From the Editor Dear AFP Readers,
Editor-in-Chief Benjamin Cogan ‘12
Major foreign policy developments can be driven by large multinational efforts or decentralized small-scale events. The past month has seen vivid examples of both: the climate change conference in Copenhagen and the attempted Christmas attack by a Yemeni-trained terrorist on a United States aircraft. Though the Copenhagen conference seemed to come and go without much fanfare, possibly due to the lack of substantive agreement at the conclusion, the attempted terrorist attack felt like a jolt to the system. Though, luckily, the attempted attack was a failure, the resulting media maelstrom rightly had reporters and others asking how the accused terrorist suspect was allowed to board the plane. Why, more than eight years after September 11th (the events on that day were the impetus for this magazine’s formation) was our system unable to catch a militant who planned to use an airplane as a weapon? Fortunately, the current issue of AFP addresses these questions. Jake Nebel, for example, suggests that the United States address terrorism emanating from Yemen by conditionally supporting the Yemeni government with military and financial aid. Elias Sanchez, however, argues that the United States should discontinue its “tit-for-tat” strategy with Cuba, and unconditionally remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terror. This issue’s cover story, John Cappel’s article on the Copenhagen climate change conference argues that the conference was an unmitigated failure and that the US should not, in the future, cede its position as the potential world leader on the issue.
Publisher Brian Lipshutz ‘12 Managing Editors Vishal Chanani ‘11 Tara Lewis ‘11 Jamie LaMontagne ‘11 Editors ‘10 Jon Bradshaw ‘10 Heejin Cho Matthew Drecun ‘10 ‘10 Jon Extein Jonathan Giuffrida ‘10 Lucas Issacharoff ‘10 Catalina Valencia ‘10 ‘11 Aaron Abelson Brendan Carroll ‘11 Katherine Gaudyn ‘11 ‘11 Rachel Jackson ‘11 Addie Lerner Elias Sánchez-Eppler ‘11 ‘11 Zayn Siddique ‘11 Eric Stern ‘11 Kit Thayer
Yanran Chen ‘12, Production Manager Jonathan Giuffrida ‘10 Kelly Lack ‘10 May Li ‘12 Emily VanderLinden ‘13
Emma Cunningham ‘11
Samuel Roeca ‘12
Editors-in-Chief Emeritus Dan May ‘11 Rush Doshi ‘11
Sincerely, Benjamin Cogan
American Foreign Policy is a student-written, student-run publication based at Princeton University. It was founded in the wake of September 11th to provide Princeton students with a forum to discuss the difficult problems and choices facing the United States in the world. American Foreign Policy magazine is sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, and the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. No part of this publication should be construed to promote any pending legislation or to support any candidate for office. The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Woodrow Wilson School, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, the James Madison Program, Princeton University, or American Foreign Policy. AFP gladly accepts letters to the editor, article proposals, and donations, which are fully tax-deductible.
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Christina Paxson: Dean, Woodrow Wilson School Katherine Newman: Director, Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies Robert P. George: Director, James Madison Program G. John Ikenberry: Albert G. Milbank Professor of Politics and International Affairs
All correspondence may be directed to: American Foreign Policy, 5406 Frist Center, Princeton, NJ 08544 firstname.lastname@example.org www.princeton.edu/~afp
‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘12 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13 ‘13
Like Cappel’s article, all articles in this magazine present substantive and insightful analysis on a range of international topics. After being elected Editor-in-Chief of AFP this past month, I am proud to lead, along with newly elected Publisher Brian Lipshutz, a magazine that deals thoughtfully with the international issues of the day. Thank you for the reading the product of our hard work.
Oliver Bloom Yun Chung Sweta Haldar Jim Hao Natalie Kim Charlie Metzger Jay Parikh Peter Wang Matthew Arons Don Butterworth Jonathan Lin Taman Narayan Jake Nebel Emily VanderLinden Audrye Wong
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AFP Cover Story
A merican Foreign Policy February 2010 Volume IX, Issue IX ta b l e o f co n t e n ts
Nothing But Hot Air The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference John Cappel ‘10
Stay the Course The U.S. Should Maintain Its Strategy for Yemen Jake Nebel ‘13
Stopping Somali Piracy Addressing the Hidden Environmental Causes Matthew Arons ‘13
Benjamin Cogan ‘12
Global Update Vishal Chanani ‘11
Anachronistic Classifications Improving U.S.-Cuba Relations Elias Sánchez-Eppler ‘11
More Than Mere Formality Why the U.S. Needs India Audrye Wong ‘13
Tara Lewis ‘11
A Paradoxical Burden Obama’s Popularity Abroad Christiana Renfro ‘13
Sanctioning Iran How to Stop the Iranian Nuclear Program George Maliha ‘13
Photo Credits: Creative Commons images from Flickr and Wikimedia Commons
Cover Image from Flickr
Protestors hold paper masks of world leaders during the Copenhagen climate change conference, held in January 2010. Photo from flickr.
