Posts Tagged foreign policy

U.S. and Iranian Realities

U.S. and Iranian Realities is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

U.S. President Barack Obama called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week in the first such conversation in the 34 years since the establishment of the Islamic Republic. The phone call followed tweets and public statements on both sides indicating a willingness to talk. Though far from an accommodation between the two countries, there are reasons to take this opening seriously — not only because it is occurring at such a high level, but also because there is now a geopolitical logic to these moves. Many things could go wrong, and given that this is the Middle East, the odds of failure are high. But Iran is weak and the United States is avoiding conflict, and there are worse bases for a deal. Read the rest of this entry »

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Geopolitical Journey: The U.S.-European Relationship, Then and Now

Geopolitical Journey: The U.S.-European Relationship, Then and Now is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

I am writing this from Greece, having spent the past week in Europe and having moved among various capitals. Most discussions I’ve had in my travels concern U.S. President Barack Obama’s failure to move decisively against Syria and how Russian President Vladimir Putin outmatched him. Of course, the Syrian intervention had many aspects, and one of the most important ones, which was not fully examined, was what it told us about the state of U.S.-European relations and of relations among European countries. This is perhaps the most important question on the table.

We have spoken of the Russians, but for all the flash in their Syria performance, they are economically and militarily weak — something they would change if they had the means to do so. It is Europe, taken as a whole, that is the competitor for the United States. Its economy is still slightly larger than the United States’, and its military is weak, though unlike Russia this is partly by design. Read the rest of this entry »

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A New Reality in U.S.-Israeli Relations

A New Reality in U.S.-Israeli Relations is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman

U.S. President Barack Obama is making his first visit to Israel as president. The visit comes in the wake of his re-election and inauguration to a second term and the formation of a new Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Normally, summits between Israel and the United States are filled with foreign policy issues on both sides, and there will be many discussed at this meeting, including Iran, Syria and Egypt. But this summit takes place in an interesting climate, because both the Americans and Israelis are less interested in foreign and security matters than they are in their respective domestic issues.

In the United States, the political crisis over the federal budget and the struggle to grow the economy and reduce unemployment has dominated the president’s and the country’s attention. The Israeli elections turned on domestic issues, ranging from whether the ultra-Orthodox would be required to serve in Israel Defense Forces, as other citizens are, to a growing controversy over economic inequality in Israel.

Inwardness is a cyclic norm in most countries. Foreign policy does not always dominate the agenda and periodically it becomes less important. What is interesting is at this point, while Israelis continue to express concern about foreign policy, they are most passionate on divisive internal social issues. Similarly, although there continues to be a war in Afghanistan, the American public is heavily focused on economic issues. Under these circumstances the interesting question is not what Obama and Netanyahu will talk about but whether what they discuss will matter much.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Considering a Departure in North Korea’s Strategy

Considering a Departure in North Korea’s Strategy is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman
Founder and Chairman

On Jan. 29, I wrote a piece that described North Korea’s strategy as a combination of ferocious, weak and crazy. In the weeks since then, three events have exemplified each facet of that strategy. Pyongyang showed its ferocity Feb. 12, when it detonated a nuclear device underground. The country’s only significant ally, China, voted against Pyongyang in the U.N. Security Council on March 7, demonstrating North Korea’s weakness. Finally, Pyongyang announced it would suspend the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, implying that that war would resume and that U.S. cities would be turned into “seas of fire.” To me, that fulfills the crazy element.

My argument was that the three tenets — ferocity, weakness and insanity — form a coherent strategy. North Korea’s primary goal is regime preservation. Demonstrating ferocity — appearing to be close to being nuclear capable — makes other countries cautious. Weakness, such as being completely isolated from the world generally and from China particularly, prevents other countries from taking drastic action if they believe North Korea will soon fall. The pretense of insanity — threatening to attack the United States, for example — makes North Korea appear completely unpredictable, forcing everyone to be cautious. The three work together to limit the actions of other nations. Read the rest of this entry »

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China Tests Japanese and U.S. Patience

China Tests Japanese and U.S. Patience is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Rodger Baker
Vice President of East Asia Analysis

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has warned Beijing that Tokyo is losing patience with China’s assertive maritime behavior in the East and South China seas, suggesting China consider the economic and military consequences of its actions. His warning followed similar statements from Washington that its patience with China is wearing thin, in this case over continued Chinese cyberespionage and the likelihood that Beijing is developing and testing cybersabotage and cyberwarfare capabilities. Together, the warnings are meant to signal to China that the thus-far relatively passive response to China’s military actions may be nearing an end.

