Earlier this summer, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a very public two-day visit to a surprising locale: Ankara, Turkey. The June trip — the first of its kind in nearly 20 years — represented a significant evolution of the political ties between Iran and Turkey.
In recent times, relations between Ankara and Tehran have been troubled on a number of fronts (from energy to Turkey’s role in NATO’s emerging missile shield). However, no issue has roiled ties between the two countries more than Syria.
Iran, a longtime backer of the Assad regime in Damascus, has aided the Syrian government extensively since the start of the civil war there some 3 years ago.… Seguir leyendo »
In the current debate over the Iranian bomb, the White House is staying quiet about its concerns over the regime’s progress on missile development. It’s the dog that isn’t barking.
Since last Fall, Washington and European capitals have been embroiled in a protracted bout of nuclear diplomacy with Iran. In Washington, as elsewhere, hopes still run high that this effort will help curb the threat posed by Tehran’s atomic ambitions.
To do so, however, any diplomatic deal will need not only to limit Iran’s capability to make nuclear weapons, but also its ability to deliver them. On that score, Tehran is most definitely not cooperating with the West.… Seguir leyendo »
With all eyes on Ukraine, where Russia’s neo-imperial efforts have raised the specter of a new Cold War between Moscow and the West, another alarming facet of the Kremlin’s contemporary foreign policy has gone largely unnoticed; namely, its growing military presence in, and strategic designs on, the Western Hemisphere.
On Feb. 26, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu formally announced his government’s plan to expand its overseas military presence. Russia, Mr. Shoigu outlined, intends to establish new military bases in eight foreign countries. The candidates include five Asian nations and three Latin American ones: Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Negotiations are underway to allow port visits to each, and to open refueling sites there for Russian long-range aircraft.… Seguir leyendo »
Vladimir Putin must be worried.
Six-and-a-half years ago, Russia’s president successfully lobbied the International Olympic Committee at its meeting in Guatemala to have his government host the world’s biggest sporting event. Mr. Putin’s arguments (and his pledge to spend a hefty $12 billion on the event) carried the day, with Sochi beating out Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, to serve as the site of the 2014 Winter Games. The decision was a major political victory for Russia, then still struggling to re-emerge on the world stage.
In the years since, though, Sochi has become an exhibit of stunning corruption. The price tag for the games is now estimated at $55 billion, the most expensive in history and more than the cost of the past 10 Olympiads combined.… Seguir leyendo »
In Western political circles, where hopes for lasting detente are now running high, Hassan Rouhani remains a diplomatic darling. At home, however, Iran’s new president is rapidly running out of time. With his first 100 days in office now up, Mr. Rouhani faces mounting resentment from an Iranian public, which — having elected him last summer for his “reformist” credentials — has little to show for its trust.
Earlier this year, while still on the campaign trail, Mr. Rouhani crafted a political platform of some 46 promises. This agenda encompassed pledges to reform and improve the Islamic republic’s beleaguered economy, to reduce tensions with the West and — most significantly, from a local perspective — to serve as a champion for the embattled human rights of ordinary Iranians.… Seguir leyendo »
Last summer, when the so-called “Arab Spring” was in full bloom, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey was riding high.
Within the Washington Beltway, policy studies extolled the virtues of the “Turkish model” of Islamic democracy as a guidepost for the countries of the Middle East and North Africa. Turkey’s grandiose foreign minister, Ahmet Davotoglu, was given high-profile international venues at which to champion the idea of Turkey as a natural regional leader. Mr. Erdogan himself was judged to be the most popular leader in the Middle East in a poll conducted by the prestigious Pew Research Center. It was a heady time for Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
Iranians closed the page on the tumultuous eight-year tenure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when they went to the polls on June 14 to pick a new president. In a national election marked by tremendous fervor and massive turnout (some 75 percent of Iran’s roughly 50 million eligible voters are estimated to have participated), the victor was Hasan Rowhani, a soft-spoken cleric widely billed as a “moderate” among Iran’s field of presidential contenders.
