Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

21 May 2018

Closing the Deal: The US, Iran, and the JCPOA

Payam Mohseni

On May 8, President Donald Trump framed the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) as a dire necessity, calling attention to the "rotten structure of the current agreement" and promising a new era of allied engagement to devise a more robust deal to constrain Iranian ambitions in the region. Trump's decision, however, is strategically incoherent. On the one hand, he is preaching the old neoconservative rhetoric - doubling down on hawkish policies towards Iran, signalling regime change, and undertaking unilateral US actions against Iran without the support of key historical allies. On the other, he is practising Fortress America on the cheap - pledging to reduce American commitments to the Middle East, announcing removal of troops from Syria, and demanding US allies in the Middle East share the financial burden of American security umbrellas.

20 May 2018

RIP the Trans-Atlantic Alliance, 1945-2018


The Atlantic alliance, built to contain the Soviet Union in the aftermath of World War II, began to die when the Cold War ended. What kept it alive over the last three decades has been less strategic necessity than a convergence of values — the values of the liberal postwar order. Now, the senior partner of the alliance, the United States, has lost interest in those values. The alliance was already a corpse, but Donald Trump drove the last nail into its coffin when he decided this week to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran.

The U.S. Army Could Revolutionize Long-Range Fires

In kick-starting its efforts to prepare for future high-end conflicts, late last year the U.S. Army identified six modernization priorities: Long-Range Precision Fires, Next Generation Combat Vehicles, Future Vertical Lift, the Network, Air and Missile Defense and Soldier Lethality. To support this plan, the Army stood up Cross-Functional Teams (CFTs) for each of these areas focused on speeding up the process of developing requirements and ensuring that the programs in each of these areas are achievable, affordable and effective. The bulk of the Army’s Science and Technology resources were refocused on these six priorities.

Should the U.S. Break Up Amazon?


Introducing Crazy/Genius, a new podcast from The Atlantic with Derek Thompson. Eight bold questions—and eight smart answers—about how tech is changing the world. Listen and subscribe to the podcast. Some time later this year, Amazon could become the first trillion-dollar company in American history. Its valuation has already doubled in the last 14 months to about $800 billion, and Jeff Bezos, its founder and CEO, is officially the richest man on the planet.  There are ways in which Amazon seems to be the greatest company in American history. It’s revolutionized the global shopping experience and expanded into media and hardware, while operating on razor-thin margins that have astonished critics. But some now consider it the modern incarnation of a railroad monopoly, a logistics behemoth using its scale to destroy competition. So what is Amazon: brilliant, dangerous, or both? That’s the subject of the latest episode of Crazy/Genius, our new podcast on technology and culture.

18 May 2018

Trump’s New, Confrontational Foreign Policy and the End of the Iran Deal

By Robin Wright

On January 20, 1981, John Limbert and fifty-one other American diplomats were taken to Tehran’s international airport on a bus, after being held in captivity by young revolutionaries for four hundred and forty-four days. The diplomats were all blindfolded. “Listening to the motors of the plane warming up—that was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard,” Limbert recalled last week. The Air Algérie crew waited to uncork the champagne until the flight had left Iranian airspace. The next day, however, the Timescautioned, “When the celebrations have ended, the hard problems unresolved with Iran will remain to be faced.” That’s still true, nearly four decades later. Since Iran’s 1979 revolution, six U.S. Presidents have traded arms, built back channels, and dispatched secret envoys in an effort to heal the rupture. “It’s a bad divorce, like ‘The War of the Roses,’ ” Vali Nasr, the Iranian-born dean of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said. “Neither side has ever gotten over it.” Finally, in 2015, Barack Obama led six major world powers into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the most significant nonproliferation pact in more than a quarter century. The deal limited but did not eliminate Iran’s nuclear capabilities in exchange for relief from some but not all punitive U.S. economic sanctions.

17 May 2018

Trump’s decision to blow up the Iran deal is a massive attack on Europe

By Carl Bildt

Few ideas are as holy in President Trump’s international liturgy as the concept of national sovereignty. His National Security Strategy speaks of a “beautiful vision—a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations,” and the Trump himself is keen to repeat some form of “sovereignty” as often as he can. Sovereignty to Trump seems to mean that the United States can do whatever it wants without taking the interests of others into account. It’s the ultimate embodiment of “America first.” In reality, other actors have the right to their sovereignty, which is what the National Security Strategy proudly proclaims.

