Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
The three traditional pillars of Washington's strategy for the Middle East have long been energy security, the security of Israel, and protecting ‘friendly leaders’. In the last decade, countering terrorism became another pillar. Pursuing all four of these pillars simultaneously has always been challenging. The last year of political upheavals in the region has made the balancing act even trickier.
Washington’s policymakers remain stuck in a reactive mode, struggling to understand what the future might hold forU.S.interests in the region. Whereas most Middle East governments had fairly positive relations with Washington a year ago, their successors keeping their distance. Untested populists are coming to power with different priorities from their predecessors. Previously friendly rulers are more wary ofU.S.ties, or are making things awkward for relations by cracking down on civic groups. FULL POST
Editor’s Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance. Also, be sure to visit the blog, Russian Military Reform.
In response to Tehran's announcement of advances in its civilian nuclear capabilities, the Russian Foreign Ministry on February 15 urged the international community to re-engage Iran in serious negotiations, with the aim of forestalling the development of a credible nuclear weapons program. While Russia is often portrayed as uncritically supportive of Iran, the bilateral relationship is more complicated than it appears.
Most Russian corporates have complied with international sanctions, which have made it difficult for multinationals to pursue opportunities in Iran. Large contracts have been repeatedly called off or postponed. Yet economic cooperation, especially in the civilian aviation, telecom and hydrocarbons sectors, remains significant.
While Iran used to be one of Russia's leading defense industry customers, this relationship has almost completely collapsed in the wake of President Dmitry Medvedev's September 2010 decision to ban sales of missile systems, armored vehicles, warplanes, helicopters and ships to Iran. This went beyond the U.N.-mandated sanctions. Since then, Russian military sales have been limited to equipment needed to modernize previously transferred anti-aircraft defense systems and electronic warfare and reconnaissance systems. FULL POST
President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is continuing its bombardment of the opposition stronghold of Homs amid a deepening rift within the international community on how to stem the violence. Following their vetoing of the United Nations resolution calling on al-Assad to step down, Russia and China favor a mediated solution, while the United States is considering the latest Arab League proposal for a joint Arab-U.N. peacekeeping force. The direction of external intervention could have a major influence on the course of the Syrian conflict as it heads towards civil war.
The military is attacking civilian areas and fighting army defectors with overwhelming mortar and rocket bombardments. The worst violence is taking place in the city of Homs, where heavy shelling over the past two weeks has led to a severe deterioration in living conditions. Villages along the border with Turkey and the area near the southern town of Dera'a have also come under heavy attack. FULL POST
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani was indicted by the Supreme Court today on the grounds that he had disobeyed its instructions to write to Swiss authorities in order to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. Gilani pleaded not guilty and the hearing has been postponed until February 22. He maintains that Zardari enjoys constitutional immunity from prosecution while in office, and says that he himself would prefer to be dismissed rather than write to the Swiss authorities. If convicted, Gilani could face five years' disqualification from public office and six months' imprisonment. FULL POST
France intends to withdraw its troops from NATO-led operations in Afghanistan by 2013. This is earlier than the previously agreed deadline of 2014. This announcement, coupled with signs that other allies - including the United States - may be rushing to leave Afghanistan, threatens to humiliate the alliance, with severe consequences for trans-Atlantic security.
Every generation of Western politicians has dreaded the possibility of NATO's demise. In the 1960s, governments assumed that the anti-Americanism generated by the Vietnam War would tear the alliance apart. A decade later, there were worries that detente would produce the same result. When the Cold War ended, politicians feared that the 'glue' provided by the Soviet threat would disappear. Yet NATO defied these predictions and survived with an increased membership and enhanced reputation. FULL POST
Republican presidential nomination candidate Mitt Romney’s camp heavily out-spent and out-organized Newt Gingrich in the Florida primary. Last night’s outcome (roughly 46% for Romney to 32% for Gingrich) stops the momentum Gingrich had obtained from his upset victory in South Carolina. It strengthens Romney's status as the clear frontrunner (fellow contenders Rick Santorum and Ron Paul finished well behind the two leading candidates for the party’s nomination). However, the contest will stay alive until 'Super Tuesday' balloting on March 6, particularly if Santorum withdraws and vigorously supports Gingrich. Direct and indirect campaign funds will become ever more important as the race drags on.
