Graeme Bannerman is a PSA Board Member and scholar at the Middle East Institute, where his work focuses on US-Arab relations, regional security, the peace process, and the history of the Middle East.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asserted recently that critics of the Libyan mission “have been proven wrong.” Now, with the death of dictator Muammar Qadhafi, the secretary’s view is supported by the overwhelming majority of Washington’s foreign policy establishment.
But this won’t be the first time that Washington may be proven wrong. Even conceding the unlikely outcome that the Libyans overcome their tribal, regional, and political differences to establish a democratic state, the long-term costs of U.S. involvement are likely to far outweigh the benefits.
The first negative fallout was seen in the Russian and Chinese veto of the U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria. The Russians and Chinese made it clear that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s abuse of the U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force in Libya to ”protect civilians” to justify a policy of regime change will make them reluctant to support future Security Council resolutions — which the United States and NATO could exploit to pursue an expanded agenda.
Advisory Board Member and former Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, discusses his recommendations for U.S. Policy in Iran. His recommendations include greater cooperation with the United Nations, collaboration with regional partners, and intelligence sharing in addition to many other points of leverage and influence the United States could use. The article originally appeared here on CNN.
Washington (CNN) — Longtime observers of the Middle East are baffled by allegations that high-ranking officials in the Iranian government approved a plan to assassinate Saudi Arabia Ambassador, Adel al-Jubeir, and blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington. Commentators have described the plan as “brazen,” but “bizarre” and ‘bone-headed” might be more appropriate adjectives.
It’s difficult to comprehend either the motives or the means selected to carry out the plan outlined by the Justice Department in its criminal indictment of Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri. Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not new, but Iran has been both cautious and clever enough to restrain its ambitions for regional dominance.
If the allegations of the assassination and bombing plot are true, and the covert operation had proved successful, Iran’s leaders would have invited retaliation on a scale far more vigorous than any they might have contemplated. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that the Iranian landscape would likely have been substantially altered.
On Monday, September 19th, Partnership for a Secure America along with the Stanley Foundation and the Hudson Institute hosted Ambassador Linton Brooks in a series of events at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center, which focused on the nuclear challenges facing the United States. Ambassador Brooks, currently a senior analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was the lead US negotiator on the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and also served as Director of Arms Control for the National Security Council and as an administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration.
William S. Cohen, former Secretary of Defense under Clinton and PSA Advisory Board member, recently wrote an opinion article in Politico discussing the use of drones in modern warfare. Cohen has always supported bipartisan action on issues of national security and as a member of Congress (R-Maine) took a nonpartisan stance on security policy. Since leaving the pentagon, Cohen has penned numerous articles and books and even appeared on the Daily Show. In his most recent article, Cohen focuses on the critical role drones have played in Afghanistan and their place at the center of counter-insurgency vs. counter-terrorism debate.
Among the many issues that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta must ponder in the coming months will likely be whether to recommend shifting U.S. strategy in Afghanistan from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism.
Some critics argue that our current policy of deploying large numbers of ground troops puts more of our men and women at risk for questionable gain and even encourages more Afghans to join the Taliban, fighting against what they claim is an invasion force. Yet the recent gains in clearing out Taliban strongholds and helping to build schools, medical facilities and other civic institutions argue, instead, for staying the course for several more years.
Brian J. Davis served in the Canadian Foreign Service for 37 years, including postings at 8 missions abroad and in a range of senior assignments in Ottawa. His career in the Foreign Service culminated in his posting as the Canadian Ambassador to Syria from 2003 to 2006. Since leaving the foreign service in 2007, Davis has worked on several projects related to the Middle East Peace Process, written and published articles focusing on the Levant, and has undertaken speaking engagements related to the Middle East.
SYRIA – What do we do now?
The situation in Syria is unfolding as many experienced observers expected when the protests began last March. The Assad regime is attempting to crush the protesters with force, not only to destroy them but to intimidate the rest of the population. Assad has promised reforms, while continuing to warn Syrians and the international community that if he goes down, sectarian violence will follow and Islamists may assume power. The reality, as many Syrians realize, is that any political reforms by Assad would be illusory. He will only introduce them after he has found a way to keep the controls in his hands.
It is surprising that the protesters have continued to demonstrate, despite suffering deaths, injuries and detentions. Average Syrians have not dared to speak out for decades, despite the frustration and despair many have felt due to their deteriorating economic circumstances and lack of freedoms. Now, however, they have been encouraged by the success of similar insurrections during the “Arab Spring” and by Assad’s mishandling of the protests.
Many commentators have recently noted the United States’ failure to anticipate the ongoing “Arab Spring” and, more importantly, seeming inability to shape events on the ground. The United States, critics claim, has lost much of its influence in the Middle East and been reduced to spectator status as events unfold.
While the validity of this criticism is debatable, there is no doubt that the United States will have to engage new and unfamiliar Middle Eastern actors. Secular political parties, Islamist groups, military leaders and technologically-savvy youth will all try to define their visions for the future and shape post-revolutionary states. The process is likely to be chaotic, even violent, with no guarantee that the end result will match U.S. interests.