Trump vs. the “Deep State”

By Evan Osnos

Two months after Donald Trump’s Inauguration, the White House took a sudden interest in a civil servant named Sahar Nowrouzzadeh. At thirty-four, she was largely unknown outside a small community of national-security specialists. Nowrouzzadeh, born in Trumbull, Connecticut, grew up with no connection to Washington. Her parents had emigrated from Iran, so that her father could finish his training in obstetrics, and they hoped that she would become a doctor or, failing that, an engineer or a lawyer. But on September 11, 2001, Nowrouzzadeh was a freshman at George Washington University, which is close enough to the Pentagon that students could see plumes of smoke climb into the sky. 

The United States has become identified with the global internet economy — for better and worse.


Not long ago, Americans used to worry — constantly and loudly — about what their country’s main cultural export was and what it said about them. In the 1990s, after the Iron Curtain came down, many Americans wondered whether the appealing lifestyles the world saw on U.S. sitcoms and blockbusters deserved some credit for energizing global resistance to communism. Then, as the optimism of the ’90s gave way to the shock and horror of 9/11, Americans asked, with palpable chagrin, whether the materialism and vulgarity of their TV shows and movies were contributing to the virulent anti-Americanism that had spread throughout much of the globe.

he End of the Iran Deal, and Trump’s New, Confrontational Foreign Policy

By Robin Wright

On January 20, 1981, John Limbert and fifty-one other American diplomats were taken to Tehran’s international airport on a bus, after being held in captivity by young revolutionaries for four hundred and forty-four days. The diplomats were all blindfolded. “Listening to the motors of the plane warming up—that was the sweetest sound I’ve ever heard,” Limbert recalled last week. The Air Algérie crew waited to uncork the champagne until the flight had left Iranian airspace. The next day, however, the Timescautioned, “When the celebrations have ended, the hard problems unresolved with Iran will remain to be faced.”

13 May 2018

Assessing the Iran deal pullout

Calling it a “great embarrassment” that fails to “halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” President Trump said Tuesday that he will pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Iran nuclear agreement that the previous administration negotiated to halt that nation’s progress toward atomic weapons. Trump said he would re-impose sanctions on Iran and seek a better deal. In response, the national security, nuclear, and regional experts at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, who have been assessing the Iran nuclear situation for years, examined the president’s remarks and weighed in on the significance of Washington’s policy change and on what’s likely to follow it. Here are their initial reactions:

If summarizing my reaction in a tweet: bad choice. If given a few more characters: bad for the U.S. and bad for our ally Israel, which stands much closer to this front line. Yes, Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu will applaud. But the individuals who shoulder responsibility for Israel’s survival and security have been crystal clear: This will most likely lead to an outcome that is much worse not only for the U.S. but also for Israel. As Chief of the General Staff Gadi Eizenkot, who commands the Israel Defense Forces, stated bluntly recently: “Right now the agreement, with all its faults, is working and is putting off the realization of the Iranian nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years.” Before the agreement, Iran’s nuclear program had advanced to less than a year away from its first bomb. The agreement not only halted that advance but rolled it back a decade, and imposed on Iran the most intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated — to prevent its cheating for fear of being found out. Trump’s decision gives Iran an option to escape this penalty box. Bad choice.


Belfer Center senior fellow; CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative; former U.S. Secretary of Energy, and lead technical negotiator of the Iran nuclear deal

President Trump’s decision today to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal is a major strategic mistake that not only damages the United States’ ability to prevent Iran from acquiring the material for a nuclear weapon, but also impairs our ability to prevent the spread and use of nuclear weapons, to work with allies and partners on issues of global concern, and to protect our interests in the Middle East for years, if not decades, to come. The Iran nuclear deal rolled back Iran’s nuclear program and imposed uniquely stringent monitoring and verification measures — the most important elements of which were permanent — to prevent the country from ever developing a bomb. The United States is now in violation of the terms of the deal without offering a credible alternative. The Iran deal is and has always been about depriving Iran of the nuclear materials — highly enriched uranium and plutonium — needed to make a weapon. As international inspectors, who have been on the ground every day since the deal was concluded, have confirmed: The Iran agreement has accomplished this. The fact that the advice of this nation’s most-important allies was ignored in this decision adds to the consequence of the president’s decision. Remaining in the agreement was very clearly in the U.S. national interest. It’s hard to predict what will unfold from here, but the president has driven a deep wedge between the United States and our allies in Europe and has withdrawn from the process that would allow a comprehensive investigation of the Iran archives recently revealed by Israel.


Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations; former U.S. Ambassador to NATO

President Trump’s disavowal of the Iran nuclear agreement is reckless and one of the most serious mistakes of his presidency. While flawed, the deal has dismantled Iran’s nuclear apparatus and denied it the possibility of developing a nuclear weapon for more than a decade into the future. Trump’s major challenge will be to convince Americans that his decision leaves us better off. He is betting that Iran will agree to negotiate a new and more advantageous deal with the U.S. But all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Trump’s action will isolate us from our European allies by placing us in violation of the agreement. It will also strengthen the Revolutionary Guard hardliners in Tehran who may now seek to free Iran from the deal’s handcuffs and pursue anew a nuclear weapon. Where is Trump’s strategy leading us? To satisfy an ill-advised campaign pledge, he has jettisoned a decade-long effort by the Obama and Bush Administrations from 2005-2015 to isolate, sanction, and weaken Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Trump is giving Iran a potential new pathway to a nuclear weapon, with a resulting risk of war, in the next few years. As in Trump’s exit from the Paris Climate Change Accord and the Trans Pacific Partnership, he appears to have no strategy for what comes next. He tears down major international agreements but suggests nothing to put in their place. In doing so, Trump is accelerating the retreat of America’s singular global leadership role. He is reducing our credibility and influence with our allies as well as adversaries. These are the acts of an irresponsible leader.


Belfer Center senior fellow; former deputy U.S. secretary of Energy

Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull out of the JPCOA is a reckless strategic mistake of immense consequence. The Iranians have been fully implementing the agreement, and the world has been safer since it came into effect in January 2016. With Trump’s action today, the onus is now on the United States if Tehran chooses to restart its nuclear weapons program. What the president has done does not make us safer. He has isolated us from our allies, handed a gift to the hardliners in Iran, undermined U.S. credibility as a negotiating partner, set back global nuclear-proliferation-prevention efforts, and increased the risks of war.


Visiting fellow, intelligence and defense projects, Belfer Center

The decision today by President Trump to exit the JCPOA was a much-needed move to correct a historically catastrophic policy by the Obama administration. The Achilles heels of Iran’s regime is its weak economy, and re-instituting economic sanctions will only further isolate Iran from the global system and the foreign investments it so needs to sustain its failing political system. The JCPOA did not limit Iran’s monstrous actions in Syria, Iraq, and across the Arab world. It was done to push the Iran problem further down the road, not deal with it. Now there is a chance to take on the “Persian Puzzle” head on.


Executive director for research, Belfer Center; former White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction 

President Trump thinks he can crash the nuclear deal, reimpose international economic sanctions, and force Iran to negotiate a better deal. He is mistaken. For now, Iran will try to salvage the JCPOA with the other parties to the deal (European nations, Russia, China), promising to retain nuclear constraints if the other parties give assurances that they will resist secondary U.S. sanctions. Over time, however, as secondary sanctions reduce the flow of economic benefits to Iran, Iran will threaten to unwind nuclear constraints under the JCPOA. However, Iran will be cautious to avoid nuclear actions that risk provoking a U.S. military response. The ultimate Iranian objective is to avoid a confrontation until the 2020 elections, in hopes that Trump will not be re-elected.


Professor of practice, Harvard Kennedy School co-principal investigator of the Project on Managing the Atom

President Trump has handed a huge gift to Iran’s hardliners, freeing Iran to build up its ability to make nuclear bomb material and curtail international inspections while discrediting Iran’s advocates of engagement with the West. Trump’s action isolates the United States, not Iran, as the country unwilling to live up to its promises, and raises the risks of war or of Iran getting a nuclear bomb. It would still be in Iran’s interest to stay in the deal, which would put the blame on the United States, limit other countries’ willingness to join in sanctions, and limit the danger of military strikes on Iran.


Belfer Center senior fellow; former deputy Israeli national security advisor; author of “Israeli National Security: A New Strategy for an Era of Change”

A historic error that may lead to a nuclear Iran. The critical question is whether there is an effective post-withdrawal strategy. Regime change and the hope that Iran will now agree to a “better deal” are important aspirations and, if achieved, would constitute major successes, but they are longshots. In the meantime, Israel faces a growing crisis with Iran in Syria. Imagine how Israel would be reacting in the absence of the JCPOA and [if] Iran had crossed the nuclear threshold. It may take a year or more, but Israel may soon be facing a crisis with a nuclear Iran.


