Archive for the ‘Foreign Policy’ Category

25
Oct

IR-CitPax

The Iran Dialogues – 3

“Iran: Ideology & Nation-Building”

Madrid, Friday 25 October 2013

12:00-13:30 at IE, C/ Maria de Molina 4, Room E107

Professor Ali Ansari,

St. Andrews University

You are cordially invted to attend “Iran: Ideology & Nation-Building”, the third in a set of discussions being held in Spain as part of the Iran Dialogues Series. This session will be co-hosted by the IE School of International Relations and the Toledo International Center for Peace (CITpax).

The Islamic Republic of Iran is frequently perceived externally as being a purely ideological state.  However, concepts of nationhood, regional aspirations, and competing internal spheres of influence also affect the way in which ideology is used to shape Iran’s domestic as well as foreign policy.  Iran’s main objectives are not to be found solely in some ideological universe detached from reality, but instead are situated, and should also be understood, in terms of real politik and various sets of interests.  While the religious-ideological element is highly relevant, it is not necessarily always determining, and is not sufficient alone to explain all of Tehran’s actions.

Understanding the complex interplay of ideology, nation-building and nationalism in relation to regional and global aspirations, is particularly important in a context in which Iran is implicated in the prevailing balance of power in the Levant; has clear aims – and rivalries – in the Persian Gulf; and competes for influence in the broader region.

“Iran: Ideology & Nation-Building” is the third in a set of discussions being held in Spain as part of the Iran Dialogues Series co-organized by IE School of International Relations and CITpax.

Dr Ali Ansari is Professor of Modern History with reference to the Middle East, at St. Andrews University in Scotland. He is the founding Director of the Institute for Iranian Studies, and an Associate Fellow of Chatham House. One of his areas of specialisation is Islam and the West. He is the author of a number of books including The Politics of Nationalism in Modern Iran; Iran Under Ahmadinejad; and Confronting Iran: The Failure of American Foreign Policy and the Roots of Mistrust.

Please kindly confirm attendance at International.Relations@ie.edu

21
Oct

ambsolomontofficial

 

IE School of International Relations in pleased to welcome former US Ambassador Alan D. Solomont, who will offer workshops on diplomacy and foreign policy to students in both the undergraduate and Master’s international relations programs. These workshops will draw on Ambassador Solomont’s vast international experience, and especially his experience as US Ambassador to Spain from 2009-2013, a time of global economic crisis and political upheaval. They will give students an inside look at the foreign policy process, and the unique challenges which arise in the day-to-day implementation of a government’s stated policy objectives. His visit is a privilege which we all look forward to!     

18
Oct

None of the deeper problems with American government was solved this week

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Imagine you are in a taxi and the driver suddenly turns violently and speeds towards a wall, tyres screeching, only to stop at the very last moment, inches from the bricks—and cheerfully informs you that he wants to do the same to you in three months time. Would you be grateful that he has not killed you? Or would you wonder why you chose his cab in the first place?

That is the journey Congress has taken the American people on over the past few weeks (see article). The last-minute deal to raise America’s debt ceiling, avoid a default and reopen the government at least until mid-January, which was signed by the president on October 16th, is welcome only compared with the immediate alternative.

For a long time American politicians have poured scorn on their European peers for failing to deal with the euro crisis. This week Washington equalled Brussels on one measure of dysfunctionality and surpassed it by another. The way in which the Democrats and Republicans, having failed to reach any agreement, decided to “kick the can down the road”, was deeply European. The deal allows the government to stay open till January 15th and the debt ceiling to be raised until February 7th. Just as America’s economy seems to be recovering, with the promise of GDP growing by 2.7% in 2014, it could face another shutdown of the kind that has just sent consumer confidence to a nine-month low and knocked back growth in the fourth quarter by an estimated 0.6 percentage points.

The way in which the Americans have surpassed the Europeans is the unreality of their discussion. The Europeans at least talk vaguely about banking unions and other solutions to their mess. In America the immediate budget deficit—at 3.4% of GDP—is smaller than that of many European countries. Indeed the danger is of too much tightening in the short term. But the country’s long-term fiscal problem is immense: it taxes like a small-government country but spends like a big-government one. Eventually demography—and the huge tribe of retiring baby-boomers who expect pensions and health care—will bankrupt the country. By the IMF’s calculation, if America is to reduce its debt to what it regards as a sensible level by 2030, allowing for all this age-related spending, it needs a “fiscal adjustment” of 11.7% of GDP—more than any other advanced country other than Japan. Yet the Republicans refuse to discuss tax rises, without which Barack Obama and the Democrats refuse to discuss cuts to entitlements: neither of those things had anything to do with the impasse of the past few weeks. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on October 19, 2013 (from the print edition).

