U.S. Foreign Relations in 2015-16

Written by  //  December 28, 2016  //  Foreign Policy, U.S.  //  1 Comment

See also China Seas
Trump Transition: U.S. Foreign Policy


End-of-Year Sanctions: President Barack Obama announced sanctions against a number of Russian officials and entities in response to Moscow’s alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election. The move, which included the expulsion of 35 Russian intelligence officials and the closure of two U.S.-based Russian properties, is the first public step the U.S. has taken against Russia for the cyberattack. It’s unclear what impact the sanctions will have, and, as Krishnadev Calamur notes, President-elect Donald Trump could repeal them once he takes office next month.
23 December
Rebuffing Israel, U.S. Allows Censure Over Settlements
(NYT) Defying extraordinary pressure from President-elect Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel, the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction.
The administration’s decision not to veto the measure reflected its accumulated frustration over Israeli settlements. The American abstention on the vote also broke a longstanding policy of shielding Israel from action at the United Nations that described the settlements as illegal.
While the resolution is not expected to have any practical impact on the ground, it is regarded as a major rebuff to Israel, one that could increase its isolation over the paralyzed peace process with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors, who have sought to establish their own state on territory held by Israel.
15 December
Robert Fisk: It was bizarre to watch Samantha Power at the UN conveniently forget to mention all the massacres done in America’s name
When Samantha talked about ‘barbarism against civilians’ in Aleppo, I remembered climbing over the dead Palestinian civilians massacred at the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut in 1982, slaughtered by Israel’s Lebanese militia friends while the Israeli army – Washington’s most powerful ally in the Middle East – watched
… the gassing of Halabja’s Kurds was committed by Saddam’s air force, who were Arabs. And the Rwandan genocide was commited by Rwandans. And the Srebrenica massacres were committed by Milosevic’s militias who were Serbs. We may have “stood idly by”, as the saying goes – it, is after all, what we are doing and going to do over Aleppo – but neither we nor our allies actually committed these atrocities.
14 November
(Quartz) Barack Obama tries to explain the US election to the world’s oldest democracy.The outgoing US president is starting his final scheduled overseas trip. First stop: Greece, where he is expected to deliver a major speech on globalization. Later in the week he’s in Germany for meetings with European leaders, and then Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
12 October
We are facing the possibility of a second Cold War – and if it happens, Isis will never be defeated
By Sean O’Grady, Deputy Managing Editor and former Economics editor of the Independent
(The Independent UK) Every conflict during the Cold War was fought by armies or insurgents working on behalf of the Americans, Russians, or, occasionally the Chinese: Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Angola and the list goes on. These countries would use proxies again, but with a higher death count, in the 21st century
… the immediate danger now is Cold War 2, much more than a “hot” Third World War, though one could grow out of the other. The US-Russia relationship is on a pivot between progress and failure, more so than at any time since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Also unsteady are America’s and Russia’s respective relations with China, which, as has been true since the Sino-Soviet split in 1961 and Richard Nixon’s historic visit in 1972, can be categorised, in Huntington’s terms, as a “swing superpower”, and a better armed, active and richer one nowadays.
When America and Russia cannot act together in the face of a common threat on the scale of Isis, then there is certainly little cause for optimism. Putin won his war in the Ukraine with the annexation of Crimea and the de facto capture of eastern Ukraine, on the very borders of Nato and the European Union. Perhaps, had Donald Trump not been so enchanted by Vladimir Putin, we would have heard more about that particular failing by the Obama administration in the presidential campaign.
On that score, cosying up to Russia, President Trump might be better for world peace than the second President Clinton; but at what price? Trump has also made little secret of his essential isolationism, dismissing Nato and, implicitly, offering up the Baltic republics to Putin as a few morsels, as if they were not worth the bones of an American marine. Thus would Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania leave the European Union against their will and join a reborn Russian sphere of influence.
Others – the central Asian republics for example, and Georgia (where Russia has already fought a war of aggression) – might not be far behind. A Cold War would see aggressive, steady Russian expansionism accelerate, in a way we haven’t seen since the 1970s, or Hitler’s opportunistic land grabs. In that way we could be living through something similar to the “steps to war” every school child learns that the world trod in the 1930s; appeasement feeding the appetite of the beast.
7 September
Obama’s ‘Rebalancing’ to Asia Falters in Sleepy Laos
(TIME) Faced with a mounting budget deficit, and with the fracking revolution making disentanglement from a roiling Middle East a real possibility, the White House announced a political, military and economic “rebalancing” to Asia in 2012. But four years later, the reality is simmering conflict in the South China Sea, entrenched authoritarianism across Southeast Asia and stillborn efforts to boost business ties. Moreover, critics say that Washington’s preoccupation with countering Beijing’s influence has undermined support for core American values, such as democracy, electoral rigor and human rights.
Certainly, Southeast Asia has regressed politically over the course of the “rebalance,” with the notable exception of Burma (officially called Myanmar), which has moved toward qualified democracy. A military junta has run Thailand since a May 2014 coup d’état. Malaysia’s opposition leader is once again behind bars, while Prime Minister Najib Razak stands accused of embezzling $700 million of state funds. (He denies any wrongdoing). Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos remain autocratic, with the 2012 disappearance of award-winning Lao activist Sombath Somphone still unexplained in the latter.
Obama Addresses Continued Impact of US Secret War in Laos
(ABC) President Obama continued his historic visit to Laos, addressing the painful legacy of a bloody conflict that has continued to torment the Lao people five decades after the Vietnam War.
6 September
Global leaders meet in Laos.The three-day long regional ASEAN summit will, happily for China, avoid any mention (so awkward) of the recent ruling from a UN court invalidating Chinese claims to the South China Sea. As part of a “pivot” to Asia, Barack Obama will attend, becoming the first sitting US president to visit the country.
Bad Luck and Worse Manners Tarnish Obama’s Asia Trip
(NYT) in four messy days, the president lost the clear message choreographed by his advance team. There was the chaotic arrival ceremony in China, in which missing aircraft stairs unexpectedly trumped the theme of global warming. And then, an ugly personal outburst that prompted Mr. Obama to cancel a meeting with the new leader of the Philippines, an ally the United States will need in the coming contest with China for regional influence.
4 September
Barack Obama ‘deliberately snubbed’ by Chinese in chaotic arrival at G20
The US president was denied the usual red carpet welcome and forced to ‘go out of the ass’ of Air Force One, observers say
(The Guardian) China’s leaders have been accused of delivering a calculated diplomatic snub to Barack Obama after the US president was not provided with a staircase to leave his plane during his chaotic arrival in Hangzhou before the start of the G20.
Chinese authorities have rolled out the red carpet for leaders including India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the South Korean president, Park Geun-hye, Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, and the British prime minister, Theresa May, who touched down on Sunday morning.
But the leader of the world’s largest economy, who is on his final tour of Asia, was forced to disembark from Air Force One through a little-used exit in the plane’s belly after no rolling staircase was provided when he landed in the eastern Chinese city on Saturday afternoon.
2 September
Obama’s Last Asia Trip: What’s on the Agenda in China and Laos?
Apart from a range of engagements, the president will reinforce the significance of the rebalance.
(The Diplomat) Apart from attending the ASEAN-related meetings which Vientiane is chairing this year, Obama will also become the first U.S. president to visit the tiny, landlocked, communist Southeast Asian state (See: “Laos in the ASEAN Spotlight: Opportunities and Challenges”). The Obama administration has been working over the past few months on a set of deliverables that would significantly boost U.S.-Laos relations to a new level. This includes not only additional funding for removing unexploded ordnance (UXO) dating back to the Vietnam War, but also the environment, health, nutrition, and education. These issues will feature in his various engagements, including a state luncheon with the Lao president, a summit for the Young Southeast Asian leaders Initiative (YSEALI) – a signature administration initiative – and a speech on U.S.-Lao relations and the rebalance.

