The CSS Blog Network

The Last of the Sudeiri Seven

King Abdullah

King Abdullah. Photo: Zamanalsamt/flickr.

LONDON – Ever since the Al Saud clan established in 1932 the Kingdom to which they gave their name, the exercise of power in Saudi Arabia has been shaped by the intrigues and intricacies of royal politics. But never before has this internal struggle had such far-reaching ramifications for the region and beyond as it does now.

With some 22,000 members, competition is rife within the world’s largest ruling family – a dynamic set in motion by the Kingdom’s founder, Abdul Aziz Al Saud, as he sought to secure the role of his 43 sons as future rulers, and sustained by King Abdullah’s succession strategy today. » More

Asia’s New Security Trifecta

Indian Navy ships, courtesy of Michael Scalet/flickr

NEW DELHI – Winter is India’s diplomatic high season, with the cool, sunny weather forming an ideal backdrop for pageantry, photo ops at the Taj Mahal or Delhi’s Red Fort, and bilateral deal-making. But this winter has been particularly impressive, with leaders from Japan and South Korea visiting to advance the cause of security cooperation in Asia.

The first to arrive was South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Despite a strong economic foundation, the bilateral relationship has long lacked a meaningful security dimension. But China’s recent assertiveness – including its unilateral declaration last November of a new Air Defense Identification Zone, which overlaps about 3,000 square kilometers of South Korea’s own ADIZ, in the Sea of Japan – has encouraged Park to shore up her country’s security ties with India. » More

The Myth of Isolationist America

Projecting US Power, courtesy of Al_Hikes AZ /flickr

CAMBRIDGE – Is the United States turning inward and becoming isolationist? That question was posed to me by a number of financial and political leaders at the recent World Economic Forum at Davos, and was heard again a few days later at the annual Munich Security Conference. In a strong speech at Davos, Secretary of State John Kerry gave an unambiguous answer: “Far from disengaging, America is proud to be more engaged than ever.” Yet the question lingered.

Unlike the mood at Davos a few years ago, when many participants mistook an economic recession for long-term American decline, the prevailing view this year was that the US economy has regained much of its underlying strength. Economic doomsayers focused instead on previously fashionable emerging markets like Brazil, Russia, India, and Turkey. » More

Europe’s Middle East Mission

Soldiers at the Wailing Wall, courtesy of Mor /flickr

LONDON – America’s gradual withdrawal from the Middle East puts increasing pressure on Europe to help foster peace in the region. With complex and heated wars threatening to bring about the collapse of states like Syria and Iraq, and the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Palestine seemingly as far from resolution as ever, it is almost easier to ask what Europe should avoid than what it should do.

The starting point must be a simple, fundamental principle: Europe should not take sides. Allowing preconceptions or emotional reactions to overshadow facts could make the situation much more dangerous. » More

Friendless China

Irrawaddy River, courtesy of Bjorn Christian Torrissen /Wikimedia Commons

HONG KONG – At a time when China’s territorial assertiveness has strained its ties with many countries in the region, and its once-tight hold on Myanmar has weakened, its deteriorating relationship with North Korea, once its vassal, renders it a power with no real allies. The question now is whether the United States and other powers can use this development to create a diplomatic opening to North Korea that could help transform northeast Asia’s fraught geopolitics.

China’s ties with Myanmar began to deteriorate in late 2011, when Myanmar decided to suspend work on its largest and most controversial Chinese-aided project: the $3.6 billion Myitsone Dam, located at the headwaters of the Irrawaddy River. The decision shocked China, which had been treating Myanmar as a client state – one where it retains significant interests, despite today’s rift. » More

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