Nothing But Hot Air The Copenhagen Climate Change Conference John Cappel â€˜10 When delegates from nations around the world gathered in Copenhagen last month for a conference on global climate change, President Obama prevented a total breakdown of negotiations by reaching a last minute agreement with leaders from Brazil, China, India, and South Africa. Although the resulting document provided national leaders the opportunity to claim progress in fighting climate change, in many respects, it must be considered a failure. Most disappointingly, the agreement reached in Copenhagen failed to establish clear emissions targets, and will not reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near future. It also failed to address con-
cerns that are likely to prevent the passage of emissions reduction legislation in the U.S. The near-collapse of negotiations demonstrated serious flaws in the current approach to global climate change cooperation, and, in a remarkable display of the limits of American influence, made clear that it is nations with emerging economies that will ultimately dictate the content of international climate treaties. There are those who argue the Copenhagen Accord did produce notable victories. Indeed, the accord does acknowledge the seriousness of the threat posed by climate change, state that cuts should be made â€œwith a view to reduce global emissions so as to
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hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius,â€? and agree to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to climate change and reduce deforestation. It also calls for further negotiations to set targets for emissions reduction and develop the details of implementation. A majority of environmentalists, however, view the accord as fatally insufficient: Its statements of principle are commendable, but it suffers from fundamental deficiencies that are likely to render it ineffectual. In addition, historical precedent does not bode well for the widely celebrated pledge to raise funds for climate change adaptation in developing nations. In 2005, the G8 pledged to increase annual aid funds to all developing countries to $50 billion by 2010 with half of these funds designated for Africa. What became of this commitment? In 2009, the UN reported that the G8 needed to increase total aid spending by $29.3 billion and increase African aid by $20.6 billion to reach the original 2010 target. This
once lauded pledge remains an empty promise, and there is no reason to believe that the Copenhagen aid commitment will meet a different fate. In addition, the weaknesses of the Copenhagen Accord will stifle emission-targeting legislation in the U.S. The two major objections offered by opponents of the “cap-and-trade” emissions reduction bill passed by the House of Representatives this past July centered on expanding economies, and both are certain to reappear if the bill progresses to the Senate. At the time, a press release from the office of House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) stated, “Even supporters of the national energy tax concede that unilateral American action will do nothing to improve Earth’s environment unless global competitors like China and India curb their emissions, too.” While the U.S., the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, could certainly have a significant effect on worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, rapid emission increases in developing countries do pose a significant challenge to mitigating climate change. The failure of the Copenhagen Accord to set global emission targets has weakened proponents of climate change legislation in the U.S. Additionally, “cap-and-trade” opponents argue, with some validity, that American businesses will be harmed unless other nations make similar commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Rep. Boehner’s press release objects that climate change legislation “will impose tough new requirements and increased costs on American manufacturers.” The release goes on to state that these costs will affect American jobs in one of two ways: “Either domestic manufacturers will move overseas directly, or American companies in energy-intensive industries will be driven out of business by overseas rivals that undercut their prices.” It is accurate that American businesses would be harmed by bearing the costs of buying carbon credits or paying carbon taxes while their foreign competitors enjoy a cheap supply of coal-generated electricity. In this regard then, the Copenhagen Accord does nothing to assuage the concerns of senators worried about the economic consequences of climate
change legislation. Perhaps most importantly, the conference demonstrated the serious problems plaguing the current UN climate change negotiation framework, and highlighted the difficulties the U.S. will face in attempting to lead the development of climate change legislation. The developing countries who comprise the Group of 77 threatened to walk out of the conference after stating that they were being treated unfairly in the negotiations. Furthermore, the conference was on the verge of complete failure until President Obama met with leaders from China, India, Brazil, and South Africa to craft the ac-
“While the U.S. ...could certainly have a significant effect on worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, rapid emission increases in developing countries do pose a significant challenge to mitigating climate change.” cord that was then presented to other nations on a take-it-or-leave it basis. The sharp divisions between developed and developing countries, and the fact that nations could only come to agreement through smaller, more isolated negotiations, raises serious questions about whether all-inclusive U.N. negotiations can ever establish meaningful emissions targets. Although the United States did, in some respects, emerge from Copenhagen as a global leader on climate change, the more important development was the global realization that the U.S. is unlikely to be the nation that will determine the future course of
climate change negotiations. Instead, it seems China and India, representing the developing Group of 77, will be the determinants of climate change legislation progress. India and China signed a five-year memo of understanding in October to present a united front in climate change talks, and they were the two primary players in directing the pace of negotiations in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, the ascendancy of China and India does not bode well for those with a firm commitment to preventing climate change. Both nations prioritize economic growth above all else, and refuse to commit to restrictive emissions targets that could impede their rapid economic expansion. China and India will probably hamper efforts to produce a strong international commitment to preventing climate change; it seems likely that future international climate treaties will be severely limited by the recalcitrance of large developing nations eager to raise the living standards of their citizens, despite the increasing costs of substantial greenhouse gas emissions on everyone else. The Copenhagen Accord contains admirable sentiments, but in itself does nothing to prevent climate change. The future of climate change prevention rests with further negotiations, and unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly evident that those nations likely to be most influential are those least likely to support meaningful emissions limits. At the same time, Copenhagen’s failure has made it less likely that the U.S. will make a serious commitment to reducing its own greenhouse gas emissions. The prospects for a serious global agreement on climate change mitigation are dim, and national governments may not substantially cooperate until they recognize the serious economic and ecological damage climate change could cause. They must also recognize the substantial economic benefits the development and expansion of “green” industries could bring. Hopefully, this day will not come too late. Afp John may be reached at jcappel@Princeton.edu
Stay the Course U.S. Should Maintain Its Strategy for Yemen
ith Allah’s permission, we will come to you from where you do not expect.” This declaration by the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda is not just a warning of future attacks, it is a truth of global security. The Christmas Day terror attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who had been in Yemen since August, was stopped not by American preparation, but by luck. While the barely-averted attack creates temptation to take dramatic action, a visible American military presence in Yemen would overtax our armed forces and create a backlash counterproductive to American interests. America should prevent future attacks by fully acknowledging the threat posed by Yemeni terrorists, ensuring their prosecution when captured, and by continuing current American policy in support of the Yemeni government. The Yemeni offshoot of al-Qaeda has steadily grown more potent in recent years, merging with its Saudi progenitor to form al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This organization’s targets are both local and global. In October 2000, al-Qaeda attacked the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Cole in the port of Aden with predominantly Yemeni explosives, attackers, and accomplices. Yemen was also linked to the 1998 East African embassy bombings, the strike on the French oil tanker Limburg, the September 11th attacks, and the assassination attempt against Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in Saudi Arabia last August. That assassination attempt used the same tactics and explosives (pentaerythritol tetranitrate sewn into the bomber’s underwear) as the attempted Christmas attack. Yemen’s location, geography, and fractured polity make it a paradise for al-Qaeda. At the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is close to Saudi
Jake Nebel ‘13 Arabia, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan; its porous borders and extensive coastline are far from secure, while its rugged mountains provide apt hiding places for terrorists. With oil reserves running dry, Yemen’s arms market is among its few economic strengths—it trails only the U.S. in gun ownership per capita. Meanwhile, a strong, conservative religious population is a solid support base for al Qaeda’s propaganda, and tribal groups with relations to al-Qaeda
“Al-Qaeda feeds on Western interventions; the risk of backlash is especially high in Yemen’s tribal north with widespread poverty, illiteracy, and resentment of the central government.” control much of the borderlands. There is a separatist movement in the south and an insurgency in the north, and the unified Yemen is less than two decades old. Yemen is a near-ideal base of operations for Al-Qaeda, combining Afghanistan and Pakistan’s formidable terrain with Somalia’s near-anarchy. In 2005, the terrorists responsible for the Cole bombing were in prison. Today, however, many of them are free, including confessed bombers Jamal al-
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Badawi, Fahd al-Quso, and Naser Abdel-Karim al-Wahishi. All three escaped from maximum-security prisons in Yemen. Badawi turned himself in after a year, but was released for good behavior; Quso is a re-established terrorist operative, conducting interviews for al Qaeda; and Wahishi is the head of al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula. In 2008, FBI special agent Ali Soufan warned Senate staff members “unless the American government sent a united message to the Yemenis to act against Al Qaeda, the terrorists responsible for the Cole would remain free and there would be future attacks against the United States connected to Yemen.” Soufan observes, “Today, the terrorists behind the Cole are still free, and an attack connected to Yemen has been attempted.” Current U.S. policy towards Yemen is based on counterterrorism support, limited special operations, and drone strikes. In 2009, US expenditures for counterterrorism support were $70 million; according to a senior military official, President Obama plans to increase that amount to $190 million. The U.S. coordinates much of its effort with Western-friendly Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. But President Saleh has often used American aid against local insurgencies rather than against al-Qaeda. The local insurgencies more directly threaten Saleh’s sovereign authority, and he wants to maintain at least minimal support from the conservative Islamist population. Unconditional aid is therefore ineffective—Yemeni authorities can divert resources from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency. The U.S. should make an all-ornothing deal on foreign aid to Yemen: America should offer more financial support under the condition that Yemeni courts imprison those responsible for the Cole bombing. Some might argue that incarceration would be ineffective because new recruits would replace those imprisoned. But anything short of life imprisonment means effective impunity for terrorists; prosecution would send a message to al-Qaeda that the U.S. and Arab governments will not tolerate acts of terror. If these conditions are met, the U.S. should stay its present course of providing counterterrorist aid. Admittedly, this solution may not be immediately effective, but any sustainable, forward-
AFP Quiz Multiple Choice Monthly Benjamin Cogan ‘12 1. The “double agent” terrorist, responsible for the death of seven CIA officers in Afghanistan, was from which country? a. Egypt b. Jordan c. Afghanistan d. Saudi Arabia
2. Citizens of how many nations will face automatically intensified air screenings for flights into the United States after the attempted Christmas Day terror plot? a. 0 b. 4 c. 14 d. 28
A diamond miner in Sierra Leone / Photo from flickr
Sana’a Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Yemen. Photo from flickr.
