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  • Author: John Feffer
  • Publication Date: 05-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: North Korea and Israel have a lot in common. Neither is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and both employ their nuclear weapons in elaborate games of peek-a-boo with the international community. Israel and North Korea are equally paranoid about outsiders conspiring to destroy their states, and this paranoia isn't without some justification. Partly as a result of these suspicions, both countries engage in reckless and destabilizing foreign policies. In recent years, Israel has launched preemptive strikes and invaded other countries, while North Korea has abducted foreign citizens and blown up South Korean targets (including, possibly, a South Korean ship in late March in the Yellow Sea).
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Human Rights, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, South Korea, North Korea
  • Author: Michael Shank, Marwan Kabalan
  • Publication Date: 04-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) apparently has a penchant for badness. For visiting Syria, the Speaker received a harsh reprimand by Vice President Dick Cheney who thought it “bad behavior.” Though the Speaker remained relatively un-phased by the scolding, Cheney made his point. The warning contained a deeper meaning—one that the Speaker understood immediately and that may explain why she passed on House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Tom Lantos' (D-CA) recommendation to do the same with Iran. Take a closer look at Cheney's criticism and two questions arise. Does bad behavior connote an undermining of U.S. foreign policy, i.e. that U.S. officials should not engage in direct dialogue with adversaries? Or, does bad behavior suggest that the legislative branch should not, under any circumstances, challenge the executive branch? According to Cheney, it's the latter. In a radio appearance, the veep said, “The President is the one who conducts foreign policy, not the speaker of the House.” But before examining the schism widening between legislative and executive branches on foreign policy issues, the former point—i.e. should the U.S. dialogue with adversaries—needs attention.
  • Topic: International Relations
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Zunes
  • Publication Date: 05-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: Even as American officials reluctantly agreed last month to include Syrian representatives in multiparty talks on Iraqi security issues, the Bush administration continues to block Israel from resuming negotiations with Syria over its security concerns. In 2003, President Bashar al-Assad offered to resume peace talks with Israel where they had left off three years earlier, but Israel, backed by the Bush administration, refused. Assad eventually agreed to reenter peace negotiations without preconditions, but even these overtures were rejected.
  • Topic: International Relations, Security
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Zunes
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: President George Bush gave his 2007 State of the Union address on January 23. While the speech covered many domestic issues, Bush also laid out his foreign policy approach to Iraq, Iran, terrorism, and democracy promotion. Excerpts from the president's speech are in italics; my comments follow.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Government, Terrorism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Jason Yossef Ben-Meir
  • Publication Date: 01-2007
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: The new strategy of the United States in Iraq does not include an extensive overhaul of reconstruction efforts at this critical time. Very little money is now being appropriated for reconstruction. As the Iraq Study Group Report explains, of the $21 billion to date that has been appropriated for the “Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund” (IRRF), $16 billion has been spent and the remaining funds have been committed. The administration requested $750 million for 2007, and President Bush's new proposal is to add $1.2 billion to that.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Economics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Erik Leaver, Phyllis Bennis
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: Despite the breathless hype, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group (ISG) report did not include any dramatic new ideas for ending the war in Iraq. In fact, it did not include a call to end the war at all. Rather, the report's recommendations focus on transforming the U.S. occupation of Iraq into a long-term, sustainable, off-the-front-page occupation with a lower rate of U.S. casualties. Despite its title, it does not provide "A New Approach: A Way Forward."