The strategic choice Romney now faces is whether to adapt his message in anticipation of running against President Barack Obama. Romney has so far preferred to use the nomination battle to rehearse themes that he wants to articulate against Obama, rather than being side-tracked into discussing other issues which might motivate Republican activists but are less appealing to mainstream voters. His defeat in South Carolina has forced him to deviate from that approach somewhat, and a continued Gingrich campaign will inevitably oblige him to compromise this strategy a little further. FULL POST
Editor's Note: This is an edited version of an article from the ‘Oxford Analytica Daily Brief’. Oxford Analytica is a global analysis and advisory firm that draws on a worldwide network of experts to advise its clients on their strategy and performance.
This month, Iraq’s oil minister visited Iran, prompting many pundits and policy makers to ask: Is Iraq becoming a 'client state' of Iran.
Iraq’s ruling Shia majority faces a dilemma: to identify primarily as ‘Iraqi’ or to give their first allegiance to the idea of a larger Shia community whose base is Iran, a country that supported Shia interests in Iraq during the Saddam Hussein era. To some leaders in Tehran (and in the minds of neighboring Sunni Arab governments), the answer is self-evidently the latter. As King Abdullah II of Jordan has characterised it, the Iranian efforts in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are designed to cultivate and exploit a ‘Shia crescent’. However, even if this is Tehran's objective, there are significant countervailing forces likely to prevent Iraq from falling too far under the sway of Iran. FULL POST
On Tuesday, the U.S., UK and French ambassadors to the United Nations sharply criticized "irresponsible" arms sales to the Syrian regime. This was a thinly veiled reference to Moscow's close defense-industrial cooperation with Damascus.
In recent months, Russia has been Syria's foremost protector in the international arena. It has taken on this role because of Syria's economic significance for its arms export industry, its role as the host of Russia's only military base outside the former Soviet Union - and its concern that anti-government protesters in Moscow might be inspired by a successful popular uprising farther afield. FULL POST
South Carolina has a tradition of anointing the ‘establishment’ candidate in Republican presidential primaries. This makes former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s victory over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney all the more astonishing.
What happened? Gingrich has been effective at targeting conservative Republicans (a natural constituency for him) and evangelical Christians (a less obvious support-base, given his personal relationship history).
He also conserved resources after his disappointment in the Iowa caucuses, enabling him to match the Romney machine in South Carolina, ‘aided’ but his allied SuperPAC (entities that can funnel unlimited corporate dollars into campaign advertising, provided they do not 'coordinate' with a candidate). Finally, he performed strongly in two debates ahead of the poll. Indeed, he managed to turn what ought to have been a liability (media interest in the demise of his second marriage) into something approaching an asset. FULL POST
Despite what his Republican opponents say, Gov. Mitt Romney's fiscal, economic and social policies are quite distinct from those of President Obama. But it is true that his proposed policies would make the least abrupt departure from Obama policies.
Romney's governing philosophy can best be described as that of a 'managerial conservative'. That is, he favors increasing the effectiveness of government service delivery while lowering costs. If this also has the effect of decreasing the size of the public sector, so much the better. This essentially reverses the priorities of his more conservative Republican opponents, who see shrinking the federal government as an overriding policy priority. FULL POST
Despite a sound annual GDP growth rate of around 9%, China's economy encountered serious problems in 2011: inflation, soaring house prices, slowdowns in investment, exports and overall economic growth and continued growth of income inequality. While the much-feared 'hard landing' has not materialized, the structural distortions that underlie these symptoms persist, and the sustainability of China's growth model remains in doubt. FULL POST
Editor's Note: Peter Singer is professor of bioethics at Princeton University and Laureate Professor at the University of Melbourne. His books include Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, The Ethics of What We Eat, and The Life You Can Save. For more from Singer, visit Project Syndicate's website, or check it out on Facebook and Twitter.
By Peter Singer
Forty years ago, I stood with a few other students in a busy Oxford street handing out leaflets protesting the use of battery cages to hold hens. Most of those who took the leaflets did not know that their eggs came from hens kept in cages so small that even one bird – the cages normally housed four – would be unable to fully stretch and flap her wings. The hens could never walk around freely, or lay eggs in a nest.
Many people applauded our youthful idealism, but told us that we had no hope of ever changing a major industry. They were wrong. FULL POST
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