President Barack Obama’s reelection on November 6, 2012, proved once again that he is very adept at running a successful campaign (or perhaps the brunt of the credit should go to his campaign team). However, if he has learned anything from his last term, he should learn how to govern inclusively. An easy way of reaching another deadly impasse is for him to condemn the Republicans for their myopia and intransigence whenever he faces opposition. The smart and optimal choice is to adopt the famous LBJ strategy. I highly recommend that President Obama immediately read Robert Caro’s latest book, The Passage of Power.
Authoritarian regimes are so hard to predict in terms of why they make specific decisions; when there is likely to be major shifts in their foreign policy, even on issues of high politics; and especially how candid those regimes are in dealing with each other. These are some of the bewildering issues involving North Korean-Sino relations, especially the modalities of their ties. We know that North Korea is heavily dependent for its survival as a state on China’s economic assistance. However, it is anyone’s guess how much leeway Beijing has granted to Kim Jong Il. North Korea specialists in Washington do little better than their Kremlinologist counterparts did during the Cold War years in understanding and their prediction of the decisions taken by the leaders of the Soviet Union. However, every North Korea or China specialist inside the U.S. was awe-stricken when, on November 23, 2010, North Korea shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow China Sea, which is only 50 miles off the South’s northwestern coast. Continue reading “The North Korean Brinkmanship and Sino-American Maneuvers”
The recent tranche of cables from WikiLeaks is as revealing as it is sobering about Pakistan, its status as a nuclear weapons power, its ties with the lone superpower, and its current President, Asif Ali Zardari, who extracts little respect from his countrymen as well as at least one head of a foreign government, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is not just another foreign government. It has been a powerful financial and political supporter of that country for several decades.
These cables uncover an unsuccessful U.S. effort since 2007 to transfer highly enriched uranium from a highly secretive Pakistani nuclear reactor. Americans remain fearful that the uranium might be diverted for the production of an “illicit nuclear device,” meaning a device manufactured by al-Qaida. According to the U.S. Ambassador in Pakistan, Ann W. Patterson, that country was not even willing to schedule a meeting with the American nuclear technicians for a possible discussion, fearing that such a meeting would be misconstrued by its mass media as America’s attempt to take nuclear weapons from Pakistan. Continue reading “The Candid But Perilous World of Diplomatic Cables”
I don’t like to make predictions, for predictions are mostly for soothsayers or palm-readers. But in this case, I will make an exception, based upon my reading of a number of clues. My prediction is that the first (or at least one of the major) foreign policy crisis of the Obama administration is likely to be Iran. In a style much more benign than that of his predecessor, President Barack Obama has been incessantly harping on the nuclear issue involving Iran. Such a presidential near obsession develops its own blinders that can easily make a military option much more feasible than it really is. One of his top national security advisers, Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, insists that all options – including military ones – are on the table. That persistence forces one to think that there is more involved about Iran than meets the eye. Obama’s National Security Advisor, General Jones, has issued a comprehensive memo reported by the New York Times. That memo reports the use of Special Operations to destabilize Iran. This is a highly uneasy reminder of the tactics that the Bush administration used before invading Iraq in 2003.
I am reading the current issue of Foreign Policy (FP). The entire issue is labeled a “war issue.” (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/issues/current). Two features of the essays covered therein immediately struck me as a major source of concern.
The United States has become well accustomed to imposing economic sanctions against any state that defies it. Such actions are taken without regard to how badly they affect the quality of life of the people in the sanctioned country. The cruel rationale in Washington is that, if people suffered the terrible consequences emanating from those sanctions, they would overthrow the existing government. When that did not happen, as in Iraq for instance, the administration of George W. Bush decided to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein through a military invasion.
Published in Foreign Policy in Focus (30 Dec 09) – Click on link to read entire article
The real test of President Barack Obama’s dealing with China and Russia will be whether he can persuade them to support U.S. pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations. Obama is reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached the topic with Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies wanting to join the nuclear club, but Washington has no faith in those denials.
The real test of President Barack H. Obama’s dealing with China and Russia will emerge in his success to persuade those countries to support the U.S. in pressuring Iran to give up its nuclear weapons aspirations. Obama has reported to have lobbied China on that issue during his recent visit. He also broached Russia in the recent past for the same purpose, but with little success. Iran denies having such aspirations, but Washington has no faith in those denials.
Continue reading “Obama’s Challenge: Building Sino-Russian Support on Denuclearizing Iran”
The United States is number one in the realms of nuclear and conventional weapons. Its conventional superiority is so awesome that no nation-state would dare challenge it. Yet it has no intention of reducing the size of its huge nuclear arsenal.
The Bush administration has thus far failed to resolve the nuclear conflict with two so-called “rogue states”–Iran and North Korea. In the final three months of his tenure, George W. Bush is making last-ditch deals with Russia and China to put pressure on Tehran and Pyongyang, respectively. The focus of those deals is to persuade North Korea, through China, to unravel its nuclear weapons program and dismantle its nuclear weapons. Though the Six-Party Talks–involving the U.S., China, South and North Korea, Russia and Japan–have been helpful, they have not succeeded in extracting a political solution to the conflict. In the case of Iran, Washington is persuading Russia to cooperate in passing tough U.N. sanctions unless Iran agrees to abandon its nuclear program. Even though Iran has been insisting that it has no aspirations to develop nuclear weapons, the Bush administration continues to pooh-pooh that explanation and states that Iran’s real intentions are to do just that.