Tag Archives: Middle East

The EAS: what it takes to succeed

Just before the summer shutdown, the last key decisions were taken to establish the EU’s new External Action Service – the European Parliament on 8 July and the Council of the EU on the 20th. As the EAS starts to become real, what can and should we expect from it? Continue reading

Obama, 1 year in: flaws aren’t failure – but there are new risks in policy towards Iran

President Barack Obama has handed himself his sharpest challenge yet: a year of showing his unclenched fist to Iran has produced nothing and now he is toughening up his stance with a missile shield for the US naval forces in the Gulf. What will this do to his presidency? There was so much hope and much of that energy remains, even if it is not being so effectively tapped, but in confronting Iran, might Obama seriously lose his way?

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Yemen, water and war

Today’s Times carries a vivid and timely article about water shortage and conflict in Yemen, depicting it as potentially the first nation to run out of water in 10 to 15 years’ time. I contributed some thoughts in a background analysis The Times also carries on larger conflict patterns, links to climate change and water shortages, and the imperative of international cooperation to address the problems, especially for a country such a Yemen.

Obama in power (12): more on that prize

It wasn’t Obama’s fault. He didn’t pick him and so far as we know there was no lobbying though that is common behaviour by would-be laureates and their friends.  Once the prize was announced he would have been churlish to turn it down. His dignified acceptance and remarks about the other worthy nominees struck the right note. But… Continue reading

Obama in power (11): Hope’s prize

The Nobel Peace Prize Committee has not done either President Obama or itself any favours by awarding him this year’s prize. It’s an award for promise rather than achievement. Read the citation and it sounds pretty much like saying, ‘We award the prize to the most popular man in the world because we like his views.’ Continue reading

As Obama opens doors to the Muslim world, will Europe close them?

President Obama’s 4th June speech in Cairo about relations with the Islamic world rightly got huge plaudits, including here. It doesn’t solve all problems but doors are open for new dialogue, policies and approaches. But as Washington wins credit and credibility through expressions of openness and respect and heads towards better links with the Muslim world, is Europe moving the opposite way? Continue reading

Obama in power (10): Cairo – brilliant speech but that awkward question persists

President Obama’s speech in Cairo on 4 June offers further evidence of his unrivalled communication skills and of his will and capacity to address thorny issues by reframing and reshaping them in a way that offers new openings for change and improvement. As an opening to the Muslim world, is it possible to imagine an American president doing better given the realities in which he works? For many of the issues he raised, the question is if interlocutors and counterparts will step forward able to use the opportunities he is creating. And over Israel and Palestine, that is a familiar and awkward question. Continue reading

Obama in power (9): To strengthen peace in the Middle East, the first big step is in the US

It’s a big week for US policy and the Middle East, a defining moment for the Obama administration’s impact. What happens this week will not alone be enough to achieve regional cooperation with the US on peace and security but, if it goes wrong, that will be enough to make that cooperation next to impossible for several years again.  Continue reading

Obama in power (8): the real challenge is Israel-Palestine, not North Korea

Just as Obama was getting his presidential teeth into the Israel-Palestine issue – with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington last week and Obama’s Middle East tour next – North Korea goes and finds a window in his crowded timetable, forcing itself on his attention with a nuclear test and missile firings. But, although things can go horribly wrong, North Korea presents a much more straightforward problem than Israel-Palestine and the wider Middle East. Continue reading

Obama in power (6):policies clarifying, pattern still hazy

By the time Obama was inaugurated, he had promised so much, there was a risk that he could only disappoint. Let’s not get too carried away in these tough times, but there is some much needed good news: perfect his administration is not, but the first signs in foreign policy are far from negative. This extended post surveys the key issues. Continue reading