Categories
Security Elections

Iran’s Electoral Strategy

Former US embassy Iran
The former US embassy in Tehran. Photo: Örlygur Hnefill/flickr.

WASHINGTON, DC – Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have again hit a wall, but the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, appears unconcerned. Indeed, Khamenei seems convinced that neither the United States nor Israel will attack its nuclear facilities – at least not before the US presidential election in November.

Ironically, while Khamenei is no fan of democracy, he relies on the fact that his principal enemies are bound by democratic constraints. Khamenei controls Iran’s nuclear program and its foreign policy, but the US and Israel must work to reach consensus not only within their respective political systems, but also with each other.

Categories
Foreign policy Global Voices

Is Bolivia’s Anti-US Rhetoric Harming its Diplomatic Relations?

Image from presidenciaecuador/Flickr.
Image from presidenciaecuador/Flickr.

In the last decade the balance of power has changed in South America. The US hegemony exerted in the second part of the 20th century has been challenged, primarily by the solid emergence of Brazil but also by political initiatives led by left-wing governments like Bolivia.

Despite its relatively small size the landlocked country at the heart of South America, has championed anti-US initiatives since 2006, when President Evo Morales, a left-wing indigenous leader and coca-growers’ unionist, was democratically elected.

Categories
International Relations Foreign policy Conflict

The Logic of China’s North Korea Policy

DPRK: train from Pyongyang to Dandong
Train from Pyongyang to Dandong. Photo: kwramm/flickr.

US and South Korean analysts are annoyed and frustrated by China’s policy toward North Korea. In their eyes, Beijing’s policy not only jeopardizes the security of the US and the ROK and undermines international norms, but is detrimental to China’s own national interests as well. But judgments about whether China’s North Korea policy is illogical or self-defeating depend very much on what people see as China’s goals. Most Chinese analysts would argue that China’s policy has its own internal logic; whether the US and South Korea see that logic is a different matter.

The widely accepted assumption is that China has three goals when it comes to North Korea: stability (no implosion and no war), peace (diplomatic normalization between the US and North Korea), and denuclearization/nonproliferation. Among these three, China prioritizes stability over peace and denuclearization. The secondary status of denuclearization is a sore spot for Washington and Seoul, which see it as the most important goal (or should be). And while different priorities lead to different approaches, North Korean actions have been destabilizing. Therefore, China’s strategy is counterproductive in terms of its own priority, hence illogical.

Categories
Arctic

North America in the Arctic: A Regional Power Disparity

USCGC Willow on Arctic-Patrol
US Coast Guard Cutter Willow and Her Danish Majesty’s Ship Hvidbjoernen navigate through icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, during joint Operation Nanook, Aug. 23, 2011. Photo: Charles McCain/flickr.

In 2013 the Canadian government will hold the chairmanship of the Arctic Council. In preparation for this the Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Program last week released a set of recommendations of what should guide the Canadians’ two year tenure. Expectations are that the chairmanship will prove an assertive Canada acting on their belief that they promote the interests of the Arctic by advancing Canadian leadership.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was on her way to Tromsø (Norway) and Stockholm (Sweden) to reaffirm that the US has an interest in the Arctic, rebuffing criticisms that this rarely shows. With her trip to Scandinavia some experts conjured that this was the first baby-step to finally signing the UNCLOS. This would be a landmark as it (at least officially) enables the country to press its claims on the Arctic. Even if this was the case, the US will still need to work hard to keep up with their Arctic partners.   

Categories
International Relations Security Foreign policy

Japan’s Response to New US Defense Strategy: “Welcome, but…”

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta addresses U.S. and Japanese troops stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 24, 2011. (Photo: secdef/Flickr)

The Japanese government welcomes the recently released US defense strategy because it rebalances the strategic focus toward the Asia-Pacific region. But the other focus of this new strategy — the so-called anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) capabilities of China which, the United States fears, could jeopardize its forward presence and freedom of action in the Western Pacific — does not get as much attention from Japan.

The new defense strategic guidance, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense,” has quickly gained currency in policy discussions in Japan after it was rolled out Jan. 5. Defense Minister Tanaka Naoki has said in the Diet that Tokyo welcomed it. He explained, for example, Jan. 31: “I understand that it indicates the United States attaches more importance to the Asia-Pacific region and enhances its regional presence. I believe it will be a significant contribution to the peace and security in this region.”