  • Topic: Peace Studies, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Stephen Zunes
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: The ongoing popular challenge to the pro-Western Lebanese government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora marks yet another setback in the Bush administration's attempt to impose a new order on the Middle East more compatible with perceived U.S. strategic interests. The success of the nonviolent people power movement against Syria's overbearing role in Lebanese politics during the spring of 2005dubbed the Cedar Revolutionwas an impressive triumph of popular democratic forces, forcing the withdrawal of Syrian forces and enabling the country to proceed with parliamentary elections without Syrian interference. However, despite claims by the Bush administration to the contrary, the electionswhich, like all Lebanese elections, took place under the country's colonially-imposed confessional representation systemdid not constitute a victory for reformers. Instead, the victors were primarily a group of corrupt pro-Western elite politicians from the same traditional political families who have ruled the country since independence. Their credibility among the Lebanese people was reduced further this summer when the United States rejected their pleas to use its considerable influence to stop Israel's brutal 35-day military assault against their country which took the lives of more than 1,000 civilians and caused billions of dollars of damage to the country's civilian infrastructure.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Government
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Conn Hallinan
  • Publication Date: 12-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: In the 5th century BC, the Greek tragic playwright Euripides coined a phrase that still captures the particular toxic combination of hubris and illusion that seizes many of those in power: Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad. What other line could better describe British Prime Minister Tony Blair's recent address to his nation's troops hunkered down at Camp Bastion, in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Province? Here, Blair said. In this extraordinary piece of desert is where the fate of world security in the early 21st century is going to be decided. While Blair was turning Afghanistan's arid south into the Armageddon of terrorism, the rest of the country was coming apart at the seams. Attacks by insurgents have reached 600 a month, more than double the number in March, and almost five times the number in November of last year. We do have a serious problem in the south, one diplomat told Rachel Morarjee of the Financial Times on November 22, but the north is a ticking time bomb. Suicide bombers have struck Kunduz in the north, where former U.S. protégé Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami organization are hammering away at the old Northern Alliance. The latter, frozen out of the current government following the 2001 Bonn Conference, is busy stockpiling arms and forming alliances with drug warlords. According to the Associated Press, opium poppy production is up 59%. While Blair was bucking up the troops, their officers were growing increasingly desperate. Major Jon Swift, a company commander in the Royal Fusiliers told the Guardian that casualties were very significant and showing no signs of reducing, and Field Marshall Peter Inge, former chief of the British military, warned that the army in Afghanistan could risk operational failure, military speak for defeat. The Brits don't have a monopoly on madness, however. Speaking in Riga, Latvia on the eve of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) meeting, President George Bush said, I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete. We can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren. In the meantime, the Iraq War that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said would cost $50 billion at the most, was burning up more than twice that each year. The Pentagon just requested $160 billion in supplemental funds for the Iraq and Afghan wars for the remainder of fiscal 2007. Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz says the final costs may exceed $2 trillion.
  • Topic: NATO, War
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, United States, Iraq, Middle East, Asia
  • Author: Stephen Zunes
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: The election of a Democratic majority in the House and Senate is unlikely to result in any serious challenge to the Bush administration's support for Israeli attacks against the civilian populations of its Arab neighbors and the Israeli government's ongoing violations of international humanitarian law.
  • Topic: International Relations, Democratization, Humanitarian Aid, Politics
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Arabia
  • Author: Anthony Newkirk
  • Publication Date: 11-2006
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Foreign Policy In Focus
  • Abstract: This month, the Shurat HaDin Law Center is taking foreign tourists on an eight-day "exploration of Israel's struggle for survival and security" that includes briefings by intelligence officers and demonstrations by masked commandoes, as well as visits to military trials of Hamas members. Make no mistake, the region certainly is witnessing a struggle for survival and security that involves tremendous human suffering. However, this struggle is not exactly as the Shurat HaDin Law Center would like to imagine it because the primary victims are the inhabitants of the Occupied Territories, people for whom bare survival is now more important than security--to say nothing of statehood. The long ordeal of Gaza under Israeli occupation--which is still continuing, even though Israeli troops and settlers officially "withdrew" a year ago--exemplifies the Palestinian struggle for survival and security. Ever since the establishment of a Hamas-led government last spring, the United States and the European Union have been waging economic warfare against the Palestinian Authority. As Israel's summer "incursion" in the Palestinian Authority has plunged Gaza's population deeper into misery, the European Union now states that it will not restore aid until the Palestinian Authority "commits" to peaceful relations with Israel, renounces violence, and respects all agreements made between the PLO and Israel. On September 20, Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy Elliott Abrams said that U.S. direct aid will not resume until Hamas fulfills similar conditions as specified in the Palestinian anti-terrorism Act of 2006, the legal mainstay of the U.S. blockade. However, the record shows that Western powers are notorious for changing their definitions of specific peace terms, which always makes weak adversaries like the Palestinians appear to be intractable. A week before the beginning of Operation Summer Rains on June 28, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that from January to mid-June Israeli forces fired 8,380 artillery shells into the tiny Gaza Strip and armed Palestinian factions fired 896 home-made Qassam rockets into Israel.
  • Topic: Security, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: Middle East