This is the latest in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.
By Mark N. Katz, Special to CNN
Mark Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University, and is the author of ‘Leaving without Losing: The War on Terror after Iraq and Afghanistan.’
In addition to its ongoing economic problems, which are unlikely to be overcome next year, there are three potential crises that could affect Iran in 2013. One is the possibility of public unrest concerning the succession to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who cannot run for a third consecutive term as president. Another possibility is the incapacitation or death of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei setting off a power struggle to succeed him which also results in public unrest. A third possibility is that the Iranian nuclear crisis boils over, and either the U.S. or Israel (or both) launch an armed attack to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The next Iranian presidential election is scheduled to take place on June 14, 2013. The leadership of the Islamic Republic very much wants to avoid the outburst of opposition that occurred in response to the widely-disbelieved announcement that Ahmadinejad had won re-election by a wide margin in June 2009. New regulations that further tighten clerical control over who is allowed to run for president are likely to be put into effect which even some regime insiders – most notably President Ahmadinejad himself – have voiced objection to. If indeed the only candidates allowed to run for president are just those few approved by the regime, the Iranian public may come to regard the entire presidential election process as illegitimate. With the downfall of long-ruling leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen (and possibly Syria by mid-2013) providing role models for what popular uprisings can accomplish, the Iranian public may launch a more concerted effort in response to what it regards as an illegitimate presidential election outcome in 2013 than it did in 2009.
This is the second in a series of entries looking at what we can expect in 2013. Each weekday, a guest analyst will look at the key challenges facing a selected country – and what next year might hold in store.
By Steve Linde, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Steve Linde is editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. The views expressed are his own.
Life in the Holy Land is often intense and seldom boring, and the country has captured the attention of the international news media for almost 65 years. This is not likely to change in 2013. Although Israel has a population of only eight million, almost every day generates unexpected and exciting developments. While journalists are not prophets, I would suggest that there are six key challenges facing the Jewish state in the year ahead:
National elections – Israel is all set for what promises to be an interesting national election on January 22, with 34 lists registered to run. A strong right-wing list comprising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman Yisrael Beiteinu (Israel is our Home) is facing off against a splintered Center and Left that includes, inter alia, Shelly Yacimovich's Labor, the Tzipi Livni Party, Yair Lapid¹s Yesh Atid (There is a Future) and Shaul Mofaz¹s Kadima. Current polls show the now merged Likud-Beiteinu list comfortably ahead, with about a third of the seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Israel's parliament. But with growing discontent over the current government¹s foreign and socioeconomic policies, Likud- Beiteinu may in fact win fewer seats than its two component parties have in the current Knesset (42).
By Jonathan Adelman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Adelman is a professor at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. The views expressed are his own.
The rapid rise of the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Egypt after the deposing of Hosni Mubarak last year prompted many observers to see an Islamist Egypt as inevitable. After all, the Muslim Brotherhood was the best organized and most popular political party in Egypt, the opposition was divided, there was little Western support for the secular opposition and the United States welcomed Muslim Brotherhood delegations to meet White House officials. Most recently, it worked openly with President Mohamed Morsy to achieve a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict. All this seemed to many to be a rough replay of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Yet, as the mass demonstrations against the Muslim Brotherhood recently in Tahrir Square and across Egypt have shown, an Islamic Egypt, while still likely, is far from inevitable.
Successful revolutions are usually led by charismatic leaders with strong political intuition – think Mao, Lenin, Tito, Castro and Ayatollah Khomeini. All personified their revolutions and drove the masses on to victory. But Morsy is no Ayatollah Khomeini, who embodied revolutionary mysticism and spent a lifetime steeped in political thought. The reality is that Morsy lacks charisma, and spent his life gaining a PhD and chairing an Egyptian engineering school until 2010. His abrupt and radical moves belie a lack of political savoir faire.
