The United States is on the brink of committing a cardinal sin in foreign policy: antagonizing two major powers simultaneously. There are frictions in bilateral ties with both Moscow and Beijing that have reached alarming levels over the past year or so. It is a disturbing development that could cause major geopolitical headaches for Washington unless the Obama administration takes prompt corrective measures and sets more coherent priorities.
Those questions do not have easy answers. Russia may seem to be the more worrisome potential adversary in some categories, China in others. But making such complex assessments is the challenge confronting any effective foreign policy. Dodging that task and creating the risk of making adversaries of both Moscow and Beijing, which appears to be the current U.S. approach, is not an intelligent option. Down that path lie frustration and potential disaster.
“China’s declaration of its exclusive air defense identification zone and maritime demands all feel to me, at least, like a very old type, not a new type,” said Schiffer.
“China has a perfect right to declare the air defense identification zone,” Schiffer said, “(but) the way china went about it very much smells of the 19th century, not the 21st century.”
There can be no question whatsoever that in 2013 Iran could get a bomb; there is also no question that Iran could be bombed. But my best judgement is that in 2013 Iran will not get a bomb, and Iran will not be bombed. To be precise, I am prepared to bet $51 of my money against $49 of those who want to bet that by December 31, 2013, Iran will either have a nuclear weapon or have been the target of a major bombing attack.
My conclusion is not meant as a counsel of complacency. Anyone who believes that there is a 20 percent chance that Iran could either get a bomb or be bombed within the next year should recognize that the consequences of either outcome drive this issue to the top of the foreign policy agenda, not only for Israel but for the United States.
Assessing Iran’s nuclear challenge requires confronting an array of complex technical issues. Advocates who find these details too demanding elevate their arguments to higher level abstractions. On the other hand, too many specialists take a deep dive into the technicalities in a way that produces fog, only to emerge in the end with recommendations that they claim follow from unfathomable analysis. This essay seeks to walk a fine line between technical realities, on the one hand, and policy debate, on the other. What follows are the answers to 12 key questions about Iran’s nuclear challenge:
1. When will Iran get a nuclear weapon?
My unambiguous answer is: it depends. Specifically, it depends on 1) Iran’s decision to do so; 2) the path Iran chooses to a bomb; 3) the obstacles Iran faces along each path to a bomb; and 4) the costs and benefits to Iran of acquiring a bomb versus stopping at a base camp on the path to a bomb.
But sailing away would be a huge mistake. Like the Balkans in the years leading up to World War I, the Levant and the Eastern Mediterranean are a pile of tinder that could ignite a much wider conflict. As with the assassin’s shot that killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand, it is difficult to predict precisely what could broaden the conflict, but it is impossible to ignore the possibility.
Conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites are bubbling over. Old tensions persist and new ones have arisen over economic resources, notably natural gas fields — portions of which are claimed by Cyprus, Israel, Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon. And great power interest remains as high as ever, with Russia and the United States routinely operating warships in the region. China and India have also sent naval assets to the Eastern Med, where they join traditional NATO deployments from the navies of the 28-nation alliance. The ships merely reflect a broader military presence.
Today, the Syrian civil war is ground zero, with Iran, Russia, and China on one side, and the United States, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and much of NATO on the other. The spark could come with a confrontation between warships, a major terrorist attack by Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah, or the use of chemical weapons, either in the civil war itself or, worse, in Europe.
In one of the many bizarre twists of Egypt’s recent political convulsion, hardline Salafi parties look poised to replace the Muslim Brotherhood as the most important Islamist players in the political process. It’s a situation ripe with irony: For years, the Brotherhood represented the “good guys” of the Islamist world — a movement that other parties could deal with — while the Salafis were irreconcilable zealots bent on establishing an Islamist state by any means necessary. But with former “bad guys” redeeming themselves by siding with the opposition in the weeks preceding President Mohamed Morsy’s ouster, they now have a shot at becoming the standard-bearers for
Islamist politics in the Arab world’s largest nation.
But perhaps we should be prepared for the pendulum to swing back and start thinking about the possibility of declinism in China. China expert Minxin Pei, for example, argues that China’s rise may have already peaked.
The predominant discourse on China currently focuses on its rise and how increased confidence and capacity urge China towards more assertive behaviour, but Chinese policy should not been seen exclusively through the prism of “rising Chinese power”. Chinese leaders may adopt aggressive foreign policy because of pessimism rather than confidence. Yet few, if any, scholarly works have even mentioned declinism among Chinese leaders, let alone considered the potential implications of this vision.
It is important to think about Chinese declinism even when fascination by China’s rise prevails. At some point – if they have not already done so – the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party will seriously start to consider the prospect of China’s decline and its implications as part of their long-term strategic vision.
The style of “justice” disposed under Mr Putin is becoming more and more baroque, but even next to Litvinenko and Khodorkovsky, the Magnitsky case stands out
The style of “justice” disposed under Mr Putin is becoming more and more baroque, whether it be his regime’s suspected role in the poisoning death of Alexander Litvinenko in London, the unending persecution of the expropriated oil billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky or the forthcoming trial of the stunningly courageous lawyer and activist Alexei Navalny.
But even among these cases Magnitsky stands out for the naked cruelty of retribution exacted against a man who, in the course of his professional work, had discovered a very inconvenient truth.
More and more, Mr Putin is coming to resemble one of his appalling predecessors, Stalin or Ivan the Terrible. If William Hague’s boast of an ethical foreign policy is to have any credibility at all, Britain’s response to the Magnitsky outrage must be uncompromising.
A prominent foreign policy expert now thinks it’s time to pre-emptively attack North Korea to prevent it from using what he believes is a nuclear weapon specifically designed to generate a powerful electromagnetic pulse that could threaten the future of U.S. society, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
He said that North Korea may have developed a nuclear weapon to make what other analysts call a super-EMP weapon to produce more gamma rays while giving off a low explosive and radiation yield.
North Korean nuclear devices are assessed to be in the kiloton rather than megaton range. However, if it is designed to emit more gamma rays to produce a powerful EMP effect, it would have a more debilitating impact on unprotected electronics, including the vulnerable U.S. national grid system.
When U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Sochi, Russia, they were supposed to discuss the civil war in Syria. But the Russian leader — joined by his top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, and defense secretary, Sergei Shoigu — suddenly changed the subject to more mundane matters. A series of U.N. reforms aimed at streamlining billions of dollars of spending on U.N. peacekeeping was posing a threat to Russia’s commercial interests. Putin and his national security team politely but firmly pressed the U.N. leader to back off, according to several senior U.N.-based sources briefed on the meeting.
China Rank – 66 Score – 80.9 Failed State: CriticalRussia Rank – 80 – Score – 77.1 Failed State: In Danger
From this interactive map, it appears both China and Russia are in trouble.