20 August

Does Henry Kissinger Have a Conscience?DoesHenryKissingerHaveaConscience
Newly released documents have revealed more about Henry Kissinger’s role in Argentina’s Dirty War.
Photograph by Steche / ullstein bild via Getty
(The New Yorker) One of his foremost critics was the late Christopher Hitchens, who in 2001 wrote a book-length indictment entitled “The Trial of Henry Kissinger.” Hitchens called for Kissinger’s prosecution “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture.”
Now that he is nearing the end of his life, Kissinger must wonder what his own legacy is to be. He can rest assured that, at the very least, his steadfast support for the American superpower project, no matter what the cost in lives, will be a major part of that legacy. Unlike McNamara, however, whose attempt to find a moral reckoning Kissinger held in such scorn, Kissinger has shown little in the way of a conscience. And because of that, it seems highly likely, history will not easily absolve him. (20 August 2016)

18 August
U.S. Concedes $400 Million Payment to Iran Was Delayed as Prisoner ‘Leverage’
(NYT) Administration officials have said that the two transactions were negotiated entirely separately over a period of years. That they came together on one weekend reflected a desire on the part of Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, to set aside a series of disputes, complete the nuclear deal and try to remove irritants from the relationship between two longtime rivals.
28 July
How the Republican Establishment Lost to Trump on Russia
Democrats have largely taken the position that Trump is an unwitting agent of Putin—a “useful idiot,” in the language of the Cold War. It’s surprising, as my colleague Jane Mayer has noted, that they have not been more aggressive. What is more shocking is that Republicans have largely remained silent. In a matter of weeks, Trump has made the G.O.P. a pro-Putin party. If he is President, there will be little that a Republican Congress can do to stop Trump’s embrace of Russia.
(The New Yorker) Even though Trump’s policy agenda is the opposite of [House Speaker Paul] Ryan’s on trade, immigration, entitlements, and other issues, Ryan and others hope that Trump’s lack of interest in policy details and his appetite for winning would make him a rubber stamp for the Ryan agenda.
… But, after almost two weeks of Conventions, there is one area of Republican foreign policy that Trump has completely reinvented in his image: the Party’s posture toward Russia. There is almost no issue on which Trump has been more consistent than his interest in strengthening ties with Vladimir Putin and clearing away the obstacles that have hindered the U.S.-Russia relationship.
It was conceivable that the change to the Party platform was an isolated event and not one that represented a Republican turn away from our European allies and toward Moscow. But then Trump made an even more jaw-dropping policy announcement: he told the Times that he would not necessarily defend NATO countries if they were attacked by Russia. Yesterday, after WikiLeaks released Democratic National Committee e-mails, which officials have said were likely obtained by Russia, Trump went even further. At his bizarre press conference, the candidate was repeatedly asked about policy on Russia and his relationship with Russia.
21 July
Trump Puts America’s Allies on Notice
(Bloomberg View) Donald Trump’s warning that, as president, he may not support the automatic defense of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally if it is attacked, may well be evidence of the Republican nominee’s isolationist views. But more likely, it reflects a belief that rules can be bent when they don’t suit him. It has defined the Trump candidacy and it will define his presidency if he wins.
Trump told The New York Times that if Russia attacks the Baltic states, he would first see if these countries “have fulfilled their obligations to us” and then decide whether the U.S. should intervene. …
Trump’s approach would mean Estonia would be the only Baltic nation to qualify for U.S. intervention in case of an attack.
Donald Trump’s Ambivalence on the Baltics Is More Important Than It Seems
(NYT) Mr. Trump seemed to be suggesting a break with an international treaty obligation: a major shift on a policy that gets little political attention but is central to upholding the postwar peace in Europe, the balance of power with Russia, and the small but real risk of conflict among the world’s major nuclear powers.
As Russia has grown more assertive in recent years, in part to compensate for its weakness relative to the West, much of the friction between it and NATO has played out along the Russian-Baltic borders.
The dynamics in the region have been governed by the alliance’s pledge to defend the Baltic nations if they are attacked, a threat meant to be so serious that it prevents war from ever occurring. That pledge is an important pillar of stability in a region where, in a highly unlikely but plausible worst case, a conflict could escalate to war between nuclear powers.
Just how far do Trump’s ties to Putin go?
(MSNBC) Trump laid out his foreign-policy vision in April, which talked at length about projecting U.S. “strength” – except towards Russia, with whom he wants to end “this horrible cycle of hostility.”
Making matters slightly worse, Trump hired lobbyist Paul Manafort to be his campaign chairman, despite (because of?) Manafort’s previous work on Putin’s behalf. Retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn, a leading Trump advisor, also has unusually cozy ties with Putin’s Russia.
Slate’s Franklin Foer noted two weeks ago, “If the Russian president could design a candidate to undermine American interests – and advance his own – he’d look a lot like Donald Trump.” New York’s Jon Chait added this week that Trump’s relationship with Russia “is disturbing and lends itself to frightening interpretations.”

