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CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS, TRENDS & IDEAS

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One Step Forward, No Steps Back: Changing the U.S.-Iranian Relationship

in Asia/Diplomacy/Middle East/Security by
John Kerry Iran Foreign Minister

On July 14, 2015, after endless hours of tense negotiations, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCAP) was unveiled to the world.  In the United States, it was hailed as a victory for the non-proliferation regime while others expressed frustration at the number of capitulations the U.S. had made. But the more optimistic supporters of the deal celebrated the rapprochement and suggested a possibility for closer American-Iranian ties. Unfortunately, mere days after the conclusion of the agreement, Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Khomeini, Supreme Leader of Iran, squashed any hopes of more cooperation. Sumitha Kutty, an Associate Research Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, offers a very cogent analysis of the prospects of improved relations here. Put simply, the outlook for true détente is grim. The U.S.-Iranian relationship is scarred by two major events. The first is the 1953 coup d’état engineered by the CIA and the British SIS. In response to the nationalization of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the U.S. deposed and replaced the popularly elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh with the pro-Western monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The second event was the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). During this long and bloody conflict, the United States supported…

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China in Latin America: Sister Country or Neo-Colonialist?

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics/Latin America by
Rafael Correa Yi Xinping

Ever since the end of the 15th century, Latin America has been seen by outsiders overwhelmingly as a place rich in natural resources. In the 21st century, the most recent outsider, China, is as hungry for its raw materials as any other previous power. It needs Argentinian agricultural products for its fisheries and pig farms to feed its growing middle class. It needs Bolivian and Peruvian iron and copper to continue building its manufacturing industries, and Ecuadorian and Venezuelan oil to fuel them. Past encounters with foreign powers in Latin America reveal a patter of resource extraction and economic dependency that benefited primarily the outside power and the local elite. Some, most notably Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in the region say that relations with China will be different, that China is a partner and a sister country, not an imperialist outside power. These optimists are hoping for a reinvention of the relationship between resource hungry outside powers and natural resource rich nations in the region. Unfortunately, Chinese recent forays into the region appear to be mirroring this tragic historical pattern.

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Blaming Europe and Arresting Smugglers Will Not Solve the Mediterranean Migrant-Crisis

in Africa/Diplomacy/Europe/Human Rights/Security by

The United Nations estimates 60,000 people have tried to cross the Mediterranean this year. Nearly 2,000 have died this year trying to reach Europe from Africa. This is a 20-fold increase for the same time period in 2014 where fewer than 100 perished at sea. 800 of these deaths occurred in the middle of April off the coast of Libya when a fishing trawler collided with a Portuguese container ship. The current lack of law and order in Libya has led to a situation where no state entity is able to control territory, borders – and or sea. As such, hordes of smuggling gangs have manifested and acted with impunity. Migrants hoping to reach Europe are often told they are purchasing a seat on a “big boat.” More often than not, however, what is waiting is a small dinghy where they are forced to enter at gunpoint. Those who refuse are reported to be shot. Before boarding, migrants are held prisoners on a farm for weeks and sometimes even months before departure where reports have emerged of abuse, beatings, sickness, starvation, and death. Survivors of the accident mentioned above claim the smugglers wanted to fit 1,200 people on the 66-foot boat. Those…

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ISILationism, Part 3: Eventual Endgame or Endless Games?

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Security/US by

In case you missed it be sure to check out the first and second part of the series, ISILationism, Part 1 and ISILationism, Part 2! A question that must be asked when confronting Fundamental Islam is: where and when have terrorism and insurgencies faltered, ultimately failed, and reached complete fallout? The answer, as should be known, is: nowhere and not yet! Salafi Jihadism, under the guise of some newly emerged radical Islam, has been an overt force in the world since the beginning of our current millennium, with no tangible sign for the hopeful demise of its existence. Al-Qaida rose from obscurity after the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City to a globally renown, expertly organized network promoting the destruction of the “far enemies” in order to universally advent Sharia Law. This organization, however, has diminished in power and overall capabilities through the relentless strategies and countermeasures conducted by the United States to successfully subvert Al-Qaida. With the conclusion of military operations in Iraq officially declared and executed in 2011, a lessening concern for Afghanistan has also increased among public policy and public opinion in America. Additionally, the multinational forces have grown battle-weary and the exhaustive, perpetual struggles with the…

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Anger Across the Water: Parallel Trading in Hong Kong

in Asia/Diplomacy/Economics by

The conflict between Mainland Chinese and Hong Kong people doesn’t seem to have an end in any sense. After the influential pro-democracy demonstration in Hong Kong, another protest against Mainland Chinese traders buying up goods to make a profit back home took place recently, and is still going on at the time of writing. Hundreds of Hong Kong residents have gathered to demonstrate against visitors from Mainland China. Hong Kong people are angry with these so-called “parallel traders,” who come to Hong Kong to stock up on lower-priced goods, including food items, luxury goods and electronics only to sell the goods for a profit across the border while dodging tariffs. The outrage has also spread to normal tourists, shoppers, cross-border buses and passersby with suitcases and trolleys from Mainland China. Social media has been awash with videos showing the activists attacking normal visitors from Mainland China, including old people and children, causing great rage and inciting another round of war online between Hong Kong people and Mainlanders. Parallel trading in Hong Kong has a long history. The number of parallel traders from Mainland China grows each year and the problem has become even more serious since 2008, when tainted supplies…

