Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Senior U.S. officials acknowledged on Thursday that Chen Guangcheng, the blind Chinese dissident and central actor in an escalating U.S.-China diplomatic crisis (NYT), has changed his mind, and would now like to leave China. Mr. Chen dramatically escaped house arrest in Western China roughly two weeks ago, and sought refuge at the U. S. Embassy in Beijing for six days. He was subsequently released on his own accord to a local hospital for medical treatment. Chen's desire to leave China is a stark reversal from reports that he, who is now wary of his government hosts, had embraced a plan to remain in his native country. The Chen affair comes at an inopportune time for the United States, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner kick off two days of high-level strategic and economic meetings. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Daniel R. DePetris is a Senior Associate Editor of the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Daniel R. DePetris.
By Daniel R. DePetris - Special to CNN
On January 15, the residents of Radda - a small rural town 100 miles south of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a - were virtually in a state of siege. The small shops and markets that kept the town’s life afloat were shut down, converted into makeshift military barricades by fighters associated with al Qaeda’s regional-based affiliate, who easily overtook the village from Yemen’s security forces. The mosque - the center of activity in many small villages - became an al Qaeda headquarters, with the group’s black flag erected over the building in a demonstration of firm control.
The Yemeni Government, already fragmented and struggling to progress from the long era of Ali Abdullah Saleh, was powerless to stop the incursion. The Yemeni military promised to assemble reinforcements to re-capture the town and push the al Qaeda militants out of the area, but the mobilization was far too slow for the people whose lives were darkly interrupted. FULL POST
By Tony Karon, TIME
As a raucous mob of protestors on Friday stormed past passive Egyptian policemen, breaching the wall around Israel's Cairo embassy and sacking the unsecured parts of the building, Israel turned for help to the Obama Administration. Looking to the U.S. to shield it from international opprobrium has become a familiar pattern for Israel in recent years, but the result was telling: President Obama got on the phone with the Egyptians and ensured a restoration of order that allowed the safe and orderly evacuation of the Israeli embassy.
But nobody expects the ambassador, who flew home late Friday on an emergency flight, to return to Cairo any time soon. The best Washington was able to was to ameliorate the damage - just as it had tried (but failed) to do amid mounting tensions between Israel and Turkey that led Ankara to expel Israel's ambassador last week. And, of course, the U.S. has also failed to bully or bribe the Palestinians into stopping their bid for recognition of statehood at the U.N. later this month in what would be an international vote of no-confidence in the U.S.-led peace process. FULL POST
Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Diplomats comprising the so-called Libya Contact Group (al-Jazeera), including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, today to discuss a roadmap for the ongoing NATO-led military operation in Libya. U.S. officials said the meeting would seek to strengthen ties with the rebel National Transitional Council, the organized opposition seeking to overthrow leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Prior to the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a political solution (Reuters) was needed to resolve the Libya situation, as reports emerged that Gadhafi may be ready to give up power if he can strike a suitable deal. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria
Conservatives are, of course, mad at Barack Obama. But they are also mad at a country that isn't outraged enough at him. This frustration is now taking over mainstream and intelligent voices within the movement, and about broader issues than Benghazi.
Bret Stephens, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, laments that President Obama is not paying a price for a foreign policy that he describes as "isolationist." But our isolationism will surely come as a surprise to the diplomats, soldiers and intelligence officers working on American foreign policy. Washington spends more on defense than the next 10 great powers put together – and more on intelligence than most nations spend on their militaries.
We also have tens of thousands of troops stationed at dozens of bases abroad, from Germany to Turkey to Bahrain to Japan to South Korea. We have formal commitments to defend our most important allies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
By Alex Vines, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Alex Vines is director of Area Studies and International Law and heads the Angola Forum at Chatham House. He is also a senior lecturer at Coventry University. The views expressed are his own.
