Archive for the ‘International Conflict, Terrorism & Security’ Category

15
Sep

It took a temporary partition to end the war that tore apart Bosnia in the 1990s. Why not do the same for Syria?

In one sense, a partitioned Syria is already visible, its contours drawn by the front lines of the civil war. President Bashar al-Assad has retreated from territory that was too difficult for his overextended forces to hold, giving up the attempt to reimpose nationwide control. (That doesn’t mean he’s on the run. Iran and Russia have made it clear they won’t let that happen.)

Kurds hold the area near the Turkish border, having driven out Islamic State.

The competing factions in areas held by Sunni Arab rebels make for a more complicated picture, but a map of how the front lines looked this summer shows the outlines of a potential partition of Syria into three parts. The red designates regime control. The yellow is Kurdish. The green and black are Sunni Arab, including the area now controlled by Islamic State. (The white is sparsely populated desert.)


Fabrice Balanche, a researcher at the Group for Research and Studies on the Mediterranean and Middle East in Lyons, France, has been mapping Syria’s ethnic and religious communities since long before the war. He was pilloried in 2011 for saying that Western confidence in the inevitability of Assad’s demise was misplaced, and that civil war and Syria’s disintegration would result. He is, if anything, less sanguine today:

We have a de facto partition, but nobody wants to recognize this partition. In Damascus, there are posters everywhere about a unified Syria. The opposition say no we don’t need a partition. But we will have one.

Read more…

Posted on Sept. 14 in http://www.bloombergview.com/; written by Marc Champion

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.

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

13
Jul

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Iran, unshackled from economic sanctions, would have free rein to domineer its vulnerable Persian Gulf Arab neighbors and cause trouble for Israel. As the fearful refrain goes, if an Iran restrained by crippling sanctions has managed to assert its influence over four Arab capitals — those of Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen — what will an Iran freed from sanctions and a global arms embargo do? As noted Iran hawk Ray Takeyh recently wrote, “the most important legacy of the prospective agreement [may be that it] enable[d] the Islamic Republic’s imperial surge.” This same line has been pushed so hard that it has become accepted fact in Washington.

The problem is, the line isn’t true. But, nonetheless, it is threatening to upend a lasting nuclear deal with Iran.

As the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries head down to the wire in Vienna, the issue has arisen in the question of whether the arms embargo imposed on Iran as part of the U.N. Security Council resolutions would be maintained following a nuclear deal. The United States and its European partners say yes; Russia, China, and Iran say no.

The timing is troubling to say the least. Just as solutions have been found to constrain and roll back elements of Iran’s nuclear program, this issue — one that’s outside the scope of the nuclear talks — is now taking on such exaggerated importance that it threatens to undo the serious progress of the past 18 months. Having performed so well at insulating the nuclear talks from outside complications, U.S. and Iranian negotiators have nearly reached agreement only to come to a standstill over this regional dimension. Of course, no one imagined back in 2010 that a conventional arms embargo — part of what was otherwise a U.N. Security Council resolution focused squarely on Iran’s nuclear-proliferation activities — would rear its ugly head in quite this manner.

The Russian and Iranian position is that the Security Council resolutions rested on the understanding that the arms embargo would be lifted once concerns regarding Iran’s nuclear program were resolved. Provided that a deal is reached on Iran’s nuclear program, Russia and Iran thus argue, the arms embargo loses its legal justification. The current U.S. position, however, may be less interested in maintaining coherence with past policy than it is with ensuring that it mitigates regional allies’ concern as much as possible as part of a nuclear deal with Iran. Understandably, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration fears that undoing the arms embargo on Iran would be a step too far for some of the United States’ key regional allies, all of which — but particularly Saudi Arabia — threaten to undermine the administration’s case for a nuclear deal should they perceive their interests to dictate in favor of doing so. Read more…

Published on July 10th in http://foreignpolicy.com/

Trita Parsi is president of the National Iranian American Council and author of A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy With Iran.

Tyler Cullis is a legal fellow and policy associate at the National Iranian American Council.

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