looking strategy against an asymmetrical threat will require patience. Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) has suggested that Yemen will be “tomorrow’s war” if the U.S. does not act preemptively. Preemptive military engagement, however, is simply not feasible, with the U.S. military already overstretched in Afghanistan and Iraq. America is still fighting two wars, and escalating one of them; we cannot realistically expect victory in a third, especially after taking into account the counterinsurgency efforts that U.S. troops would inherit from the Yemeni government. Even if preemptive military intervention were feasible, it would likely provoke a popular backlash, destabilizing the Western-friendly regime. AlQaeda feeds on Western interventions; the risk of backlash is especially high in Yemen’s tribal north with widespread poverty, illiteracy, and resentment of the central government. Intelligence, logistical support, and foreign aid should be the extent of American involvement in an effort that only Yemen can achieve. As Marc Lynch, a counterterrorism expert at George Washington University, has
suggested, the U.S. should not fall into the trap of overcommitment in a rush to “just do something.” In short, the U.S. should largely stay the course in Yemen, but must put more diplomatic pressure on the Yemeni government to ensure our plans are carried through. Although the Yemeni government is weak, it has achieved success in counterterrorist operations in the past few weeks. We have recently seen an unprecedentedly successful offensive against jihadist commanders in the south and center of the nation; five raids in the Abyan and Shabwa provinces have killed more than 60 fighters. Of course, an avowedly pro-Western government faces grave dangers in the Middle East, but a puppeteer is better than a hegemon. The United States should provide further assistance to Yemen before resorting to direct military engagement. Afp
3. Approximately how many Israelis protested their own country’s blockade of the Palestinian territory of Gaza at a rally this month? a. 25 b. 100 c. 500 d. 1000
4. The citizens of which European democracy recently passed a referendum banning the building of minarets? a. Switzerland b. Denmark c. France d. Germany
5. Which African country recently proposed a law that would punish certain homosexual acts with the death penalty? a. Nigeria b. Zimbabwe c. Lesotho d. Uganda
Jake may be reached at email@example.com
Answers on page 13
Stopping Somali Piracy Addressing the Hidden Environmental Causes
n April of 2009, pirates off the coast of Somalia seized an American ship, the Maersk Alabama, and took Captain Richard Philips hostage. U.S. Navy SEALs staged a dramatic rescue: Snipers aboard a Navy vessel shot the three pirates on the bobbing lifeboat where Captain Philips was being held, ending a five-day standoff. The suspenseful rescue, tailor-made for the era of 24/7 cable news, brought national attention to the issue of piracy off Somalia’s coast. But the roots of Somali piracy took hold years earlier, and the problem is getting worse. In the first nine months
Matthew Arons ‘13 of 2009, there were 100 pirate attacks in the waters surrounding Somalia, compared to 51 in the same period the year before. Piracy is a product of a power vacuum in Somalia; overfishing and chemical dumping in Somali seas have set the stage for these modern-day marauders. To gain some measure of control over the pirate problem, the United States and its partners must address the environmental crises pirates use to justify their actions and create a Somali coast guard to help control piracy in the long-term. The costs of piracy in this region
are clear. Somalia lies along some of the world’s most important shipping lanes, and piracy in these lanes raises the cost of international commerce. Eleven percent of the world’s petroleum passes through the region, which is colloquially known as “Pirate Alley.” Ships making that journey today pay nearly twice what they would have paid a year ago for ransom insurance, in addition to the cost of increased onboard security. Furthermore, attacks on oil tankers and other ships carrying hazardous materials raise the possibility of a serious environmental disaster in the region. Finally, the possibility that piracy could fund terrorism represents a significant threat to the U.S. But how exactly did the current era of Somali piracy begin? In 1991, Somalia’s government collapsed, and the lack of authority allowed pirates to take control of the seas. Today, the country is nominally ruled by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), but other groups, such as the Islamic militia al-
Members of an American visit, board, search and seizure team from the guided-missile cruiser U.S.S. Gettysburg capture suspected pirates after responding to a merchant vessel distress signal. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
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Shabbab, constantly challenge the TFG for control. In such conditions, poverty has driven many to piracy. The World Bank reports that 73 percent of Somalia’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Primary school enrollment stands at 22 percent, among the lowest in the world. In the absence of government, there is an absence of opportunity, and for many in Somalia, the profitable life of piracy holds understandable appeal. In 2008 alone, pirates collected more than $150 million in ransom. Overfishing off the coast of Somalia has also pushed many Somalis to take part in piracy. The earliest pirates were fishermen who sought to force out commercial ships that plundered Somali waters. Somalia’s Gulf of Aden is one of the most fertile fishing grounds in the world, and without a coast guard, Somalia’s territorial waters are unprotected. Boats from Europe and Asia illegally reap over $300 million worth of fish per year from Somali seas, depriving local fishermen of the livelihood of which they once relied. The foreigners often utilize invasive and illegal methods of fishing, such as nets with tight meshes that catch small and young fish. Without regulation, fish populations have been decimated, creating a classic “tragedy of the commons.” When too many individuals fish the same waters, the ecosystem collapses, and Somalis who could have once made their living fishing turn to piracy as an alternative. The illegal dumping of toxic waste off Somalia’s coast by European and Asian corporations has only aggravated the problem. The UN Environmental Program notes that dumping hazardous waste in Somalia can cost as little as $2.50 a ton, while disposing of that same waste in Europe can cost $250 a ton. Following the great tsunami of 2004, a significant amount of waste washed up on Somali shores and sickened the local population. By damaging local fisheries, waste dumping makes piracy a more attractive career option. Yet Somalia lacks the resources and institutions needed to prevent this problem, and the international community has done little to help. Somalia’s dysfunctional government is unable to combat the pirates, and although several nations have dispatched naval patrols to the Gulf of Aden, piracy remains an ever-present threat. The U.S.