16
Oct

There’s little awareness of how the budget crisis has eroded US credibility. It’s time for a reverse Christopher Columbus

By Timothy Garton Ash

Capitol Hill October 3

‘If the US goes on like this, then one day – one year, one decade – the copper bottom of investors’ confidence will fall out.’ Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

On Monday, government offices were closed in Washington DC, to mark Columbus Day. Except that most of them had been closed anyway, because of the US government shutdown. As everyone knows, Christopher Columbus was an Italian navigator who, in the service of the Spanish crown, supposedly “discovered” America and reported its potential to a wondering world. I have spent the summer in the United States watching, with growing alarm, a country engaged in a degree of self-harming which, if observed in a teenager, would lead any friend to cry “call the doctor at once”. As I set course back to Europe, my conclusion is this: America should do a reverse Columbus. The world no longer needs to discover America; but America urgently needs to discover the world’s view of America.

Ordinary Americans, and especially the small minority active in Democrat and Republican primaries, must learn more of what people across the globe are thinking and saying about the US. For if you follow that, you realise that the erosion of American power is happening faster than most of us predicted – while the politicians in Washington behave like rutting stags with locked antlers.

The 24/7 US news coverage follows every last lunge and twist of the stagfight. It is the political equivalent of ESPN, the non-stop sports network. Just occasionally, the rest of the world breaks through: for instance, when the World Bank and the IMF hold their annual meetings – right there in Washington – and the heads of both institutions, Jim Yong Kim and Christine Lagarde, warn of dire consequences. That gets a few column inches. Or when the government shutdown and debt-ceiling brinkmanship leads Barack Obama to cancel a major trip to Asia, including the Apec summit in Bali, leaving the floor wide open for president Xi Jinping to assert China’s regional leadership (“the Asia-Pacific cannot prosper without China”).

A more direct taste of foreign news is available just a few clicks away. On my cable TV control, if I scroll down to channel number 73, or 355, or whatever it is, I can get Al-Jazeera, China’s CCTV and Russia’s RT. Their reporters often speak perfect American-accented journalese, and sometimes actually are career American journalists, lured away from job-shedding US news organisations to give credibility to these channels. CCTV’s Washington bureau chief, for instance, is Jim Spellman, formerly of CNN. These channels’ take on the Washington dégringolade is much harder edged than the ESPN version. The website of the Russian state-backed RT quotes an editorial published by the Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, proposing that, in the light of this crisis, “several cornerstones should be laid to underpin a de-Americanised world”. Read more…

As published in www.theguardian.com on October 15, 2013.

15
Oct

Six reasons why the United States can’t force Iran’s nuclear hand.

By Colin H. Kahl, Alireza Nader

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Iranian president Hasan Rouhani’s recent charm offensive has raised expectations for a diplomatic breakthrough heading into this week’s nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia (the so-called P5+1) in Geneva. Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy, and the Islamic Republic may finally be motivated to take steps to rein in its nuclear program, including accepting limits on uranium enrichment, in exchange for lessening the pressure.

Hawks in Israel and Washington, however, have been quick to describe Rouhani as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” warning that the Iranian regime may agree to “cosmetic changes” to its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, but ultimately will do little to constrain its quest for the bomb. In particular, they have cautioned the Obama administration against acquiescing to an agreement that allows Iran to continue any domestic uranium enrichment, even at low levels suitable only for civilian nuclear power and under stringent international supervision. In his Oct. 1 speech to the U.N. General Assembly, for example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted that only a complete dismantling of Iran’s enrichment program could prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons. This position has been echoed by conservative think tanks in Washington and by numerous voices on Capitol Hill. Their collective mantra: “a bad deal is worse than no deal.”

Attempting to keep Iran as far away from nuclear weapons as possible by insisting on “zero enrichment” seems sensible. But in reality, the quest for the optimal deal would doom diplomacy with Iran, making the far worse outcomes of unconstrained Iranian nuclearization or a military showdown over Tehran’s nuclear program much more likely.

Uranium enrichment is one pathway to producing bomb-grade explosive material for nuclear weapons, and all else being equal, it is easier to verify the total absence of such activities than different gradations of them. Of course, it would clearly be preferable if Iran ended its uranium enrichment activities altogether. Moreover, most countries with civilian nuclear power plants forgo domestic enrichment, so it seems reasonable to demand the same of Tehran. (Although it is also the case that Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands have domestic enrichment capabilities while remaining compliant with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.)

But while a permanent end to Iranian enrichment would be ideal, it is also highly unrealistic. The Iranian regime has invested enormous amounts of political capital and billions of dollars over decades to master the knowledge and centrifuge technology associated with uranium enrichment — and nothing will put that genie back in the bottle. Indeed, one is hard pressed to find a single bona fide Iran expert on the planet that believes Tehran would accept a diplomatic deal with the P5+1 that zeroed out enrichment for all time. Read more…

Colin H. Kahl is an associate professor in Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and a senior fellow and director of the Middle East Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. Alireza Nader is a senior international policy analyst at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

As published in www.foreignpolicy.com on October 14, 2013.

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