In an interview The Washington Post published just prior to Abe’s meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, Abe said China’s actions around the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and its overall increasing military assertiveness have already resulted in a major increase in funding for the Japan Self-Defense Forces and coast guard. He also reiterated the centrality of the Japan-U.S. alliance for Asian security and warned that China could lose Japanese and other foreign investment if it continued to use “coercion or intimidation” toward its neighbors along the East and South China seas. Read the rest of this entry »

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U.S.-Iranian Dialogue in Obama’s Second Term

U.S.-Iranian Dialogue in Obama’s Second Term is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By Reva Bhalla
Vice President of Global Affairs

As U.S. President Barack Obama’s second-term foreign policy team begins to take shape, Iran remains unfinished business for the U.S. administration. The diplomatic malaise surrounding this issue over the past decade has taken its toll on Washington and Tehran. Even as the United States and Iran are putting out feelers for another round of negotiations, expectations for any breakthrough understandably remain low. Still, there has been enough movement over the past week to warrant a closer look at this long-standing diplomatic impasse.

At the Munich Security Conference held Feb. 1-3, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said the United States would be willing to hold direct talks with Iran under the right conditions. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi responded positively to the offer but warned that Iran would not commit unless Washington shows a “fair and real” intention to resolve the issues dividing the two sides. Read the rest of this entry »

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Israeli President Pressuring U.S. to Strike Iran

From Business Insider:

Netanyahu said that Israel was simply not strong enough to force a halt to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. In order to halt the program, Bibi said, the U.S. would have to strike, and they must do so this year.

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Middle East Most Serious Threat to U.S.

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U.S. Foreign Policy: Room to Regroup

U.S. Foreign Policy: Room to Regroup is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

President Barack Obama has won re-election. However, in addition to all of the constraints on him that I discussed last week, he won the election with almost half the people voting against him. His win in the Electoral College was substantial — and that’s the win that really matters — but the popular vote determines how he governs, and he will govern with one more constraint added to the others. The question is whether this weakens him or provides an opportunity. That is not determined by his policies but by the strategic situation, which, in my view, gives the United States some much-needed breathing room.

The Structure of the International System

At the moment, the international system is built on three pillars: the United States, Europe and China. Europe, if it were united, would be very roughly the same size as the United States in terms of economy, population and potential military power. China is about a third the size of the other two economically, but it has been the growth engine of the world, making it more significant than size would indicate.  Read the rest of this entry »

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The Elections, Gridlock and Foreign Policy

The Elections, Gridlock and Foreign Policy is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

The United States held elections last night, and nothing changed. Barack Obama remains president. The Democrats remain in control of the Senate with a non-filibuster-proof majority. The Republicans remain in control of the House of Representatives.

The national political dynamic has resulted in an extended immobilization of the government. With the House — a body where party discipline is the norm — under Republican control, passing legislation will be difficult and require compromise. Since the Senate is in Democratic hands, the probability of it overriding any unilateral administrative actions is small. Nevertheless, Obama does not have enough congressional support for dramatic new initiatives, and getting appointments through the Senate that Republicans oppose will be difficult.

There is a quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs the least because its people discipline themselves.” I am not sure that the current political climate is what was meant by the people disciplining themselves, but it is clear that the people have imposed profound limits on this government. Its ability to continue what is already being done has not been curbed, but its ability to do much that is new has been blocked. Read the rest of this entry »

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War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States

War and Bluff: Iran, Israel and the United States is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

By George Friedman

For the past several months, the Israelis have been threatening to attack Iranian nuclear sites as the United States has pursued a complex policy of avoiding complete opposition to such strikes while making clear it doesn’t feel such strikes are necessary. At the same time, the United States has carried out maneuvers meant to demonstrate its ability to prevent the Iranian counter to an attack — namely blocking the Strait of Hormuz. While these maneuvers were under way, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said no “redline” exists that once crossed by Iran would compel an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Israeli government has long contended that Tehran eventually will reach the point where it will be too costly for outsiders to stop the Iranian nuclear program.