Predictably, Mr. Rowhani’s election has fanned hopes among many of a more pragmatic tilt to Iranian politics — and of a new potential partner in Tehran for the long-running international negotiations over the Iranian regime’s stubborn nuclear effort.… Seguir leyendo »
These days, American policy toward the Middle East tends to be dominated by two regional crises.
The first is the long-running showdown with Iran over its nuclear program. Despite mounting Western financial pressure, the Islamic republic shows no signs of changing course. To the contrary, Iran’s leaders have defiantly tightened their fiscal belts and redoubled their efforts to cross the nuclear Rubicon. Meanwhile, negotiations between Tehran and the West have concluded predictably, without any tangible progress on bringing the Iranian regime’s nuclear ambitions to heel.
The second is the 2-year-old civil war in Syria. Since March 2011, with the help of Russia and Iran, the regime of Bashar Assad in Damascus has waged a bloody war against its own people.… Seguir leyendo »
This year has been widely hailed as a “year of decision” on Iran — a moment when Western powers will need to make some hard choices about how far they are actually prepared to go to stop Iran’s march toward developing a nuclear weapon. The coming months are shaping up to be deeply significant for another reason as well. This summer, Iranians will go to the polls to elect a new president. That contest, though sure to be stage-managed, nonetheless will mark a milestone in the long and arduous struggle between the reigning regime in Tehran and its beleaguered political opposition.… Seguir leyendo »
In late January, the government of the Philippines served official notice that it plans to bring China before an arbitral tribunal over the latter’s persistent violation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea — the multilateral treaty that serves as the touchstone for much of the world’s behavior on the high seas. The move garnered only limited media coverage, but it provides a telling snapshot of the struggle that is now under way for the shape of Asia.
The basis of Manila’s complaint, which was filed on Jan. 22, is straightforward. China and the Philippines are both signatories to the Law of the Sea treaty, which codifies internationally recognized parameters for the demarcation of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.… Seguir leyendo »
North Korea’s successful use last week of a long-range rocket to launch a satellite into orbit has catapulted the Asian rogue state back into the international spotlight. It also has brought back the global danger posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea into sharp focus.
There are at least two reasons why the North Korean test matters to the West.
First, the launch speaks volumes about the maturity of the North’s missile arsenal. Ostensibly, the Dec. 12 launch was intended to put a commercial payload into orbit. But it also was a very public demonstration of North Korea’s missile prowess because the rocket that carried the satellite into space can be repurposed for ballistic-missile duties.… Seguir leyendo »
Recent revelations from the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran has both continued and expanded its uranium enrichment activities have focused attention anew on U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic — and what more can be done to stop Iran’s march toward the bomb.
This is, necessarily, a conversation about sanctions. Given the advanced state of Iran’s nuclear program and the growing possibility that third parties — namely, Israel — might resort to force to stop it, it stands to reason that the full arsenal of U.S. economic and financial sanctions would be deployed against the Iranian threat. Yet it has not been.… Seguir leyendo »
At first blush, Argentina seems like an odd choice of partners for the Islamic Republic of Iran. The South American nation holds the dubious distinction of being the first victim of Iranian terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, suffering terrorist attacks on Israeli and Jewish targets in Buenos Aires that were carried out by Iranian-sponsored radicals in 1992 and 1994. Yet today, relations between Argentina and Iran are unmistakably on the upswing.
In the past two years, the government of Argentina’s leftist President Cristina Fernandez has broken with tradition and increasingly hewed a more conciliatory line toward Iran. This is manifested in growing bilateral trade (totaling some $1.5 billion in 2010), and a more sympathetic diplomatic stance from Buenos Aires.… Seguir leyendo »
Since taking office in 2009, the Obama administration has made cybersecurity a major area of policy focus. The past year in particular has seen a dramatic expansion of governmental awareness of cyberspace as a new domain of conflict. In practice, however, this attention is still uneven. To date, it has focused largely on network protection and resiliency (particularly in the military arena) and on the threat potential of countries such as China and Russia. Awareness of what is perhaps the most urgent cybermenace to the U.S. homeland has lagged behind the times.