The Obama Doctrine
The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
By Jeffrey Goldberg
Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union. But he also thinks rhetoric should be weaponized sparingly, if at all, in today’s more ambiguous and complicated international arena. The president believes that Churchillian rhetoric and, more to the point, Churchillian habits of thought, helped bring his predecessor, George W. Bush, to ruinous war in Iraq. Obama entered the White House bent on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan; he was not seeking new dragons to slay. And he was particularly mindful of promising victory in conflicts he believed to be unwinnable. “If you were to say, for instance, that we’re going to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and build a prosperous democracy instead, the president is aware that someone, seven years later, is going to hold you to that promise,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, and his foreign-policy amanuensis, told me not long ago.
Over the course of our conversations, I came to see Obama as a president who has grown steadily more fatalistic about the constraints on America’s ability to direct global events, even as he has, late in his presidency, accumulated a set of potentially historic foreign-policy achievements—controversial, provisional achievements, to be sure, but achievements nonetheless: the opening to Cuba, the Paris climate-change accord, the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, and, of course, the Iran nuclear deal. These he accomplished despite his growing sense that larger forces—the riptide of tribal feeling in a world that should have already shed its atavism; the resilience of small men who rule large countries in ways contrary to their own best interests; the persistence of fear as a governing human emotion—frequently conspire against the best of America’s intentions. But he also has come to learn, he told me, that very little is accomplished in international affairs without U.S. leadership. (The Atlantic April 2016)

20 March
Obama Arrives in Cuba, Heralding New Era After Decades of Hostility
10 March
Obama sees Netanyahu as most disappointing of all Mideast leaders — report
The Atlantic: Israeli PM is ‘in his own category’ when it comes to those who frustrate US president; article cites ‘condescending’ lecture by PM, asserts that Obama sees Netanyahu as ‘too fearful and politically paralyzed’ to secure two-state solution
(The Times of Israel) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is in his own category” when it comes to the Middle East leaders who have most deeply disappointed President Barack Obama, according to a major overview of the Obama presidency, featuring numerous interviews with the president, published online Thursday by The Atlantic.
In the piece, headlined “The Obama Doctrine,” writer Jeffrey Goldberg goes to great lengths to trace the president’s growing disillusionment, over the course of his presidency, with the possibility of changing the region for the better. “Some of his deepest disappointments concern Middle Eastern leaders themselves,” Goldberg writes. Of these, “Benjamin Netanyahu is in his own category.” …
The piece does not single out Netanyahu as the only regional leader to “frustrate him immensely.” Obama now thinks of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who he had hoped could bridge the East-West divide, as “a failure and an authoritarian, one who refuses to use his enormous army to bring stability to Syria,” Goldberg writes.
2 March
The World According to Trump, Super Tuesday’s Big Winner
As Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump come into focus as the presidential front-runners, so too do their foreign-policy platforms — or lack thereof
(Foreign Policy) His hawkish stance — violating other countries’ sovereignty, stealing their resources, and saying of terrorists, “You have to take out their families” — goes farther than what any other GOP candidate has even called for. It seems to contradict his assertion that the United States never should’ve intervened in the Iraq War or in Libya.
24 February
Obama Sends Plan to Close Guantánamo to Congress
(NYT) President Obama sent Congress a plan on Tuesday to close the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, his latest attempt to deliver on an unfulfilled promise of his presidency, which faces near-certain rejection by Congress.
The prison has come to symbolize the darker side of the nation’s antiterrorism efforts, but the series of steps that Mr. Obama outlined at the White House were as much an acknowledgment of the constraints binding him during his final year in office as they were a practical blueprint for transferring prisoners.
23 February
What the Presidential Candidates Get Wrong About the Middle East
In a nutshell: everything
By Kim Ghattas, BBC correspondent covering international affairs and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
(Foreign Policy) Whoever becomes America’s 45th president simply can’t afford to remain ignorant about the Middle East. Divorcing the United States from its problems is not an option — not when the region is imploding and seems to be taking part of the world down with it. Just ask Europe, where the refugee crisis is now being described as an existential threat. The next president of the United States, whoever he or she is, needs to start reading up.
3 February
The Big 5 and the Sad State of Foreign Policy in 2016
Rubio is a naive neocon. Everybody hates Ted. Hillary is a hawk. Bernie has bigger fish to fry. And who the hell knows how Trump would screw up the world
(Foreign Policy) A Clinton foreign policy will look a lot like Barack Obama’s, but with a decidedly more hawkish edge. …
Here’s the real worry: Clinton and her advisors are deeply committed to the familiar strategy of liberal hegemony the United States has followed ever since the end of the Cold War. This worldview sees U.S. leadership as “indispensable”; has never seen an international problem it doesn’t think Washington could fix; and routinely forgets that other states have interests, too, and aren’t always grateful when the United States throws its weight around. Americans like to think “global leadership” is their birthright, but the U.S. track record since 1993 is a mixed one at best. Today’s world is very different than the one of the 1990s — when liberal hegemony was in its heyday — and many elements of the old U.S. playbook aren’t working that well. If you think that events in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and Africa might require not a bunch of tired verities but some real creativity, the well-worn Clinton team might not be your best bet.
13 January
Obama: The Last Year and the Legacy, Part 1
After seven years, it’s time for the president to bring American foreign policy out of the shadows.
(Foreign Policy) The president won’t have an easy task. Despite some significant accomplishments — the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change accord, for instance — a majority of Americans disapprove of his overall job performance, and an even larger majority disapproves of his foreign-policy performance. Barring divine intervention, a year isn’t long enough for Obama to bring peace to the Middle East or turn Russia and China into genuine democracies.
But there are still a few important things he can do — if he puts his mind to it. Here are four items Obama can put on his 2016 To-Do List:
Close Guantánamo.
Repudiate indefinite detention
Stop playing games with the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force. The Obama administration is still claiming that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) makes it OK to use force against the Islamic State in Syria and assorted bad guys in a dozen different countries. But Obama knows this is a stretch.
Bring an end to secret wars and secret laws.
Since coming into office, Obama has presided over several hundred “targeted strikes,” mostly using unmanned aerial vehicles, aka drones. Those strikes have reportedly caused the deaths of several thousand people in half a dozen countries, but administration officials still refuse to acknowledge most of the strikes, offer a public account of the evidence that led to the targeting of specific individuals, or take responsibility for the many unintended deaths that have also ensued. Even the legal rationale behind most of these strikes remains unknown.


