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Ed Webb

Obama's Syria Strategy Is the Definition of Insanity | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • The Russian government, much less the Assad regime, has never been a reliable partner for peace in Syria. But even after Russia’s alleged bombing of the aid convoy, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is still plowing its energies into a deal that aims to work with the Russian government.
  • The Obama administration has viewed the Syrian crisis through the lens of counterterrorism. But diplomatic failures such as this one continue to embolden extremist actors like al Qaeda, which has purposely presented itself as a reliable and necessary opposition ally, seemingly dedicated only to the cause of ridding Syria of the Assad regime. By so deeply embedding within Syrian revolutionary dynamics and claiming to fill the vacuum left behind by insufficient foreign support or protection, al Qaeda’s narrative is constantly strengthened by perceptions of American inadequacy. Thus, U.S. failures do not exist in a vacuum — our adversaries quickly translate them into their own victories.
  • the Russian government is not the key to controlling the Assad regime’s heinous behaviors. For a week straight, the Syrian government consistently ignored Moscow’s demands and destroyed a cease-fire deal that had been largely of Russia’s making. The regime also reinforced its troop positions around Aleppo and amassed forces opposite the strategic northern town of Jisr al-Shughour, and its aircraft were blamed for bombings around Aleppo, north of the city of Homs, and in parts of southern Daraa governorate. And after the Assad government declared the cease-fire over, Russia ferociously destroyed an aid convoy intended for 78,000 civilians
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  • Bashar al-Assad does not intend to step down from power, and he will use any means at his disposal to prevent that from happening
  • Five years ago, Syria was a local problem; today it is an international one. U.S. indecision, risk aversion, a total divergence between rhetoric and policy, and a failure to uphold clearly stated “red lines” have all combined into what can best be described as a cold-hearted, hypocritical approach. At worst, Washington has indirectly abetted the wholesale destruction of a nation-state, in direct contradiction to its fundamental national security interests and its most tightly held values.
  • U.S. commitment remained negligible when compared with our often uncoordinated regional allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. It seems U.S. officials wanted Assad out but wanted others — whom administration officials would say in private they did not trust — to do it for them
  • The result? Nearly half a million people dead, more than 1 million people living under siege, and 11 million people displaced. Catastrophic refugee flows have led to an anti-immigrant backlash in Europe and the rise of far-right politics while Syria is now home to perhaps the greatest concentration of jihadi militants in any single country ever
  • Jabhat Fateh al-Sham — formerly the Nusra Front — the most capable, politically savvy, and militarily powerful al Qaeda movement in history. Al Qaeda’s central leadership has also revitalized itself inside Syria, with the international terrorist organization’s newly named deputy leader almost certainly residing in the country. The correlation is simple: U.S. shortcomings equal al Qaeda’s success in Syria.
  • most Syrians living in opposition areas now view al Qaeda as a more trustworthy and capable protector of their lives than the United States. If there were ever a sign of policy failure, this would be it.
  • there will be no purely military solution to Syria’s conflict — a negotiated settlement is the only feasible path toward stability. However, Assad will never treat a political process with any level of seriousness until placed under meaningful pressure, which the United States has thus far done everything in its power not to do.
  • Opposition to partition is arguably the single issue that unites communities supportive of and opposed to Assad
  • combating al Qaeda in Syria cannot be done solely with bullets and bombs. Defeating it is instead an issue of providing a more attractive and sustainable alternative to the jihadi group’s narrative. Given its successful efforts to embed within the opposition and build popular acceptance as a military (not a political) ally, al Qaeda does not represent a conventional counterterrorist problem
  • If Assad remains in place indefinitely and the conflict continues or worsens, the Islamic State will undoubtedly live to fight another day
  • Civilian protection should remain the core focus of any broad-based strategy, but it must be backed up by real and discernible consequences for violators
  • Skeptics of a more assertive approach to the Syrian crisis can deride their critics as much as they want — but one would hope that after five years of failures, they would at least admit that they have got something wrong
hernandezandy0

Obama Warns Britain on Trade if It Leaves European Union - 0 views

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    The interaction between the U.S. and Britain was given more of a personal aspect when the article characterized the interaction between the two countries to rely solely upon the shoulders of its leaders. This reminded me of the article that unveiled Kennedys personal influence in the United States interactions with states during the Cold war.
Ed Webb