That threat comes from the Islamic Republic of Iran.… Seguir leyendo »
Last weekend, amid deepening tensions between his regime and the international community, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commenced a high-profile diplomatic tour of Latin America. The foreign visit, which will take the Iranian president to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Ecuador, is the latest sign of Iran’s growing interest in, and intrusion into, the Western Hemisphere – a phenomenon with grave implications for U.S. security.
Iran’s contemporary presence in the region centers on its strategic partnership with Venezuela. Since Hugo Chavez became Venezuela’s president in 1999, alignment with Iran’s radical regime has emerged as a cardinal tenet of his government’s foreign policy. The subsequent election of Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
The past two weeks have seen a dramatic escalation in Iran’s war of words with the West.
Last Wednesday, Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi told Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, that new economic pressure currently being contemplated by the West would come at a steep cost. According to Rahimi, “not a drop of oil” will pass through the Strait of Hormuz — a key strategic waterway that serves as a conduit for as much as a third of the world’s oil — if additional sanctions are levied against the Islamic Republic for its nuclear program. Iran’s top naval commander, Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, has been even more explicit, warning publicly that his country stands ready to block the strait if necessary.… Seguir leyendo »
Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report on Iran’s nuclear program. It provides the most convincing evidence to date that Iran is close to producing a nuclear weapon.
But as Iran nears the nuclear threshold, the best way to stop it may be by punishing the Chinese companies that supply Tehran and enable its nuclear progress.
The Obama administration seems to understand this. The late September visit to China by David S. Cohen, the Treasury Department’s new under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, included the most explicit warning yet to Beijing that its banks and financial institutions could face sanctions if they continued to do business with Iranian entities.… Seguir leyendo »
With soaring inflation, chronic unemployment and rampant poverty, Iran is nobody’s picture of economic health. So when the International Monetary Fund (IMF) issued its latest working paper on Iran last month, the rosy assessment contained therein raised more than a few eyebrows.
That study, “Iran – The Chronicles of the Subsidy Reform,” heaped praise on the regime in Tehran for launching a raft of much-needed rollbacks of costly subsidies on everything from energy to foodstuffs. This effort, the report says approvingly, “has created a unique opportunity for Iran to reform its economy and accelerate economic growth and development.”
That rosy view has gained quite a bit of resonance of late.… Seguir leyendo »
Welcome to “The Hangover,” Cairo edition. The widespread grass-roots protests that broke out in Egypt this spring succeeded in accomplishing what many skeptics doubted they could: ousting long-serving strongman Hosni Mubarak and ending his 30-year authoritarian rule. But now, some four months on, Egypt’s revolution is obviously on the skids.
The problems start with Egypt’s economy. Under Mr. Mubarak, Egypt’s economic fortunes were comparatively rosy, with the national gross domestic product growing an average of nearly 6 percent annually over the past three years. Today, by contrast, they are anything but rosy. Since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster in February, the Egyptian stock exchange has lost nearly a quarter of its value, prompting its chairman, Mohamed Abdel Salam, to embark upon a frantic tour of Gulf monarchies in an effort to drum up Arab investment.… Seguir leyendo »
Even the best-laid military plans, it is said, rarely survive first contact with the enemy. At the moment, America and its NATO allies are finding this out the hard way in North Africa, where they now face a stark choice regarding their intervention in Libya: stalemate or escalation.
The grass-roots protests that erupted in Libya in mid-February, inspired by the political ferment next door in Tunisia and Egypt, prompted a savage response from the country’s dictator, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Over the month that followed, Libya descended into civil war, with regime forces carrying out indiscriminate bombings of civilian areas, torturing suspected rebel fighters, importing mercenaries from nearby African states and intentionally targeting civilians.… Seguir leyendo »