Friday, June 28, 2013


"No one imagines the change of presidential leadership in Tehran provides a get-out-of-jail card. Mr Rohani is not about to turn off the uranium centrifuges as a gesture of goodwill to the international community. He has already said as much. The western diplomats who dealt with him when he served as former president Mohammad Khatami’s national security adviser say he is better described as a pragmatist than a moderate. The new president wants to end Iran’s isolation, not least because of the crippling impact of sanctions on the economy; but he is also a cleric steeped in the revolutionary ideology of 1979. In any event, real power – and that means command of the nuclear dossier – resides with the supreme leader. And, as far as anyone can guess, it seems that Mr Khamenei still thinks the regime is safer developing a bomb than not. For all this, the election result does offer an opening – the possibility of a serious dialogue between the US and Iran. The present, stuttering, talks between the so-called P5+1 powers and Iran are useful, not least in sustaining a semblance of international solidarity, It matters that Russia and China have signed up to several rounds of UN sanctions. But everyone knows that if there is a deal to be made, it will be struck by Washington and Tehran, and will reach well beyond the nuclear programme. It has taken Barack Obama’s administration five years to recognise that talking to enemies is not the same as appeasement. This week it opened talks with the Taliban. Sad to say, this decision has come too late to offer the prospect of the political settlement in Afghanistan that was once promised to accompany military retreat. Making the same mistake with Iran would be a greater tragedy. Mr Obama has all but promised to bomb Iran to prevent it acquiring the bomb. Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, whose finger is never off the trigger, relishes the prospect of another war. The US president’s job is to explore every avenue, exert every ounce of diplomatic energy and deploy every sanction and incentive to avoid such an outcome".
Philip Stephens, "Time to talk: bombing will not stop an Iranian bomb." The Financial Times. 20 June 2013, in
"Almost a decade ago Iran’s new president-elect, Hassad Rouhani, held the position of chief nuclear negotiator for Iran. If Rouhani is again to take up the nuclear dossier—this time as president—what can the West expect from any negotiations? His past and recent statements are illuminating of possible strategies and positions. Below, ISIS has compiled a list of noteworthy statements, speech excerpts, and social media posts by Rouhani on Iran’s nuclear program and policy, along with ISIS’s findings about those statements. Past statements and actions by the seemingly shrewd, remarkably honest Rouhani show that the United States and its partners should expect any negotiations to be used to buy time for nuclear advancements and to garner sanctions relief. His more recent concern about the economic state of Iran due to sanctions indicates that the West may expect that he will at least try to make a deal, but whether that deal will go far enough or be accepted by the Supreme Leader is, as usual, a big unknown".
Meredith Tull & Andrea Stricker, "ISIS Iran Report: Can Rouhani Deliver a Nuclear Deal? Can he be Trusted?" ISIS Nuclear Iran [Persia]. 19 June 2013, in
The unexpected election of the new President of Persia is simply that: unexpected. Whatever the reasons that the Mullahs in control of Persia decided to forgo the 2009-style, electoral manipulation and repression, what immediately concerns the outside world is how having Hassad Rouhani nominally in charge of the government of Persia will alter if at all the stances that Persia takes on the nuclear negotiations. As mentioned above, Rouhani was almost ten years ago, Persia's chief negotiator in talks with the Western powers. At that time, he was (in conjunction with his boss, then President Khatami) able to display some flexibility in the negotiations. The issue to-day is, whether or not, he possesses any real flexibility, or should we say he is allowed some real flexibility by the so-called Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. At this point of time we do not know. And by definition we cannot know. We will only be able to ascertain something when negotiations resume. And in that case, we will learn that either Rouhani, is merely a Persian version of what the late, great, A.J.P. Taylor once described as the, 'the Good German':
"impotent to arrest the march of German power, deploring its consequences, yet going along with it 1."
Or alternatively, he does indeed possess or has been given, the latitude to agree to some type of acceptable modus vivendi with the Western powers. In all honesty, given the fact that air strikes, as many experts from Anthony Cordesman on down have shown, cannot easily or quickly eliminate the dangers of Persia proceeding with its nuclear programme, the emphasis must be on a diplomatic solution to the problem 2. In light of this fact, it behooves us all, to endeavor as much as possible to try to reach an acceptable compromise formula, with the admittedly detestable regime of Mullahs.
1. A. J. P. Taylor. The Struggle for Mastery in Europe. (1954). p 460.
2. Anthony Cordesman, "Iran and the Gulf Military Balance II: The Missile and Nuclear Dimensions." The Center for Strategic and International Studies. 12 July 2012, in

Monday, June 24, 2013


"Reuters) - Turkey warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday not to play politics with its European Union ambitions as Berlin blocked moves to open a new chapter in Ankara's EU membership talks next week. Turkey said failure to open the chapter would be a major setback in Ankara's relations with the bloc and one senior Turkish official said it would "draw a strong reaction". Many EU capitals want to take the long-awaited step on Turkey's path towards the EU next Wednesday, arguing Europe should capitalize on Ankara's rising influence in the Middle East. But Germany has criticized Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's heavy-handed response to weeks of anti-government protests and refuses to agree to open a new negotiation area, potentially the first such step in three years. Germany blocked the opening of the new chapter, dealing with regional funding issues, at a meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday, EU diplomats said."