Executive director, Project on Managing the Atom

President Trump’s announcement that the United States will unilaterally withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran is the most consequential foreign policy blunder yet from an administration that appears determined to undermine U.S. influence around the world. Trump’s move demonstrates that the United States cannot be trusted to keep its promises. It deepens the divide between United States and its closest European allies. It will heighten tensions in an already smoldering Middle East, while giving fodder to hardliners and nuclear bomb advocates in Iran. It will disable the U.N. Security Council for the remainder of the Trump administration and perhaps beyond. And it will weaken the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to carry out its mission at a time when there may be a particular need to monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.


Director of the Belfer Center’s international security program; editor-in-chief of “International Security”

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA and openly violate the provisions of the agreement may not quite be a gift to Tehran, but it is at least as damaging to the United States as it is to Iran. It isolates the United States and positions it as the wrecker of the deal. It discredits the United States as a trustworthy negotiating partner — at least with Iran, if not more broadly. It divides Washington from its European allies, all of whom are deeply opposed to this move. It creates an opening for Iran to collaborate more closely with Europe, Russia, and China in arrangements that will exclude the United States. It offers Iran the opportunity to escape from the confining limits and intense scrutiny put in place by the JCPOA. It will require the United States to seek additional sanctions in an environment in which there is little sympathy for the U.S. position and some respect for Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. It raises the prospect of a world in which U.S. sanctions are ineffective while Iran’s nuclear program steadily advances. It signals a return to the purely confrontational approach that for more than a dozen years failed to halt Iran’s nuclear progress. Iran may attempt to salvage the deal by continued cooperation with the other parties to the agreement, but, if not, then Trump’s decision will have created a world in which Iran’s nuclear program is much less constrained and much less inspected — and he will have paid a high price to do so.


Belfer Center senior fellow, former deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation at the National Nuclear Security Administration

The decision to leave the JCPOA is a blunder. The deal has significant flaws, notably a relatively brief duration and a failure to compel from Iran a complete and correct declaration of its nuclear weapons activities — the bedrock of any effective verification system. Withdrawing, however, only compounds those problems, shortening the duration and abandoning the deal’s mechanisms to investigate and respond to compliance issues. Ironically, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent bombshell revelation of Iranian deceit offered an opening to improve and enforce the JCPOA. Unfortunately, President Trump flouted appeals from our closest allies and chose not to use it.

‘I told everybody this is what I was going to do’: Why Trump torpedoed Obama’s Iran deal

By John Hudson and Philip Rucker

The lobbying campaign to save the Iran nuclear agreement was intense and took months. British Prime Minister Theresa May raised the deal with President Trump in more than a dozen phone calls. French President Emmanuel Macron pressed him on it during an elaborate state visit. So did German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a one-day work trip in April. And the Europeans made a Hail Mary pass Monday in the form of a White House visit by British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. But for Trump, the decision to torpedo one of President Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements had effectively been made last October, when he declared that Iran was not in compliance with the deal and called on European allies to negotiate better terms. The foundation was laid even earlier, in fact, as Trump declared the Iran accord one of the “worst” deals in U.S. history at his campaign rallies — even mocking its architect, former secretary of state John F. Kerry, as weak for having fallen off his bicycle during a visit to Geneva for negotiations. 

10 May 2018

America’s being invaded by China and Russia with chips, bits and bytes


Let’s say you wanted to send a secret letter and wanted to make sure your competitors couldn’t see it. You write it, seal it, and put it in the mail. Except the post office is in Russia. Along with your ISP — internet service provider. And your email service provider. And your cell phone company. And your bank. Now substitute China for Russia. America is being invaded incrementally through hardware and software. The most vital parts of our economy and national security are being targeted — our communications. Whether it’s a computer, cell phone or software program, we’ve been invaded. Even though our government has been warning about this for over a decade.

Economists warn Trump, Congress of dangers of protectionist trade policies


More than 1,100 economists on Thursday warned President Trump and Congress that protectionist trade policies will endanger economic growth. The economists, which include 15 Nobel laureates and advisers to former presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama, sent a letter to Trump and Congress to step back from tariff threats by arguing that similar action plunged the country into the Great Depression in the 1930s. "Americans face a host of new protectionist activity, including threats to withdraw from trade agreements, misguided calls for new tariffs in response to trade imbalances, and the imposition of tariffs on washing machines, solar components, and even steel and aluminum used by U.S. manufacturers,” the economists said in a letter led by the National Taxpayers Union.