and the European Union have standing patrols in the region, and China helps escort ships through the treacherous gulf. Yet piracy cannot be eliminated until the Somali government is stable enough to control the problem internally. Unfortunately, calls for good governance are more easily put onto paper than put into practice. In the short term, at least, stable government in Somalia is a fantasy. While lining the Gulf with warships might eliminate piracy, it would be prohibitively expensive. The best option, therefore, is to implement cost-effective measures to control the problem. A moderate expansion of anti-piracy efforts would help limit robbery at sea at reasonable expense.
“Most pirates will not lay down their guns and pick up fishing poles as the environmental situation improves.”
In order to combat piracy, the U.S. and its partners must combat not only the pirates but also the aggravating factors that encourage them, such as illegal fishing and toxic waste. Anti-piracy forces working to protect the seas and prevent the dumping of hazardous waste will earn some measure of good will from Somalis even as they crack down on pirates. By protecting the region from overfishing, the international community can create economic opportunities for those who might otherwise have turned to piracy. Furthermore, pirates will no longer be able to justify their attacks by claiming that they are simply protecting their fishing waters. Still, piracy is profitable, and managing these environmental issues will not solely eliminate the problem. Most pirates will not lay down their guns and pick up fishing poles as the environmental situation improves. But if U.S. forces and others already in
the region begin to protect fisheries, they will deprive pirates of their stated motivation to attack, thus exposing those who continue to board ships as nothing more than common criminals. Pirates need support on land for their operations, and by revealing the pirates’ true motivations, the U.S. can minimize the backing these buccaneers receive from the Somali population. The creation of a Somali coast guard managed by the United Nations would help quell piracy today and create the infrastructure for Somalia to manage the problem in the long-term. Roger Middleton, of the thinktank Chatham House, proposes the development of such a force, noting, “The cost of running a coast guard could be met, at least in part, from collecting fishing dues and import revenue. The money and the force could be held in trust for Somalia.” Such a force would separate pirates who are out for profit from those who genuinely hope to protect Somalia’s seas. If and when a stable government does take root, it would have a capable navy to police its waters. Unfortunately, recruiting for and managing the group would be no easy task. In the short term, this auxiliary force could not replace the more experienced international force needed to control piracy. In the future, though, such efforts would allow Somalia to take greater responsibility for its own territory. Piracy in the Gulf of Aden presents a significant threat to global commerce, and there are no simple solutions. Until Somalia has a stable, functional government, pirates will continue to haunt key shipping lanes, threatening American citizens and American interests. But by understanding the circumstances that lead to piracy, the international community can better control these modern-day buccaneers. The lack of central authority in Somalia has paved the way for illegal fishing and the dumping of toxic waste. By controlling these factors, the international community can, over time, undermine Somalia’s pirates. Afp
Matthew may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
A: In IRAQ, a series of car bombs B: A suicide bomber in AF-
C: In the UNITED STATES,
the Senate passes a comprehensive health-care reform bill, voting entirely along party lines, following earlier passage of the bill by the House. The election of Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts makes final reconciliation of the bills much more difficult for Democrats.
directed at government buildings result in over 120 dead and 400 wounded, as the date for national elections is set in early March.
GHANISTAN attacks a CIA base, killing at least seven agents. AlQaeda claims responsibility and asserts that the bomber was a double agent.
H: Two of the five brothers head- I: Following massive election-
The Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure ever built by a margin of over 500 feet, opens in the UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. The project, which began in 2004, cost over $1.5 billion and suffered a variety of delays before completion.
ing the powerful Beltran-Levya drug cartel are stopped in MEXICO. Arturo is killed in a shootout with Mexican Marines, while Carlos is captured at a traffic stop after presenting false identification.
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related violence in the PHILLIPPINES, President Gloria Arroyo places the country under martial law. Arroyo lifts martial law about a week later.
President Evo Morales of BOLIVIA is soundly re-elected to another term, winning over 60 percent of the vote. Morales, the countryâ€™s first indigenous president, has been in office since 2006.
E: On Christmas day, aboard
a flight en route to Detroit in the UNITED STATES, a Nigerian man attempts to ignite an explosive device, which fails to detonate. He later tells authorities that he trained for the attempted attack in Yemen.
F: A fierce earthquake strikes
HAITI ten miles from its capital, Port-au-Prince, killing thousands and sparking a deep humanitarian crisis. President Obama, along with other world leaders, promises aid to the battered country.
J: In DENMARK, world leaders K: Prime Minister Silvio Berlus- L: Near Perth, AUSTRALIA, vast meet to discuss climate change issues. Five nations draft a document known as the Copenhagen Accord, a non-binding agreement that has been met with mixed reactions around the globe.
coni of ITALY is assaulted with a souvenir at a rally in Milan. He suffers minor facial injury, including two broken teeth, but is otherwise unharmed.
bushfires lead to the burning of over 33,000 acres of land and the destruction of close to 40 homes. No injuries or deaths are reported.