Here's what will happen if Iran joins the WTO - The Washington Post - 1 views

  • While it remains uncertain whether economic and financial sanctions would be technically permissible under the WTO’s national security exception — which allows a member to take measures that it “considers necessary for the protection of its essential security interests”– these actions would clearly violate the spirit of the WTO and have therefore been rarely used.
  • the United States has switched to using other tools for coercive diplomacy to punish other recent WTO entrants.
  • Congress therefore created the China Commission, which was specifically formed to monitor China’s human rights practices and maintain pressure on it. Similarly, Congress passed measures designed to allow it to more effectively use visa restrictions and financial asset freezes to coerce Russia, and foreign aid to extract concessions from Vietnam, after these states joined the WTO.
Ed Webb

BBC News - Wars, public outrage and policy options in Syria - 2 views

  • We've heard these pleas before. The BBC reports regularly from inside Syria, as do several American papers, and although coverage of the Syrian war is not wall-to-wall on American networks, it gets regular, consistent attention.

    So where is the public outrage about a war so chaotic and dangerous that even the UN has stopped keeping track of the death toll? Have we all become numb to the pain of others?

  • The world inevitably tires of complex, long conflicts where there are no clear answers about how to end the violence. This cartoon in the New Yorker is a harsh but perhaps accurate look at how the collective conscience deals with the relentless stream of bad news from Syria.
  • Spare a thought for the North Koreans, too. A UN report out last week, too horrific even to read, compares the abuses committee by the government to Nazi Germany. I have yet to see much outrage or calls for action
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  • When they discuss US policy options for Syria, administration officials repeatedly point to the fact that Americans have bigger concerns closer to home and that President Barack Obama is very mindful that the public has no appetite for interventions abroad, no matter how limited
  • The question is whether it would become more tenable for the president to take action if the public demanded it.

    Possibly, but that's not how public opinion works. People demonstrate to end wars and bring the troops home, like with Vietnam. They protest against invasions, like Iraq in 2003, when their country's troops are about to be shipped overseas. Or they support military action when their own country has come under attack. But people rarely rise up to demand action because of a sense of collective justice.

Ed Webb

Twitter / JZarif: tragedy in syria is a trap ... - 0 views

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    A very interesting tweet from Iran's foreign minister, newly active on Twitter.
Ed Webb

China's Glass Ceiling - By Geoff Dyer | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • Rather than usher in a new era of Chinese influence, Beijing's missteps have shown why it is unlikely to become the world's leading power. Even if it overtakes the United States to have the biggest economy in the world, which many economists believe could happen over the next decade, China will not dislodge Washington from its central position in global affairs for decades to come.
  • China's assertiveness is generating intense suspicion, if not outright enmity, among its neighbors. Its "peaceful rise" is not taking place in isolation. There may be echoes in today's Asia of the late-nineteenth century in Europe and North America, but this is the one critical difference. The United States came into its own as a great power without any major challenge from its neighbors, while Germany's ascent was aided by the collapsing Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires and Russian monarchy on its frontiers. China, on the other hand, is surrounded by vibrant countries with fast-growing economies, from South Korea to India to Vietnam, who all believe that this is their time, as well. Even Japan, after two decades of stagnation, still has one of the most formidable navies in the world, as well as the world's third largest economy. China's strategic misfortune is to be bordered by robust and proud nation-states which expect their own stake in the modern world.
  • On the economic front, Beijing is taking aim at another pillar of U.S. power: the dominance of the dollar. China is putting in place an ambitious long-term plan to turn the renminbi into one of the main international currencies. Chinese leaders often discuss the project in technical terms, about reducing currency risk for their companies, but they also do little to hide their frustration with the dollar's privileged status. One Chinese academic even likens the importance of the project to turn the renminbi into a major reserve currency to China's acquisition of a nuclear weapon in the 1960s.