15 October

The Decline of International Studies
Why Flying Blind Is Dangerous
By Charles King, Professor of International Affairs and Chair of the Department of Government at Georgetown University.
In October 2013, the U.S. Department of State eliminated its funding program for advanced language and cultural training on Russia and the former Soviet Union. Created in 1983 as a special appropriation by Congress, the so-called Title VIII Program had supported generations of specialists working in academia, think tanks, and the U.S. government itself. But as a State Department official told the Russian news service RIA Novosti at the time, “In this fiscal climate, it just didn’t make it.” The program’s shuttering came just a month before the start of a now well-known chain of events: Ukraine’s Euromaidan revolution, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, and the descent of U.S.-Russian relations to their lowest level since the Cold War. The timing was, to say the least, unfortunate.
The end of the United States’ premier federal program for Russian studies saved taxpayers only $3.3 million—the cost of two Tomahawk cruise missiles or about half a day’s sea time for an aircraft carrier strike group. The development was part of a broader trend: the scaling back of a long-term national commitment to education and research focused on international affairs. Two years ago, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences warned of a hidden crisis in the humanities and social sciences. “Now more than ever,” the academy’s report concluded, “the spirit of international cooperation, the promotion of trade and foreign investment, the requirements of international diplomacy, and even the enhancement of national security depend in some measure on an American citizenry trained in humanistic and social scientific disciplines, including languages, transnational studies, moral and political philosophy, global ethics, and international relations.” In response to lobbying by universities and scholarly associations, Title VIII was resuscitated earlier this year, but it came back at less than half its previous funding level and with future appropriations left uncertain. Given the mounting challenges that Washington faces in Russia and eastern Europe, now seems to be an especially odd time to reduce federal support for educating the next cohort of experts. …
Given that no one can know where the next crisis will erupt, having a broadly competent reserve of experts is the price of global engagement. Yesterday’s apparent irrelevancies—the demographics of eastern Ukraine, for example, or popular attitudes toward public health in West Africa—can suddenly become matters of consequence. Acquiring competence in these sorts of topics forms the mental disposition that J. William Fulbright called “seeing the world as others see it”—an understanding that people could reasonably view their identities, interests, politics, and leaders in ways that might at first seem bizarre or wrong-headed. It also provides the essential context for distinguishing smart policy-specific questions from misguided ones. Great powers should revel in small data: the granular and culture-specific knowledge that can make the critical difference between really getting a place and getting it profoundly wrong.
International affairs education and research are also part of a country’s domestic life. Democratic societies depend on having a cadre of informed professionals outside government—people in universities, think tanks, museums, and research institutes who cultivate expertise protected from the pressures of the state. Many countries can field missile launchers and float destroyers; only a few have built a Brookings Institution or a Chatham House. Yet the latter is what makes them magnets for people from the very places their institutions study. The University of London’s nearly century-old SOAS, for example, which focuses on Asian and African studies, is a beehive of languages and causes, where Koreans, Nigerians, and Palestinians come to receive world-class instruction on, among other things, North and South Korea, Nigeria, and the Palestinian territories.
All of this points to just how important international and regional studies can be when they are adequately funded, publicly valued, and shielded from the exigencies of national security. Their chief role is not to enable the makers of foreign policy. It is rather to constrain them: to show why things will always be more complicated than they seem, how to foresee unintended consequences, and when to temper ambition with a realistic understanding of what is historically and culturally imaginable. For more than half a century, the world has been shaped by the simple fact that the United States could look at other countries—their pasts and presents, their myths and worldviews—with sympathetic curiosity. Maintaining the ability to do so is not only a great power’s insurance policy against the future. It is also the essence of an open, inquisitive, and critical society. (Foreign Affairs July/August 2015 Issue)

