WPR Articles 14 Jul 2012 - 20 Jul 2012
If the critics of the United Nations were to design a scenario to make the organization seem absolutely irrelevant, it would look a lot like this week’s debacle over Syria. China, Russia and the Western powers have until now made concerted efforts to contain the Syrian crisis through the Security Council. Yet a mixture of dishonesty, intransigence and incompetence has created a disaster.
In its final audit report, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Funds last week warned that billions of U.S. dollars may have been wasted or misappropriated in the process of reconstructing Iraq. While reports of waste surfaced early in the post-invasion occupation of Iraq, problems have also plagued the transition since 2010 from a military- to a civilian-led U.S. mission in Iraq.
The Pentagon’s annual assessment of Iran’s military power highlights its missile capabilities, an emphasis echoed by Tehran itself recently. The focus on the growing sophistication of Iran’s missiles obscures a more significant development: Over the past year, Iran’s security has become increasingly dependent on its missile arsenal as its other deterrent capabilities have deteriorated.
Following accusations that the Rwandan government is fueling conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the presidents of the two nations met Sunday to broker a deal authorizing an African Union peacekeeping force in the region. The face-to-face talks constitute a rarity for the central African neighbors, who have repeatedly blamed the other for arming insurgencies in the mineral-rich eastern DRC.
It looks like the U.S. pivot to Asia is going to be delayed. The Syria crisis and tensions with Iran make it unlikely that Washington will be able to shift away from its long-held focus on the Middle East. When the Asia pivot was first floated in 2009, it was based on a series of strategic assessments, many of which have been upset by the events of the past year.
Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto ran on an agenda alien to many in his Institutional Revolutionary Party: change. More specifically, Peña Nieto emphasized the need for reforms that many in the PRI have showed little enthusiasm for in recent years. But Peña Nieto says times have changed, and he has promised that an ambitious agenda of structural reforms will mark his presidency.
In 2000, when Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel formed a coalition government with Jörg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party of Austria, the 14 member states of the European Union immediately agreed to sanction the country. Today, with populism on the rise across the EU and an erosion of democratic norms on display in Eastern Europe, this kind of forceful reaction is no longer even imaginable.
High levels of crime and violence have given Central America the inauspicious title of having the world’s highest homicide rate -- about 10 times the world average. Reversing this trend will require collective, crossborder action and regional partnerships that include the private sector. Unfortunately, for this to be possible, the mechanisms needed to do so must be strengthened significantly.
One of the cornerstones of the U.S. relationship with Israel has been the close ties between the Israeli and U.S. militaries. While on the surface, all is well in the defense relationship, it is likely to come under increasing strain due to real differences in threat perception and operational preferences as well as long-term structural changes in both the IDF and the U.S. military.
The first post-Gadhafi election in Libya produced a landslide victory for a coalition of moderate and secular parties. Their victory should matter to the Arab liberals who have seen Islamist candidates win every election since the start of the 2011 Arab uprisings. It should also matter to the West, which is improvising its response as former members of the Muslim Brotherhood start taking power.
In a significant foreign policy breakthrough, the Russian Duma voted last week to ratify the country's accession to the World Trade Organization, resolving an issue that had been a point of contention between Russia and the West since the 1990s. With Russia set to formally enter the WTO in August, it is worth examining what the move will mean for the country’s internal politics and foreign policy.