Anachronistic Classifications Improving U.S.-Cuba Relations Elias Sánchez-Eppler ‘11
n light of the security failures that allowed suspected Nigerian terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board and attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day, the U.S. Transportation Safety Authority (TSA) released a security directive mandating enhanced screenings for individuals traveling to the U.S. through or from “nations that are state sponsors of terrorism or other countries of interest.” Incongruously, given current U.S. security concerns, Cuba tops the list, followed by Iran, Syria, and Sudan. The TSA’s short-sighted reaction to the attack highlights the obstinate antagonism in U.S.Cuban relations. This is a misguided hostility; the U.S. government should be trying to de-escalate the confrontation with its Caribbean neighbor, the first step of which is declassifying Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. Currently, the U.S. has no formal diplomatic ties with Cuba and has maintained an embargo that makes it illegal for U.S. com-
panies to do business in the country. Although Fidel Castro’s abdication of power in 2006 precipitated shifts in the Cuban power structure that offered the possibility of a gradual thaw in relations, lingering Cold War antagonisms have precluded these possibilities from maturing into real change. The Obama administration’s Cuba policy has thus far been a mix of inspiring first steps and disappointing stubbornness. In the weeks surrounding the Summit of the Americas, rapprochement looked like a real possibility. President Obama told leaders at the Summit that “the United States seeks a new beginning with Cuba. I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled in overcoming decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.” Since then, however, U.S.-Cuban relations have frozen. After finally removing restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ ability to visit family on the island and send remittances, as well as permitting telecommunication companies to provide cell phone service in
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Cuba, the White House has disappointingly outlined a “tit-for-tat” approach to further rapprochement. Referring to Cuban leaders, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that in order to see more benefits from the U.S., “They’re certainly free to release political prisoners. They’re certainly free to stop skimming money off the top of remittance payments as they come back to the Cuban island. They’re free to institute a greater freedom of the press.” From the Cuban perspective, such reforms would dwarf the concessions the U.S. has offered; issuing token economic reforms and demanding massive political change is not the way to win the trust of leaders in Cuba, or anywhere else in Latin America for that matter. Despite tensions, improved relations with Cuba are consistent with U.S. interests. Economically, Cuba represents an untapped and desirable trading partner. In an early December lecture at Princeton University, Cuba scholar Julia Sweig hypothesized that, were it not for the American embargo, Cuba could follow Vietnam’s developmental model, and gradually expand its economy through the growth of export markets. This would be of direct benefit to the U.S. economy. Even more important than encouraging domestic change on the island, rapprochement with Cuba stands to improve U.S. diplomatic relations with all of Latin America. At last year’s Summit of the Americas, leaders from around the region, including relative moderate Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina, berated the U.S. for an “anachronistic” approach to Cuba. America’s insistence on antagonizing the Cuban government undercuts more important regional goals, specifically efforts to demonstrate that U.S. hemispheric hegemony need no longer be consistent with demanding, heavy-handed political relationships. Given the national significance of trade with Latin America, and the need for regional cooperation on issues like the drug trade, undocumented migrations, and human trafficking, the distrust motivated by the U.S. stance towards Cuba is a serious detriment to hemispheric policy. The lessening of hostilities towards Cuba could do much to assist the pursuit of other regional goals. In this context, the emphasis the TSA recently placed on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism was misguided. The 2008 Country Reports on Terrorism admit that “Cuba no longer actively supports armed
struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world.” Current justification for Cuba’s inclusion seems based on its harboring of Euskadi Ta Askatasuna in Spain, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and the National Liberation Army of Colombia, although the Country Reports acknowledge that some individuals visited Cuba in connection with peace negotiations with the governments of Spain and Colombia. The Cuban government has also admitted U.S. fugitives from groups like the Boricua Popular (or Macheteros) and the Black Liberation Army, but the Reports concede that in accordance with the government’s public declarations, Cuba has not granted protection to any new fugitives since 2006. Given that ongoing Cuban activity does not appear to threaten the U.S., its position on the list of state sponsors of terror is clearly anachronistic. Removing Cuba from the list would not cost the U.S. anything, nor would it represent significant backtracking on the U.S. commitment to political and economic freedoms. It would, however, be a powerful signal to Cubans and other Latin American observers that the U.S. does in fact want to move past the Cold War framework of U.S.Latin American relations. The removal, while individually insufficient to ease U.S.Cuban antagonism, would be an important first step in that direction. Until President Obama updates the list accordingly, it is unlikely that Latin American governments will take seriously his overtures for a new era of inter-American relations. Afp
Elias may be reached at email@example.com
AFP Quiz Answers Multiple Choice Monthly
In Context Compiled by Tara Lewis ‘11
“We are not terrorists....We are jihadists, and jihad is not terrorism.”
-One of the five American men who was arrested in Pakistan amd accused of plotting terrorist acts, on his way into a courthouse in Sargodha, Pakistan.
“It’s his right as a Zulu. But he only took one wife to Italy to meet the Pope.”
-Jeremy Gordon, South African President Jacob Zuma’s biographer, commenting on Zuma’s decision in January to marry a fifth wife.
“The tolerance period with anarchists and troublemakers is over.”
-Iran’s police chief Ismail Ahmadi Moghaddam in December, after rallies by government supporters were followed by government-opposition protests.
“We see global implications from the war in Yemen and the ongoing efforts by al-Qaeda in Yemen to use it as a base for terrorist attacks far beyond the region.”
-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing concern about Yemen’s ability to combat terrorism.
“Don’t hold your breath.”
-Vladimir Putin, Russia’s Prime Minister, in response to a question asking when he would retire. He may run for president again in 2012.
“Copenhagen is a first step toward a new world climate order—no more, but also no less.”
-Angela Merkel, German Chancellor commenting on the nonbinding “Climate Accord” that resulted from December’s Copenhagen Climate Conference.
“Those who fell yesterday were far from home and close to the enemy, doing the hard work that must be done to protect our country from terrorism.”
-CIA director Leon Panetta, in a message to employees about their seven colleagues who were killed by a suicide bomber in Khost Province, Afghanistan.
