Bordering on surreal — live images of war

by PSA Staff | July 23rd, 2014 | |Subscribe

Bordering on surreal — live images of war

Sonenshine is a distinguished fellow at George Washington University and former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. This article originally appeared in the The Hill Contributor’s Blog.

A civilian aircraft is shot down over the border between Russia and Ukraine, wreckage burning on the ground. Two hundred ninety-eight innocent souls lost. In another quadrant of your screen, outgoing rockets from Gaza meet incoming missiles from Israel along the border as Israeli ground troops seek to destroy tunnels connecting the areas. Cut to the U.S.-Mexico border, where thousands of people are streaming across to escape life in Latin America, facing uncertain conditions. Pause before watching scenes of insurgents marching toward Baghdad. They came over porous borders with Syria.

Everywhere you look, a boundary is in dispute at a time when we supposedly live in a virtual e-everything world with no borders. The question arises — what role do borders serve? (more…)

A World Hungry for Food and Solutions: Why We Need Food Diplomacy

by PSA Staff | April 28th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is a former member of PSA’s Board of Directors. She also served as U.S. undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs and is currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University. This article was originally published in GW Planet Forward.

A World Hungry for Food and Solutions: Why We Need Food Diplomacy

If there is one truly global issue that unites people and divides them it is food. Food security—or lack thereof, is today on the top of every nation’s priorities including our own. Simply put: There is not enough food to go around in a world that is likely to house 9.6 billion people by 2050. Food insecurity—where someone in the household literally has to reduce food intake—affects people in the United States, Latin America, Africa, Asia, the Middle East.


Sochi is Putin’s moment to show true Olympic leadership on Syria

by PSA Staff | February 7th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Madeleine Albright served as United States Secretary of State and is a current member of PSA’s Board of Advisors . This article was co-authored by Lord Malloch-Brown, Sir John Holmes, Mr Javier Solana, Mr George Soros, and others. Originally posted at the Financial Times.

Sochi is Putin’s moment to show true Olympic leadership on Syria

Sir, The Sochi Winter Olympics will deliver a dazzling spectacle, breathtaking athleticism and shimmering winter beauty. We will witness extreme feats of human bravery and see in the faces of the world’s best athletes the sheer tenacity and commitment that has gone into training for the games. Only 1,000 miles away, a very different spectacle unfolds.


Face the Assad Reality In Syria

by PSA Staff | January 31st, 2014 | |Subscribe

Frank G. Wisner is a member of PSA’s Board of Advisors as well as a former Under Secretary of State and of Defense and a former Ambassador to Zambia, Egypt, the Philippines, and India. The article was co-authored by Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official. Original article posted at the Daily Beast.

Face the Assad Reality In Syria

U.S. policy is going down the drain in Syria diplomatically and militarily. The choice: deal with Assad or fail.

The Syria conference underway in Geneva to transition from the rule of President Assad will fail, and the Obama team knows it. There is no incentive now in the Assad or rebel camps for diplomatic compromise, and the U.S. knows that. Nothing the U.S. and its allies are doing or planning on the military front will compel President Assad to step aside, and the White House understands that full well. The reality on the ground today is that American-helped moderate rebels continue to flounder, while Assad’s forces and those of the jihadi extremists prosper. Obama officials see this as well and realize that nothing they are doing or are likely to do will alter those facts.

So, if President Obama understands what he is doing will fail, why is he doing it?


The Confusing State of the World

by PSA Staff | January 27th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Tara Sonenshine is former undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, a former PSA Board of Directors member, and currently a distinguished fellow at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. This article was originally published in the Washington Times

Pseudo-states and Strange Bedfellows Blur Borderlines

Were it not so deadly serious, it would be satirical. The United States is losing its sense of geospatial positioning. We may be one of the few “countries” left in the world — replaced by a series of pseudo-states, groups and strange bedfellows.

Imagine having to teach geography in 2014, let alone understand it. That spinning globe we used to use, with color-coded countries and bright borders, national flags and easy-to-pronounce places hardly seems useful. We may need a 2014 Guide to Groups within Countries.


