18
Jan

The centrifuges are packed up, the sanctions are lifted, and President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran is now a fact on the ground.

But managing the deal’s aftermath in Obama’s final year could be nearly as hard as the process of striking it, say current and former administration officials involved in the issue.

Resentful Iranian hardliners may provoke new confrontations with the U.S. Republicans will push for new sanctions and issue threats of war. Israel and Saudi Arabia will pounce on any hint of Iranian misbehavior. And even as Hillary Clinton took partial credit for the deal on Saturday, she described Iran as “a regime that continues to threaten the peace and security of the Middle East” and called for new sanctions to punish it for recent missile tests.

People familiar with Obama’s thinking say none of this will come as a surprise to a president who hopes that the U.S. and Iran can start moving past more than 35 years of hostility, but who also knows that old habits die hard.

“I don’t think Obama was ever starry-eyed about where this was headed,” said one former senior administration official. “His goal in this was not a full-blown rapprochement where the U.S. and Iran are strategic partners.” Read more…

By  

1/17/16; published in Politico.eu

13
Jan

Catalonia’s new president

Written on January 13, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Democracy & Human Rights

ARTUR MAS, who over five years as president of Catalonia led the region’s drive for independence, stepped down over the weekend after failing to form a government. His successor, Carles Puigdemont, is an even more fervent secessionist. In a speech in 2013 he vowed, quoting a Catalan journalist executed under the dictator Francisco Franco, that “the invaders will be expelled from Catalonia”—referring to the Spanish government. Indeed, it was Mr Puigdemont’s longstanding commitment to independence, which much of his centre-right Catalan Democratic Convergence (CDC) party has only embraced in recent years, that enabled him to form a government where Mr Mas had failed. It won him the trust of the far-left Popular Unity Candidacies (CUP) party, whose members had blocked the re-election of the pro-business Mr Mas but apparently consider Mr Puigdemont a more trustworthy radical.

Three months after elections were held, Catalonia’s independence movement now has control of the region’s government. But that control has come at a cost to the secessionists’ image. For years, the separatist movement has successfully sold itself as cool, kind and progressive. Backers of continued union with Spain were scorned as reactionaries, or even the inheritors of Franco’s legacy. Now, senior members of the independence movement worry that it will be identified with the CUP, whose raised fists and chaotic assemblies frighten conservative, middle-class Catalans. Mr Puigdemont’s CDC has traditionally represented a reassuring sense of order. The small but newly powerful CUP represents radical change on all fronts. Read more…

 

Posted in the Economist on Jan. 11th, 2016; http://www.economist.com/

11
Jan

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2016

Written on January 11, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in International Conflict, Terrorism & Security

 

10 Conflicts to Watch in 2016

 

Pulling together a list of the wars most in need of international attention and support in 2016 is challenging for all the wrong reasons. For 20 years after the end of the Cold War, deadly conflict was in decline. Fewer wars were killing fewer people the world over. Five years ago, however, that positive trend went into reverse, and each year since has seen more conflict, more victims, and more people displaced. 2016 is unlikely to bring an improvement from the woes of 2015: It is war — not peace — that has momentum.

That said, there are conflicts whose urgency and importance rise above. This year’s list of 10 is weighted toward wars with the worst humanitarian consequences: Syria and Iraq, South Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and the Lake Chad basin. It includes those in influential and functioning states, like Turkey, as well as those that have collapsed, like Libya. It features conflicts that are already bad but are poised to get much worse without intelligent intervention, such as Burundi, as well as tensions, such as those in the South China Sea, that are simmering but have yet to boil over. The list also considers the hopeful example presented by Colombia, where considerable progress is being made toward ending a 51-year insurgency.

Half of the conflicts on this year’s list involve extremist groups whose goals and ideologies are difficult to accommodate through negotiated settlement, complicating efforts to plot a path to peace. Looking ahead to 2016, it’s time to dispense with the notion that fighting against violent extremism suffices as a plan for world order — or even the basis of a solution for a single country like Syria. To be sure, stopping the abominations of the Islamic State and other jihadis is vital, but it also exposes policy dilemmas: The fear of what follows the demise of authoritarians (Iraq and Libya being prime exhibits) creates a strong incentive to back repressive regimes, but order based solely on state coercion is not sustainable. The dramatic increase in the reach and influence of jihadis over the past few years is a symptom of deeper trends in the Middle East: mounting sectarianism, a crisis of legitimacy of existing states, and escalating geopolitical competition, particularly between Saudi Arabia and Iran. When the enemy comes from within a given region, military action directed from abroad is more likely to aggravate than assuage.