Nick Tattersall & Justyna Pawlak, "Turkey warns Germany as Berlin obstructs its EU path." Reuters. 20 June 2013, in
Plans to resurrect Turkey’s moribund EU accession negotiations next week seem to have fallen victim to the way Recep Tayyip Erdogan has treated this month’s national outburst of anger against what his critics see as his authoritarian whims. His government has overreacted to protests triggered by its high-handed plans to bulldoze a rare bit of green space near Taksim Square in central Istanbul. Apart from an interlude while Mr Erdogan was out of the country, riot police have been given their head to put down predominantly peaceful demonstrations. The prime minister, the towering figure of modern Turkey who has won three straight elections with an increased share of a rising vote, detects an internationally orchestrated conspiracy to bring to power discredited secular elites that cannot beat him and his neo-Islamist Justice and Development party (AKP) at the polls. He is staging mass rallies to make the point, stridently and with more than a hint of menace. The EU has to tread a fine line: addressing Mr Erdogan’s paranoid and intolerant behaviour; but somehow engaging with this civic blossoming of urban Turkey, with its diverse vitality that is democratic and, well, European. But for all its vaunted claims to act as one in European and world affairs, the EU seems culturally incapable of dealing with Turkey. France had softened its opposition to Turkish entry into the EU, clearing the way, after a three-year hiatus, for negotiations to resume next week on regional policy, one of the 35 chapters of the acquis communautaire, the club rules prospective new members must adopt. Germany, however, remains resolutely opposed and on Thursday blocked opening this new chapter. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, appears especially angry that police attacked the German hospital and tear-gassed a hotel near Taksim where leaders of the German Greens were staying. But Ms Merkel has always rejected Turkish entry and her Christian Democrat party’s draft manifesto for this autumn’s general election says “the country does not meet the criteria for joining the EU”. The stage has been set for a collision between an inward-looking, German-led Europe and a willful Turkish prime minister threatening to suspend relations with the EU, while boasting that he is still around while European leaders that blocked him – such as Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president – have fallen by the wayside. There are other ways of looking at this, however. Without the EU, Mr Erdogan would most probably not have been able to take office a decade ago, such was the hostility of the secularist establishment. Without the shield of EU club rules, he could not have broken the power of the army, the final arbiter of Turkish politics before Europe entered the picture. Europe was transformative, for Mr Erdogan and Turkey. This engine of reform and renewal sputtered the moment preachy EU leaders started raising the bar to entry, and the democratic life of Turkey visibly coarsened. Mr Erdogan has started reaching for control of almost every social sphere, from food and drink to science and sport. Turks have become disillusioned with the idea of Europe, which has little leverage left. At the same time, Mr Erdogan and the AKP’s signal success in building a larger, more prosperous middle class has opened the way to greater democratic activism with which they seem unable so far to cope. They keep repeating they won 50 per cent of the vote, as though entitled to ignore the 50 per cent who did not vote for them. Marc Pierini, EU ambassador to Turkey until 2011 and now at the Carnegie Endowment in Brussels, says the latter “are the 50 per cent who understood what EU values are about and want to apply them in Turkey” '.
David Gardner, "Global Insight: EU betrays cultural blind spot in handling Turkey." The Financial Times. 20 June 2013, in
The cultural blind spot of the bien-pensant David Gardner of the Financial Times, is typical of course of our post-enlightenment, liberal-bourgeois semi-intelligentsia as it relates to matters Turkish and Islamic. The fact of the matter is that the reasoning behind Mr. Gardner's commentary is erroneous in the extreme. First, whatever Turkey's previous 'European' aspirations are or were, the fact is that no one could seriously posit that it was the key or the main motivation for Turkey's modernization of the past fifteen years or so. The (admittedly substantial) changes that Turkey has undergone can only have been the result of a long-term, evolution in Turkish society (a provincial embourgeoisment, allied to a semi-Islamization of parts of civil society especially in urban and semi-urban areas), can only have resulted from deep within the same. In some ways of course, this evolution has been favorable to European values: the withdrawal of the military from political life and back to the barracks, attempts to settle the Kurdish Question in a peaceful way, and a genuine Democratization of political life at the most basic level. In other ways it has not been: the Islamization of parts of civil society and the State apparatus, and an open repression of the media, and a dangerous nostalgia for the horrid, Ottoman Empire. The latter emerging in questionable ways in aspects of Turkish, regional diplomacy. With all that being said, the idea that Turkey's not being admitted will inevitably result in the negative trends (as enumerated above) increasing, seems to me highly questionable. For example the manner in which the Erdogan government has dealt with the demonstrations of the past few weeks, are indeed somewhat questionable and should be opposed on a diplomatic level by allied and friendly states. The idea though that this repression, such as it is, would not have occurred if Turkey were already a member of the European Union betrays a fundamental ignorance of the evolutions of society. In such matters, it is primat der Innenpolitik which overrides almost everything else. Particularly with such a political animal as Erdogan. As for the concept that the European Union had much to gain by Turkey's joining the EU, the mere idea, once raised is surely enough to highlight how questionable the concept is. If, and only if, the European Union was something akin to a machtstaat, would its expansion to the border of such hot spots as Persia, Iraq and Syria make the slightest possible sense, since in that instance, the EU would be use, Turkish membership as a springboard to projecting is power and influence in various parts of the Near East and the Levant. By definition though, that is the very last thing that the contemporary European Union has any stomach for. Perhaps, no, it is a fact that this was and is unfortunate evolutionary turn in European society of the last fifty plus years: its navel-gazing and renunciation of any interest in engaging in Great Power politics in the traditional sense. Regardless, one cannot gainsay the fact that Turkey both in its incarnation of a regional Near and Middle East power with some ambitions, as well as a relatively poor and worst of all, Muslim state, is as far a a good fit for the European Union as say Central America or Mexico would be for the USA. Or as the great late-Victorian, early Edwardian poet, Rudyard Kipling, once put it:
'East is east and West is west, and never the twain shall meet!'

Thursday, June 20, 2013


LOUGH ERNE (Northern Ireland), June 18 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Barack Obama admitted Monday they disagreed on how to respond to the civil war in Syria but said they are both committed to ending the violence that has ravaged the country over the past two years. “With respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem, but we share an interest in reducing the violence; securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they're neither used nor are they subject to proliferation; and that we want to try to resolve the issue through political means, if possible,” Obama said in comments released by the White House on Monday. Putin offered a similar assessment. “Our opinions do not yet coincide,” Putin told reporters after his talks with Obama. “But we are united in our intention to end the violence, end the rise of innocent victims in Syria, (and) resolve the problem through peaceful means,” Putin said, adding that he and Obama had agreed to “push” the two sides to the negotiating table in Geneva. Discussions about the Syrian conflict were widely expected to take center stage at the meeting between the two leaders on the sidelines of the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland. The United States has vowed to step up its support for the Syrian opposition, including military aid, in the wake of fresh US claims that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons multiple times during the conflict. Russia has repeatedly maintained that outside interference in the conflict could lead to extremist elements seizing power in Syria and has pushed back against Western countries’ demands that Syrian President Bashar Assad must step down in order for a political resolution to the conflict to proceed.
