The Idea Department

The Idea Department is a space for the discussion of politics, economics, global affairs, ethics, international relations, and related topics - brought to you by the staff and interns at Project Syndicate.
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Posts tagged "Iran"
Bye-Bye, Middle East? 
In his most recent political commentary, Zaki Laidi considers the strategic pivot of America- which has become increasingly energy independent- towards the emerging, dynamic Asia countries that have come to demand our foreign policy detention. In light of these international changes, Laidi muses about whether or not the United States can truly divert its attention and energy away from the Middle East.
"This scenario would grant the US three enormous advantages. It would enhance US economic competitiveness, especially relative to Europe, given the lower costs involved in the extraction of shale gas. It would also reduce America’s exposure to growing unrest in the Arab world. Finally, it would increase the relative vulnerability of America’s main strategic rival, China, which is becoming increasingly dependent on Middle East energy supplies.
These facts obviously need to be taken seriously, but their implications for US foreign policy in the Middle East should not be too hastily drawn. Above all, though energy dependence is a key element of US policy in the region, it is far from being the only factor. Israel’s security and the desire to contain Iran are equally important.”
For the full commentary, go to Project Syndicate.

Bye-Bye, Middle East? 

In his most recent political commentary, Zaki Laidi considers the strategic pivot of America- which has become increasingly energy independent- towards the emerging, dynamic Asia countries that have come to demand our foreign policy detention. In light of these international changes, Laidi muses about whether or not the United States can truly divert its attention and energy away from the Middle East.

"This scenario would grant the US three enormous advantages. It would enhance US economic competitiveness, especially relative to Europe, given the lower costs involved in the extraction of shale gas. It would also reduce America’s exposure to growing unrest in the Arab world. Finally, it would increase the relative vulnerability of America’s main strategic rival, China, which is becoming increasingly dependent on Middle East energy supplies.

These facts obviously need to be taken seriously, but their implications for US foreign policy in the Middle East should not be too hastily drawn. Above all, though energy dependence is a key element of US policy in the region, it is far from being the only factor. Israel’s security and the desire to contain Iran are equally important.”


For the full commentary, go to Project Syndicate.

When hostilities flared in Gaza last month, it seemed like the same old story was repeating itself. The world again witnessed a bloody and senseless surge of violence between Israel and Hamas, in which the main victims were innocent civilians maimed and killed on both sides.

This time, however, things were not what they seemed, because the Middle East has undergone a significant change in the past two years. The political epicenter of this troubled region has shifted from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians toward the Persian Gulf and the struggle for regional mastery between Iran on one side and Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and now Egypt on the other. In the emerging struggle between the region’s Shia and Sunni powers, the old Middle East conflict has become a sideshow.

The New Middle East’s New Problems, Joschka Fischer
America’s Perilous Pivot
As America’s foreign policy interests shift in focus towards Asia, our political and military entanglements in the Middle East may swallow up much of our politician’s energy, with negative results on the international stage. In his recent article, Javier Solana discusses how our interactions with the looming threat of Iran might change the course of America’s future in international relations.
"If the Iran crisis were to boil over, the pivot to Asia would no longer be America’s main foreign-policy priority. But if the dispute with Iran is resolved diplomatically, the Middle East might, perhaps, be relegated to a position of lesser importance, as Obama clearly desires. The question, therefore, is whether the US will find itself drawn into another war in a region on which it depends less and less for energy…
Peaceful resolution of the Iranian question would help the US to complete its shift toward Asia. China may not wish for that outcome, but its own vital interest in the security of Middle East energy supplies should compel it to cooperate. After all, another Middle East conflict would poison and distort relations in the region for decades, which would be the worst of all possible consequences – for the US and China alike.”
To read more, go to Project Syndicate.

America’s Perilous Pivot

As America’s foreign policy interests shift in focus towards Asia, our political and military entanglements in the Middle East may swallow up much of our politician’s energy, with negative results on the international stage. In his recent article, Javier Solana discusses how our interactions with the looming threat of Iran might change the course of America’s future in international relations.

"If the Iran crisis were to boil over, the pivot to Asia would no longer be America’s main foreign-policy priority. But if the dispute with Iran is resolved diplomatically, the Middle East might, perhaps, be relegated to a position of lesser importance, as Obama clearly desires. The question, therefore, is whether the US will find itself drawn into another war in a region on which it depends less and less for energy…

Peaceful resolution of the Iranian question would help the US to complete its shift toward Asia. China may not wish for that outcome, but its own vital interest in the security of Middle East energy supplies should compel it to cooperate. After all, another Middle East conflict would poison and distort relations in the region for decades, which would be the worst of all possible consequences – for the US and China alike.”

To read more, go to Project Syndicate.

It is this fear of a fast-growing number of nuclear-armed states, not the fine balancing of the US and Russian nuclear arsenals, that the case for Global Zero must address. Indeed, addressing the underlying security concerns that fuel nuclear competition in regional trouble spots is more important to the credibility of Global Zero’s goal of “a world without nuclear weapons” than is encouraging exemplary behavior by the two major nuclear powers…

A Middle East free of nuclear weapons certainly is preferable to a region with two or more nuclear-weapons states. But the Arab countries should assume that, unless and until they normalize their relations with Israel, effective engagement with it on such vital issues will remain impossible. Peace and regional de-nuclearization must go hand in hand.

-Shlomo Ben-Ami

The World After November
In November, the United States and China will both experience changes in leadership that will change the dynamics of their foreign policy. America continues to grapple with its approach to the Middle East as the region experiences its own transformation, but energy independence may release the US from reliance on foreign oil and make relations with Asia more crucial.
"But it is not just the new US leader who will inherit a changed world. Across the Pacific, the days of record-breaking economic growth in Asia – a key component of social and political stability – may be coming to an end… 
Despite global economic headwinds, China’s leaders will surely remain focused on maintaining and boosting growth, in order to lift more Chinese out of poverty and avert social unrest; they are also certain to continue monitoring the oil-rich Middle East. After years of relying on America’s presence in the region, playing an advantageous waiting game, China’s next leaders may embrace a more active role.”
The real question will be “whether the leaders who emerge in November will be firefighters or fire starters.”
To read Javier Solana's full article on the global impact of upcoming political transitions, go here.

The World After November

In November, the United States and China will both experience changes in leadership that will change the dynamics of their foreign policy. America continues to grapple with its approach to the Middle East as the region experiences its own transformation, but energy independence may release the US from reliance on foreign oil and make relations with Asia more crucial.

"But it is not just the new US leader who will inherit a changed world. Across the Pacific, the days of record-breaking economic growth in Asia – a key component of social and political stability – may be coming to an end… 

Despite global economic headwinds, China’s leaders will surely remain focused on maintaining and boosting growth, in order to lift more Chinese out of poverty and avert social unrest; they are also certain to continue monitoring the oil-rich Middle East. After years of relying on America’s presence in the region, playing an advantageous waiting game, China’s next leaders may embrace a more active role.”

The real question will be “whether the leaders who emerge in November will be firefighters or fire starters.”

To read Javier Solana's full article on the global impact of upcoming political transitions, go here.