Grandmaster of the Great Game
By Alfred W. McCoy, Harrington Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author, most recently, of Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation, and co-editor of Endless Empire: Europe’s Eclipse, Spain’s Retreat, America’s Decline.
(HuffPost) In ways that have eluded Washington pundits and policymakers, President Barack Obama is deploying a subtle geopolitical strategy that, if successful, might give Washington a fighting chance to extend its global hegemony deep into the twenty-first century. After six years of silent, sometimes secret preparations, the Obama White House has recently unveiled some bold diplomatic initiatives whose sum is nothing less than a tri-continental strategy to check Beijing’s rise. As these moves unfold, Obama is revealing himself as one of those rare grandmasters who appear every generation or two with an ability to go beyond mere foreign policy and play that ruthless global game called geopolitics. …
Without proclaiming a presumptuously labeled policy such as “triangulation,” “the Nixon Doctrine,” or even a “freedom agenda,” Obama has moved step-by-step to repair the damage caused by a plethora of Washington foreign policy debacles, old and new, and then maneuvered deftly to rebuild America’s fading global influence.
Viewed historically, Obama has set out to correct past foreign policy excesses and disasters, largely the product of imperial overreach, that can be traced to several generations of American leaders bent on the exercise of unilateral power. Within the spectrum of American state power, he has slowly shifted from the coercion of war, occupation, torture, and other forms of unilateral military action toward the more cooperative realm of trade, diplomacy, and mutual security — all in search of a new version of American supremacy.
Barack Obama and the Powell Doctrine, Reconsidered
Leaving troops in Afghanistan is the right thing to do. It is also a telling, sad legacy for the U.S. president.
(Foreign Policy) Obama is helping to put to rest one of the most often-cited aspects of the Powell Doctrine, the framework for considering American overseas interventions. The doctrine traces its roots to …  the deep desire to avoid future Vietnams that dominated the thinking of American military planners in the wake of that debacle. One of its central precepts is that when America contemplates overseas use of force that an “exit strategy” is developed to avoid the prospect of being bogged down as in the so-called quagmire of the Indochina War.
It is a natural desire. Protracted, bloody, costly engagements are undesirable on almost every level. Unfortunately, history has shown that in many circumstances avoiding them is unrealistic. In fact, the lesson of the past three quarters of a century of U.S. overseas military action might be seen as “do not intervene unless you are prepared to remain involved for a long, long time.” …
Of course, not all of the common-sense precepts of the Powell Doctrine have been invalidated by our recent experiences. We must still weigh whether vital interests are at stake, whether clear objectives exist, whether potential costs have been assessed, whether other means of resolving have been exhausted, whether we are willing to apply sufficient force and resources to ensure the outcome we seek, and whether the consequences of the potential action have been fully assessed. Other concepts associated with the doctrine — that action be supported by the American people and also by the international community — are more debatable; there are clearly circumstances in which national interests may trump either of these otherwise desirable criteria. [The “Powell Doctrine” is a journalist-created term, named after General Colin Powell in the run-up to the 1990–91 Gulf War. It is based in large part on the Weinberger Doctrine, devised by Caspar Weinberger, former Secretary of Defense and Powell’s former boss — Wikipedia]
9 October
Obama and the Middle East
The end result has been a gaping chasm between Obama’s analytic successes and his operational failures. Yet the administration has nevertheless gotten the biggest issues shaping the region right. It avoided any deep military commitments in Syria and extricated U.S. forces from Iraq, secured a nuclear deal with Iran, and endorsed the Arab uprisings. On other key issues, such as pushing democratization in Egypt and pursuing Israeli-Palestinian peace, it had the right ideas but failed to deliver.
(Foreign Affairs September|October) Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama’s Middle East strategy often complain that Obama lacks a strategic vision. This is almost exactly wrong. Obama came to office with a conviction that reducing the United States’ massive military and political investment in the Middle East was a vital national security interest in its own right. The occupation of Iraq and the excesses of the war on terrorism had left the United States overextended, especially at a time of economic crisis. “Rightsizing” the United States’ footprint in the region meant not only reducing its material presence but also exercising restraint diplomatically, stepping back and challenging allies to take greater responsibility for their own security. Obama has adhered consistently to this strategy, prioritizing it ruthlessly along the way and firmly resisting efforts to force it off track. This was not a strategy much beloved in Washington or in a region hard-wired for the exercise of American power. But it was a clear and coherent strategy that led Obama to undertake major initiatives on the problems he viewed as rising to the level of core national security interests: Iran’s nuclear weapons program, terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the war in Iraq.
Yet for all of Obama’s analytic acuity, the implementation of his policies has often floundered. His administration has consistently failed to deliver on the promises raised by his inspirational speeches. It has struggled to communicate its policies effectively to publics in the Middle East and has been unable to explain obvious hypocrisies. Efforts to remain evenhanded and noninterventionist have infuriated partisans on all sides who wanted unconditional U.S. support rather than an honest broker.
29 September
Obama ends up dealing with Russia and living with Assad, for now
(Reuters) Russia’s military buildup in Syria appears to have forced U.S. President Barack Obama to two unpalatable conclusions: He cannot ignore Moscow, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may survive for some time.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, isolated after his annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, secured a meeting with Obama on Monday largely as a result of his surprise movement of planes and tanks into Syria. …
With Moscow a staunch backer of Assad and keen to keep its foothold in the Middle East, analysts said the buildup may force Washington to abandon its goal of Assad’s departure, at least for now. As Obama’s former Middle East policy coordinator, Phil Gordon, has argued, the White House may need to explore ways to stop the bloodshed and alleviate the human suffering while holding its nose over Assad’s departure.
“What’s needed is a new diplomatic process that brings all the key external actors to the table and agrees on a messy compromise to de-escalate the conflict – even if that means putting off agreement on the question of Assad,” Gordon, who worked at the White House until April, wrote on Friday in Politico Magazine.
Despite the stated U.S. position that Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead Syria and must go, officials have long said they see no policy likely to achieve this at an acceptable cost. As a result, for months they have tacitly lived with Assad staying in power and made no bones that their focus is to combat Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS, rather than push Syria’s president from power.
28 September
Why the US should give Putin a free rein in Syria
(Quartz) as long as US strategic interests are met, Washington probably shouldn’t care if Russian actions—or those of China or Iran—help, or even are primary, in achieving American objectives. If the aim is to stabilize Syria and, if possible, Iraq, it shouldn’t matter that Putin has swooped in at the last minute to prop up Assad, and bolster his regime against ISIL
President Obama’s impassioned United Nations address: transcript
(Vox) President Obama spoke to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday morning. His speech, which came shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first UNGA address since 2005, heavily criticized Putin. It also focused on Syria, on his criticisms of authoritarian regimes, and his case for diplomatic measures such as the Iran nuclear deal and his reopening of ties with Cuba.
7 August
Chuck Schumer’s reasoning on the Iran deal is shortsighted, and wrong. One graph shows why.