Novosti, "Putin, Obama Admit Split on Syria But Pledge Cooperation." 18 June 2013, in
Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin faced further isolation on the second day of a G8 summit on Tuesday as world leaders lined up to pressure him into toning down his support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Following an icy encounter between the Kremlin chief and U.S. President Barack Obama late on Monday, the G8 leaders will seek to find resolution to a war that has prompted powers across the Middle East to square off on sectarian lines. The sticking point again will be Putin, who faced a barrage of criticism from Western leaders for supporting Assad and the Syrian's president's attempt to crush a 2-year-old uprising in which at least 93,000 people have been killed. "It's a clarifying moment to see what kind of commitments the Russians are willing to make in a leading world forum," a British official said before the leaders met for dinner at a remote, heavily guarded golf course outside of Enniskillen. An official close to one of the delegations said the talks over dinner had gone better than expected and that a joint communiqué with Russia on Syria now seemed more likely. However, the official declined to speculate on what Russia might be willing to sign up for. But if consensus could not be reached, it was possible a final statement at the end of the two-day summit might be released without Russia's input and in the name of the G7 rather than the G8. Divisions over Syria dominated the atmosphere as global leaders met in Northern Ireland, a place once rocked by decades of violence but which Britain now wants to showcase as a model of conflict resolution. Putin and Obama appeared tense as they addressed reporters late on Monday after about two hours of talks, with Putin mostly staring at the floor as he spoke about Syria and Obama only glancing occasionally at the Russian leader. Stung by recent victories for Assad's forces and their support from Hezbollah guerrillas, the United States said last week it would step up military aid to the rebels, including automatic weapons, light mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Putin said Moscow and Washington had different views on Syria but agreed the bloodshed must stop and that the warring parties should be brought to the negotiating table. "With respect to Syria, we do have differing perspectives on the problem but we share an interest in reducing the violence and securing chemical weapons and ensuring that they're neither used nor are they subject to proliferation," Obama said. .
By Kate Holton and Jeff Mason, "Putin faces isolation over Syria as G8 ratchets up pressure." Reuters. 17 June 2013, in
The failure of the combined pressure of seven of the G-8 leaders to force the hand of Russian Federation President Putin in the matter of Syria, is not in the least surprising. As the Russian commentator in yesterday's Financial Times, Andrei Nekrasov has noted, a mixture of primat der Innenpolitik and primat der Aussenpolitik govern Russian decision-making in this crisis 1. That being said, in the absence of the great likelihood that the Assad regime is about to collapse, there seems to be little or no reason for Putin to suddenly change course and accede to Western pressure to forsake his Syrian ally. The fact that the West's own 'clients' (if one can label them as such) in Syria are remarkable for being of questionable moral character, effectiveness and transparency does not exactly assist in such an exercise of persuasion. The fact is that with Assad forces being seen as on the ascendant militarily speaking, even if (pace the American online journal, Stratfor), they are unable to take the important city of Aleppo at the moment, means that there is no sense diplomatically speaking, for Moskva to disentangle itself from its Syrian client. Especially, since (pace the British newspaper the Independent) the regime in Persia has like its Hezbollah client, gone on the offensive and added four-thousand troops to Assad's ground forces. Iraqi 'volunteers' also appear to be assisting Assad as well 2. With those facts on the ground at the moment, it is extremely unrealistic to expect Grazhdanin Putin to toss aside his major ally / client in the Near and Middle East due to not very onerous Western diplomatic pressure. To reiterate: per se, Putin, et. al., are not in reality truly committed to Assad or his regime remaining in power. It is for example a complete non possumus, to expect Russia to send troops, either on the ground or in the air to assist Assad. That fact however does not mean that the uses that Putin finds in having Assad in power have cease to exist. Unless and until Assad, et. al., no longer serves a positive purpose for Matushka Russia, will Moskva throw the current regime in Damascus overboard. And that result in only come about when Assad's regime is about to collapse. Sans, Western (AKA 'American') military intervention on the ground it is I believe (following the always wise Joshua Landis) extremely unlikely that the regime will be turned out of power 3.
1. Andrei Nekrasov, "Russia’s motives in Syria are not all geopolitical." The Financial Times. 18 June 2013, in
2. Robert Fisk, "Iran to send 4,000 troops to aid President Assad forces in Syria." The Independent. 16 June 2013, in ;Stratfor, "Analysis: Obstacles to a Syrian Regime Victory in Aleppo." Stratfor: Strategic intelligence. 17 June 2013, in
3. Joshua Landis, "Obama Owes Syrians and Americans a Detailed Vision of Syria’s Future." Syria Comment. 19 June 2013, in

Sunday, June 16, 2013


"Changing the balance in Syria’s civil war in favour of the rebels has been the stated position of the US and its allies for the past year as the regime of Bashar al-Assad has wreaked death and destruction on one of the Middle East’s most strategic countries. But they’ve had a curious way of going about it. With the shadow of the Iraq war still hanging over America, the reluctance for the most limited of involvement in another Middle Eastern war has instead helped to shift the balance in favour of Mr Assad’s brutal forces. In a further affront to western policy, in recent weeks, Iran has allowed its proxy in Lebanon, the Shia militant group Hizbollah, to fight alongside Mr Assad’s forces, helping to capture the strategic town of Qusair near the Lebanese border. Together, they are now preparing for an onslaught on the partly rebel-held city of Aleppo. Sunni clerics across the region are up in arms. They have reacted to Hizbollah’s intervention by calling for a Sunni holy war in Syria. So now radical Sunni (the jihadi elements among the rebels) and radical Shia are fighting each other in Syria while a vicious sectarian polarisation spreads all across the region. The US on Thursday finally said enough – and it was about time. As European and Arab allies have been complaining, American leadership on Syria has been sorely lacking, and the regime and its allies have taken full advantage of that, gradually escalating the war with the use of the air force, then Scud missiles, then experimenting with chemical weapons, and finally enlisting Hizbollah fighters. There are also Iranian advisers in Syria and, if rebel claims are to be believed, Iraqi Shia militants as well".
