April 30th, 2012
09:42 AM ET

Roundup: Lessening of war fears over Iran?

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.

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"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.


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.

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Topics: Daily Roundup

soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Iran

    Iran is just wasting time . Our supreme leader has repeatedly announced that Iran will not leave nuclear weapon . USA is buying time from Israel .

    April 30, 2012 at 10:03 am | Reply
  2. Joseph McCarthy

    The very last thing we need is a useless war with Iran. Why should there be anyway? After all, we already own both Iraq ans Libya, both bigger producers of oil that Iran!

    April 30, 2012 at 11:23 am | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    The war drums beaten by Netanyahu and Ehud Barak haven't died down yet, they were drowned amidst the outcry abroad and at home. The West should carry on its "carrot and stick" policies and persuade Iran to comply to a reduced uranium enrichment.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Now doubt Chen's escape from his own house and refuge in the U.S. embassy attracts another unwelcome attention. The government in Beijing has had enough of Bo Xilai's scandal and could do without a new one. It's enraged to be seen by the U.S. and the world as a human rights pariah state.

    April 30, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Ahead of the Nato Summit in Chicago Pakistan knows its clout over the Taliban in Afghanistan and is confident that the Afghan endgame sees no end if Islamabad isn't able to dictate the rules of the game.

    April 30, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  6. Hahahahahaha

    So when will the doilie heads and the towel heads start flying? Hahahahahahaha

    April 30, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Reply
  7. Matt

    I would not classify it in those terms, but if certain conditions are met, it pushes back the military option, regardless of the outcome the threat level remains the same and so does the risk of war. There are two issues avoiding war now and the nuclear program, we are dealing with the first, that does not mean that the second is solved. On that all parties are clear from Iran to the P5+1 to Israel. People may say that it has lessened fears of war, but it depends on what context in place the threat in, we are very clear enrichment of Uranium is the threat, whether certain conditions are met in relation to enrichment, it does not change the threat level. But there are certain conditions that push back a strike at this time. The game will go on, you have two parties both pushing for time, Iran to build a bomb, the US to avoid a war. The US position itself re:Iran military and intelligence wise, the long range command established in Israel. It says what has been a very taxing and long game is going to continue for some time to come. And that is because of the threat and as long as that threat is present the risk of war is front and center. And don't just limit the risk of a war to the nuclear program, there are numerous triggers that can set off a war between the US and Iran or Iran and Israel. The nuclear program is just one of them, Iran is problematic, in 2007 while the nuclear program was an issue as it is now, that was not what brought the US and Iran close to war in 2007. Then as now Iran was playing a long game, as were we. The fact that Israel can fly right now and strike and Iran has not developed the bomb, because of hindrances to their progress, shows that regardless of what occurs in Baghdad or how the perception is spun. We did alright under far more pressure than the political masters are currently under and willing to offer concessions. Iran will tie Irak to the right to enrich and preventing a strike and it many cases it is a defeat. But this is a long game, that is only part of what they want a key aspect as they travel along that road to building the bomb. But Bush and Cheney are out of office and I am retired, no concessions, no bomb on our watch, our success is the current Administrations current crisis the 'window of opportunity'. Iran has never seen things that way, Carter is the same as Reagan, Bush the same as Clinton etc.

    It is more like football you retire while you are on top, victorious, before the decline, before defeat.

    And the deal will just become another tool in their tool box, something occurs, they threaten to pull out of the agreement, that could be in relation to carrier movements, posturing of the US military in the region.

    April 30, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Reply
    • ✠ RZ ✠  

      I'm impressed. But what about shedding some light on moving forward. Let's agree that much is always on the edge, as usual, but will remain at least globally stable provided of course that all the right checks and balances can and will be implemented effectively. Should that be the case, which is just fine by me, it will then allow the earth to continue spinning wobbly on it's normal orbit. But then what ? Assuming moratoriums can somehow be put on geopolitical and military activities, we are then left to deal with the almost equally destructive instabilities and imbalances of domestic and global economies. And for our own sake, I would argue that this would be better accomplished by more of a reversal of globalization whereby we consolidate our resources, rather than increase it in hopes of diluting it in all the right places. I certainly hope someone in the Clinton administration thought this all out, because down the road, a nuclear Iran might turn out to be the least of our worries.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:30 am | Reply
  8. vinitbolinjkar

    Indeed time is running out for the Israelis. In the war of the Abrahamic religions, Israel is a sitting duck, without the support of the big brother United States. In fact it would not take much to unite the collective hatred of the Arabic peninsula, with its over powering demographic majority, against the Jewish state. And who would be better than the radical state of Iran to infuriate this collective opinion!

    Hence the urgency by the Israeli leadership to thwart the long term Iran and Arab world threat. Before the economic woes of America become so gargantuan that there is a shift in America's foreign policy, the Israelis want to neutralize the threat of annihilation that they face under the Iranian leadership.

    The obvious policy is to use the impending US elections to rally opinion and action against Iran. Obama is not as much a war monger as his predecessors have been and this works against Israeli strategic policy. Hence the bellicose demeanor to bomb the Iranians.

    IMO, the inclination to war is higher than peace as despite ironically overwhelming intelligence reports suggesting no great ambitions on the part of Iran and that too from US and Israeli agencies itself, Israel is all set to go the extra mile.

    In my blog I have tried to address this delicate geo political issue keeping in mind the escalation of teh crisi and how it impacts the world's nations.


    May 2, 2012 at 3:34 am | Reply

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