Josh Rogin Monday, December 5, 2011 – 5:51 PM
A team of conservative policymakers and thinkers believes that there’s a real chance that Western efforts to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon will fail, in which case the United States would have to lead an international effort to contain Iran and deter the Islamic Republic from using its nuclear weapons capability.
Experts at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative Washington think tank, have spent the last six months thinking about how the United States should respond to a nuclear-armed Iran. They are getting ready to release an extensive report tomorrow detailing a comprehensive strategy for dealing with that scenario, entitled, “Containing and Deterring a Nuclear Iran.”
“The report is very much an acknowledgement of the very real possibility of failure of the strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and any responsible party should recognize that failure is an option. There’s been a huge disservice done by all who have spent their lives in denial of that possibility,” AEI Vice President Danielle Pletka told The Cable in a Monday interview. “Whenever you devise a strategy for what happens before a country gets a nuclear weapon, you should have a strategy for what happens after they get one as well.”
Pletka will unveil the report on Tuesday morning at an event with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and fellow AEI experts Tom Donnelly, Maseh Zarif, and Fred Kagan. The project brought together Iran experts of all stripes to brainstorm what would be needed to create the maximum level of confidence that, if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon, it would not decide to use it.
“While there can never be certain deterrence, Cold War presidents often had confidence that the United States had sufficient military power to support a policy of containment through a strategy of deterrence; for most of the period they felt that deterrence was assured,” the report states. “It is worth repeating Dean Acheson‘s basic formulation: ‘American power would be employed in stopping [Soviet aggression and expansion], and if necessary, would inflict on the Soviet Union injury which the Moscow regime would not wish to suffer.’ Assured deterrence began with assured destruction of the Soviet regime.”
Pletka said that while the geopolitical environment is now different, the basic goal of U.S. policy is the same — to create a situation whereby Iranian leaders would credibly believe that any nuclear attack would mean the end of their regime. But Pletka doubts whether this administration has the stomach for such a stance.
“Take out Soviet and Moscow from Acheson’s quote, and sub in Iran and Tehran. Are we willing to inflict on Iran injury which the Tehran regime would not wish to suffer? I doubt it,” Pletka warned. “There’s no question that a country can be deterred from using a nuclear weapon, the only question is if there is the will to put those tools in place.” Continue reading
AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev
MOSCOW (AP) — Firebombs have been thrown at a protest rally in downtown Moscow pitting demonstrators denouncing alleged vote fraud in parliamentary elections against hundreds of pro-Kremlin youths.
An Associated Press reporter saw at least two firebombs thrown into a crowd of pro-Kremlin demonstrators gathered outside the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall on Tuesday night. It was not immediately clear who had thrown the incendiary devices or if they caused any injuries.
Police moved in quickly on the gathering.
The concert hall is adjacent to a square where anti-government protesters had earlier tried to gather, but were broken up by police. Moscow police spokesman Maxim Kolosvetov said about 250 people had been detained.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
MOSCOW (AP) – Police clashed Tuesday on a central Moscow square with demonstrators trying to hold a second day of protests against alleged vote fraud in Russia’s parliamentary elections.
Hundreds of police had blocked off Triumphal Square on Tuesday evening, then began chasing about 100 demonstrators, seizing some and throwing them harshly into police vehicles.
Pro-government United Russia supporters also rallied late Tuesday at Revolution Square near the Kremlin. State television footage showed a crowd appearing to number in the thousands.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party saw a significant drop in support in Sunday’s election but it will still have a majority in parliament. Opponents say even that watered-down victory was due to massive vote fraud.
Some Moscow demonstrators Tuesday shouted “Putin is a crook and a thief!” referring both to the alleged election fraud and to widespread complaints that United Russia is one of the prime reasons for Russia’s endemic corruption.
Among the detained was Boris Nemtsov, a leader of the liberal opposition, along with prominent radical Eduard Limonov and Oleg Orlov, head of the renowned human rights group Memorial, the Interfax news agency reported.
Hundreds of young men with emblems of United Russia’s youth wing, the Young Guards, also gathered on the outskirts of the square and tauntingly chanted “Putin victory!”
Large crowds also gathered on a square in St. Petersburg, visibly outnumbering police, a Danish election observer reported.
United Russia won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged.
Yet Sunday’s election results reflected public fatigue with Putin’s authoritarian streak and with official corruption in Russia, signaling that his return to the presidency in next March’s election may not be as trouble-free as he expected.
Putin, meanwhile, called his party’s reduced number of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election an “inevitable” result of voters always being dissatisfied with the party in power. Putin also dismissed allegations of corruption among his United Russia party members, calling it a “cliche” that the party had to fight.
United Russia party won slightly less than 50 percent of Sunday’s vote, according to nearly complete preliminary results. Although that gives the party an absolute majority in the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, it is a significant drop from the 2007 election when the party got a two-thirds majority, enough to change the constitution unchallenged. Continue reading
Iran had applied intense pressure to Hamas in an effort to persuade it not to leave Damascus, threatening even to cut off funds to the organization if it did so, Palestinian sources have told Haaretz.