Roula Khalaf," The US and Syria – it’s about time: Assad regime has taken full advantage of lack of US leadership ." The Financial Times. 14 June 2013, in
"From a distance, there seems to be a case for the West to move quickly to help the rebels, and create a more level playing field. The aim would not be to prolong the conflict, but to make a negotiated peace settlement more likely.... This would be an easier problem to solve if the conflict was between the Assad government forces and ‘the official opposition’. It is not. The Syrian ‘opposition’ consists of dozens of warring factions, who may well turn their newly acquired arms on each other when (and if) Assad is toppled. There are secular and Christian groups — but also al-Qa’eda, and Jabhat al-Nusra, whose leader has pledged allegiance to al-Qa’eda and has 10,000 fighters. Ahrar al-Sham, a homegrown jihadi group, want Islamist rule without al-Qa’eda, and then there are the 20,000 devout Muslims in the al-Farouk Battalions who say they don’t want an Islamist state, but it’s unclear how much they’d object to one. None of these groups was mentioned by anyone in Monday’s Commons debate — which was conducted in worryingly simplistic terms. ‘When I see the official Syrian opposition,’ Mr Cameron said, ‘I see a group of people who have declared that they are in favour of democracy, human rights and a future for minorities, including Christians, in Syria.’ But does he ‘see’ the Islamist rebels already carrying out beheadings? The legacy of the Arab Spring offers little hope that a post-Assad Syria would develop into a tolerant democracy. The lesson of 2011 is that democratic, secular reformers are far better at capturing western attention than winning subsequent power struggles".
Leader, "The Syrian quagmire." The Spectator (London). 8 June 2013, p. 3. Also in
There can be no doubt that the decision arrived at by the American Administration is based upon flawed premises and reasoning. The type of specious rationales offered up by the biased and egregious Roula Khalaf are par for the course. The facts of the matter as cogently put by the leader in the Spectator are that there is absolutely no way of assuring that the ouster of the Assad regime will necessarily result in the triumph of those (rather vague and shadowy) elements which are termed the 'official opposition'. Indeed, for all that we know, such elements could very well contain extremist, Sunni, Muslim forces which so worry Western Chancelleries. The case example of Libya, post facto to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime, should indeed put paid to such notions. Already Syria's 'liberated zones', has seen enough examples of executions and bloodshed to put paid to any ideas that the overthrow of the Assad regime will result in the victory of Democratic, secular, liberal elements. Which is not to gainsay for one moment, the fact that the ouster of the Assad regime would be a hard blow to the regime in Persia and its allies in the Lebanon. The real question to my mind is: at what price? The fact is, that only a Western policy of overt, military intervention, using troops on the ground as well as in the air, would have given greater assurance of the sort of outcome which the Western powers should wish to see in Syria. Unfortunately, due to the mis-guided American invasion of Iraq, the tolerance of Western publics for any such policy is non-existent. Therefore, in the absence of any such type of intervention, the idea that merely intervening in the fashion that was seen in Libya will result in the victory of pro-Western elements is seriously mistaken. Given the way that events so far in the rest of the Near and Middle East has run since January 2011, should indicate that any such thinking is (in the words of Neville Chamberlain) 'the very mid-summer of madness'.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


"By most any measure, the Sunnylands summit cast some sunshine on the U.S.-China relationship. The optics were positive with plenty of snapshots of the two presidents walking, talking, and smiling. President Obama even referred to the talks as “terrific.” There were the usual agreements to talk more and to meet more, and both presidents reaffirmed the need and desire of the two countries to work together more effectively.... This time around, the Chinese were nothing if not gracious. They produced a deliverable on one of the United States’ hot button issues—North Korea—even before the summit began. After Xi Jinping met with a North Korean envoy in late May, DPRK leader Kim Jong-un offered to conduct high-level talks with South Korea. While causality cannot be proved, the sequence of events is certainly suggestive. In addition, in a rare return to the type of human rights diplomacy of earlier summits, Beijing granted passports to two relatives of blind-lawyer Chen Guangcheng, who sought asylum in the United States just a year ago and currently resides in New York City, and released Chinese-born U.S. scientist Hu Zhicheng, who had been held in China for five years on charges of stealing secrets. Niceties aside, the Xi-Obama summit represents only the first step toward getting the U.S.-China bilateral relationship on more solid footing. For real progress in the relationship, there will have to be real progress across the wide range of issues that continue to bedevil the two countries. The two sides made some small progress on climate change, signing an agreement to cooperate on eliminating HFCs. The tougher issues remain, however. Cyber hacking has been relegated to the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, where issues generally experience a slow and painful death without actually ever dying. President Obama offered some optimistic remarks to the effect that the United States and China will increasingly have common cause on issues of cyber espionage as China’s intellectual property (IP) develops. After two decades of countless American officials and analysts arguing that as soon as China develops its own IP, Beijing will better protect that of others, I would guess that President Obama should probably not hold his breath on that one. Conflicts in the East and South China Sea—among the most challenging issues the two countries face at the moment—were not addressed explicitly in the presidents’ summit remarks. And it is difficult to know whether to expect any real progress on the endless range of trade and investment issues to which both presidents and their representatives referred. At the heart of the summit, however, was President Xi’s desire to be treated with respect and to have China and the United States forge a “new relationship among major powers.” President Xi got half of his wish. Certainly President Obama treated President Xi with respect; however he resisted Chinese efforts to elevate the U.S.-China relationship beyond that of the United States’ relations with its allies. While President Obama acknowledged that the two countries needed to have a “new model of cooperation,” he carefully avoided the Chinese phraseology of a “new model of major country relationships.” While perhaps not the best outcome for President Xi, President Obama has it right. A special partnership of the sort that China seeks can only arise after the two countries have achieved a series of policy successes premised on common values and approaches. Until then, the leaders and people of both countries should be pleased that the summit was good enough: it brought a new more positive energy to the bilateral relationship, stressed cooperation as opposed to conflict, and offered a few of the win-wins that have been so scarce in recent years".