Sources: Time, AP, WSJ, BBC, Reuters
2. C 3. D 4. A 5. D
More Than Mere Formality Why the U.S. Needs India
resident Obama’s recent state dinner with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the first such dinner of his Presidency, attracted significant international attention. Beneath the façade of pomp and grandeur, the President’s choice to host Indian leaders at such a momentous occasion is an important symbol of the his commitment to strong bilateral ties between the world’s two largest democracies. Obama, however, has yet to fully harness the potential of this relationship—one that sags under the weight of numerous concerns including the global press’ preoccupation with a rising China. Although China grabs headlines as the rising power in Asia, India too is quickly becoming a regional power—one from which the U.S. can benefit. The U.S. can cooperate with India on a variety of fronts: including nuclear non-proliferation, extremist violence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and the maintenance of a stable balance of power in Asia. If President Obama wishes to truly strengthen the U.S.’s partnership with India, he must go beyond mere symbolism and focus on forwarding the U.S. and India’s shared goals. In some sense, the state dinner was nothing new; past U.S. presidents have regularly hosted Indian leaders at state dinners. Indeed, in terms of policy substance, the Obama-Singh event is less important than Singh’s dinner with former President Bush in 2005, when they announced a civilian nuclear agreement between the two states. Nevertheless, the state dinner helped allay fears that the Obama administration might deprioritize relations with India in favor of strengthening ties with China. Despite the administration’s globetrotting agendas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bypassed India on her trip to Asia in February 2009, and Obama, too, declined to visit during his Asian tour en route to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Singapore in November. Although Clinton
Audrye Wong ‘13 did visit India earlier in July, the Obama administration seems to interact with India within a more bilateral framework than one in which they acknowledge its rising power and aspirations on the global stage. New Delhi has been fretting over the U.S.’s apparent acquiescence to growing Chinese clout and in particular, the recent joint Obama-Hu statement calling for closer “cooperation [between the U.S. and China] on issues related to South Asia.” The statement seemed to open the door to China’s involvement in the longstanding sensitive rivalry between India and Pakistan. Furthermore, the ongoing economic down-
“India can serve as a useful counterweight to China’s assertive and occasionally hostile presence in Asia that ensures that the much-touted ‘Asian century’ does not belong exclusively to the Chinese.” turn has fueled protectionist tendencies in America, especially with a Democrat-controlled Congress. Obama recently spoke of anti-outsourcing measures and criticized current tax policies which favor companies outsourcing to lower-cost countries like India. Hence some political watchers are predicting some strain in U.S.-India relations on Obama’s watch. Officials such as U.S. Under Secretary
American Foreign Policy
of State William Burns and Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake have nonetheless firmly reiterated America’s commitment to a partnership with India. Prime Minister Singh’s status as the first state guest of honor can be seen as a reaffirmation of the continued strength of U.S.-India ties and a strategic move by the White House to reassure their nervous Indian friends. The pageantry of a state dinner cannot, however, be a replacement for progress toward substantive issues. The Obama administration has been dragging its heels in the implementation of the much-heralded nuclear cooperation agreement, with the President showing little inclination to push through the final modalities and procedures. Obama is right to engage more closely with China, but sticking too closely to a G2style “Chimerica” script would risk overemphasizing Chinese influence at the expense of American leverage. China and America are more often than not at loggerheads with each other, from China’s resentment over its past subjugation under Western imperial powers to present-day tensions over Taiwan, Tibet, yuan undervaluation, and ideological differences over human rights and democracy. If Obama realistically wants to realize his grand visions of multilateralism and global cooperation, he needs as many allies on board as possible. An increasingly aggressive and confident China is an unlikely first candidate. India can serve as a useful counterweight to China’s assertive and occasionally hostile presence in Asia that ensures that the much-touted ‘Asian century’ does not belong exclusively to the Chinese. While it would be overly simplistic to claim that India and the U.S.’s shared traits of being populous multiethnic democracies automatically renders easy cooperation, the fact that India is more likely to have a similar outlook as the U.S. can ease Western fears of a potentially unfriendly Asia-Pacific region based on Chinese-driven values and models. The U.S. should not try to forcefully impose American ideas on Asia, but with India as an ally the U.S. can ensure that its interests in Asia are not compromised. Most of the Southeast Asian countries, being poor and relatively small, are highly susceptible to China’s “checkbook diplomacy”—using its wealth to buy allies. For the U.S., India’s partnership may be more important than its partnership with Japan, as that country, a traditionally staunch U.S.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons
President Obama walking with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the White House, November 24, 2009.
ally, becomes increasingly distant from the U.S. after the recent shift in power to the Democratic Party of Japan under Yukio Hatoyama. India is also keen to work with the U.S. as protection against China. Supporting India’s emergence as a major power need not constitute an antagonistic containment strategy directed against any supposed “China threat.” Instead, it is a reasonable policy designed to ensure that the interests of all players are accommodated to preserve geopolitical stability and inclusiveness in a crucial region of the world. The U.S. has to make sure it recognizes India’s interests while balancing its own agenda. Unfortunately, relations have been soured by India’s frustrations with America’s perceived reluctance to strongly crack down on Pakistan, which harbors several extremist groups that have targeted India. India is suspicious of ramped-up American military assistance to its neighbor, fearing that Pakistan will channel those resources toward aggression in the disputed Kashmir region and along the Indo-Pakistan border, rather than toward combating Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Obama also flamed controversy early in 2009 when he suggested that resolving the Kashmir dispute would
be central to addressing the problems of instability in Afghanistan and Pakistan. South Asian politics have long proven to be complex and messy, and tensions have become even more strained in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai bombings by Pakistanbased Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT). Washington needs to balance its interests in working with both India and Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan, all crucial fronts in the battle against terrorism. During the state dinner, Obama wisely adopted a policy of non-involvement, issuing a neutral statement that “it is not [America’s] place” to get involved in the India-Pakistan conflict. Pakistan and India are partners that the U.S. can ill afford to lose; Washington should tread carefully. Although the two nations have been increasingly close partners, there remains much potential for closer cooperation on counterterrorism efforts, particularly in the realms of intelligence sharing, joint training, improved institutional frameworks, and enhanced security enforcement measures and responses. India’s previous successful efforts against Sikh terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s were due in no small part to the sharing of intelligence with the U.S. and other countries, and a similar approach
may be adopted with regard to global terrorism today. While terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) do have different objectives, they all cause conflict beyond Pakistan’s borders. A U.S.-India partnership in combating terrorism would underline India’s leadership both regionally and globally and would highlight international commitment to stopping terrorism and increasing stability. Although President Obama’s ceremony and symbolic gestures are well-intentioned, building a stronger partnership with India will require further action. While China must be considered, the U.S. must engage more deeply with India on the many issues and interests that the two nations share to glean the potential economic and strategic rewards. Afp
Audrye may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Foreign Policy
A Paradoxical Burden Obama’s Popularity Abroad
