Archive for the ‘Topics’ Category

4
Mar

Is This the United States' Grand Plan for Responding to China in the South China Sea?

It’s certainly been an interesting week in the South China Sea, with reports that China moved coast guard vessels into Jackson Shoal, driving Filipino fishermen out and effectively asserting control over that feature. China’s latest bout of assertion comes not long after it re-stationed J-11 fighters and HQ-9 surface-to-air missile systems on Woody Island, days after ASEAN leaders met with U.S. President Barack Obama in the United States.

On Wednesday, two reports caught my eye that reveal a growing coalition and network of Asian powers to counter Chinese assertiveness in Asian waters, certainly the South China Sea. Incidentally, both these reports stem from comments and observations made recently by Admiral Harry B. Harris, the outspoken head of U.S. Pacific Command, at a security conference in New Delhi, India. (Harris’ prepared remarks are available here.)

The first, reported in Reuters, notes that India, the United States, and Japan will be holding their first trilateral naval exercise in the South China Sea, off the northern coast of Philippines. While a location isn’t specified for the exercise, it is likely that it will take place either in or off Subic Bay, where the United States once had a permanent naval base and now enjoys base access rights under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Act (EDCA) with the Philippines.

Harris underlined India’s record with international law and maritime disputes to explain Washington’s interest in having New Delhi participate in the exercise: ”While some countries seek to bully smaller nations through intimidation and coercion, I note with admiration India’s example of peaceful resolution of disputes with your neighbors in the waters of the Indian Ocean,” he said.

The second report, in the New York Times, cites Harris bringing up a concept in Asian security that’s been out of vogue for nearly a decade, namely the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD) between the United States, Australia, Japan, and India. In a commentary in 2014, I’d declared the QSD “gone and forgotten.” Harris’ comments suggest my eulogy may have been premature. The QSD was actually a pet project for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his first stint leading Japan, back in 2006-2007. He’ll be glad to see it back on the docket.

Abe, who came to office in 2006 with a pessimistic view of China’s rise, saw Beijing as a threat to Japanese interests and proposed the QSD as a means by which to spur dialogue on sustaining Asia’s status quo security apparatus. China saw the initiative as a conspiracy by a concert of democracies to inhibit its “peaceful rise” (that language was very much in vogue at the time), and the initiative fell apart. Kevin Rudd’s Australia, in particular, was hesitant to risk good ties with China over the QSD, which at the time had a modest scope. Abe himself left office after a lackluster one-year term. Read more…

 

March 3rd, http://thediplomat.com/

1
Mar

What has really changed in Iran?

Written on March 1, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights, Middle East, Op Ed

I REMEMBER vividly the first time I ever voted in an Iranian election. It was a balmy summer day in June 2001, in the election that won the reformist president Mohammad Khatami a second term. The blue stamp was the first on the voting page of my identification card, and I felt a sharp, exhilarating pride.

That election is much on my mind now, as I watch the results of Friday’s voting with my family, disagreeing on what it might mean for the future.

Back in 2001, Iran was heading down an irrevocable path toward internal reform, a process untainted by any Western intrusion, with citizens and progressive-minded leaders showing the way. Those leaders seemed, at the time, as exciting as Vaclav Havel and the revolutionary cleric Musa al-Sadr rolled into one. Elections felt — unlike the vote this past weekend — full of consequence, a genuine chance to recast political power rather than an exercise in slightly recalibrating it.
Tehran then was a naïve young intellectual’s paradise. There were Islamist reformers and secular reformers, women’s rights campaigners who went door to door in villages, and urban activists working to save everything from the Iranian cheetah to the rapidly evaporating Lake Urmia. You could sit at the feet of an ayatollah in the morning and hear a Koran-backed strategy for gender equality; by afternoon, you could be with the radical student opposition in a decaying house in the center of the city, still strewn with shredded documents removed from the United States embassy during the 1979 hostage-taking. There were literary readings almost every night, and subversive theater that lampooned the system, using metaphors from baseball to Moliere. Read more…

 

Published on March 1, in www.nyt.com

Azadeh Moaveni is a lecturer in journalism at Kingston University and the author, most recently, of “Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran.”