The Israeli and American positions are intimately connected, but the precise nature of the connection is less clear. Israel publicly casts itself as eager to strike Iran but restrained by the United States, though unable to guarantee it will respect American wishes if Israel sees an existential threat emanating from Iran. The United States publicly decries Iran as a threat to Israel and to other countries in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, but expresses reservations about military action out of fears that Iran would respond to a strike by destabilizing the region and because it does not believe the Iranian nuclear program is as advanced as the Israelis say it is. Read the rest of this entry »

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Persian Incursion War Game

Defense Media Network reports on a war game that involves an Israeli attack on Iran.

In the summer of 2010, Clash of Arms published a wargame that I, along with Chris Carlson and Jeff Dougherty, had designed. A political-military simulation, Persian Incursion explored the consequences of an Israeli military campaign to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons development program.

 

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Egypt and the Idealist-Realist Debate in U.S. Foreign Policy

Egypt and the Idealist-Realist Debate in U.S. Foreign Policy is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By George Friedman

The first round of Egyptian parliamentary elections has taken place, and the winners were two Islamist parties. The Islamists themselves are split between more extreme and more moderate factions, but it is clear that the secularists who dominated the demonstrations and who were the focus of the Arab Spring narrative made a poor showing. Of the three broad power blocs in Egypt — the military, the Islamists and the secular democrats — the last proved the weakest.

It is far from clear what will happen in Egypt now. The military remains unified and powerful, and it is unclear how much actual power it is prepared to cede or whether it will be forced to cede it. What is clear is that the faction championed by Western governments and the media will now have to accept the Islamist agenda, back the military or fade into irrelevance.

One of the points I made during the height of the Arab Spring was that the West should be careful of what it wishes for — it might get it. Democracy does not always bring secular democrats to power. To be more precise, democracy might yield a popular government, but the assumption that that government will support a liberal democratic constitution that conceives of human rights in the European or American sense is by no means certain. Unrest does not always lead to a revolution, a revolution does not always lead to a democracy, and a democracy does not always lead to a European- or American-style constitution. Read the rest of this entry »

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Chinese Fighters Cross “Middle Line” With Taiwan

From Financial Times:

Two Chinese fighter jets crossed an unofficial dividing line in the Taiwan Strait late last month in pursuit of a US spy aircraft, according to defence sources in Taipei and Beijing.

Confirmation of the close encounter comes as the US and China are trying to cool tensions in the South China Sea and safeguard a recent improvement in bilateral military relations.

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Obama’s Afghanistan Plan and the Realities of Withdrawal

Obama’s Afghanistan Plan and the Realities of Withdrawal is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

By Nathan Hughes

U.S. President Barack Obama announced June 22 that the long process of drawing down forces in Afghanistan would begin on schedule in July. Though the initial phase of the drawdown appears limited, minimizing the tactical and operational impact on the ground in the immediate future, the United States and its allies are now beginning the inevitable process of removing their forces from Afghanistan. This will entail the risk of greater Taliban battlefield successes.

The Logistical Challenge

Afghanistan, a landlocked country in the heart of Central Asia, is one of the most isolated places on Earth. This isolation has posed huge logistical challenges for the United States. Hundreds of shipping containers and fuel trucks must enter the country every day from Pakistan and from the north to sustain the nearly 150,000 U.S. and allied forces stationed in Afghanistan, about half the total number of Afghan security forces. Supplying a single gallon of gasoline in Afghanistan reportedly costs the U.S. military an average of $400, while sustaining a single U.S. soldier runs around $1 million a year (by contrast, sustaining an Afghan soldier costs about $12,000 a year). Read the rest of this entry »

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