Twenty years ago this Sunday, the United States belatedly recognized Angola. Today, Angola is the second-largest trading partner of the U.S. in sub-Saharan Africa, a country at peace and enjoying one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the world. It is the second largest producer of oil in sub-Saharan Africa and an OPEC member that has allowed major U.S. oil companies to prosper. But all is not well in the relationship.
Angola achieved independence from Portugal in 1975 and immediately became a major battle ground of the Cold War. The U.S. refused to recognize the pro-Soviet and Cuban backed MPLA government, encouraged apartheid South African military incursions and trained and supplied the rebel UNITA forces. At one point, Angola became the second largest recipient of U.S. covert aid after the Afghan Mujahedeen.
Fast forward to today, and the MPLA is still the ruling party, with President José Eduardo dos Santos having been in power since 1979. And, despite the many global suitors, dos Santos said recently that Angola has only four strategic partners: Brazil, China, Portugal and the United States.
By Soner Cagaptay and James F. Jeffrey, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Soner Cagaptay is the Beyer Family fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. James F. Jeffrey is the Institute's Philip Solondz distinguished visiting fellow and former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Iraq. The views expressed are their own.
This week’s summit between President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan reflects the extraordinary development of relations between the United States and Turkey.
Ankara faces a civil war in Syria that is forcing Turkey to contend with a weak and divided state on its borders. This disintegration brings the dangers of chemical weapons proliferation and al Qaeda infiltration on Turkey’s doorstep. Coping with these challenges will be near impossible without U.S. support, particularly after the May 11 bombings that devastated Reyhanli, a Turkish border town near Syria. Erdogan is therefore sure to make the Syria issue one of his key “asks” during his conversations with Obama on Thursday.
The fact is that Turkey has not faced a threat on the scale of the Syrian crisis since Stalin demanded territory from the Turks in 1945. In 2011, hoping to oust the al-Assad regime, Turkey began to support the Syrian opposition. But, thus far, this policy has failed, and exposed Turkey to growing risks.
By Kerry Brown, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Kerry brown is executive director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney and associate fellow at Chatham House. The views expressed are his own.
Reports suggesting that India withdrew from a planned naval exercise with the United States last month out of fears it might upset Beijing are only the latest reason to grapple with an increasingly pertinent question: What are the costs these days of hurting the feelings of the Chinese people?
Finding the answer to this question – and a way to overcome associated potential problems – has become ever more urgent as China’s perceived assertiveness has grown. And two recent diplomatic spats in particular are worth paying attention to: the fights China has picked with Britain and Norway. Both involved differences over values and human rights. Both saw a stiff political response from Beijing. And both say much about China’s changing role in the international system.
For the U.K., the trigger was British Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in London last May. Almost immediately, high level visits from China were pulled. The former head of the National People’s Congress and second ranking member of the Politburo Standing Committee at the time, Wu Bangguo, cancelled a visit. Over the ensuing months, there were no further high level visits. Last month, it was reported that Cameron had dropped a planned trip to Beijing because there were no promises he would be met at the right level. In view of the warm reception accorded earlier in the month to President Francois Hollande, this would have been a bitter pill to swallow.
By Andrew Billo, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Andrew Billo is assistant director Policy Programs at the Asia Society's New York headquarters. The views expressed are his own.
Ten days ago, I travelled to Ly Son Island, a volcanic atoll thirty kilometers off Vietnam’s central coast. I wasn’t there for the island's famous garlic and seafood, but rather as a participant on a Vietnamese government-sponsored trip to see the island from which the country claims Nguyen lords in the late 16th century launched exploratory trips to the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos.
But if I had taken a similar tour to China’s southern Hainan Island, the information I received would have been much different. China claims it took possession of the Paracels as far back as the Han Dynasty in 110 AD. Whether Chinese or Vietnamese ancestors occupied those islands first is now a question at the center of the two countries’ stormy territorial dispute, and shows both the difficulty – and necessity – for both countries to find resolutions grounded in contemporary realities.