(Daily Kos) Senator Schumer announced yesterday that he would be voting to disapprove the deal reached by the P5+1 with Iran to lift sanctions and impose restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. It’s not clear yet whether Schumer will persuade enough Democrats to join him and the GOP/neocons in voting against the deal. Obama has promised a veto on any resolution of disapproval, they will then have to try to override the veto. Even if that happens, most of the sanctions will be lifted since only a small set of them were imposed by Congress, the rest were put in place by the UN, EU and the US administration. It’s also important to remember that when Congress passed the statutory sanctions, they gave the Obama administration authority to lift them as well. Then earlier this year, Congress insisted it have time to review the deal before statutory sanctions were lifted.
3 August
Democrats See ‘Firewall’ Holding To Preserve Iran Deal
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi feels good about sustaining a presidential veto.
(Reuters) – U.S. backers of the Iran nuclear deal are increasingly confident of enough Democratic support to ensure it survives review by Congress, despite fierce opposition by majority Republicans and a massive lobbying drive.
By the time the House of Representatives recessed for the summer last week, no senior Democrat in the chamber had come out formally against the agreement and several central figures, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, were strongly in favor.
Pelosi said she was confident that if, as expected, Republicans pass a “resolution of disapproval” to try to sink the deal, a promised veto of that measure by President Barack Obama would be sustained.
28 July
Obama Becomes First U.S. President to Address African Union
The visit marks end of visit to Africa, where he pledged better economic tieS
(WSJ) President Barack Obama on Tuesday became the first American president to address the African Union in the institution’s 52-year history, a moment lauded for its historical significance but one that underscored how far behind the U.S. is in investing in the continent.
Mr. Obama’s visit capped a five-day African trip where he pledged enhanced U.S. economic ties. The U.S., however, is playing catch-up to other world powers, particularly China, which built the 54-member Union’s headquarters where Mr. Obama spoke.
His statements reflected the way that burgeoning Chinese investment in Africa has changed the way major Western powers like the U.S. approach the continent. The promise of rapid economic growth has dramatically increased many African economies’ leverage with foreign powers. Mr. Obama spent as much time courting African governments as criticizing Ethiopia’s repression of opposition leaders and calling out Burundi’s president for ignoring constitutional term limits.
26 July
Barack Obama says Kenya is at a ‘crossroads’ between peril and progress
U.S. president’s 40-minute speech carried on Kenyan television
“Because of Kenya’s progress — because of your potential — you can build your future right here, right now,” Obama told the crowd of 4,500 packed into a sports arena in the capital of Nairobi. But he bluntly warned that Kenya must make “tough choices” to bolster its fragile democracy and fast-growing economy.
Obama’s visit here, his first as president, captivated a country that views him as a local son. Thick crowds lined the roadways to watch the presidential motorcade speed through the city Sunday, some climbing on rooftops to get a better view. The audience inside the arena chanted his name as he finished his remarks.
Barack Obama in Kenya: ‘no excuse’ for treating women as second-class citizens
‘Just because something is part of your past doesn’t make it right’, Obama says
Rousing address in Nairobi also offers insight into his African heritage
Obama in Kenya: An upbeat tone, but notes of discord, too
(CNBC) The return of the long-lost son, as President Obama is widely seen by Kenyans, had all the elements of a family reunion. They hugged, they caught up, they talked about shared interests, they agreed they should get together more often and they had their sibling spats.
In his first visit as president to his father’s home country, Mr. Obama struck a relentlessly upbeat tone, declaring that “Africa is on the move,” praising progress toward democracy and economic growth and marveling over the changes he saw passing through the streets of this locked-down capital.
But he found himself at odds with his hosts over issues of democracy, human rights and same-sex marriage and gingerly tried to nudge them to change their ways. At a news conference, Mr. Obama said the fight against terrorism in Kenya should not be used to justify a crackdown on dissent and he argued that no state should discriminate against gays and lesbians, comparing it to the era of segregation of African-Americans in the United States. (BBC) Obama in Kenya: Presidents differ on gay rights
20 July
President Obama’s trip to Africa
(Brookings) On Thursday, President Obama will begin his third and likely final trip to Africa as president, heading to both Kenya and Ethiopia. During his visit to the continent, President Obama will attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit, which launched in 2009. This marks the first time a sitting president has traveled to Ethiopia and the president’s first trip to his ancestral homeland since being elected. Our experts preview the top agenda items, what’s at stake, and recap highlights from last year’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
8 July
Why Obama Is Leaving Greece To Fend For Itself Against Germany
(HuffPost) Although the U.S. has a host of potential policy tools and diplomatic leverage at its disposal, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Wednesday that it would not take formal economic policy actions to aid Greece or to bring Germany closer to the position Obama outlined in February.
Lew’s caution reflects an overarching American concern with Russia, which the United States needs help containing, notably from German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic had previously worried that a Greek exit from the European currency — or worse yet, from the EU itself — could have fractured Europe and given Russia’s government the opportunity to forge alliances with previous foes. After the European Central Bank restricted funding for the Greek financial system — a move still deeply criticized by economists — the Syriza regime made repeated overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin for emergency financing. But the failure for that funding to materialize has eased the pressure on Washington to intervene.
While Lew and Obama continue to formally insist on debt relief, their current conciliatory posture reflects a desire to avoid confrontation with Germany and maintain an ally against Russia.
29 June
Obama signs trade bills into law, says tough battle still ahead
(Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday signed into law legislation that gives him “fast-track” power to push ahead on a Pacific Rim trade deal that has been the subject of intense debate in Congress and across the nation.
Flanked by some of the lawmakers who supported the bill through a six-week congressional battle, Obama acknowledged that his fight to secure the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership was far from over.
“We still have some tough negotiations that are going to be taking place,” Obama said at a signing ceremony. He noted that lawmakers and the public will be able to scrutinize the trade deal before it is finalized. “The debate will not end with this bill signing,” he said.
The package also included aid for workers who lose their jobs as a result of trade, and an Africa trade preferences bill.
27 June
Now We Know Why Huge TPP Trade Deal Is Kept Secret From the Publicthe story is a pretty sensational retelling of some provisions that have already been under criticism for some time from those who have been paying attention.
(HuffPost) The section of the TPP that has leaked is the “Investment” chapter that includes investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) clauses. WikiLeaks has the text and analysis, and the Times has the story, in “Trans-Pacific Partnership Seen as Door for Foreign Suits Against U.S.“:
23 June
It Turns Out That Obama Won the Free-Trade Fight in Congress After All
On June 12, House Democrats ignored President Obama’s wishes and rejected a bill involved in a proposed compromise related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade agreement. The defeat was described as “stunning” and “huge” by some major outlets—which seemed premature given that the House had only rejected one part of the free-trade plan, not the entire deal. Indeed, on Tuesday the Senate gave the president what he had wanted all along—”fast-track” authority to negotiate a final TPP bill that can’t be filibustered or amended when Congress votes on it. …
Democratic senators only agreed to approve fast-track on its own because they were promised that a compromise on aid could ultimately be reached and a separate aid bill passed. But that hasn’t actually happened yet, and ultimately the entire TPP itself will need to be finalized and passed. Obama—and his strange-bedfellows allies in the Republican leadership—have won a battle but not the war.
12 June
House rejects Obama on trade authority