By Jonathan Schanzer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jonathan Schanzer is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. He tweets at @JSchanzer. The views expressed are his own.
The latest round in an endless cycle of violence between Israel and Gaza has culminated in a surprising win for the US- Israel relationship: an apparent renewal of vows between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.
It’s surprising because the relationship appeared to be at its nadir. It was just a few months ago that editorial pages charged Netanyahu with meddling in U.S. politics, angling for a Mitt Romney victory over President Obama. With Obama having soundly thumped Romney at the ballot box, U.S. relations with Israel appeared due for a four-year winter.
Barack Obama has won reelection as America’s president. But while the economy – and avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff – will inevitably take up much of his time, there are numerous foreign policy challenges facing the next administration. GPS asked 10 leading foreign policy analysts to name 10 things that Obama should focus on next. The views expressed are, of course, the authors' own.
Keep Arab Spring on track
By Kenneth Roth
Kenneth Roth is executive director of Human Rights Watch.
The biggest human rights challenge facing President Obama in his second term is finding ways to help keep on track the reform agenda that launched the Arab Spring. Most important is ending the horrible slaughter of civilians in Syria. Obama should stop pretending that Russia’s and China’s obstructionism absolves the U.S. of responsibility to continue ratcheting up pressure to stop the atrocities.
In Egypt, the regional trendsetter, Obama has properly said he respects the election that brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power, but now he should press the government, like all others, to respect basic rights, including of women and minorities. In Libya, Obama should stop treating the country as a “mission accomplished” and actively help elected authorities build the rule of law. And Obama should keep his promise to “promote reform across the region” and stop the discrediting double standard of making exceptions for U.S. allies, whether friendly monarchs or Israel.
By Michael Newton, Special to CNN
Michael A. Newton, a professor at Vanderbilt University School of Law, is co-author of 'Enemy of the State: The Trial and Execution of Saddam Hussein.' The views expressed are the author's own.
On Monday night, Mitt Romney reiterated his call for a stronger response to the growing prospect that a nuclear-armed Iran would undermine vital American interests in the Middle East. Romney said that he would “make sure that [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention.”
Incendiary public pronouncements by the Iranian leader are well-documented, and judging by the language of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), some might plausibly argue there are “reasonable grounds” to believe that Ahmadinejad could be charged with the crime of genocide.
But although a genocide case against Ahmadinejad is potentially feasible, it’s fraught with practical and political barriers.
By Matthew Waxman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Matthew C. Waxman is a Professor at Columbia Law School, an adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a member of the Hoover Institution Task Force on National Security and Law. The views expressed are his own.
In all the talk and debate about possible U.S. or Israeli military strikes against Iranian nuclear development sites, there has been remarkably little discussion of international law. In a recent Washington Post Op-Ed, a former State Department legal adviser and former CIA general counsel lamented that there “has been almost no discussion of whether an attack by the United States would be legal.” One might easily wonder, based on this near-silence amid public debates about red lines and likely effects of strikes on Iranian capabilities and regional politics, whether international law will really matter at all if the crisis should come to military blows.
But it will matter, because strategy and international law are entwined, a reality illustrated 50 years ago this week, in another nuclear showdown: the Cuban Missile Crisis.
By Erik Voeten, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Erik Voeten is an associate professor at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and Government. He blogs at The Monkey Cage. The views expressed are his own.
Last night’s foreign policy debate contained few surprises. As expected, both candidates sought to bring the focus back to domestic issues whenever they could. Each candidate vied to convince the public that he loved Israel more and that he would be tougher on China. Each tried to sound strong without coming across as bellicose. David Brooks observed in the post-debate analysis that Romney mentioned peace more than George McGovern ever did. On most issues, Romney did not disagree much with the strategies pursued by the Obama administration. He just claimed that he would have executed them better.
