WPR Articles 05 May 2012 - 11 May 2012
Top Obama foreign policy adviser Denis McDonough told a Washington security conference Sunday that the White House's policy toward Iran is working and that U.S.-Israeli relations are tighter than ever. His remarks come as the Obama administration’s national security team has been making a notably more public push in recent days to make the case for Obama’s foreign policy leadership to wider audiences.
A quick look at French President-elect François Hollande’s agenda in the coming weeks underscores the degree to which foreign policy concerns will weigh upon the early days of his presidency, as well as the questions that remain about his foreign policy orientation. One aspect of Nicolas Sarkozy’s activist legacy is worth noting in this regard: that of national security and defense.
The Camp David peace accords that brought an end to the wars between Israel and Egypt are a triumph of American diplomacy. The U.S. can take credit for shepherding the deal and then enabling its implementation through the years. Today, though, Americans do not fully appreciate the absence of war between Israeli and Egypt or the effort required to protect what is often described as a “cold peace.”
Despite parallel histories and a concerted push on both sides to forge lasting ties, Georgia and Israel face very different geopolitical concerns and increasingly conflicting national interests. Indeed, their partnership, which once seemed so natural, now looks permanently derailed. The August 2008 Russia-Georgia War, in particular, was the beginning of the end for Georgia and Israel’s friendship.
El Salvador, only recently home to the world’s second-highest homicide rate, has watched murders plummet by 60 percent since early March due to a negotiated truce between the country’s two leading gangs. But the truce has left lawmakers and security experts across the region grappling with a slew of unsettling questions. And despite initial positive results, it remains a partial and fragile solution.
Political conflict in the Basque Country has entered a new phase. In the past year, Basque nationalists have been elected to office at the municipal and provincial level, even as hopes have grown for an end to decades of secessionist violence. But tough challenges have yet to be resolved. The political parties in the Basque Country and Madrid must come to grips with outstanding issues and reach a settlement, or else continue a political standoff.
In April, after capturing the city of Timbuktu in northern Mali, a Tuareg rebel group announced the independence of the state of Azawad. The bold declaration is of course mostly wishful thinking. No state is likely to recognize Azawad, as the Tuareg refer to the border-spanning region they inhabit. But the Tuareg bid for independence does not come from out of thin air, nor does it come at a normal time for the countries of the Sahel region and North Africa.
One of the provisions of the Dominican Republic and Central American Free Trade Agreement grants compensation to foreign investors in the case of expropriation or nationalization of resources. But confusingly, another clause says governments may block companies to protect "legitimate public welfare objectives.” Those two conflicting clauses are creating a legal morass whenever miners and governments clash.
The opposition and reform movements that have swept through the Middle East over the past year have further propelled Kurdish nationalism. Yet, despite shared goals, Kurdish nationalism remains bounded by the states in which different Kurdish communities live. This increasingly salient and complex Kurdish problem will continue to challenge governance within states, while serving as a wild card in shifting regional politics.
One issue that warrants greater attention from Washington policymakers moving forward is how relations between Russia and China will affect those two countries’ policies relating to nuclear arms control. In particular, the next administration needs to consider how the U.S. can help shape this evolving relationship so that it moves in benign directions, while hedging against possible adverse outcomes.
The Asian Development Bank recently confirmed that Pakistan’s lackluster economic performance in recent years is essentially a reflection of its ongoing energy crisis. An improvement in Pakistan’s energy situation requires both increasing the share of coal in its power-generating portfolio and enhancing the availability of natural gas. Neither course is likely without a rapprochement with India.
The entry of the centrist Kadima party into the Israeli government has made Benjamin Netanyahu one of the country's most powerful prime ministers ever. That's not just a footnote for the history books. It is a reality with enormous implications for all the pressing issues facing the country and for many that concern the region and the world.
In a fascinating display of diplomatic balancing, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in India this past week to urge the Indian government to tighten sanctions on Iran, at the same time that an Iranian trade delegation was there exploring ways to circumvent those very sanctions. This is the latest example of India's creative efforts to maintain good relations with both Washington and Tehran.
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