The Iranian pressure also included an unprecedented ultimatum – namely, an explicit threat to stop supplying Hamas with arms and suspend the training of its military activists.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal. Photo by: AP
According to the sources, Hamas is abandoning its headquarters in Syria and looking at other Arab states as an alternative location for its political command center. Hamas’ move comes despite intense Iranian pressure on the organization to refrain from relocating.
A Syrian opposition spokesman said recently that once Assad is toppled, his successors will have no intention of preserving the strategic alliance between Damascus, Tehran and Hezbollah.
According to the Palestinian sources, only “second and third-ranking” Hamas activists are leaving Damascus, while senior members of the organization’s political wing, headed by Khaled Meshal, are remaining in the Syrian capital. Continue reading
Not going to melt any time soon, says boffin
New research has shown that the mighty ice sheet covering the Antarctic froze into being when the world had a much higher level of carbon dioxide in its atmosphere than it does today.
By analysing ancient algae found in deep-sea core samples, Professor Matthew Huber and his colleagues determined that the mile-thick ice which now covers the south polar continent formed around 34 million years ago. At that stage the atmosphere held much more CO2 than it does now, some 600 parts per million (ppm) as opposed to today’s level of 390 ppm.
There is often concern that the Antarctic ice sheet might melt due to global warming (though in fact, despite much publicity over losses of ice from the Western peninsula, Antarctic ice has been steadily increasing in extent for the last 40 years). It would seem that this is highly unlikely given current and near-future levels of atmospheric CO2: at current rates of increase it will take a century at least to reach 600 ppm, the level at which the ice sheet formed itself, and higher levels would be needed to actually start it melting.
Even once the process begins there won’t be any need for our great-grandchildren to panic, according to Huber.
“If we continue on our current path of warming we will eventually reach that tipping point,” he says. “Of course after we cross that threshold it will still take many thousands of years to melt an ice sheet.”
The new research is published in premier boffinry mag Science, here. ®
The U.S. and NATO are poised now to shift focus from Arab North Africa to the Arab Levant to deal with the last Syrian obstacle to their regional hegemony. The U.S. administration of President Barak Obama seems now determined to make or break with the al-Assad regime, distancing itself from decades long policy of crisis management pursued by predecessor U.S. administrations vis-à-vis Syria, which stands now in the Middle East as former Yugoslavia stood in the wake of the collapse of the former Soviet Union when a series of ethnic and religious wars wrecked it, creating from its wreckage several new states, until the Serbian core of the Yugoslav union was bombed by NATO in 1999 to make Serbia now a hopeful member of the alliance.
However international and regional strategic geopolitical factors are turning Syria into a border red line that might either herald a new era of multipolar world order, which puts an end to the U.S. unipolar order, if the U.S. led alliance fails to change the Syrian regime, or completes a U.S. – NATO total regional hegemony that would preclude such a long awaited outcome, if it succeeds:
- Internally, the infrastructure of the state is strong, the military, security, diplomatic and political ruling establishment stands coherent, unified and potent, and economically the state is not burdened with foreign debt and is self-sufficient in oil, food and consumer products. Imposing a complete suffocating economic and diplomatic siege on the country seems impossible. What is more important politically is the fact that the pluralistic diversity of the large Syrian religious and sectarian minorities deprives the major and better organized Islamist opposition of the Muslim Brotherhood of the leading role it enjoys in the protests of what has been termed the “Arab Spring” in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen.
- Contrary to western analyses, which expect the change of regimes by the “Arab Spring” to be a motivating drive for a similar change in Syria, the changes were bad examples for Syrians. The destruction of the infrastructure of the state, especially in Iraq and Libya, and leaving their national decision making to NATO and U.S., at least out gratefulness to their roles in the change, is not viewed by the overwhelming majority of the Syrians, including the mainstream opposition inside the country, as an acceptable and feasible price for change and reform. The Arab Egyptian veteran and internationally prominent journalist, Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, in an interview with the Qatar based Aljazeera satellite TV Arabic channel, cited these bad Iraqi and Libyan examples as alienating the Syrian middle class in major city centers away from supporting the protests demanding change of regime; he even accused Aljazeera of “incitement” against the Syrian regime of al-Assad.
- This overall internal situation continues to deter outside intervention on the one hand and on the other explains why the opposition has so far failed to launch even one protest of the type that moved out millions of people to the streets as was and is the case in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen, especially in major population centers like the capital Damascus, Aleppo, both which are home to about ten million people.