Read more…

 

Published on 3 Jan. 2016 in foreignpolicy.com

By Jean-Marie Guéhenno; Jean-Marie Guéhenno is president and CEO of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group.

 

8
Jan

The 20 Percent World

Written on January 8, 2016 by Waya Quiviger in Culture & Society, Op Ed

If you want to pick a number for 2016, how about 20 percent? Look around the politics of the Western world, and you’ll see that a lot of once-unthinkable ideas and fringe candidates suddenly have a genuine chance of succeeding. The odds are usually somewhere around one in five — not probable, but possible. This “20 percent world” is going to set the tone in democracies on both sides of the Atlantic — not least because, as anybody who bets on horse racing will tell you, eventually one of these longshots is going to canter home.

Start with President Donald Trump. Gamblers, who have been much better at predicting political results than pollsters, currently put the odds of the hard-to-pin-down-but-generally-right-wing billionaire reaching the White House at around 6-1, or 17 percent. Interestingly, those are roughly the same odds as the ones offered on Jeremy Corbyn, the most left-wing leader of the Labour Party for a generation, becoming the next British prime minister. In France, gamblers put the likelihood of Marine Le Pen winning France’s presidency in 2017 at closer to 25 percent, partly because the right-wing populist stands an extremely good chance of reaching the runoff. Geert Wilders, another right-wing populist previously described as “fringe,” perhaps stands a similar chance of becoming the next Dutch prime minister.

Other once-unthinkable possibilities could rapidly become realities. America’s version of Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, whom Trump recently described as a “wacko,” is currently trading around 5 percent, no worse than Jeb Bush. Plus, Sanders has assembled the sort of Corbynite coalition of students, pensioners and public-sector workers that tends to outperform in primaries. If Hillary Clinton stumbles into another scandal, the Democrats could yet find themselves with a socialist contending for the national ticket. Read more…

Published on Jan. 3, 2016 by John Micklethwait in Bloombergview.com

 

7
Jan

Those of us who’ve worked on foreign affairs for decades disagree often and about much, but the advent of 2016 finds us all in agreement, to the point of cliché, on one thing: We’ve never seen a world so chockablock full of complex, dangerous and interlocking issues. For anything comparable in modern times, you’d have to go back to the late 1940s and the chaos following World War II.

Prediction now is as perilous as it was back then. Dozens of issues are rushing toward us, headlong, but we’re plunging in and highlighting the five biggest global issues of 2016: Syria, Iran nukes, China, Russia and the EU, and oil prices. In each of these areas, changes in one direction or another would be truly consequential — that is, they would ripple out broadly, like rocks thrown into the geopolitical pond.

To be sure, other issues, like cybersecurity, North Korea and climate change, will have short- and long-term effects, and, of course, no one is thinking about what inevitably will surprise us. Still, it’s a safe bet that the following five will absorb much of the world’s foreign policy attention in 2016. Here’s why:

1. Dealing With Syria

The country, now heading toward year five of a gruesome civil war, must come first. How the conflict evolves in 2016 will affect everything from the fate of the Islamic State to the European migration crisis, the stability of regional neighbors, volatility on the oil market, the status of Russia, and the terrorist threat level inside the United States.

The U.S. is pursuing a two-pronged strategy: gradually increasing military pressure on the IS by bombing, while seeking a diplomatic settlement satisfactory to Syria’s competing factions and the major powers trying to protect their conflicting interests — the U.S., Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The big benefit of this strategy is that it minimizes the United States’ chances of getting sucked into a quagmire.

But the big risk is that it is eminently gradualist — and assumes that the Islamic State is gradualist too. That is wrong. The IS continues to grow rapidly and expand geographically. Despite some recent setbacks – Iraqi forces appear close to recovering Ramadi city – the IS will likely achieve the capability to carry out or inspire more attacks like those on Paris and San Bernardino long before our gradualist strategy achieves its goal. Read more…

 

Published in  on Jan. 4, 2016 in http://www.ozy.com/

By John McLaughlin

The author, deputy director and acting director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004.

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