This is not unusual. On foreign policy, the candidates mostly try to persuade the public that they are competent. Partisan differences towards foreign policy issues are relatively minor, at least during this election season. The key is to convince the public that when you are in charge, Americans will be safer and more prosperous, more “bad guys” will be killed, and more “good guys” will live happy productive lives and thank the United States of America for it.
By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School. The views expressed are his own.
Iran took center stage Monday night at President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney’s third and final presidential debate. But any Iranian leader watching the debate will have walked away happy. While Obama and Romney both spoke about augmenting pressure on Tehran, and their opposition to an Iranian nuclear bomb, neither offered a prescription that will force the Iranian government to abandon its program. Nor did either candidate suggest that the threat posed by Iran was not simply nuclear weapons, but rather the regime that would wield them.
Obama’s talking points were more about politics than policy. He was quick to claim credit where none is due. While his policy now centers on sanctions, the pressure Iran now faces came despite Obama’s policy rather than because of it. Obama entered office determined to engage Iranian leaders diplomatically. “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us,” he declared less than a week after taking his oath of office. To claim credit for rallying the international coalition against Iran is to exaggerate: After all, during the Bush administration, the same coalition passed four unanimous or near unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions to demand Iran suspend enrichment and to target sanctions toward Tehran’s nuclear program.
By Jason Miks
Earlier this week, GPS asked readers which foreign policy issues the presidential candidates should be discussing. The discussion in the second debate, on Tuesday night, focused largely on Libya, specifically the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens. But readers also had some other ideas about what they want discussed. With the third and final presidential debate taking place Monday, and with foreign policy as the theme, here’s what GPS readers say they are looking for:
“Mithila Saraf” was one of many who suggested that Iran’s nuclear program should be the key U.S. concern.
“Between America’s commitments to Israel and the escalating tensions between Iran and several of its neighbors, America’s action (or inaction) in this matter will be vital to how the situation unfolds,” Saraf said. “So far, the Obama administration has held a firm verbal stance, but there has been little inclination towards physical force. Several Republicans have expressed…that they would want to change that.”
In a major speech two weeks before he debates President Barack Obama on international issues, Mitt Romney argued that Obama is failing to provide the global leadership needed and expected by the rest of the world.
Romney called for the U.S. to join allies in ensuring that rebels fighting government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad get military hardware they seek. He also criticized Obama's overall approach to the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And he argued that last month's attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans "was likely the work of the same forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001."
What's the difference between the candidates' stances and what does this mean for U.S. policy? Fareed Zakaria weighs in on this and more in this edited conversation:
Q: One of the points you've brought up before is that these two candidates really see eye-to-eye on a lot of foreign policy issues. The only one that we really heard that was different was Romney's stance on arming the Syrian rebels. How does the United States go about doing that?
ZAKARIA: If you were to have listened to that speech, you would assume, atmospherically, that Romney had very strong disagreements with the Obama administration, but his problem is that Obama has run a foreign policy almost like a moderate Republican. It's been internationalist. It's not been too liberal in the sense of human rights oriented. It's been tough. So the Syrian issue is the one place Romney can find to make a distinction. FULL POST
Fareed Zakaria speaks with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about his statements on Israel, his country's nuclear program, and what he thinks about U.S. warnings. To watch the full interview, tune into GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET.
You have indicated that you think that the Israeli prime minister's threats toward Iran are ones you don't take very seriously. But I was wondering how seriously you take the rhetoric of the president of the United States. President Obama said at the United Nations that he was determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Do you regard that as a bluff?
You set forth two or three questions here. I have never used the word bluff. When we say we do not take it seriously, we mean that it impacts – it does not impact our policies in the slightest.
Iran is a vast country. It's a great country. Let's assume a few terrorists come and assassinate some of our officials. Will the country be damaged? No. A couple of bombs will be set to explode. Will the country be destroyed? No.
We see the Zionist regime at the same level of the bombers and criminals and the terrorists. And even if they do something – and even if they do something, hypothetically, it will not affect us fundamentally.