Elizabeth C. Economy, "Xi-Obama: The Good-Enough Summit." Council on Foreign Relations. 10 June 2013, in
The usually emollient on all things Chinese, Elizabeth Economy, hit the nail right on the head with her post dealing with the Sino-American leaders meeting of earlier this week. If we overlook the atmospherics and the little side agreements, the fact of the matter is that the Peoples Republic, did not obtain at the summit what they wanted to obtain: recognition by the Americans that there was now and for the future a sort of Sino-American Duumvirate in world politics. That the USA would to some extent be oblige to acknowledge that the PRC exercised a 'leading role', in the Far East, just like say the Americans exercise a similar role in say the Western Hemisphere or in Europe. For reasons which are cogently outlined by Mrs. Economy as well as myself in a posting earlier this week in this journal, in the absence of significant changes in the nature of the PRC and its policies both foreign and domestic, it is nearly impossible to conceive that the Americans would willingly agree to a 'new type of great power relationship', which implies that the world was governed by a sort of G-2. Given the internal, primat de Innenpolitik stresses that impact negatively on PRC foreign policy, this is I do believe for the very best. It is also important to realize that the only reason that the Peking has actively endeavored to forge this new type of Sino-American relationship, is simply that the Peoples Republic's domestic politics driven policies have progressively alienated almost all of its immediate neighbors in the last four years. The concept of trying to forge a Duumvirate with the USA, is merely another way to obtain the same goals that Chinese bullying and belligerence has singularly failed to do so. For good or for ill. To my mind, infinitely for good.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


"Chinese President Xi Jinping acknowledged on Wednesday that China and the United States have shared a good start on bilateral ties. Xi also called on the two sides to handle their relations at a strategic level. "I'm pleased to see the China-US relations have seen a good start since the new leaderships of the two nations came to power," Xi said in his meeting with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Xi suggested the two sides further intensify high-level exchange and dialogue, sort out common interests and boost cooperation in various fields such as mutual respect, equality and handling their differences well. "The establishment of a new type of inter-power relationship between China and the United States needs an accumulation of dribs and drabs," Xi told Kissinger, proposing the two to step up their pragmatic cooperation and maintain communication and coordination on regional and international issues in an aim to promote bilateral relations to a higher level."
Xinhua, "China, US share good start on relations: President Xi." Global Times (English). 25 April 2013, in
"Even as Chinese trade, companies and investments spread throughout the world and its growing military flexed its muscles, Mr Hu and his administration continued to insist that China was still a poor developing nation with limited capacity to engage on international issues. Since taking over as commander of the military and Communist party general secretary in November, and as president of China in March, the message from Xi Jinping and his comrades has been very different. They seem to be saying that China has now arrived on the world stage and that a more coherent and assertive foreign policy will be part of “the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation” – Mr Xi’s defining political concept at home. “China is growing into a bigger and more far-reaching power,” crowed the Global Times, a nationalistic Chinese tabloid, as Mr Xi embarked on the tour of Latin American and Caribbean countries that will take him to California by the end of the week. “The surge of foreign visits shows the confidence and activeness of the new diplomatic initiative,” it said in an editorial. US diplomats say they have had far better access to senior Chinese officials than under the last administration, but that their Chinese counterparts seem obsessed with getting the Americans to acknowledge that the “new type of great power relationship” is one between equals. At the heart of this slogan, just as with the G2 concept it comes from, is the hope that China’s rise will not be accompanied by the friction and war that has marred almost every other moment in history when a rising nation has rubbed up against the incumbent superpower.".
Jamil Anderlini, "Global Insight: China’s ‘great power’ call to the US could stir friction." The Financial Times. 4 June 2013, in
"Throughout these talks...we were treated as partners, unequal no doubt in power but still equal in counsel."
Clement Attlee [Washington, DC] to Bevin [London], 10 December 1950, in PREM 8/1200 [copy in my possession].
"The United Kingdom was in a totally different category as far as the United States was concerned, to any other power in the world."
John Foster Dulles, quoted by John Colville, in 'Minute', 7 January 1953, in FO371/103519/AU1053/1 [copy in my possession].
The Sino-American 'summit' between the countries two leaders has come and gone. With results which are par for the course for such pre-arranged meetings between leaders: a few meaningless words of agreement are hashed out, and the real crux in the relationships difficulties are either ignored or smoothed over 1. With that being said, I would like to look at and examine from a historical perspective what are the chances of fulfillment and success for the Peoples Republic's recent call for a Great Power relationship of equals. Id est., in short a Duumvirate. The first thing to notice from a historical perspective is that history fails to offer up few if any examples of a Great Power Duumvirate. While history offers of plenty of examples of a Concert of relatively equal Great Powers, especially in 18th and 19th century European history, it does not offer up much in the way of two equal or near equal Great Powers having a friendly or near friendly relationship and or alliance. More often than not, the mere fact that two powers were near equal in power, resulted more often in tensions leading directly to war, rather than friendship. The Anglo-French relationship for most of the 18th century springs immediately to mind, as does the case of Austria and Prussia from 1745 to 1866. However, history does offer up one example of a reasonably tranquil Great Power relationship between equals. Which one? That between Tsarist Russia and the British Empire in the post-bellum Europe from 1815 to 1853. As per the leading historian of 18th and 19th century European diplomacy, Paul Schroeder, this period saw a "shared British and Russian hegemony." A hegemony which could be 'shared' by virtue of the fact that both powers were able to expand in the extra-European world, without immediately conflicting with each other 2. Similarly, history also offers up two examples successful relationships between an 'established' and a 'rising' Great Power. The first was the relationship between the Dutch Republic and Great Britain in the latter part of the 17th century and early 18th century (1688-1714). In which an earlier rivalry was brushed aside in a quest to hold-off the threatened hegemony (real or imagined) of France's Louis XIV. It should be said though that this relationship of equals was for a very limited duration and was only in fact consummated due to the fact that both countries were under the rule of the same monarch (William III) for most of this time period. A shared Protestantism and a fear of French Counter-Reformation Catholicism, also assisted. The other example that history offers up, is that between the United States and United Kingdom in the period roughly from 1941 to 1956. In the words of historian John Darwin:
"The Anglo-American alliance was a remarkable example of a cooperation between a decline Imperial Power (which expected to recover) and its most obvious successor. For a crucial period, both parties accepted the myth of equality and practiced a form of condominium 4".
