Maliki’s Aproach to Sunni Militias — Politics as War By Other Means

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DENVER — Despite optimistic forecasts with Ken Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon in their latest Foreign Affairs piece, Stephen Biddle seems to be parting ways and concluding that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government has no intention of folding in the Sunni Awakening Councils into the Iraqi military. Yesterday’s LA Times reports: Amid fears that the Sunnis’ treatment could rekindle Iraq’s insurgency, the Americans are caught between their wish to support the fighters and their stronger ties to Maliki’s government, which…

Let the Puns Begin

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Just when you thought we had eclipsed Scalito and Billary, you get your choice of Joebama or Obiden. Whichever it is, the two seem like good complements in more than name. But I’m curious to see how their takes on policy toward Pakistan will meld given their wide distance on the subject a year ago — Obama with his controversial speech deemed populist and impetuous in contrast with Biden’s plan that demonstrated the great study, nuance, and precision of a…

Thanks But No Tanks: Geogia’s Lesson in Realpolitik

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A couple days ago an prominent though irate Kenyan journalist wrote a piece a the Washington Post bemoaning the Russian response to Georgian maneuvers in South Ossetia and suggested that Russia’s “international standing [was] in tatters.” His lament seemed valid in one sense, but laden with misplaced faith in a lofty, unified consensus of what “international standing” meant — symptomatic, I’d posit, of the one sweet/flat world theory floating around. On the contrary, Russia just stomped all over its neighbor…

Why the US Needs to be Right on Russia

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In their article “Wrong on Russia” published today in The National Interest, Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett follow a thread I began yesterday on US strategy towards Georgia. The Leveretts, along with a number of others Steve Clemons has mentioned (here, here, and here), are skeptical of both Presidential campaign’s approaches to Georgia and Russia as they commit the fundamental error that has led this administration down treacherous paths — failure to strategically prioritize relationships and objectives in the region….

Geopolitical Stickiness — What Our Policies Toward Georgia, Pakistan & Colombia Have in Common

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The common thread running through a series of events in the past weeks — from Georgia, to Pakistan, to perhaps parts of Latin America — is one I would term geopolitical stickiness, though unlike the economics term, this is less a natural failure and more one of poor execution and ideological traps getting in the way of strategy. In Georgia, US (and to some extent European) strategy has been largely to develop an alternative conduit of oil and gas to…

Why Iran Can’t Bomb Israel

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Almost a year ago, my colleague Steve Clemons wrote a controversial piece titled “Why Bush Won’t Attack Iran” citing the internal political and bureaucratic constraints that held at bay a deliberate attack on Iranian nuclear facilities (but not an “accidental” provocation and ramp-up of tensions). A recent discussion between Joe Klein and Jeffrey Goldberg triggered in my mind a half-formed, perhaps non-unique, but nevertheless worthwhile examination of the geopolitical constraints Iran faces despite its bluster. My contention is this: even…

<em>Guest Post by Mindy Kotler</em>: Rocks of Contention

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Mindy Kotler is director of Asia Policy Point, a Washington research center that provides objective information on East Asia to the policy community. Among the many obstacles hindering success at the Six-Party Talks to denuclearlize the Korean peninsula are the ingrained animosities between Japan and South Korea. These tensions are never far below the surface and arise at inopportune times. Recently, another row over a group of rocky islets located roughly halfway between South Korea and Japan threatens to undo…

<em>Guest Post by Katherine Tiedemann</em>: Could A Truth Commission Pull Us Back from “The Dark Side?”

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Katherine Tiedemann is a Program Associate with the New America Foundation’s Nuclear Strategy & Nonproliferation Initiative. During Jane Mayer’s event Tuesday at New America promoting her penetrating new book, The Dark Side, a topic came up during the Q & A that I’d like to expand on–the possibility of establishing a truth commission for the Bush administration’s transgressions. The idea has been getting some play recently, both from Nick Kristof in the New York Times and scattered across some blogs…

When “New Realities” Ignore Facts on the Ground

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It comes as little surprise that Fred Kagan, Kimberly Kagan, and Jack Keane offer a glowing assessment of the political and security progress in Iraq in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal op-ed “The New Reality in Iraq.” Despite evidence to the contrary, the Keanes and Kagan open by triumphantly proclaiming: All of the most important objectives of the surge have been accomplished in Iraq. The sectarian civil war is ended; al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has been dealt a devastating blow;…

Covert Ops in Iran — Back After 55 Years

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Washington is abuzz with Seymour Hersh’s recent investigative piece which describes how the administration has launched covert operations that could bleed into military operations and provoke wider conflict with Iran. These operations were approved just on the heels of the newly released December National Intelligence Estimate which concluded the Iranian nuclear weaponization threat to be less imminent than had previously been intimated. The effective circumvention of Congress and continued expansion of Presidential powers is almost as worrisome as the myopic…