Just this week, China promised to look for peaceful solutions to territorial disputes at a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but much of the world increasingly views China's efforts to claim the South China Sea as belligerent and bullying. If its neighbors were persuaded by the country's aspirations for “a peaceful rise” in the last decade, their trust is quickly fading.
By Heather A. Conley, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Heather Conley is senior fellow and director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and author of a new CSIS report, ‘A New Foreign Policy Frontier: U.S. Interests and Actors in the Arctic.’ The views expressed are the writer's own.
Last August, then U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides declared that, for the United States, the Arctic is “one of the last true frontiers in the United States. It is becoming a new frontier in our foreign policy.”
He was right. The Arctic is a new frontier in the sense that the polar ice cap is melting so rapidly – confounding and deeply disturbing most climatologists and earth scientists – that once-frozen and nearly impenetrable borders in the region are now being traversed with increased frequency. The Arctic also presents a new opportunity for U.S. policymakers to address the emerging political, diplomatic, economic, and security dynamics caused by unprecedented climate change.
But what is America’s vision for its piece of the Arctic – the state of Alaska? Will the United States view the Arctic like a new frontier that must be explored, claimed, and developed along the lines of Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of Winning of the West, embodying America’s pioneering spirit? Or will Washington seek to protect and preserve the Arctic? What are U.S. policy objectives and priorities? What financial resources will be needed to implement these priorities? What are the right organizational and coordination structures to ensure that an American Arctic strategy is implemented and federal agencies are held accountable?
By Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Sir Malcolm Rifkind is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Kensington. He is a Defense and Foreign Secretary and currently serves as chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee. The views expressed are his own.
News last week that Britain’s government plans to speed up visas for Chinese nationals is a reminder of the growing importance of the world’s second largest economy to Britain.
“The message will go out in China that we want people to come and do business here,” The Telegraph reported a cabinet source saying, before noting that the red tape associated with processing Chinese visas costs the U.K. economy $1.8 billion a year.
Yet though the economic opportunities are ripe, a telling anecdote from a few years back underscores some of the challenges Britain and others face in coping with China’s rapid ascent.
By Fareed Zakaria
With the emergence of cheap natural gas from shale, coal is no longer the most competitive energy technology in America, write Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath on Bloomberg.
“Crippled, too, by increased production costs and more stringent federal regulations on pollution, coal is being used less and less in the U.S., even as the rest of the world uses more. Today, just 38 percent of U.S. electricity comes from coal, down from 50 percent in 2007. And shale emits far less pollution and carbon than coal does. By using more electricity from plants powered by natural gas, Pennsylvania, for instance, has been able to drastically reduce air pollution.”
A “global shadow realm” has been created over the last few decades, “with bases on all continents, a parallel economy that escapes all democratic scrutiny, and from which many profit,” according to an article in Der Spiegel.
“The number of tax havens has gone from a handful only a few decades ago to 60, 70 or even more today. Years ago the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Belize, the Cayman Islands, Cyprus and the Marshall Islands were, in some cases, dirt-poor – until they decided to charge no or almost no taxes on money brought into the country, as well as guarantee the owners of the asset anonymity through company and foundation structures. In return, they collected fees from the offshore companies.”
Targeted sanctions could be Washington’s secret weapon against Chinese hackers, argues Zachary Goldman in Foreign Affairs.
One reason that “targeted financial sanctions would work well in the cyber context is that, unlike reciprocal attacks in cyberspace or the use of military force, they are proportionate in scale to cyberinfiltrations, such as the discreet theft of intellectual property from U.S. businesses, and can be carefully calibrated to produce their desired effect,” Goldman writes. “Sanctions could therefore act as a brake on escalation and add leverage to diplomatic negotiations on cyber issues, which the United States and China both appear to welcome. Finally, if Washington imposed targeted financial sanctions on cybercriminals, the effect of the sanctions would likely reverberate beyond U.S. borders, because financial institutions around the world often refuse to do business with sanctioned entities.”