Once again the circumstances in which this 'remarkable example' took place are somewhat unique: successful allies in two wars, a shared language, religion and culture as well as facing for a third time, a shared (diplomatic) adversary (Sovietskaya Vlast). Making for example the importance of such figures as Churchill and Roosevelt less important than certain structural aspects of the interaction between the two powers:
"It is debatable to what extent Roosevelt and Churchill ever really liked or fully understood each other. But it is obvious that they established an unusual degree of personal communication and a reasonable degree of mutual trust. At lower levels, military and official, habits of easy intercourse also took root and many permanent friendships were formed 5".
In the case of contemporary Sino-American relations, both of the above referenced examples look to be extremely difficult to replicate or re-produce. First and most importantly, the USA and the PRC have not been allies in any military alliance and or conflict in the past, nor seem likely to become ones in the near future. Similarly, the culture and politics of the two countries, so-called globalization notwithstanding appear to be quite at variance with each other still. Something which in the absence of a political revolution in the PRC which enthrones democracy, or something akin to it, is not likely to change very much. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the re-positioning of the USA diplomatically and militarily to the Pacific / Far East, makes the likelihood of equitable interaction between the two powers so much the harder. As we have seen, one of the key variables for the joint Russo-British hegemony in Europe after 1815, was the fact that both powers were able to expand for much of the period without expanding into each other's sphere as it were. With the so-called 'pivot' by the American Administration, that type of scenario becomes infinitely harder to accomplish. Harder of course, but not impossible. If for example the Americans were to in say the next five to ten years, withdraw its military and diplomatic presence from the Far East proper, id est., Korea, Philippines, Australia, and most importantly Japan, then it would be possible to imagine that indeed an equitable Sino-American relationship might indeed come about. And au fond it is quite likely that, the 'new type of great power relationship' for the PRC means in fact that this type of American withdrawal should take place 6. And, perhaps the change of front by Peking on this issue from its frosty reception of the idea originally back in 2009, when it was the Americans who tentatively floated the idea, is due to the diplomatic sets-backs that the PRC has suffered in the East Asia region in the past three years 7. However, unless there is a sea change in American diplomatic and military thinking, it is difficult to believe that the USA will willingly grant the PRC regional hegemony in what will be in the near future, if not already, the most important economic zone on the planet 8. In the absence of such a change of front by the Americans, I for one cannot well imagine that anything approaching a Duumvirate will ever occur. At least not in our lifetimes.
1. Teddy Ng, "Xi and Obama remain divided despite 'successful' summit." South China Morning Post. 10 June 2013, in "
2. See: Paul W. Schroeder, "AHR Forum: Did the Vienna Settlement rest on a Balance of Power?" The American Historical Review. (June 1992), pp: 683-706; "AHR Forum: A mild rejoinder." The American Historical Review. (June 1992), pp. 733-735. And, The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848. (1994), pp. 577-590, 762-763 and passim.
3. Jonathan I. Israel. The Dutch Republic: Its rise, greatness and fall, 1477-1806. (1995), pp. 841-862 and passim.
4. John Darwin. After Tamerlane. (2008). p. 470.
5. Peter Lowe, "The significance of the Korean War in Anglo-American Relationship, 1950-1953." British Foreign Policy, 1945-1956. Eds. Michael Dockrill & John W. Young. (1989), p. 145.
6. See: Leader, "America and China: the summit." The Economist. 8 June 2013, in
7. For a ex ante perspective prior to the set-backs of the last three years that Peking has suffered from its neighbors, see: Shaun Breslin, "Understanding China's regional rise." International Affairs (July 2009), pp. 827-835. Amusingly, this article posits that: "the way, therefore that others in the region conceive of and respond to China's rise might become a source of Chinese power and influence in itself".
8. This point is made graphically by the scholar and writer, Aaron L. Friedberg, in his somewhat tendentious, but still quite illuminating book, A contest for Supremacy. Published in 2011, it in effect advocated ex ante facto, the policies which have been subsequently named as 'the pivot', by the current American Administration. In the book (pp. 6-7), Friedberg notes that:
"Since the early part of the twentieth century an axiomatic goal of U.S. foreign policy under both Republican and Democratic administrations has been to prevent the domination of either end of the Eurasian landmass by one or more potentially hostile powers. The reasons for this have always involved a combination of economic, strategic, and ideological considerations. If Western Europe or East Asia were to fall under the sway of by (sic) unfriendly forces, the United States could find itself denied access to markets, technology, and vital resources. A hostile power or coalition might be able to draw on the wealth and military capabilities of the region under its control, using it as a secure base from which to challenge American interests and perhaps even to attack the United States itself".

Thursday, June 06, 2013


"With the appointment of Susan Rice as national security adviser, President Barack Obama has completed the reshuffle of his foreign policy team. Ms Rice, who is currently the US ambassador to the UN, takes her place alongside John Kerry at the state department and Chuck Hagel at defence. The common feature of all three appointments is that they are Obama people. This was not the case with their predecessors. Hillary Clinton was not close to Mr Obama, nor was Leon Panetta at defence. Tom Donilon, the outgoing national security adviser, became so but was not initially an intimate. Now Mr Obama has a team he can be comfortable with for his second term. All US administrations depend on how well the various players work together. The role of the national security adviser is first and foremost to oversee this process, co-ordinating agencies and channelling advice to the president as it comes from different parts of government. This was a skill that Mr Donilon possessed in spades and should not be underestimated. The other job is to advise the president. Traditionally, national security advisers have been good at one or the other. This is hardly surprising. Being both an honest broker and a forceful adviser is a bit like trying to umpire a match while simultaneously playing for one of the competing teams. Ms Rice’s challenge is to preserve the efficiency of the machinery but also to think strategically, especially about the relationship with China. Her appointment offers grounds for hope and caution. The hope is that she will help to tilt foreign policy in more of an activist direction at a time when the US faces pressing challenges in the Middle East and Asia. Alongside Samantha Power, her successor at the UN, Ms Rice is instinctively more of an interventionist than her predecessor, notably on humanitarian issues. The question is where a habitually cautious president stands. If there is a worry it is Ms Rice’s reputation for being abrasive and uncollegiate. This sits ill with the requirement for a smooth conductor ensuring the administration functions like an orchestra. While Mr Donilon had his critics, he was able to do this. With Ms Rice, the answer is less clear".