(PBS Newshour) The House derailed a high-profile White House-backed trade bill on Friday, a humiliating defeat for President Barack Obama inflicted by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and dozens of union-backed lawmakers from his own party. … The outcome was also a triumph for organized labor, which had lobbied lawmakers furiously to oppose the measure that union officials warned would lead to the loss of thousands of American jobs. The House effectively rejected a combination of proposals that would have given the president fast-trade trade authority. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. about why he voted against it. Shields and Brooks on Obama trade bill defeat “There are no enforcement provisions in the trade agreement for workers’ rights. You’re competing now with workers in Vietnam, who are making 56 cents an hour. That is a disadvantage to Americans. There is no enforcement for environmental standards and there’s certainly no enforcement, nor even mechanism, as far as currency manipulation, which the Japanese and the Chinese have used to benefit in trade by driving down the price of their own goods, to the disadvantage of our country, as well as our workers.”- Mark Shields.
3 June
Where Are the China Hawks?
The greatest potential threat to America’s national security involves Beijing, not Iran or “radical Islam.”
(The Atlantic) China … is … a superpower. At current prices, its GDP is 28 times larger than Iran’s. Its military budget is roughly 13 times larger. Its willingness to invest vast sums in the economic development of other nations gives it tremendous soft power. And it is claiming much of the South China Sea as its own, thus asserting dominion over a territory with vast oil and gas reserves through which one-third of the world’s shipping travels.
From 1941 to 1989, the United States risked war to prevent great powers from dominating the world’s economic and industrial heartlands, and thus gaining veto power over America’s ability to conduct international commerce. That’s what China is seeking today.
31 May
John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, breaks leg in bicycle accident
(AP) Kerry had been in Geneva for six hours of meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Saturday as the sides now work to seal a comprehensive accord by June 30.
The prospect of a lengthy rehabilitation could hamper the nuclear talks and other diplomatic endeavours.
21 May
Transatlantic trade deal faces an uphill battle in the US
There has been staunch opposition in the EU to a transatlantic trade deal. But concern is also growing in the US, where opponents are trying to deny the president authority to finalize a deal.
As the US Senate moves to vote on so called fast-track authority, the fate of President Obama’s world-encompassing trade agenda hangs in the balance. Fast track would empower the White House to negotiate final deals with Europe and the Pacific Rim nations, which Congress would then approve or reject in up or down votes without amendments.
Opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership has focused on concerns that a deal with lower wage countries could lead to a further outsourcing of jobs to Asia.
But tensions are also simmering below the surface over the potential deal with the European Union, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Critics, such as Jean Halloran with the Consumers Union advocacy group, have slammed the secrecy shrouding the negotiations.
20 May
U.S. and Iran: A diplomatic lesson for Canada
Few relationships are as adversarial as that of the US and Iran. But negotiating with one’s enemy is the most important kind of diplomacy — Canada should take note
By Jeremy Kinsman
(Open Canada) The writing on the wall shows a US whose core interests are less focused on oil and more on making the region work. By re-establishing diplomatic contact and even limited cooperation with a regional power that increasingly wants stability, that is hostile to ISIL, the deal can help the US face a fragmenting Middle Eastern order with greater certainty.
President Obama has long wanted to put an end to stale, frozen conflicts with the likes of Cuba and Iran, provided there is demonstrable willingness on both sides to moderate hostile behavior.
There is a lesson here for current Canadian practice of not talking with adversaries for reasons that are sometimes “moral,” and sometimes related to domestic politics. As former ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker put it, by childishly closing our embassy in Tehran because we disapproved of the regime there, Canada is “deaf, dumb, and blind” in Iran. Obama summed up the obvious point of any negotiation. “Demanding that a country meet all your conditions before you meet with them, that’s not a strategy. It’s just naïve, wishful thinking.”
As Roger Cohen put it in the New York Times, “Diplomacy deals with the real world. The toughest, most important, diplomacy is conducted with enemies.”
This isn’t “moral equivalency.” Nor is it “appeasement.” Negotiating an alternative to war to resolve a fundamental and dangerous international conflict is the noblest calling of statecraft.
15 May
Obama Vows to Stand By Gulf Allies Facing an ‘External’ Threat
(Foreign Policy) President Barack Obama used a Thursday summit meeting with American allies in the Gulf to pledge that the United States would protect them in the event of an “external” attack, a gesture aimed at reassuring nervousness in Middle Eastern capitals over a possible rapprochement between the United States and Iran and that country’s growing influence in the region.
“The United States is prepared to work jointly with [Gulf Cooperation Council] member states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity,” Obama said at a press conference.
The phrase “external threat” threat threads the needle between pledging American military support in operations aimed at deterring Iranian military adventures while also preventing the United States from committing itself to helping Gulf states put down internal rebellions. The Gulf states had sought a NATO-style defense pact with the United States, but the White House rejected that as a bridge too far.
12 May
Obama’s plans for trade deals with Asia and Europe in tatters after Senate vote
Senate legislation fails to pass after Democrats put concerns about US jobs ahead of president’s argument that trade deals will boost global economy
(The Guardian) Barack Obama’s ambitions to pass sweeping new free trade agreements with Asia and Europe fell at the first hurdle on Tuesday as Senate Democrats put concerns about US manufacturing jobs ahead of arguments that the deals would boost global economic growth.
A vote to push through the bill failed as 45 senators voted against it, to 52 in favor. Obama needed 60 out of the 100 votes for it to pass.
Failure to secure so-called “fast track” negotiating authority from Congress leaves the president’s top legislative priority in tatters.
It may also prove the high-water mark in decades of steady trade liberalisation that has fuelled globalisation but is blamed for exacerbating economic inequality within many developed economies with the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs. Internet activists had said the deal would curb freedom of speech, while other critics charged it would enshrine currency manipulation.
Senate Democrats vote to block Obama on trade
(Washington Post)Sixty votes were needed to begin formal debate of measures that would pave the way for approval of a complex Pacific trade accord and provide relief to unemployed workers affected by trade deals.
Ahead of the vote, Democrats — including the handful who have supported Obama’s trade push — said they were not inclined to move forward with debate unless Republican leaders provided assurances that the various pieces would move in tandem.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday that Republicans were willing to attach “trade adjustment assistance” — that is, funding authority for worker assistance programs — to the fast-track bill. But he made no pledge to include a trade enforcement bill — which would, among other things, take aim at Chinese currency ma­nipu­la­tion and is opposed by the administration — or a fourth bill concerning trade with Africa. See also: Obama, Warren feud breaks open as trade legislation blocked by Democrats
7 May
Senate Overwhelmingly Passes Iran Bill; Tom Cotton Casts Lone Dissent
(World Post) The Senate on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to pass a bill intended to give Congress a say in the emerging nuclear deal between Iran, the U.S. and its five negotiating partners.
The bill must now pass through the House before landing on the president’s desk. It is expected to face less scrutiny there, due in part to the looming June 30 deadline to reach a final nuclear deal.
17 April
Foreign Policy Morning Brief — In a move certain to rile liberal Democratic lawmakers in Washington, top leaders of congress on Thursday approved legislation that would give President Obama the authority he needs to complete negotiations over the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact.