Now is the time for the United States to assert its leadership. President Obama needs to take the initiative and harness the power of the entire free world. The United States, the European Union, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, India and all other democratic powers should quickly forge a common declaration to present to Arab revolutionaries. (more…)
Recently, Obama Administration officials, including Secretary Hillary Clinton, Ambassador Susan Rice, and even President Barack Obama himself, have spoken in support of ratifying the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The treaty also enjoys support from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Naturally renewed talk of CEDAW, combined with a Senate hearing held on the treaty in November 2010, has activist groups gearing up for an epic inside-the-beltway battle should President Obama transmit the treaty to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for its advice and consent.
While I understand arguments against CEDAW, especially those concerning the unenforceable nature of human rights treaties, I find them unconvincing considering the promise CEDAW holds as a tool of diplomacy on a very sensitive and complicated issue. Treaties do not always need an enforcement mechanism to be useful. Human rights treaties can function as a means of establishing agreed upon norms and values that serve as a framework for dialogue to address worldwide problems. In this capacity, CEDAW has the potential to provide the United States with another tool to engage internationally and serve as a model on the rights of women. Even better, it can do so at little or no cost to U.S. sovereignty. (more…)
The announcement of the final result of the Referendum has marked the end of an era and today is the beginning of a new era in our history. Today is a glorious day for all the sons and daughters of Southern Sudan. It is a glorious day for the people of the Republic of the Sudan. It is a glorious day for Africa and the world. You have exercised your inalienable right to self-determination freely, fairly and peacefully. You have expressed your freewill over your future. By this official result of 98.83%, the whole world has heard your voice loud and clear!
-President Salva Kiir
Very few experience the kind of jubilation the Southern Sudanese felt when the results of the independence referendum were certified by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) and President Omar al-Bashir this week. Despite the seemingly insurmountable odds, they went to the ballot box and at 98.83% of the vote walked away from a ruthless dictator with a knack for not only surviving, but thriving off his country’s misfortunes. The impromptu dance party in the capital of Juba said it all. On July 9th, 2011 Southern Sudan will become the 193rd country in the world and the 57th independent country in Africa. (more…)
Tomorrow in Munich, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will exchange instruments of Ratification for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), thus immediately rendering the treaty into force. The exchange is the final step in a ten-month process that began last April in Prague, when Presidents Obama and Medvedev met to sign the treaty. After lengthy and thorough consideration, the U.S. Senate ratified the treaty in a bipartisan vote this past December, followed in January by the Russian Parliament.
The importance of this treaty is reflected in the widespread and politically diverse support it has received from the military and policy establishments. The Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, and seven former heads of U.S. Strategic Command and Strategic Air Command have come out in support of the treaty. In addition, this past June, thirty top national security leaders signed a PSA statement on New START, including ten former Senators, four Secretaries of State, four Secretaries of Defense, and three National Security Advisors, as well as the Chair and Vice-Chair of the 9/11 Commission among others.
Broadly speaking, the treaty requires both Russia and the U.S. to decrease their amounts of deployed strategic nuclear weapons, thus reducing the threat of “doomsday” scenarios of nuclear exchanges between the two countries. More specifically, New START gives both the United States and Russia seven years in which to reduce their deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 – down from the current numbers of between 1,700 and 2,200 – and limit the number of deployed delivery systems to 700 and the total delivery systems to 800. Upon entering into force, the treaty immediately instates a series of verification and inspection measures designed to provide each country with a sophisticated database of information on individual warheads and 18 physical on-site inspections per year. (more…)
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As Hungary prepared to take the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on New Year’s Day, the country faced a slew of criticism over its new censorship laws. The laws put Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his ruling Fidesz party in control of overseeing the public media and create a party-run media council to regulate both public and private broadcasters. Hungary’s Nepszabadsag newspaper declared that “the freedom of the press in Hungary has come to an end.” A Washington Post editorial decried the law as “more suited to an authoritarian regime than to a Western democracy.”
Troubling as the media censorship is in itself, it is even more troubling when considered in tandem with the approach Orban is taking to deal with the ailing Hungarian economy. Since his party’s victory in the parliamentary elections in April of last year, Orban has focused on short-term measures to the chagrin of the EU and the International Monetary Fund, which both want Hungary to focus on long-term spending cuts. One measure is a controversial reversal of a 1997 pension reform, a move that may in the long-run slow efforts to deal with Hungary’s debt, which is 80 percent of its GDP. Orban has also sought to increase the party’s influence on monetary policy, allowing a Fidesz-controlled parliamentary committee to fill vacant posts on the Central Bank’s Monetary council. But rather than ease these concerns, the measures have done little to assure others. International unease continued as Fitch rating agency downgraded Hungary’s foreign currency credit rating to just above junk status last month. (more…)
All blog posts are independently produced by their authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of PSA. Across the Aisle serves as a bipartisan forum for productive discussion of national security and foreign affairs topics.