Leader, "Obama’s reshuffle: Susan Rice’s new appointment raises hopes and concerns." The Financial Times. 6 June 2013, in
"President Barack Obama's appointment of Susan Rice as his national security adviser, and of Samantha Power as her replacement as ambassador to the United Nations, is being heralded by the media as a bold move. But it's not likely to change Obama's foreign policy very much. First of all, by this point in an administration nearly all policy is set, and that is particularly true when so much of the management and decision-making has been made by the president himself. Indeed, White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was deputy national security adviser in the first term and will continue to be a de facto national security adviser of last resort for Obama. Second, to the extent that second-term appointments may affect the course of the administration, the ones that seem to matter most are John Kerry as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel to run the Department of Defense. The reason is simple: There is no group that senators trust and respect more than other senators. That has set up a remarkable power center in this administration, as the top four decision-makers for the first time in modern history are all former senators and all know each other from their service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Kerry and Hagel will be responsible for hashing out the hard decisions to come, the biggest one being whether to use military power in Syria and Iran. I doubt that the presence of Rice and Power instead of Rice and the man she's replacing, Tom Donilon, will change things much when it comes to deciding whether or not to launch a new war in the Middle East to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Similarly, the political fallout from an Israeli decision to attack Iran will be at the forefront of America’s posture if the Israelis end up making such a fateful choice. Here again, Obama, a former senator himself, is likely to continue to rely on his fellow politicians—Biden, then Hagel and then Kerry—in this area. The third reason not to expect much change in the Obama foreign policy is that most of the hard choices have already been made. For better or worse, Washington chose to leave Iraq without a residual force in place, to speed up the withdrawal of tens of thousands of troops from Afghanistan right after launching a troop surge, and to avoid, seemingly at all costs, the involvement of the U.S. in the Syrian civil war that has become the biggest Middle East crisis in a generation. Those decisions on Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are the ones that will define the Obama term.... All in all, while personnel matters a lot in Washington, in the rest of the world this personnel shift is likely to be seen as interesting but not particularly consequential. Far more important are the threshold questions of: What will it take to cause the U.S. to intervene in Syria, now that the war is spreading into Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan and could spark a frightening regional conflict between Sunnis and Shiites? And will the U.S. roll the historic dice and attack Iran as its nuclear weapons capability emerges? And finally, will the U.S. have the wherewithal to implement the rebalancing of forces and attention from Europe and the Middle East to Asia in such a way that ten to twenty years from now Washington remains Asia’s most important power rather than ceding that role and responsibility to China?"
James P. Rubin, "Susan Rice Won't Make Much Difference: Her new role as national security adviser will have little impact on Obama's foreign policy." The New Republic. 5 June 2013, in
If I had to choose who is more likely to predict accurately the importance of the new appointments to the American Administration, then I would of course choose Mr. Rubin over the leader writer at the Financial Times. Au fond he is correct: in a very very collegial, administration, neither the egregious Miss Rice, nor the even more egregious Miss Powers, will count for very much. Especially the latter. Safely holed up in New York, her jejune form of Liberal-bourgeois interventionist rhetoric can do little if any harm to the decision-making process. As for Miss Rice, the key question is accurately enough raised in the Financial Times: if she has either the ability or the willingness to play the role of guardian and gatekeeper of the foreign policy decision-making process? Or will she see herself as another Henry Kissinger come to life? The truth of the matter is that the only National Security Advisor who has had any positive impact and earned a place in the history books in the last thirty odd years, has been those who learned to sublimate their wishes to dominate the decision-making process in favor of being a gatekeeper of the same. The man who fulfilled this role to perfection was of course General Brent Scowcroft under Presidents Ford and Bush the Elder. The sad fact of the matter is that no National Security Advisor since Zbigniew Brzezinski has come close to seconding Kissinger's place in the history books in terms of dominating the decision-making apparatus. Those after Brzezinski, with the exception of General Scowcroft, have been a mixture of outright failures: Richard Allen, Anthony Lake, Admiral Poindexter, Condoleezza Rice; and those who while essentially little better than mediocrities were also a safe pair of hands: Frank Carlucci, General Powell, Mr Donilon, Samuel Berger, Mr. Hadley, General Jones, Colonel MacFarlane. And perhaps that is just as well, as history does not throw up the likes of Dr. Kissinger very often. With that being said, the underlying truth of Mr. Rubin's comments hold: the essentials of American foreign policy for the reminder of the current President's term has been decided upon. For good or for ill. As it seems to relate to intervening in Syria and the negotiations with Persia, I would (to my surprise) say for good, so far. As Madam Mere allegedly put it: 'let us hope it lasts'.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


"The immediate explanation for the rising protests in Turkey can be found in the fierce reaction of the country’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Behind the turbulence lies a much bigger question posed in recent years by the prime minister’s Justice and Development party, or AKP. Where, in Mr Erdogan’s mind, does Turkey sit in the world? Not so long ago Ankara looked west. Now it has turned east. Mr Erdogan has responded to the disturbance with a public rage that more than matches the anger of those who have occupied Istanbul’s Taksim square and staged protests in other big cities. The demonstrators have been branded extremists and looters, Turks who drink alcohol have been labelled alcoholics and Twitter has been called a curse on society. The opposition Republican People’s party, the heir to the secularist tradition of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, stands accused by the prime minister of stirring up unrest because of its successive defeats at the ballot box. Alongside the heavy-handed response of teargas-firing police, the prime minister could scarcely have given a more telling display of the authoritarianism against which the protesters have set their face. Mr Erdogan has won three elections and, caught in the hubris that comes with a decade in office, has acted as if this puts him beyond the constraints of Turkish democracy. The unease has been gathering for some time. Crackdowns on the press, arrests of political opponents, the increasingly Islamist hue of domestic policies and the suspicion that Mr Erdogan sees no end to his own hold on power have all conspired to stir disquiet. It has long been an open secret that the prime minister wants to swap his present post for that of a supercharged presidency. He wants to change the constitution to give effect to the transition. The ambition creates unease reaching well beyond his political opponents, including, some say, in the office of the current president Abdullah Gul. The irony in Mr Erdogan’s denunciation of protest is inescapable. After a hesitant initial reaction to the Arab uprisings, the Turkish government has cast itself as the champion of freedom in the Middle East. The social networks Mr Erdogan now denounces played a noteworthy role in mobilising opposition to authoritarian rule elsewhere".