ne of the most documented aspects of President Obama’s 2008 campaign and subsequent meteoric rise to the presidency has been the incredible support awarded him by the international community. Despite his thin foreign policy resume, consisting largely of his now-popular decision to oppose the Iraq War from the start, Obama enjoyed a unique connection with both leaders and citizens around the world—a connection that offered the promise of strengthened American leadership abroad. In the months after his election, President Obama’s popularity rose by close to 10 percentage points in the 11 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center. Building on the idea of a more international-focused presidency, President Obama has repeatedly articulated the belief that he is responsible not only to the country that he governs, but also to the global community. The global community has welcomed his commitment with open arms. This presents President Obama, however, with the insurmountable task of fulfilling the policy aspirations of citizens in other countries while not undercutting America’s own interests. Although Obama’s “new era of responsibility” has found many supporters, its vagueness has also created an opening for critics who view Obama as a better speaker than policymaker. The reality of the President’s spirit of international good will lends credence to such critics. While some of his popularity is certainly attributable to his rhetoric, the bulk of it is due to the basic phenomenon that other nations expect him to pursue policies in their own self-interest. There is no more fitting example of this disconcerting fact than the difference between President Obama’s popularity in the Middle East and President Bush’s at the end of his sec-
Christiana Renfro ‘13 ond term in office. The president’s tone of cooperation and reconciliation with Arab states has led to higher support in states such as Egypt, where approval for the U.S. increased from 22 to 27 percent, and in Jordan, where it rose from 19 to 25 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. Yet support for America remains unchanged in areas such as the Palestinian territo-
“The President should stop focusing on maintaining his popularity as an end in and of itself and start making substantive policy decisions even if they disappoint some members of the international community.” ries and Pakistan, which have historically maintained distant relations with the United States throughout the terms of many presidents. Such opinions are unlikely to change despite President Obama’s election and new tone towards some Arab states. In Israel, on the other hand, America’s popularity has dropped from 78 percent in 2007 to 71 percent in 2009. This is attributable to several of President Obama’s statements and policies, both during his campaign and in office, that indicate he may be less willing to support all Israeli policies unconditionally than
American Foreign Policy
was the Bush administration. Obama’s speech in Cairo during the summer of 2009 and his insistence on the cessation of all settlement building have instilled doubts among Israelis that he will be as accommodating as his predecessor. Nor, for that matter, should he be; the region requires a mediator who will be unafraid to demand the termination of both Israeli settlement expansion and of many Arab countries’ funding and harboring of Islamist groups that wish to disrupt the peace process within the region. The President may soon find that in other regions, as well as the Middle East, his political capital is based primarily on what foreign nations perceive as his commitment to their own best interests, rather than those of the global community. Many see Europe as the base of the President’s international support, an idea traced to thensenator Obama’s campaign foray into Germany the summer before he was elected. At the same time, Obama’s visit to Europe revealed that he is well aware of the true factors that lie at the root of his international support. In a speech, Obama appealed to the nation’s individual needs in articulating his political vision, saying, “The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin.” In this way, President Obama captured the essence of a more effective manner in which to leverage his extraordinary popularity: He appealed to individual nations’ self-interest in a way that gains their respect and helps Washington’s cause as well. The President should stop focusing on maintaining his popularity as an end in and of itself and start making substantive policy decisions even if they disappoint some members of the international community. The recent Copenhagen Climate Summit in December of 2009 represents a perfect example of the way in which President Obama’s wish to satisfy all members of the international community led to intangible progress toward policy goals. Widely regarded as what the EU termed a “great failure,” the Climate Summit ended in various participants reaching a nonbinding political agreement that advocated emissions cuts and other environmental reforms at standards far below those hoped for by
U.S. Foreign Policy
President of Hanuman Temple, Bhama, holds his own rally for Obama, presenting a statute of Hanuman to Obama with the chair of the India Democrats Abroad in attendance.
environmental experts. At the end of the conference, who was to blame for what and why—with the EU unhappy with China and China unhappy with the U.S.—was more publicized than the conference’s actual accomplishments. The idea of gathering any number of nations into a room and hoping that America’s newfound popularity in the world will inspire cooperation apparently has its limits. Some might argue that President Obama, by brushing aside international criticism, puts himself in danger of falling into the same trap as the previous administration. Yet in doing so, one assumes that President Obama and the previous administration have a similar attitude toward foreign relations. They do not. President Bush treated the idea of diplomacy as a one-dimensional spectrum, expecting support for his forays into Iraq and Afghanistan while disregarding recommendations made by the United Nations and other international organizations. Yet Presi-
dent Obama has demonstrated a vision of the world in which the global community has substantial importance at various levels; he is familiar with international relations and cites Cold War diplomats George Marshall and George Kennan, supporters of a multilateral foreign policy, as sources of influence. The President embodies a combination of intellectual idealism and pragmatism that distinguish him ideologically from his predecessor. It is clear that both Europe and the Obama administration share a spirit of cooperation and dialogue. But, to quote former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, “America does not have friends; it has interests.” President Obama will inevitably have to make tough decisions that will alienate global citizens whose support he once enjoyed. In order for President Obama to gain the respect he lacks as a relatively inexperienced leader, he must be willing make such decisions publicly and forcefully, or face appearing
Photo from flickr.
subservient to the political desires of other countries. As President Obama enters into his second year in office, his popularity is dampened but not expired; he still enjoys a fairly clean slate regarding foreign policy as a whole and has maintained a great deal of his international popularity. He can use this advantage as an opportunity to address more contentious issues and gain the respect—not just the popularity—of the international community. Afp
Christiana may be reached at email@example.com
Sanctioning Iran How to Stop the Iranian Nuclear Program
ran’s nuclear program has been a major concern for the West since the beginning of the millenium. Iran has repeatedly violated both UN and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sanctions, suggested that Israel be wiped off the map, and supported terrorism based in Iraq, the Gaza Strip, and Lebanon. The United States’ unilateral strategy of negotiations and sanctions has been unsuccessful in achieving a sustainable settlement.Washington should consider other options in order to successfully deal with the crisis. To move negotiations forward, the U.S. should proceed with a regimen of multilateral sanctions to put pressure on Iran to negotiate seriously. Sanctions, along with focused and serious negotiations, are America’s best chance to disarm Iran and prevent military action. The United States should study its previous attempts to end the Iranian nuclear crisis before moving forward. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. applied unilateral financial and economic sanctions against Iran, but with limited success. In the past, countries such as Russia and China provided many of the financial services that the U.S. sanctions denied Iran, and a number of international oil companies continue to do business with Iran in spite of the sanctions. Moreover, China, who seems driven foremost by its concern for feeding its massive appetite for oil, continues to invest in Iran’s energy and refining infrastructure. Similarly, UN sanctions on weaponry and weapons technology were largely ineffective because Russia and China refused to meaningfully cooperate. In 2008, Russia negotiated a contract to sell Iran advanced anti-aircraft missile battery system—though Russia has yet to deliver the system—insisting that it was for defensive purposes and did not violate the sanctions. While in theory it is indeed a defensive system, the delivery of such weaponry can only harden Iran’s position in the negotiations because it enhances Iran’s ability to defend its nuclear facilities. In sum, for Russia and China, security and proliferation concerns take a back seat to economic gain. Negotiations have been largely ineffective