Diplomatic success always trumps a military victory

by PSA Staff | January 13th, 2014 | |Subscribe

Thomas Pickering is former US ambassador to Venezuela and Czechoslovakia; and former US Under Secretary of State and ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, the UN and Jordan. Mr. Pickering is a member of PSA’s Advisory Board. William Luers, director of the Iran Project, co-authored the article. The article was originally published in the Financial Times.

Diplomatic Success Always Trumps a Military Victory

Diplomatic negotiations with Iran strike many Americans as an oxymoron. How could serious negotiations be conducted with a nation we have distrusted for decades, that has persisted in developing a nuclear programme, has threatened Israel and is involved in terrorist activities?

Yet the same Americans are quick to oppose a military solution. So the conclusion is that diplomacy must be tried. To help Americans understand that diplomacy can be used to manage some of the toughest problems, former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger and George Shultz have written an article endorsing diplomacy. It is hard to disagree.


When Iran Gets the Bomb

by PSA Staff | December 2nd, 2013 | |Subscribe

The author, Christina Vachon, is a graduate student at George Washington University where she is pursuing her Master’s degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Security Studies.  She is currently an intern at the Partnership for a Secure America and has a research interest in security policy in the Middle East.

When Iran Gets the Bomb

Even though a short term deal with Iran has been reached, the US should prepare for the chance that Iran will cheat.  As talks continue toward a long term agreement, the US should assess what Iran, the Middle East, and the world will look like if Iran gets the bomb.  There is a lack of consensus on what happens if and when Iran gets the bomb.  Due to the uncertainty that exists about Iran and its program, continued diplomatic efforts are important in order to gain more information about the situation, to better relations, and to prepare for a nuclear Iran.  It is important though that all options remain on the table in order to protect US interests.


The Path to a Surprising Victor in the Iranian Presidential Election

by PSA Staff | June 28th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Megan Fantoni is an intern at Partnership for a Secure America. She is a graduate of Tufts University where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations and History.

The Path to a Surprising Victor in the Iranian Presidential Election

The Iranian election of Hassan Rouhani catalyzed an international discussion on the implications of the moderate candidate’s victory. As the only moderate candidate on the ticket, Hassan Rouhani’s decisive 51% victory in a six-way presidential race demanded the attention of the international community and highlighted unrest within the Iranian population. More jarring than the fact that Rouhani received the most votes in the election is the fact that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, appears ready to allow the moderate party to officially take hold of the presidency. Only four years ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected amidst widespread violence at the poll, vote miscounts, and a generally corrupt presidential election.

Various factors attributed to this surprising result. First, the Principlist Party was unable to unite and rally behind one leader. In the last stages of the campaign, the other moderate candidates dropped out of the race and publicly supported Rouhani. On the other hand, on election day, there were five separate conservative candidates. With the conservative vote split five ways, it would be very hard for one conservative candidate to gain a majority vote.  It would have been possible for Khamanei to alter the election results to secure a conservative victory if there was one Principlist candidate, rather than a compilation of five separate conservative candidates. As we look at the results, it is impressive to see that Rouhani received over half of the country’s vote; however, it is also evident that almost half (49%) of the country still strongly agrees with the conservative ideology and may affect any shifts in future policy.

Some scholars go as far as to say that Rouhani’s victory can largely be attributed to the anti-conservative feelings towards the Iranian government and current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The people of Iran have suffered under the economic strain of international sanctions imposed on Iran because of its nuclear program. In a recent panel, Karim Sadjadpour from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace stated that the election “was a reflection of profound discontent with the status quo, rather than a deep-seated affinity for the candidate himself.” Rouhani’s campaign platform included rhetoric such as ending an “era or extremism” and “hope and prudence” – language in stark contrast to that of the conservatives. The late rush of support from the voters of Iran derives from frustration over the current government and countrywide economic and social hardship.

