WPR Articles 14 Jan 2012 - 20 Jan 2012
External threats and internal tensions have characterized the history of Iraq since its emergence as a nation-state. Now that all U.S. military forces have left the country, Iraq’s government once again faces the challenge of overcoming internal divisions, even as it becomes fully responsible for Iraq’s security for the first time since 2003. Iraqi leaders must manage these interrelated challenges while trying to reintegrate Iraq into the regional and international order.
Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama released a new strategic document intended to provide guidance for cuts in the growth rate of the defense budget. Though the planned cuts had already been announced in principle, the strategic priorities laid out in the document make it official: There’s going to be a knife fight at the Pentagon. Unfortunately, the American public won’t be watching.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Latin American tour last week was noticeable for its lack of achievements. The trip again underscored the gap between Tehran’s global ambitions and its constrained capabilities. Iran has yet to establish the means to challenge core U.S. economic, security and other interests in Latin America, and there is little likelihood of that changing in the future.
Throughout globalization's historical expansion from Europe to North America to Asia, the last region "in" has become the integrator of note for the next region "up." Europe was the primary investor, customer and integrator for the U.S. economy in its rise, and America subsequently "paid it forward" with East Asia. Recently, it has been Asia's turn, primarily through China, to pay it forward once again with Africa.
The standoff between Ukraine and Russia over gas prices will be accompanied by an added wrinkle this year, with news that Ukraine plans to ink a deal with energy-rich Azerbaijan for supplies of liquefied natural gas. The partnership will finally introduce unconventional energy sources to Ukraine, and underscores the flagging fortunes of Russia’s pipeline monopoly and the dwindling leverage it commands.
With the possibility of a clash between the U.S. and Iran over Tehran's nuclear program looming, one cannot help but wonder: Is it worth it for Iran, now grappling with increasingly onerous sanctions, to continue its pursuit of a nuclear capacity? By all indications, Iran's leaders believe so, based on their read of recent history, by which only nuclear weapons provide a deterrent to U.S. intervention.