26
Feb

The real danger of Brexit

Written on February 26, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in EU Expansion, Europe, Foreign Policy

THE battle is joined, at last. David Cameron has called a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union for June 23rd, promising to campaign hard to stay in. What began as a gambit to hold together his divided Tory party is turning into an alarmingly close contest. Betting markets put the odds that Britons opt to leave at two-to-one; some polls suggest the voters are evenly split; several cabinet ministers are campaigning for Brexit. There is a real chance that in four months’ time Britain could be casting off from Europe’s shores.

That would be grave news—and not just for Britain. A vote to leave would damage the economy, certainly in the short term and probably in the long run. (As financial markets woke up to the prospect, the pound this week fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 2009.) It would imperil Britain’s security, when threats from terrorists and foreign powers are at their most severe in years. And far from reclaiming sovereignty, Britons would be forgoing clout, by giving up membership of a powerful club whose actions they can influence better from within than without. Those outside Britain marvelling at this proposed act of self-harm should worry for themselves, too. Brexit would deal a heavy blow to Europe, a continent already on the ropes. It would uncouple the world’s fifth-largest economy from its biggest market, and unmoor the fifth-largest defence spender from its allies. Poorer, less secure and disunited, the new EU would be weaker; the West, reliant on the balancing forces of America and Europe, would be enfeebled, too.

Read more…

Feb 27th 2016, from the print version of The Economist

23
Feb

The humanitarian crisis in Syria has gone on so long and is so devastating in its social impact — with a huge migration, some direct and some coming from people in the existing camps in the countries surrounding Syria — that we can lose sight of the military dangers that are now threatening the Middle East.

It has long been feared in NATO that the Syrian crisis would spill over into a wider war, but that moment is closer now than it has ever been before. Any serious analysis of the start of the First and Second World Wars reveals that a lack of clarity of intention is extremely dangerous.

At least there is an ongoing dialogue between Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. And, of course, it is possible that words have been spoken between these two and/or between President Obama and President Putin that has made the position of the respective parties clearer than might appear. The time has come, however, given that cease-fire after cease-fire has been broken, for a very clear statement from NATO’s secretary general regarding its position and not left any longer to just bilateral exchanges between the U.S. and Russia. We can all hope that the latest cease-fire, which goes into effect on Saturday, holds. But more clarity is needed. Read more…

Published on 22/02 by Lord David Owen, Former British foreign secretary in www.huffingtonpost.com

16
Feb

 

SC UFM

Pablo G. Bejerano

The end of 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of the Barcelona Process. That regional cooperative project was the origin of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM), which was finally constituted in 2008 during the Paris Summit.

Fathallah Sijilmassi, Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean, visited IE School of International Relations to present this organization, which plays a key role in developing the region. The UfM is not strictly Mediterranean, as he put it in beginning of a talk in Riga (Latvia): “I’m very happy to be in a Mediterranean country.”

The reason for this remark is that all the countries in the European Union are automatically members of the UfM, whether they border on the Mediterranean or not. At present there are 43 countries in this organization, which also takes in North Africa and that part of the Near East closest to the Mediterranean.

As Sijilmassi explained, the role of the organization is to balance different interests with the aim of “promoting concrete projects.”

Among the fundamental aims of the UfM, Sijilmassi stressed creating employment for young people and empowering women. “What’s happening in Tunisia is very interesting. Everyone who is in the street demonstrating is saying ‘we want jobs.’ It’s not a question of politics or religion.”

Unemployment is also linked to other problems. Sijilmassi mentioned terrorism and insisted that everyone must work together to find solutions. It is here that education plays a fundamental role. In his native Morocco, the UfM has helped create the Euro-Mediterranean University of Fez, promoted by the Ministry for Education.

Empowering women is also related to employment. One of the ways to encourage it is for young women to create their own companies. “We’ve worked a lot in the big cities, but not enough in the interior or the rural areas,” Sijilmassi recognized, adding that the empowerment of women is an indicator of a country’s development.

Channels for concrete improvements

The Secretary General defines the UfM as a “yes” organization. “How do you take on challenges beyond just speeches and words, how do you meet the needs of people?” He says concrete projects must be carried out, “tangible things, not just theoretical approximations.”

To achieve this it’s often necessary to say ‘yes’ even though one isn’t entirely in agreement. The Union for the Mediterranean doesn’t implement projects on their own but rather facilitates them through third parties. The process begins by evaluating a project based on different criteria, such as its socio-economic value for the region, and then the financial experts determine how viable it will be, and the political waters are tested to be sure the project will be approved by the authorities. Afterward, the organization uses all the means at its disposal to promote the project and oversee its completion.

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