2
Sep

By Madeleine Albright

I teach my students that foreign policy is persuading other countries to do what you want. The tools available to accomplish this include everything from kind words to cruise missiles. Mixing them properly and with sufficient patience is the art of diplomacy, a task that for the United States has proved challenging even with our closest allies, and altogether necessary with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The United States and Iran have been locked in an adversarial relationship since the 1979 hostage crisis. Having worked for President Jimmy Carter, I viewed the country through the prism of that experience when I served in the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, as secretary of state I felt it important to explore the possibility of developing a less chilly relationship with Iran.
During my time in office, we offered to engage in dialogue, but the Iranians were not ready. In the end, although we improved the relationship on the margins, we failed to make much of a dent in the thick wall of mistrust separating our two countries.

These experiences lead me to be wary of the Iranian regime and realistic about the prospects for an overnight change in U.S.-Iranian relations. But it is dangerous not to pursue dialogue, and experience convinces me that the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran is a wise diplomatic initiative.

After careful review of its provisions, I have given the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action my strong endorsement.

The prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran has rightfully earned a place at the top of the long list of threats to global stability. No diplomatic agreement or military action could guarantee that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon, but even most opponents agree this accord puts that goal firmly out of Iran’s reach for a decade or more. From any vantage point, that is a positive development, but at a time of great turmoil in the Middle East it is especially welcome. Read more…

 

Published in cnn.com on Aug. 31st; Madeleine Albright served as U.S. secretary of state from 1997 to 2001. She is chair of the Albright‎ Stonebridge Group, a global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm, and professor of diplomacy at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

31
Aug

A man withdraws money from an Orange Money cashier in Abidjan. About $104bn of African incomes currently flow outside the formal banking system annually. (Issouf Sanogo, AFP)

Making the world a better place – noble in theory, but expensive in practice and ambitious to sustain.

Financing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), for example, will require more than the combined GDP of Africa’s 30 biggest economies in additional funds every year. A big ask – so where should the money come from? Given that the funding needed is nearly 20 times last year’s official international aid flows, it’s safe to say that more aid from international donors cannot continue to be the primary focus.

So what if we tapped into the considerable resources of the developing countries themselves? Often overlooked, these countries’ tax revenues, natural resource revenues, private domestic savings, pension funds, private equity markets, stock markets, and remittances, taken together, are significantly larger than aid flows – and are growing rapidly. If harnessed to finance development, these resources could enormously accelerate the rate at which the SDGs are achieved.

Take sub-Saharan Africa. As a conservative estimate, at least 20-30% of the $2.6-trillion funding gap will be needed in this region alone. This is a massive amount – but our estimates show that sub-Saharan Africa can get part of the way there, and unlock approximately $90-billion for development per year, with just four actions: lowering the cost of remittances and using them as collateral for loans, banking more of the unbanked, and unlocking pension funds for investment in private equity. Taken together the four suggestions illustrate a broader point: what if the way we fund development propelled development itself? Read more…

Published on 26 Aug. in the Mail and Guardian. Yana Watson Kakar is the global managing partner of Dalberg, Matthew MacDevette is a Dalberg consultant and James Mwangi is executive director of the Dalberg Group. Follow @DalbergTweet on Twitter.

27
Aug

Why worries about China make sense

Written on August 27, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in Asia, Financial crisis, Global Economy

James Ferguson illustration

I am neither intelligent enough to understand the behaviour of “Mr Market” — the manic-depressive dreamt up by investment guru, Benjamin Graham — nor foolish enough to believe I do. But he has surely been in a depressive phase. Behind this seem to be concerns about China. Is Mr Market right to be anxious? In brief, yes.

One must distinguish between what is worth worrying about and what is not. The decline of the Chinese stock market is in the second category. What is worth worrying about is the scale of the task confronting the Chinese authorities against their apparent inability to deal well with the bursting of a mere stock market bubble.

Stock markets have indeed been correcting, with the Chinese market in the lead. Between its peak in June and Tuesday, the Shanghai index fell by 43 per cent. Yet the Chinese stock market remains 50 per cent higher than in early 2014. The implosion of the second Chinese stock market bubble within a decade still seems unfinished. (See charts).

The Chinese market is not a normal one. Even more than most markets, this is a casino in which each player hopes to find a “greater fool” on whom to offload overpriced chips before it is too late. Such a market is bound to be extremely volatile. But its vagaries should tell one little about the wider Chinese economy.

Nevertheless, events in the Chinese market are of wider significance in two related ways. One is that the Chinese authorities decided to stake substantial resources and even their political authority on their (unsurprisingly unsuccessful) effort to stop the bubble’s collapse. The other is that they must have been driven to do so by concern over the economy. If they are worried enough to bet on such a forlorn hope, the rest of us should worry, too. Read more…

By Martin Wolf; Published on Aug. 25 in the Financial Times

24
Aug

What ISIS Really Wants

Written on August 24, 2015 by Waya Quiviger in International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, Middle East

What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.

The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing. Read more…

By Graeme Wood ; Published in the March 2015 issue of the Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/

20
Aug

The Myth of a Better Deal

Foreign policy is serious business, because getting it wrong has real consequences. When countries conduct foreign policy in a cavalier or incompetent way, real human beings lose their lives or end up much poorer than they would otherwise have been. In extreme cases, states that mismanage relations with the outside world end up completely isolated and maybe even conquered and occupied. This is rarely, if ever, a pleasant experience.

That’s why it is so surprising when allegedly “serious people” rely on various forms of Magical Thinking when they talk about foreign affairs. Like FP contributor Jeffrey Lewis, by “magical thinking,” I mean analysis and prescriptions resting on unrealistic assumptions, unspecified causal relationships, inapt analogies, a dearth of supporting evidence, and wildly naïve optimism. People who do this are like the scientists in that old cartoon whose blackboard solution to a thorny problem consists of writing, “And here a miracle occurs.” Read more…

By Stephen Walt, published on Aug. 10 in Foreignpolicy.com

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