9 May 2018

Space: The next frontier for US-China rivalry

Simon Roughneen

SINGAPORE -- With the U.S. government pledging to resume manned missions to the Moon, and eventually send a mission to Mars, Cold War-style competition over space exploration is re-emerging -- between China and the U.S. this time. China hopes to make its first manned lunar landing within 15 years, around six decades after the last American walked on the moon in 1972.  But China is not as far behind as those dates suggest. It hopes to make the first-ever landing on the dark side of the Moon by the end of 2018. This feat eluded the U.S. and Soviet Union during the heyday of their Space Race from the late 1950s to the mid-1970s.

Lasers and Missiles Heighten U.S.-China Military Tensions

By Steven Lee Myers

BEIJING — Tensions between the United States and China flared on two military fronts as Washington accused the Chinese of harassing American pilots flying over the African nation of Djibouti and warned of consequences to the deployment of missiles on artificial islands China has built in disputed waters in the South China Sea.The Pentagon’s spokeswoman, Dana W. White, said Thursday that personnel at China’s military base in Djibouti have in recent weeks been aiming powerful lasers at American aircraft that also operate in or near the country, which is where the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden meet. She did not detail the number of incidents but said the lasers — which can be used to target aircraft — caused minor eye injuries to two American pilots.

Improving upon Trump’s high-risk, low-yield China trade policy

Ryan Hass

Why does it matter if the United States and China clash over trade issues, and what is a better path forward? Ryan Hass explores these and other issues, in a piece originally published by China-U.S. FocusThe foundations of the United States-China relationship are as brittle as they have been in decades. A confluence of factors from both sides of the Pacific have pushed the relationship to its present precarious point. China’s mercantilist economic policies bear a significant brunt of the blame, along with China’s growing military assertiveness, internal suppression of dissent, non-responsiveness to legitimate U.S. concerns on trade, efforts to influence American political discourse, and injection of ideological tension into bilateral relations. Rather than pursuing a serious strategy to tackle specific problems, though, the Trump administration has embraced an undisciplined instinct for confrontation. Such an approach will not generate greater Chinese responsiveness to U.S. concerns, but it could do harm to American businesses and workers.

7 May 2018

The Pentagon Is Losing the Innovation Battle. Here’s How to Turn It Around


The United States military is losing the innovation battle. This is not hyperbole. Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, made this point last December. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, she said, “The current pace at which we develop advanced capability is being eclipsed by those nations that pose the greatest threat to our security, seriously eroding our measure of overmatch.” The Pentagon began to respond to this challenge in 2015, following the game plan of the intelligence community and planting a stake in Silicon Valley. After all, the thinking went, Silicon Valley has by far the world’s largest concentration of tech firms supported by private equity and venture investors; and the military would close the innovation gap by sitting at the same table as the investors funding future global-technology giants. DIUx later opened outposts in Boston and Austin.

6 May 2018

Trump should strengthen the Iran nuclear deal, not blow it up

By Max Boot 

Credit Israeli intelligence for another coup: Its agents smuggled 100,000 pages of documents out of Iran about that country’s nuclear program. The mullahs will now have to patch a major security leak. But the revelations contained in those papers are not quite as newsworthy as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed in a made-for-American-TV presentation on Monday. “I’m here to tell you one thing: Iran lied. Big time,” Netanyahu said. So what did Iranian leaders lie about? That they had a secret nuclear-development program called Project Amad … that was shelved in 2003. 

5 May 2018

Time for a New U.S. Foreign Policy Narrative

By Ian Bremmer and Joe Kennedy III

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump told a powerful story about the United States’ role in global affairs. It was a dramatic narrative full of free-riding allies, unchecked globalization, and nuclear brinkmanship. Refugees and immigrants were cast as villains, repressive regimes like Russia and China were regarded with admiration, and human rights and democratic freedoms were pushed to the sidelines. As a candidate, Trump painted a gloomy portrait of American weakness and decline, trends that he promised to reverse.

4 May 2018

The Bear and the Eagle, Seen Through the Cyber Lens

By Bruce McConnell

The bilateral relationship between the United States and Russia is at its most dangerous point since the Cuban missile crisis. In some ways it is worse. As a Russian colleague recently observed, the management of Cold War tension was mathematical; today it is emotional. Further cemented by the chemical attack in Syria and by new sanctions, the hard lines both sides have drawn bode poorly for progress in reducing tensions. The immediate task is to keep communication channels open to avoid missteps or miscalculations that could lead to inadvertent or unnecessary escalation of conflict between the two nuclear powers.