George Maliha ‘13 as well. While many in the West have praised the “agreement in principle” reached at recent talks in Vienna as a step forward, Western countries should be cautious of this perceived success. Under the Vienna Agreement, Iran would ship its stock of enriched uranium to Russia. The Russians and the French would then enrich the uranium into a form that could not be easily re-processed into weapons-grade material but could be used for non-military purposes. This plan, however, is subject to the approval of Ayatollah
“To move negotiations forward the U.S. should proceed with a regimen of multilateral sanctions to put pressure on Iran to negotiate seriously.” Khameini, the Iranian Supreme Leader, who is rumored to be against the agreement. In addition, many close to him, including the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, have criticized the framework as an attempt to deceive Iran. Nonetheless, even if the Vienna Agreement were approved, the accord would still not prevent Iran from enriching uranium. If Iran chose, it could restock its supplies of enriched uranium again within a year. The agreement also does not prevent Iran from continuing research and development of its delivery capabilities. In addition, the agreement does nothing to address the fundamental question, which is how to alter incentives such that it is not in the current regime’s best interest to develop nuclear weapons. If adopted, the proposal would simply provide a temporary stopgap. The Vienna Agreement would give Iran the chance to stall and continue developing nuclear weapons, taking the West
American Foreign Policy
back to square one. Even if a deal could be reached, a simple agreement with Iran will not be enough. The Iranian regime has a history of neither adhering to its international obligations nor cooperating with international authority. Iran, as a signatory nation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, is obligated to report to the IAEA any intention to build any nuclear facility. The regime did not report its uranium enrichment facility in Natanz until 2002, after it was fully operational. Iran likewise did not report the facility in Qom to the IAEA until Tehran realized that Western governments had discovered the facility’s existence. Furthermore, the regime has refused to allow its nuclear scientists to be questioned by the IAEA. If the U.S. and its allies are serious about preventing Iranian proliferation, they must insist on an enforceable agreement with a robust inspections regime. The unsuccessful attempts at preventing Iran from continued development of nuclear weapons indicate that any response to Iran requires unified, international support. This summer’s election riots have presented the West with new options. The regime’s leaders appear not to want to confront external pressure and internal threats simultaneously. While Tehran has used negotiations to buy time, this new, unstable situation might make the regime amenable to meaningful settlement, especially if it faces multilateral pressure. There are a number of options available to entice and pressure the Iranians to submit to the will of the international community. In the political sphere, the U.S., through Radio Farda—a Persian-language radio station based in Washington, D.C. and Prague—could amplify the voices of dissent with programming that provides a platform for Iranian exiles and expatriates. Internally, dissidents could be supplied with communication equipment not susceptible to jamming and other interference (such as satellite phones and sophisticated encryption equipment). The importance of communication within Iran is validated by the behavior of the theocratic regime—which moves swiftly to disrupt cellular and Internet communications at any sign of unrest. In the economic sphere, multilateral leverage has significant potential. It is no secret that Iran’s economic situation is dire: It faces high unemployment (12 percent, according to the Iranian government), rampant inflation (28 percent, according to the Iranian government), corruption, and a lack of basic services. Iran’s economy depends heavily on petroleum
exports, but without Western technological expertise, Iran’s oil production has steadily declined. According to a 2007 National Academy of Science study, Iran’s consumption of refined petroleum will outstrip its production of crude oil by 2015, effectively halting petroleum exports altogether. Furthermore, Iran lacks the capacity to refine petroleum and, as a result, imports 40 percent of its petroleum. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, which would limit Iran’s ability to import gasoline. The Senate will likely approve the legislation in coming weeks. The U.S., through similar restrictions, should strengthen economic sanctions by convincing others to jump on board. European nations such as France, Germany, and Britain have expressed interest in such sanctions. In addition, Iran’s recent agreement to supply Turkmenistan with natural gas, which will ultimately supply all of Europe, competes with the Russian monopoly on gas, giving the Russians an incentive to support sanctions. This agreement would also give the Europeans more economic leverage over Tehran. Finally, a multilateral regimen of sanctions would force companies and financial institutions that do business in Iran to choose between continuing their transactions with Iran and doing business in the U.S. and in whichever European nations sign on to sanctions and few companies can afford to choose the former. While some have argued that enhanced sanctions might rally the Iranian people around the regime, only the opposite has happened thus far, as Iranians have blamed their regime for the
country’s economic woes. While proceeding with this new approach to Iran, however, the United States must try to ensure China and Russia’s support. While Chinese-Iranian economic interests are substantial, Chinese-U.S. economic ties are even more vital. China could be amenable to enforcing sanctions against Iran, as Beijing does not wish to deal with the economic consequences of a potential war between the U.S. and Iran that could result if the Iranian nuclear program is not stopped. In addition, the Russians, who are anxious about NATO, may be willing to enforce sanctions against Iran if the U.S. provides concessions on Russian security interests. A recent controversial overture by the U.S. to scale back missile shield deployment in Poland could be responsible for Russian officials more vocally supporting sanctions against Iran. Securing Chinese and Russian support for sanctions should be a top priority for the U.S. Of course, the U.S. has never taken the military option off the table, and Israel has strongly hinted that it would consider using military force against Iran as well. Air strikes on Iran’s nuclear targets present a difficult tactical challenge, however. Iran’s nuclear facilities are distributed across the country, with some installations hidden underground, heavily fortified. Moreover, Iran has military assets throughout the Middle East with which it could retaliate against such a strike. In Iraq, Iran would almost certainly intensify support for the insurgency, endangering American troops and the already unstable democracy. In Gaza, Hamas could, at Iran’s instigation, unleash
missile strikes into densely populated areas of Israel. Indeed, Iran itself has ballistic capability and could retaliate with its own missile strikes. Additionally, Iran could, in retaliation, finally make good on its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s seatransported oil and 90 percent of the Gulf’s oil output flows. Even if the U.S. were able to open the straits quickly, insurers would refuse to cover oil tankers passing through a conflict zone, effectively closing it to international commerce. Thus, superior firepower simply may not provide an effective solution to this problem, and could provoke a harsh response from the international community against the U.S. or Israel. As such, it is imperative that multilateral economic and political sanctions be applied instead of a military option. To persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program, the United States must employ multilateral cooperation and sanctions to convince Iran’s leaders that it is highly disadvantageous to continue nuclear development. A combination of economic, political, and social pressures could finally push Iran to accept an agreement. Iran has always used negotiations to stall because the price for delaying a negotiated settlement was significant but not crippling. The U.S. should make the price for stalling unacceptably high for Iran, in economic and political terms. Afp
George may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits Natanz uranium enrichment facilities in 2008. Photo from Picasa
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