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Iran: Why Nuclear Weapons Made Sense

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Politics/Security/Technology by

The nuclear talks between Iran and the Six Powers have dominated headlines for the first week of April. After days of tense negotiations, a deadline extension, and flaring tempers, an agreed upon framework has finally emerged. And, unsurprisingly, there has been no shortage of critics. The more hawkish American and Israeli lawmakers voiced displeasure. Iranian hardliners found it inadequate. And both countries seem to be reporting different versions of the framework. And to top it all off, there still is no concrete deal in place. March 31st was only a soft deadline important to only the United States to placate the demands of its Congress. The negotiations are far from over and there’s plenty of work left to be done. Everyone understands the dangers of nuclear proliferation. More pointedly, everyone understands the dangers of a nuclear Iran. Thus far, the dominating narrative of Iran’s quest for nuclear capabilities is that of an aspiring regional hegemon capitalizing on the instability caused by the Syrian conflict, American interventionism, and the Arab Spring. This conjures up images of a state hell-bent on destruction making a mad grab for power. This is seriously lacking. This narrative does negotiators and the American public no favors…

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ISILationism, Part 2: the Sunni-Shiite Divide and Iran as America’s Contentious Ally

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Security/US by

In case you missed it be sure to check out the first part of the series, ISILationism, Part 1. Beholden to the promise of containing the Islamic State, a coalition force of regional powers, such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia, has been organized under the guidance of the United States. Some onboard this multilateral feat, however, are rather questionable allies who, through one fashion or another, hold responsibility for the formation of the Islamic State! Islamists throughout the world are joining ISIL’s ranks in the Levantine expanse of bloodshed and destruction, but these are Salafi Jihadist Sunni Muslims and not one of them would be Shiite, lest they prefer suicide without geopolitical impingement. This is where Iran comes into play as the most unlikely candidate America can depend on, teetering on the paradoxical fringe of reliability and suspicion equally reciprocated by the U.S. The Islamic Republic of Iran remains adamant that their nuclear program is a peaceful means for clean, renewable energy, despite resultantly enduring sanctions over and over again without much resolve. An interim deal was made through the greater powers of the international community but, as of yet, progress has been stifled and Iran continues its plans. Nonetheless,…

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US-Israeli Tension Increases With Kerry’s Remarks

in Diplomacy/Middle East/Security/US by

The behind the scenes moves of the players involved in the high-stakes US-Iran negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are continuing to fester out into the open. It appears that the Obama administration is increasingly loosing patience with Netanyahu’s meddling. Illustrative of this, tension between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached a new height on Wednesday. Speaking to the US Congress in the run-up to Netanyahu’s planned congressional visit in March, Kerry reminded US officials that the last time Netanyahu spoke before the Congress back in 2002 he was giving his strong support for a US invasion of Iraq. To observers aware of the increasing conflict between the administration and Netanyahu, the implication of Kerry’s statement should be clear, “He cannot be trusted”. Behind closed doors is a continued sense of anger and tension between US President Obama and the Israeli leader. Only weeks ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Obama had called and demanded that Netanyahu stop interfering with US lawmakers. Netanyahu is reported to be personally lobbying US senators and congressman for increased sanctions on Iran, an action that would effectively abort any progress on negotiations between the White House and Tehran. Thus, Kerry’s public remarks seem to be expressing…

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US Central American Foreign Policy: Foreign Aid, Immigration Policy, Geopolitics or None of the Above

in Diplomacy/Latin America/US by

In an op-ed piece in the New York Times on February 9th, Vice-President Joe Biden outlined the White House’s argument for the US Congress to pass a billion dollar aid package to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as part of the proposed budget for 2016. Without the realistic prospect of a larger immigration reform being passed in Congress, this push for foreign aid falls into the White House’s piecemeal approach to immigration reform. Up to now President Obama has used executive orders to push his immigration agenda, most notably an order that called for minors brought to the country before 2010 to not be targeted for deportation. However, unlike an executive order, the plan for foreign aid to Central America requires Republican support in Congress. So far, lawmakers are not discussing the proposed aid and what it would mean for immigration or foreign policy in the press. The plan outlined by Biden aims to support reforms to the security, education, tax, foreign investment and judicial systems in the three small, but long-suffering nations. By improving the economic, security and political situations in these countries, the White House hopes to limit further border crossings. In particular, they hope to avoid future…

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Does Obama’s New AUMF Really Matter?

in Diplomacy/Law/Middle East/Security/US by

As reported on February 11th, US President Obama announced his plans to request the authorization to use force against the Islamic State (IS). In preparation for this, the White House released the proposed document, which it notes may be referred to as the “Authorization for Use of Military Force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (AUMF-ISIL). Although there has been signifiant fanfare and media coverage over the implications of the document, the proposal itself is not as game changing as reported. Largely, this has been a result of overeager media coverage concerning the document. Outlined in the three page draft are the administrations arguments as to why they are requesting authorization against the IS, in addition to limitations of the scope of action and on the executive branch’s powers.  Most notable among these limitations pertains to Subsection (a) of the draft which formally requests authorization. In defining this subsection, the draft notes that it “…does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations”. In essence, this prevents additional deployment of ground troops beyond those which already are present in what is defined as the scope of the theater. In addition, under Section 3…

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