Another factor contributing to Rouhani’s victory was the televised four-hour-long presidential debate on May 31st. Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institute stated in her testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the presidential debate was one of the most important factors in the election because it included anti-isolationist rhetoric that appealed to the Iranian people who desperately want change in their country. Challenging the official narrative of the Islamic Republic, the debate fueled citizens to vote moderate in the hopes of improving their country’s economic stance and international presence.

As important as Rouhani’s victory was, U.S. policymakers and scholars alike have advised caution towards this new leader.  Members of Congress and scholars from Brookings Institute, Council on Foreign Relations, and the Carnegie Endowment in a recent panel have all made the same point: Rouhani is only a moderate leader when viewed in the context of current politics in Iran. To enter into the presidential race, Rouhani was approved by the Supreme Leader and, in effect, the conservative faction.  Mr. Sadjadpour describes Rouhani’s politics in maintaining the ideals of the Islamic Republic by “moderating its style more than substance.”

Moving forward from Rouhani’s surprise election, critics are re-examining Western policy towards Iran and how this might shift with the new president. Almost universally, experts are stating that U.S. and international sanctions have been successful in adding pressure on the government of Iran. Acknowledging the relative success of the sanctions imposed on Iran, many in Washington have urged for deepening and broadening sanctions against the Iranian nuclear program. In addition to urging continual pressure, Ray Tekeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations warns that Rouhani will be a tougher adversary because he is a skilled negotiator, and his seemingly more reasonable requests may cause fractions in the international coalition opposed to the nuclear program.

Although there remain many questions about what kind of leader Rouhani will be and how his policies will change Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, his election reflects the widespread disapproval of the Supreme Leader and the conservative party by the Iranian people. Rouhani steps into his presidency in August with a small mandate calling for a shift in policy and for an improvement in economic and social climate in the country. Still, one must wonder if the Supreme Leader will permit a genuine deviation from his hard-line position on the nuclear program and relations with the rest of the world. With Rouhani’s election, this may be an opportune time to test how much moderation and flexibility on the nuclear question he brings to his office.

Situation in Syria: Why the U.S. Needs to Move Beyond Iraq

by PSA Staff | May 28th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Alyson Brozovich is an intern at PSA and a graduate of Whitman College where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in History.

Situation in Syria: Why the U.S. Needs to Move Beyond Iraq

Mark Twain said, “History never repeats itself, but it does rhyme.”  Senator Angus King (D-ME) reiterated this notion during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month on the situation in Syria.  Twain’s quote illuminates the core of the Obama administration’s reluctance to get involved in Syria— the points of similarity between the current Syrian state and the Iraq War. Many aspects of the situation in Syria mimic Saddam Hussein’s Iraq— a minority ruled the majority, Iran’s interest in the nation’s future, and the menace of chemical weapons.  However, the Syrian conflict has the potential to destabilize its neighbors, posing a potential threat to broader U.S. national security interests in the region.  This distinction between the two situations delineates why Obama should recognize that Syria is only an echo—not a repeat—of Iraq.  In order to respond to the circumstances appropriately, the administration must get beyond the foreign policy missteps of the preceding presidency. (more…)

What Obama Must Do in Israel

by PSA Staff | March 20th, 2013 | |Subscribe

Samuel R. Berger, former national security advisor to U.S. President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001, is a PSA Advisory Board Member.

March 19, 2013|Foreign Policy

What Obama Must Do In Israel

This week, when Air Force One lands in Tel Aviv, the newly reelected American president and the Israeli prime minister with a new government will turn the page on a new chapter in their relationship. And they will discuss how to manage the strategic challenges we both face in ways that protect our respective interests.

Much has been made and said about the personal relationship between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. Some of it is even true: It has been far from tension-free, and is very much in need of a reboot. But I also think that too much has been said about it, as if the bilateral relationship could be reduced to their personal rapport — as if the strategic dimension of the two countries’ ties were either anecdotal or purely a function of personal chemistry.


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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.