Archive for November, 2010


I don’t have much to add to this, but it’s definitely worth a look.

The NARS (National Assembly Research Service) is the South Korea’s government think-tank, and it reported that North Korea might strike again, as they have specific strategic goals of making a suitable environment for the succession of Kim Jong-Un; adding pressure to Seoul and Washington to resume the six-party talks; and securing a permanent security guarantee from the United States.

To me, it seems that North Korea might be taking quite a risk, as it might actually lead to a resumption of Korean War, after which Kim Jong-Il would lose all that’s left of his country. Perhaps this gives some credibility to the arguments of the people protesting in Seoul. They have complained that the Korean govt and military have not done enough, and that if they had responded more sternly and strongly after previous attacks by North Korea, they might never have decided to attack Yongpyeong. Basically, many think that South Korea has acted in such a way that it has led them to be underestimated by the N.K. who might think that S.K. is too scared to do anything against their attacks. Maybe these ex-military protestors are right, and maybe we (South Korea) should have responded with more than just empty threats to deter future attacks by the daring North Korean military.


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Last sunday China called for “emergency consultations” between the Korean Peninsulas.  With the pressure from the West especially from the United States, China has been put in the lime light to put pressure on North Korea and single out their nuclear and uranium enrichment. China that stands as  ”peaceful” place tries in the best possible way to remain neutral and it is a very difficult situation from China to be caught and “North Korea is not the kind of country that its neighbor severs economic assistance and will bow down to listen to it”

Currently China has sent State Councilor Dai Bingguo to South Korea to announce that a North Korean official would travel to Beijing and they’re will be mediation that China will host which will be a rarity from the Chinese perspective especially with the complexity of the relationship between China and the Koreas.

But in Washington most experts said that the reality of the U.S and South Korea would eventually have little choices but to go along with China, if for no other reason than to defuse the tension and prevent North Korea from taking even more aggressive or drastic actions against its neighbor to the South.


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State’s Secrets

I’m sure there will be plenty of sources of analysis, but the headline – “Leaked Cables Uncloak U.S. Diplomacy” – was too enticing not to do an entry about.


Feel free to add any particularly useful links for insight about this latest Wikileaks case.

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If the United States is ever going to establish some peace and reduce unnecessary hostility it will have to revise certain actions it has taken against Iran the regional hegemon. These actions could theoretically also assist in further democratization of the Iranian institutions.

The first thing to be reconsidered regarding U.S. policy towards Iran is the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA). The ISA has created more hostility between the US and Iran as well as strengthened its more radical political parties. This has also brought much criticism against the U.S by European Union members. Who have critiqued it as double standard foreign policy by the United States, in that we call for human rights however, we have sanctioned opportunities of the government to provide safety for its citizens. Such as the claim by Iranian journalists that because of sanctions like the banning of Boeing to sell spare parts, the aging Iranian air fleet is unsafe and that “17 planes have crashed over the past 25 years, killing approximately 1,500 people” (Shams). Such evidence has been used by the more conservative Iranian parties to tighten their holds in the government.

    Due to the sanctions common goods are very expensive and the Iranian economy has been stagnant for a long period of time. Unemployment in Iran is in the double digits, with high inflation that is close to 30% has only led to worsening of attitudes towards the United States by the Iranian people (State Dept). Also this has pushed the government to create closer ties with Russia and China. Both of these countries are playing active roles with Iran, such as China who is trying to quench its thirst for oil. As for its Russian relations, Iran is buying powerful weapons such as the S-300 air defense system in fear of U.S.-Israeli offensive into Iranian territory (Moscow Times). This is another logical assumption of their mistrust of our intentions in the Middle East to take out the Iranian government by military force similar to what was done to Iraq.

Even though the sanctions on Iran have kept it in economic hardship, the outcome of it has been the opposite of what the U.S. anticipated. “With the [Iranian] government’s 2009 budget formulated to anticipate lower oil prices, it is very possible that Iran will be able weather adverse economic circumstances once again” (State Dept). Thus we cannot expect them to give in to what they consider minor inconveniences. And the United States has no intention of going any further with sanctions unless its willing to violate our ideals of human dignity by punishing the citizens of Iran.

However, why not try something new with Iran. Instead pushing forth policies that have only stagnated relations on multiple occasions such as both in Iran and Cuba, we can try reverse psychology. By removing our sanctions, there will be an expected flow of enterprise into the country. With the sudden economic boost the free market can bring much economic development that can quench the young labor force of Iran. This is possible because according to our Stated Departments records the supreme leader himself has “issued a decree in July 2006 to privatize 80% of the shares of most government-owned companies.” There wasn’t much done however because of the lack of capital and investment into the country due to the sanctions. If we remove sanctions by allowing U.S. investors as well as removing freezes on Iranian accounts in American and European banks. This will first of all in the world arena it will show our dedication to opening relations which would put the Iranian government in the spotlight. Which would force them internationally and domestically to respond likewise in some productive manner through negotiations.

