Archive for the ‘Regions’ Category

26
Dec

The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations

Written on December 26, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Americas, Foreign Policy, Political Economy

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval.

It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.-Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of Cuban-Americans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba’s record of human rights violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures. There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.

The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem: uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell just how close Cuba’s economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government is facing mounting unrest over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural supports. Venezuela’s fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime preservation.

The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama’s standpoint. First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba’s geopolitical challenge to the United States is important. Read more…

Written by George Friedman on Dec. 23rd: Mr. Friedman is chairman of Stratfor.

Published in http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2014/12/23/the_geopolitics_of_us-cuba_relations_110875-3.html

11
Dec
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Waya Quiviger, Executive Director of the Master in International Relations, interviews Josep Borrell, former President of the European Parliament, on the role of the European Parliament throughout the crisis, the agenda of the new European Commission, and Europe’s energy challenges. 

2
Dec

Josep Borrell_26122014 (2)On November 26th, the IE School of International Relations welcomed Josep Borrell, former President of the European Parliament, for an enlightening lecture on the euro crisis and the future of the EU. Mr. Borrell began his talk by recalling the evolution of the European Union:  from its origins to the current crisis it faces, the worst one since its inception.

Historically, there have been four main forces that have driven the European integration process: the “never again” commitment based on the  scarring memory of war; the Soviet threat; the need for German rehabilitation, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Today there is only one  seemingly clear-cut driver for European integration, and this is embracing globalization. In the 21st Century, size will matter because Europe’s  economy will no longer be the world’s largest economy and because today Europeans are twice as old as their neighbours. Only by acting  united, Europe will be able to compete in a world of great powers.

 

Read more…

24
Nov

There’s No Clear Solution in Iran

Written on November 24, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Energy & Environment, Middle East, Security

<p>Will we get more than a handshake between John Kerry and <span>Mohammad </span>Javad Zarif?</p><br />
 Photographer: Nicholas Kamm/Getty Images

In the anticipatory tumult leading up to Monday’s putative climax of the Iran nuclear talks, it’s become easy to forget that there is no truly satisfactory solution to the problem posed by the Tehran regime’s deep desire to reach the nuclear threshold. (The most likely outcome of the talks, I’m hearing this week, is that there will be an agreement to continue talking.)

There are two main camps in the West focused on the negotiations. The first includes the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, much of the U.S. foreign-policy elite and most European governments. This group believes that a negotiated settlement with Iran will more or less guarantee that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and the ayatollahs who will succeed him (Khamenei is not a young man) will never find themselves within easy reach of the bomb. This pro-negotiation camp believes that a treaty could perpetually keep Iran a year away from going nuclear. The more Utopian of these advocates for a negotiated solution think that a nuclear treaty will also spark a process of liberalization inside Iran. The capitalists among them believe — with greater proof than the Utopians — that a treaty will open a large market that sanctions has put off-limits.

The other, opposing, camp, in essence believes that no deal the Iranians would ever accede to would be good enough. This group includes the Israeli government, most Arab governments (the Arabs, not the Jews, are the traditional rivals of Persian Iran), Iranian dissidents (who loathe the cruel and authoritarian Iranian regime) and much of the U.S. Congress. This camp believes that a deal, should it be reached, will enshrine Iran’s right to a nuclear program in international law — an idea it finds an anathema. It thinks that Iran, once sanctions are lifted, will rebuild its economy and then ignore its nuclear obligations. It believes that the Iranian government is probably already cheating and obfuscating in its effort to go nuclear, and will redouble these efforts once a deal is signed. This group thinks that sanctions, combined with the credible threat of force, are the only means to keep Iran from going nuclear.

Both camps make strong arguments. But evidence suggests that each is wrong to think it possesses the foolproof solution to a nuclear challenge. Read more…

Published by Jeffrey Goldberg on Nov. 21 in http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-21/theres-no-solution-in-iran

18
Nov

Written by Nadim Abillama, MIR Alum (2011) , Senior Program Assistant, NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE (NDI) – LEBANON COUNTRY OFFICE

 

Current context

The military expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant organization (ISIS or Daesh in Arabic) enabled it to seize power over significant portions of land in Iraq and Syria, triggering a military response from a US-led coalition. There are 16 countries involved in the coalition, including Arab countries. The air strikes on ISIS started in August and contributed to contain ISIS’s expansion without making any decisive breakthrough for the moment.

Lebanon has witnessed a series of tensions since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in March 2011. The military involvement of Hezbollah alongside with the Syrian regime prompted a reaction from radical Lebanese Sunni groups, which are hostile to the Assad regime. These groups mainly operate around the northern city of Tripoli and the Eastern town of Arsal, close to the Syrian border. Clashes also occurred between the Lebanese armed forces and a Jihadist group in the southern Sunni city of Saida, in June 2013. Since then, a series of attacks claimed by al-Nusra Front (al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria) and ISIS took place throughout Lebanon until June 2014.

Read more…

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