- Moreover, the resort of a minority of Islamists to arms allegedly to defend the protesters has backfired, alienating the public in general, the minorities in particular, and highlighting their external sources of funds and arming, thus vindicating the regime’s accusation of the existence of an outside “conspiracy,” but more importantly diverting the media spotlight away from the peaceful protests, weakening these protests by driving away more people from joining them out of fear for personal safety as proved by the dwindling numbers of protesters, and dragging the opposition into a field of struggle where the regime is definitely the strongest at least in the absence of external military intervention that is not forthcoming in any foreseeable future, a fact that was confirmed in the Libyan capital Tripoli on October 31 by NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen: “NATO has no intention (to intervene) whatsoever. I can completely rule that out,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
- Geopolitically, it is true that western powers after WW1 succeeded in cutting historical Syria to its present day size, but Syrian pan-Arab ideology and influence is still up to historic Syria, and is still consistent with what the late Princeton scholar Philip K. Hitti called (quoted by Robert D. Kaplan in Foreign Policy on April 21, 2011) “Greater Syria” — the historical antecedent of the modern republic – “the largest small country on the map, microscopic in size but cosmic in influence,” encompassing in its geography, at the confluence of Europe, Asia, and Africa, “the history of the civilized world in a miniature form”. Kaplan commented: “This is not an exaggeration, and because it is not, the current unrest in Syria is far more important than unrest we have seen anywhere in the Middle East.” The change of the regime in Syria will not bring security and stability to the region; on the contrary, it will open a regional Pandora box. Continue reading
And so the inevitable has come to pass. Turkey’s central bank has departed from its controversial commitment to a loose policy stance in the face of growing signs of overheating and vulnerability in the economy. The bank signalled yesterday that a phase of marked monetary tightening has now begun.
True to form, the bank went about this tightening in an unorthodox way. But at least it is now pulling unorthodox policy levers in pursuit of orthodox ends. As recently as August, the bank was still loosening policy, easing its benchmark interest rate despite frothy GDP growth rates, accelerating inflation and a current-account deficit of increasingly eye-watering proportions.
The bank’s benchmark interest rate is its one-week repo rate, which stands at 5.75%. The simplest and most transparent way for the bank to have tightened monetary policy would have been to hike this rate. Instead, the bank yesterday announced a new policy of switching on and off the supply of money at this rate, depending on conditions on any given day.
When the one-week rate is unavailable, commercial banks seeking money from the central bank are forced to pay up to 12.5% for money provided on an overnight basis. By switching between these 5.75% and 12.5% rates from day to day, the central bank aims to find a balance appropriate to the needs of the economy.
The bank’s governor, Erdem Başçı, seems quite proud of this new policy, declaring that it gives him a level of flexibility enjoyed by no other central bank in the world. One is tempted to suggest that the reason other central banks haven’t rushed to adopt this level of policy flexibility is that there are other, simpler, ways of achieving the same ends.
Yesterday, the central bank withheld funding at the 5.75% rate. Today, it made 8bn TL available at that rate. And so it will go in the days and weeks ahead. Does this provide the bank with a means of tightening monetary policy to varying degrees? Sure. But it feels a little bit like trying to control a room’s lighting by switching the lights on and off repeatedly rather than by using a dimmer switch.
There can be little doubt that a shift in the central bank’s policy was required. For some time alarm bells have been ringing. In June, I wrote about the threat posed by Turkey’s current account deficit. At that point it stood at about 8 per cent of GDP. It has since moved closer to 10 per cent.
That kind of dynamic is both unsustainable and dangerous. In my earlier post I warned of the risk of a chain reaction being set in motion, with a depreciation of the lira feeding through to higher prices, interest rate hikes and a sharp slowdown in economic activity. We have since seen something like this play out.
The lira slumped in value by almost a fifth during the first nine months of this year. Consumer price inflation is already above the central bank’s 5.5% target and will increase again in the remainder of the year due to recent tax hikes and the rising price of imports. We’ve just seen the beginning of (indirect) interest rate rises to restore stability. It now remains to be seen how significant the impact will be on activity in the real economy. Continue reading
Studies of the international relations of the Middle East have been dominated by discussions of inter-state relations and conflicts. The dominant state- and conflict-centric approaches used to study this region largely ignore the impact of regional structures and non-state actors. Furthermore, much existing literature tends to view the region’s international relations in a relatively short time-frame. This usually entails exploring the region’s history since World War One. Again, this is problematic as it results in the exclusion of an analysis of the transformation of the regional system since the mid-19th century. The main argument of this paper is manifested in two parts. The first is that the proliferation of states in the Middle East following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the occupation of much of the region by the British and French following World War One led to the disintegration of intra-regional relations. That is to say that, relations between people in the Middle East were relatively integrated under the imperial system in the sense that there were fewer borders and boundaries (both physical and imagined) between them. This was a result of the lack of state borders within the region – these were few in number and left large swathes of territory as part of the same political entity and economic market. Introducing modern states as a way of organising people into political entities resulted in the creation of many political borders and many claims to sovereignty over territories which often were relatively small in scope. The second element of this paper’s argument is that the post-World War One disintegration of the Middle East system disrupted economic as well as political activity within the region, ultimately resulting in more instability in intra-regional relations.
Essential to this study is the belief in the value of historical analysis as well as the adoption of the tools of historical sociology in the study of international relations. Understanding and explaining the relations of the Middle East requires us to view the history of the region not as cyclical or full of patterns of behaviour. There is more value in viewing the region’s history as containing multiple layers of progression/movement from one condition to another – unevenly experienced at different times and in different spaces for the inhabitants of the region. It is certainly the position of this paper that searching for patterns of behaviour with regards to this region at least prevents the development of an eclectic framework of analysis which can take into account the diversity of experiences of the people in the region. Continue reading