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November 07, 2009

Strategery for Israel, Iran, Af-Pakistan, and the Test Ban
Posted by David Shorr

[With apologies for the truly awful rhymes in the title.]

I wanted to offer a compendium of pieces that have caught my eye in the past couple months, all with the common theme of offering strategic approaches to a number of the knottiest problems on the current agenda.

Speaking of knotty challenges, let's start with Israel and Palestine. This Daniel Levy piece from Foreign Policy portrayed Obama as being quite canny in facing down Netanyahu over settlements. The argument is that making a stand on settlements undercut Netanyahu's game of offering bite-sized confidence building measures. Made a lot of sense to me when I read it; don't know if the theory still holds after recent events.

[UPDATE: I found Levy's update on Obama's Mideast peace strategy just after posting this. He acknowledges the damage done by the administration's recently softened stance, and faults them especially for not plotting their next more more carefully. Levy doesn't see all hope as lost, however, and believes it will still be possible for Obama to seize the initiative.]

On AfPak, Christian Brose & Daniel Twining had an interesting article in the Weekly Standard. Their analysis focuses on the Pakistan Army as the region's pivotal player. Pressuring Taliban forces militarily and politically from the Afgah side of the border would change the Pakistan Army's regional geopolitical calculations, the argument goes. Tracing back to Bosnia and Kosovo and the importance of driving a wedge between Russia and Milosevic, I tend to think these calculations are important.

And then on Iran, Meir Javedanfar gave a very clear explanation over on Real Clear World of the fragile and endangered deal with Iran over its enriched uranium. His bottom line is that the Obama Administration should reject proposed Iranian revisions to the deal, just as Hillary Clinton ended up doing the other day. As a general matter, I'd note that the idea of mutual bargains such as this deal is fundamental to the Obama approach to foreign policy. My Stanley Foundation colleague Mike Kraig refers to these kinds of solutions as the "balance of interests" rather than a balance of power.

Last but not least we have the vital matter of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. A recent NYTimes op-ed by Carnegie Endowment President Jessica Mathews walked through the international politics of the treaty (particularly its ratification) and its importance for preserving the nuclear nonproliferation norm.


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