    The politics of the currency plan are themselves an interesting sidebar to the over-hyping of Chinese influence. While American politicians have been worrying loudly about the risk of China owning so many Treasury bonds ("How do you deal toughly with your banker?" Hillary Clinton asked at a private lunch with then Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in March 2009) China has been fretting about how little leverage its U.S. bond holdings give it. The desire to dethrone the dollar is partly rooted in China's frustration that it has absolutely no influence over the Federal Reserve. And yet it has few options other than buying American debt, because the U.S. Treasury bond market is the largest and most liquid in the world.

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  • The key to Chinese state capitalism is control over a relatively closed financial system, which allows the Communist Party to funnel huge volumes of cheap credit to select projects, industries, and companies. But to have a truly international currency, one that the world's central banks want to hold, China would have to let investors from around the world buy and sell large volumes of Chinese financial assets. As a result, Beijing would have to dismantle that system of controls. It would need to permit capital to flow freely in and out of the country, let the market set interest rates and allow the currency to float. An independent legal system and transparent economic policymaking would also be useful. China has a choice. It can have an international currency that might challenge the U.S. dollar or it can keep its brand of state capitalism that has driven the economy and kept the Communist Party in power. But it cannot have both.
  • Beijing is not looking to export its economic and political model around the world, but it has become obsessed with soft power -- the idea that countries can get their way through the attractiveness of their society, rather than just by force or money. China is opening hundreds of Confucius Institutes around the world and spending billions to send its main state-owned media groups overseas, including launching a cable news channel in the United States. At the very least, Beijing hopes these investments can shift the way the world thinks about China, and maybe even chip away at the cultural influence the United States enjoys
  • Soft power is generated by society rather than the Ministry of Culture. The effort to shift its image is constantly undermined by the way that China actually treats its more awkward and interesting citizens -- from well-known figures like Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and artist Ai Weiwei to the writer Yu Jie
  • The balance of influence between the United States and China over the coming decades will hinge to a large degree on which nation can mobilize other nations to its cause. This is an area where Washington is far more skilled. The new bursts of free trade projects in the Pacific and with the European Union are one example, even if they are far from being completed, and its long-lasting military alliances in Asia and Europe another.
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    How to navigate shifting balance of power in Asia.
Ed Webb

Stronger Egypt-Iran rapproachement could be a message to third parties | Egypt Independent - 3 views

  • Ahmadinejad wants to convey regional leadership and to claim success in opening and warming relations with Egypt. He also benefits from having an Islamist leader, like Morsy, greet him warmly
  • “With so much trouble at home, Morsy may have wanted to look like a global statesman by welcoming Ahmadinejad. He may also want to signal his independence from Western political interests, as we’ve seen through his warming relations with the Hamas’ leadership,”
  • During a news conference, an Al-Azhar spokesperson gave the Iranian leader a public scolding, listing five demands, which included the protection of Sunni and Khuzestani minorities in Iran, ending political interference in Bahrain, ending its support of the Syrian regime, and ending Iran’s ostensible mission to spread Shia Islam across the region.
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  • “Morsy sends a clear message to the Gulf countries and especially the [United Arab Emirates] that he can easily create alternative strategic relationship,” Labbad says, adding that such “political vexing” is a response to the failure of the visit by Morsy adviser Essam al-Haddad to resolve the issue of 11 Egyptian detainees in the UAE. The latter are said to have strong connections to the Brotherhood’s international organization, in the midst of growing enmity between Egypt and the UAE..

    Labbad argues that Morsy thus does not aim at real and deep rapprochement with Iran, but rather a cosmetic patch up to send signals to the Gulf. “The context here is very dangerous, because the revived relationship with Iran should be an addition to Egypt’s foreign policy, not a replacement of its relationship with the Gulf countries,” he adds.

    Momani doubts such an inclination by Morsy, as Egypt cannot afford the cost of such a policy. “This strategy can backfire and upset Gulf donors and benefactors. Iran can never supply the kinds of funds that are provided by the Gulf,” she says.

  • “I think neither Morsy nor Ahmadinejad enjoy the authority to have complete control or knowledge of their respective government’s grand strategies for Syria. What seems certain is that a realist agenda determines foreign policy on both sides. Both seek a Syrian government they can control or at least influence,”
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    Various levels of analysis and perspectives at work here, including domestic, foreign policy and (regional) systemic levels and identity versus realist perspectives.
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