Known as “fact track,” the bipartisan legislation would let the treaty be passed without allowing for any amendments. Progressive advocacy organizations, including trade unions, oppose it, arguing that past landmark free trade deals approved under fast track like 1994’s North American Free Trade Agreement have hurt American workers. Business interests, including agriculture, technology, and pharmaceuticals, say fast track is essential because the TPP will open new markets for export. Obama also supports fast track, saying in a statement on Thursday that it would “give our workers a fair shot, and for the first time, include strong fully enforceable protections for workers’ rights, the environment and a free and open Internet.”
5 April
President Explains The ‘Obama Doctrine,’ Defends Iran Deal
We will engage, but we preserve all our capabilities.
President Barack Obama opened up about his so-called “Obama doctrine,” the overarching principle that guides his foreign policy in places like the Middle East where his administration recently negotiated a framework of a deal with Iran over its nuclear program, and Cuba where the U.S. recently loosened long-standing travel restrictions.
“We are powerful enough to be able to test these propositions without putting ourselves at risk. And that’s the thing … people don’t seem to understand,” Obama said in an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman published Sunday.
“You take a country like Cuba. For us to test the possibility that engagement leads to a better outcome for the Cuban people, there aren’t that many risks for us. It’s a tiny little country. It’s not one that threatens our core security interests, and so [there’s no reason not] to test the proposition. And if it turns out that it doesn’t lead to better outcomes, we can adjust our policies,” he said.
The president added, “The same is true with respect to Iran, a larger country, a dangerous country, one that has engaged in activities that resulted in the death of U.S. citizens, but the truth of the matter is: Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion. Iran understands that they cannot fight us.”
24 March
(Foreign Policy Brief) Nuclear Talks: Israeli intelligence may have spied on closed-door negotiations between the United States, Iran, and other world powers, and fed information back to U.S. lawmakers to sap support for a nuclear deal, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. The revelation comes at a time when relations between the United States and Israel are particularly tense, and pre-election comments by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to draw sharp criticism from the White House.
Though Israel and the United States do spy on each other, in addition to sharing intelligence, meddling in U.S. politics appears to have crossed a line. “It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter told the Journal. The Israeli campaign, allegedly crafted by Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, reportedly alienated Congressional Democrats that would likely have opposed a deal.
Netanyahu’s office denied the allegations of spying directly on the United States, claiming that the information was gleaned through other intelligence gathering. “These allegations are utterly false. The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies,” a senior official told the BBC. “The false allegations are clearly intended to undermine the strong ties between the United States and Israel and the security and intelligence relationship we share.
17 March
U.S., Iran Resume Nuclear Talks With GOP Letter Hanging Over Them
(AP) — In an unusually upbeat assessment, Iran’s top nuclear official said Tuesday his government’s main disagreements with the U.S. and its negotiating partners have been resolved and expressed optimism about meeting a late March deadline for a framework deal.
2 March
Barack and BibiExclusive: Obama says Iran must halt nuclear work for at least a decade
(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday that Iran should commit to a verifiable freeze of at least 10 years on its nuclear activity for a landmark atomic deal to be reached, but said the odds were still against sealing a final agreement.
In an interview with Reuters at the White House, Obama said that a rift over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s planned speech to Congress opposing the Iran deal on Tuesday was a distraction that would not be “permanently destructive” to U.S. Israeli ties.
But he said there was a “substantial disagreement” between his administration and the Israeli government over how to achieve their shared goal of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“If, in fact, Iran is willing to agree to double-digit years of keeping their program where it is right now and, in fact, rolling back elements of it that currently exist … if we’ve got that, and we’ve got a way of verifying that, there’s no other steps we can take that would give us such assurance that they don’t have a nuclear weapon,” he said.
Netanyahu warns Obama on Iran deal, says he means no disrespect
(Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned the United States on Monday that the nuclear deal it is negotiating with Iran could threaten Israel’s survival and insisted he had a “moral obligation” to speak up about deep differences with President Barack Obama on the issue. Even as he set the stage for a Washington visit that has strained U.S.-Israeli relations, Netanyahu sought to lower the temperature ahead of his controversial address to Congress on Tuesday, saying he meant no disrespect for Obama and appreciated U.S. military and diplomatic support for Israel.
18 February
FACT SHEET: The White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism
This week, the White House is convening a three-day summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) to bring together local, federal, and international leaders – including President Obama and foreign ministers – to discuss concrete steps the United States and its partners can take to develop community-oriented approaches to counter hateful extremist ideologies that radicalize, recruit or incite to violence. Violent extremist threats can come from a range of groups and individuals, including domestic terrorists and homegrown violent extremists in the United States, as well as terrorist groups like al-Qaeda and ISIL.
27 January
Dr. Charles G. Cogan: Israel Is Not at the Water’s Edge; It Is Inside the U.S.
The spectacle of a foreign head of government being invited to speak before the U.S. Congress in early March without the American president being first officially notified leaves, or should leave, the American and Israeli publics in a state of stupefaction.The question arises subliminally as to whether Israel is really a full-fledged foreign state. An Israeli head of government can slip into the U.S. and address Congress on Iran without reference to the person in charge of U.S. foreign policy?
If, with help from Netanyahu and some right-wingers on Capitol Hill, a possible nuclear agreement with Iran is put in danger, the negotiating atmosphere is poisoned, new sanctions are imposed and with them, there is even a possible override of a presidential veto, this could lead to a new, and wider, war in the Middle East.
24 January
Why the U.S. Is Stuck With Saudi Arabia
Even the shale oil revolution can’t wean Washington off its despotic Middle Eastern ally.
(The Atlantic) The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, who passed away Friday due to complications from a lung infection, elicited a series of gushing tributes from American leaders. In his official statement, President Obama praised his “enduring contribution to the search for peace” in the Middle East. Secretary of State John Kerry called him a “man of wisdom and vision.” Vice President Biden, meanwhile, announced he’d lead the American delegation to Saudi Arabia to mourn the king in person.
The warm praise of Abdullah, 90, came as little surprise. Saudi Arabia and the United States have been close allies for decades. But the effusive reaction to the king’s death reveals an uncomfortable truth about Washington’s relationship to the kingdom. Despite Riyadh’s repulsive human rights record, unproductive role in regional security, and American advances in shale oil production, the United States needs Saudi Arabia more than ever.

One Comment on "U.S. Foreign Relations in 2015-16"

  1. Kimon Valaskakis October 17, 2015 at 5:41 pm ·

    Re: Grandmaster of the Great Game
    This article, well worth reading, describes Obama as a very successful global chess player. Although I consider myself a keen Obama supporter I believe his foreign policy record is mixed. The weakest point seems to be the Middle East. This region was ‘less bad’ in 2008 than it is 2015. Come to think of it it was even ‘less bad’ in 2000 than it was in 2008. There seems to have been a steady deterioration over the last 15 years. In other areas, I agree with the author as to Obama’s accomplishments. Curiously he is more likely to be remembered for his domestic successes (Obamacare, dealing with the Financial Crisis etc.) The foreign policy results remain in my view inconclusive. Kimon Valaskakis

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