Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Fears over an imminent military confrontation between the United States and Iran over the latter's controversial nuclear program have receded, according to a New York Times report today. Western economic sanctions targeting Iran's oil sector prompted the Iranian government to be more flexible in direct negotiations with the United States and other world powers, held in Istanbul two weeks ago, the Times said. Negotiations are set to resume in Baghdad next month. At the same time, there is a growing debate within Israel over launching a preemptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, which has delayed the possibility of an immediate attack, experts said.
"Yet even if the third time for the fuel-swap proposal proves to be the charm, the political conditions in both Washington and Tehran will make it exceptionally difficult to build on any initial momentum. In Washington, Obama might claim the deal as a vindication of his Iran policy, but Republicans would surely criticize it as an insufficient ploy that only buys time for Tehran to race across the nuclear threshold," writes Suzanne Maloney for ForeignAffairs.com.
"The tone has certainly changed, in part because the Iranians understand that the harsh tone was not serving them well. Second of all, two factors have come together that have impacted their decision-making–it is impossible to disaggregate them–which is more important: the unprecedented economic distress or the threat of Israeli military strike?" CFR's Ray Takeyh said in this CFR Interview.
"To be sure, the public seems to want exactly what President Obama wants, which is to resolve this stand-off diplomatically. Yet it is striking how, in the absence of strong war-talk from the White House - indeed, given all the poor-mouthing of the military option from administration officials –there is still a reservoir of public support for the hawkish policy," writes Peter Feaver for ForeignPolicy.com.
U.S. Sends Senior Diplomat to China
The Obama administration sent senior diplomat Kurt M. Campbell to Beijing to negotiate with Chinese officials (NYT) over the escape from house arrest last week of dissident Chen Guangcheng, who is thought to now be in U.S. custody in Beijing. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to visit China for official talks later this week.
JAPAN: Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington today to discuss expanding economic and defense ties (BBC), as well as North Korea's failed rocket launch earlier this month.
In this CFR Policy Innovation Memorandum, Sheila A. Smith argues that the time has come for Japan and the United States to set priorities for military missions, formalize mechanisms for crisis management coordination, and work toward a long-term basing strategy that consolidates U.S. and Japanese facilities.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Pakistani PM Vows to Stay in Office
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani said today that he would not resign his post, despite having been convicted of contempt of court (Dawn) by the Supreme Court for refusing to reopen a corruption case targeting President Asif Ali Zardari.
PAKISTAN: A U.S. drone strike targeted militants in North Waziristan yesterday, killing at least three people. Pakistani officials called the strike a "violation of Pakistan's sovereignty" (ExpressTribune), and threatened to boycott an upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.
Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
Deadly Explosions in Syria
Two bomb explosions in the northwestern city of Idlib killed at least eight people, including Syrian security forces and civilians (al-Jazeera), state media reported. Syrian opposition activists claimed at least twenty people were killed in the blasts.
Sudan Declares State of Emergency
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir declared a state of emergency along Sudan's disputed oil-rich border with South Sudan (NYT), even as South Sudan said it would withdraw its security forces from the contested region of Abyei in response to international pressure.
With Sudan and South Sudan on the brink of war, the United States and China must press both sides to return to the negotiating table, says Africa expert Jendayi Frazer in this CFR Interview.
NIGERIA: Armed attackers opened fire and set off explosions at outdoor church services at a Nigerian university (SAPA/AFP) in the northern city of Kano on Sunday, killing around twenty people. The separatist Islamist group Boko Haram was thought to be responsible for the attacks.
Spanish Economy Contracts amid Bank Downgrades
Spain's GDP contracted for the second quarter in a row (WSJ), by 0.3 percent in the first quarter of this year, the country's statistics institute INE said today. At the same time, credit rating agency Standard and Poor's downgraded a host of Spanish banks, days after downgrading Spanish sovereign debt.
GERMANY: Chancellor Angela Merkel is considering boycotting the European Football Championship (DerSpiegel), which is being co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland this summer, over Ukraine's alleged mistreatment of imprisoned former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Colombia in Hunt for Missing French Reporter
Colombian forces are searching for a French journalist who was taken prisoner by Colombia's FARC rebels (BBC) during a clash with Colombian soldiers over the weekend, the French government said.
BOLIVIA: Male and female sex workers in the city of El Alto are conducting a hunger strike to protest a month-long doctors' strike (al-Jazeera), which has resulted in the closure of public hospitals around the country.
Romney Says Protect Chinese Dissident
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney called on U.S. officials to protect Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng, who escaped house arrest and is believed to be hiding at the U.S. embassy in Beijing.
In a Friday speech at an Ohio college, Romney warned that current federal policies are aimed at making the U.S. economy more like Europe's, "and Europe doesn't work in Europe" (LAT).
On Meet the Press Sunday, Romney campaign adviser Ed Gillespie and Obama campaign adviser Robert Gibbs discussed U.S. foreign policy (NBC), national security, and the economy, battling over which candidate has the better strategy for the nation.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.