Phillip Stephens, "Recep Tayyip Erdogan is only proving the protesters right." The Financial Times. 3 June 2013, in
"The Turks wasted no time. A day after Nicolas Sarkozy and David Cameron made their first triumphant visit to Tripoli after the end of Muammer Gaddafi’s reign over the Libyan capital, Turkish premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan swept into town to cement political and economic ties with a region whose importance to Ankara has grown dramatically. Preparations had been intense. A special Turkish Airlines flight full of cleaners, cooks and repairmen arrived in advance to spruce up the Turkish-operated Rixos Hotel, a five-star complex that hosted foreign journalists during the preceding six-month war. Mr Erdogan brought along not only his foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, and other ministers, but dozens of Turkish businessmen. “There is great interest in Turkey, in us,” he explained to Turkish reporters during the September 2011 trip, as heavy fighting between rebel forces and Gaddafi’s loyalists continued to the east and south of the capital. “This in turn lays important responsibilities on our shoulders. If we ... are able to comprehend our position and influence, believe me, we will be in a very different place in the world.'"
Borzou Daragahi," Middle East: Regional push resumes following Arab spring." The Financial Times. 9 May 2013, in
One does not have to be necessarily anti-Turkish (as I admittedly am for historical [The Armenian Genocide among other] reasons), to have a good and delicious sense of schadenfreude over the events in that country in the past five to six days. However, let us be perfectly clear: whatever has happened and may happen in Turkey in the coming days, it is not a replica of what occurred in the Arab World in Anno Domini 2011. The circumstances are quite different indeed. The first and most important is that notwithstanding certain caveats that a neutral observer may have, the AK regime in Ankara, whatever its many, many faults is au fond, genuinely popular and enjoys legitimacy among the majority of the Turkish population. If not, repeat not among the urban, educated, predominately, secular Turkish bourgeoisie. Especially of course in Constantinople and Ankara itself. Something which one could not truthfully say about most of the regimes in the Near and Middle East back in 2011 or perhaps even to-day. If one wished to paint a historical model or example of what is occurring in Turkey at the moment, perhaps the evenements of May 1968 in Paris comes closest to mind. Which of course highlights the fact that whatever may occur in Turkey in the next days and weeks, it will not result in the overthrow of the parliamentary regime, ruled by the AK. What may occur in Turkey in the near future, and this is something which has been predicted and posited in this journal for quite sometime, is that Premier Erdogan will, inevitably be forced to pull in his horns as it relates to Turkish foreign policy. And, that any illusions that anyone has had in the recent past about Turkey's so-called 'Great Power' aspirations in the Near and Middle East, have been punctured. Id. est., people like the egregiously ultra bien-pensant Phillip Stephens. Who not so long ago was quite happy to tout and proclaim to one and all, that Turkey under the AK was the coming regional power. And that the EU & the USA were stupidly at fault for not opening its arms to the tender embraces for Premier Erdogan, and taking the 'new Turkey' at its own worth, viz:
"The irony, of course, is that the new, assertive, Turkey has more to offer the west than its pliant precedessor. With a mind of its own, it has greater strategic credibility in the Middle East and the Muslim world. This is the Turkey the west really must not lose 1."
Now in fact, this entire (to my mind always fanciful) notion has become unstuck. Just as France in the aftermath of Mai Soixante-huit became a more introvert and less of a Great Power of Charles de Gaulle's vision, so Turkey will become a more introverted and less rhetorically bombastic regional power. As the American intelligence forecasting firm, Stratfor noted yesterday:
"Though dissent is rising, Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party still have a substantial support base, and the opposition continues to lack a credible political alternative (local elections scheduled for October likely will indicate how much support for the party has waned). At the same time, Turkey is pursuing a highly ambitious agenda abroad, from negotiating peace with Kurdish militants and developing oil pipelines in Iraqi Kurdistan to trying to fend off Syrian-backed militant attacks. Turkey was already highly constrained in pursuing these foreign policy goals, but they will take second place to Turkey's growing political distractions at home as Erdogan prioritizes the growing domestic challenges and as foreign adversaries such as Syria try to take advantage of preoccupied Turkish security forces to try to sponsor more attacks inside Turkey 2."
For those who had dubious idea that Erdogan's Turkey would resurrect the hollow 'greatness' of the Ottoman Empire, this turn of events looks unfortunate. For those of us who remembers Gladstone's essential truism about Ottoman Empire, the recent events are all to the good 3.
1. Phillip Stephens, "West must offer Turkey a proper seat." The Financial Times. June 17, 2010, in
2. Stratfor, "Analysis: Turkey's Violent Protests in Context." Stratfor: Strategic Forecasting. 3 June 2013, in
3."Let the Turks now carry away their abuses, in the only possible manner, namely, by carrying off themselves. Their Zaptiehs and their Mudirs, their Bimbashis and Yuzbachis, their Kaimakans and their Pashas, one and all, bag and baggage, shall, I hope, clear out from the province that they have desolated and profaned. This thorough riddance, this most blessed deliverance, is the only reparation we can make to those heaps and heaps of dead, the violated purity alike of matron and of maiden and of child; to the civilization which has been affronted and shamed; to the laws of God, or, if you like, of Allah; to the moral sense of mankind at large. There is not a criminal in a European jail, there is not a criminal in the South Sea Islands, whose indignation would not rise and over-boil at the recital of that which has been done, which has too late been examined, but which remains unavenged, which has left behind all the foul and all the fierce passions which produced it and which may again spring up in another murderous harvest from the soil soaked and reeking with blood and in the air tainted with every imaginable deed of crime and shame. That such things should be done once is a damning disgrace to the portion of our race which did them; that the door should be left open to their ever so barely possible repetition would spread that shame over the world." William Ewart Gladstone. The Bulgarian Horrors and the Questions of the East (1876).