S. Secretary to State Hillary Clinton describes Assad as “a war criminal,” and President Barak Obama called him a “dead man walking.”

Saudi Arabia and Qatar Ratchet Up Pressure on Assad

March 3, 2012 by

Running counter to the wishes of the United States and other western nations, Saudi Arabia and Qatar recently announced that they are taking steps to arm the Free Syria Army (FSA). Despite the significance of this step, it is unlikely to shift the civil war in favor of the rebels. The FSA, armed with light weapons, suffered a number of strategic setbacks. Their tactical retreat from the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs paints a picture of a rebel group that lacks the operational capacity to challenge the Assad regime directly.

North Korea’s Pivot

March 1, 2012 by

After three years of frozen relations between North Korea and the United States, the two longstanding adversaries are on the verge of a thaw. In what has been called the “leap day deal”, North Korea has pledged to stop uranium enrichment and suspend nuclear and missile tests. The United States, meanwhile, will deliver 240,000 metric tonnes of food to the country’s malnourished population.

Growing Pessimism on Afghanistan After Quran Burning

February 29, 2012 by

While top officials in the Barack Obama administration insist that U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is working, the violent aftermath of last week’s apparently inadvertent burning of copies of the Quran at a military base is fuelling growing pessimism about the U.S. and NATO mission there. Some three dozen Afghans were killed in anti-U.S. protests that drew tens of thousands of people into the streets in Kabul and other cities around the country following news of the incineration at Bagram Air Base and despite a series of apologies from U.S. commanders all the way up to President Obama himself.

Life after Zoellick: will there be a new world order at the World Bank?

February 27, 2012 by

When World Bank President Robert Zoellick announced his resignation last week, a surprising number of names emerged as contenders for the Bank’s top job. Zoellick’s resignation doesn’t come into effect until July, so there’s plenty of time for political maneuvering. Traditionally, the president of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development – better known as the World Bank – has been an American appointee.

Cold War in Warm Waters: US-China’s Dangerous Contest for Asia-Pacific

February 22, 2012 by

On two occasions in my life I found myself living close to the South China Sea. The sea became my escape from life’s pressing responsibilities. But there is no escaping the fact that the deceptively serene waters are now also grounds for a nascent but real new cold war. China takes the name of the sea very seriously.

Amid Escalating Israel-Iran Tensions, a Glimmer of Hope?

February 19, 2012 by

After weeks of rapidly escalating tensions, particularly between Israel and Iran, signs emerged this week both here and in Tehran that serious negotiations over Tehran’s controversial nuclear programme may soon get underway. The most concrete step was a long-awaited positive RSVP from Iran’s top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalali, to an invitation extended last October by European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton to meet with the P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia, and Germany) for a new round of talks.

When is an ‘NGO’ not an NGO? Twists and Turns Beneath the Cairo Skies

February 15, 2012 by

A confusing controversy between the United States and Egypt is unfolding. It has already raised tensions in the relationship between the two countries to a level that has not existed for decades. It results from moves by the military government in Cairo to go forward with the criminal prosecution of 43 foreigners, including 19 Americans, for unlawfully carrying on the work of unlicensed public interest organizations that improperly, according to Egyptian law, depend for their budget on foreign funding.

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