The dramatic events of this past weekend mark a potential turning point in the modern history of the Middle East. Estranged for the last three and a half decades, the American and Iranian governments are talking and working with each other once again.
The implementation of the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions on Iran, as well as the prisoner exchange, combined to make it a rare, hopeful day for Washington and Tehran. But Iran remains a powerful adversary of America across nearly all the conflicts of the Middle East. President Obama and his successor in the White House will be tested by whether they can find the right balance between cooperation on nuclear issues and containment of Iranian aggression.… Seguir leyendo »
The Obama administration and its European allies are confronted by multiple crises in an increasingly turbulent and violent Middle East — the Iran nuclear threat, a strengthening Islamic State and the disintegration of Iraq, Yemen and Libya as functioning nation-states. But no problem is as difficult, grave or pivotal as the brutal, bloody and worsening civil war in Syria.
The situation in this keystone Middle East state is catastrophic. More than 220,000 Syrians have died in its four-year civil war. More than 11 million Syrians — half the population — have fled their homes. Four million have taken refuge in nearby countries.… Seguir leyendo »
With a speed few predicted, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rowhani, has signaled his interest in negotiations this autumn on Iran’s controversial nuclear program. This could produce the first extensive contact between Washington and Tehran since diplomatic relations ruptured during the Jimmy Carter administration.
In an extraordinary press conference last week, Rowhani pledged “to enter negotiations which are serious and substantive.” He also appointed Javad Zarif as his foreign minister; Zarif understands America from his time in New York as UN ambassador, and has worked effectively with US diplomats in establishing the new Afghan government after the fall of the Taliban.
There are nagging doubts, however, about how genuine a reformer Rowhani really is.… Seguir leyendo »
The long-term need for stronger political leadership is NATO’s most important challenge. The eurozone debt crisis and substantial reductions in defense spending have badly weakened Europe’s military capabilities and sapped its ambitions for global leadership. The decline is so severe that former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned of a “dim, if not dismal” future for NATO. Meanwhile, the United States has identified Asia and the Middle East as its top foreign policy priorities, leaving many NATO allies skeptical of Washington’s enduring commitment to Europe’s security.
Chicago presents a chance for President Barack Obama and NATO leaders to push back on this gloom and doom.… Seguir leyendo »
NATO was 63 in April and will celebrate its birthday at next week’s summit meeting in Chicago, no doubt accompanied by much debate about what purpose the alliance now serves and whether it has a future.
The backdrop is somber. The NATO heads of government will focus on the withdrawal of the alliance’s forces from Afghanistan by the 2014 date set by President Obama. NATO’s legacy is uncertain but there is little optimism that, despite the blood and treasure expended over the past decade, Afghanistan’s fragile progress will weather a renewed Taliban onslaught.
NATO’s leaders will be keenly aware, too, that their discussions will be taking place against the backdrop of over-stretched defense budgets and a continuing economic and financial crisis on both sides of the Atlantic.… Seguir leyendo »