The conceived problem is that Iran funds terrorist groups such as Hezbollah; however Hezbollah as a terrorist group is a notion of the past. Today’s Hezbollah they have proven before that they can be negotiated and are able to keep promises as Robert Baer a CIA officer specialized in the region explains. Baer explains the French-Iranian talks that stopped Iranian supported bombings in Paris and the French hostages were released too. This was a quid pro quo situation where France removed arms shipment to Iraq in return for deterrence of continuing bombing in France. Iran’s control of Hezbollah and Hamas can be beneficial to us. Hence we can have them controlled through our settlements with Iran. In such ways that if we remove embargoes and allow investment to the oil fields, it is going to make it more efficient and bring an economic enhancement both globally as well as domestically. As explained below in the National Foreign Trade Council:

    Iran could reduce the world price of crude petroleum by 10 percent, saving the United States annually between $38 billion (at the 2005 world oil price of $50/bbl) and $76 billion     (at the proximate 2008 world oil price of $100/bbl). Opening Iran’s market place to foreign investment could also be a boon to competitive US multinational firms operating in a     variety of manufacturing and service sectors. (DeRosa & Hufbauer)

Thus this reverse psychology will be beneficiary to the United States both politically and economically. This will show our commitment to creating better relations and the outcome of this would lead to domestic pressures within Iran to comply. Because with the economic boost, the citizens of Iran will force the government to change its policies and agree to negotiations such as Iran putting a moratorium on its arms shipments to Hezbollah as a beginners step in better relations.

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United States recently vowed to deploy an aircraft carrier, USS George Washington, to the Yellow Sea for joint millitary manuevers with South Korea, to be held on Sunday afternoon. North Korea warned of “unpredictable consequences” if US fulfills its vow.
Even China had sided with North Korea in criticizing and warning US and Korea against carrying on “sensitive and provocative military actions.”
However, United States However, according to Jeff David, a public affairs officer for U.S. 7th Fleet, the military drill will not have live firing element to provoke NK attacks…and US had described the drill as defensive in nature.

On the other hands, Japan and Russia and China are all alarmed about the tension in the Korean peninsula and stressed the need to restrain from escalating the tensions and hold dialogs to relieve tensions.

However, the tension remains big in the Korean peninsula, with North Korea promising attack if US deploys the aircraft carrier, and South Korean people being angry at the government for not doing enough in response to the North’s attack. There has been protests on the streets of Seoul by the veterans of South Korean military, protesting the lack of response by the South Korean government. As a side note, the current President Lee Myung Bak of South Korea had promised in his campaign, a sterner approach in dealing with the provocative actions of North and to not tolerate such actions as his predecessors had done.

It has been several days since the attack, and things are not looking good. Many Koreans seem to worry that the U.S. deployment of its aircraft carrier does not necessarily mean that US will give full support to South Korea in case the war does actually break out, and that it is merely “trying to flex its muscles” and show its strong military ties with the South out of mere symbolic behavior.

The yongpyeong attack being the first direct assault on South Korea since the Armistice of 1953, it is highly unlikely that the whole issue can be settled through mere dialogs, and escalation into war seems more and more likely to me.

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The irrelevance of START


I suppose I should have an opposing op-ed to balance this with, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Charles Krauthammer makes the case that “From the naval treaties of the 1920s to this day, arms control has oscillated between mere symbolism at its best to major harm at its worst, with general uselessness being the norm.” One some level, you have to agree with him, the Kellogg-Briand Pact and similar interwar measures being the most glaring, but not the only, examples. I think it’s clear from past experience that arms reduction by itself doesn’t do much good.

He also makes a reasonable case for why a “nuclear-free” world isn’t realistic, which points to a problem with an idealist approach to the matter. This is why proposals such as the Baruch Plan – we’ll give up our nukes if everyone else gives up theirs – will never work. However, he calls New START “90 percent useless and 10 percent problematic.” His view is that it actually takes attention from real problems like North Korea by focusing on a “non-problem” with Russia.

First, I don’t think anyone is going to take their eyes off North Korea right now. Recent events have seen to that. I do see his point about having more important priorities, but he seems to ignore the importance of the treaty beyond the power/capabilities dynamic.

As has been pointed out in most every foreign policy outlet, the point of the treaty is not arms reduction for the sake of arms reduction but better relations with Russia. I covered this in some detail on my paper on Iran. As reported at http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2010/1117/Is-US-Russia-thaw-threatened-by-new-START-delay:

While some Republicans scoff at the idea that putting off START ratification would seriously harm US-Russia relations, a number of Russia experts say a delay would feed the perception that Obama is weakened and unable to deliver on his commitments. And that perception, they add, could bolster Russian hardliners – in the camp of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin – who are wary of Medvedev’s warming relations with Obama and America in general.

Russia wants other things from Obama as well, officials point out, including support for Russia’s accession into the World Trade Organization. Without such reciprocity, they worry, Russian cooperation could stall once again.

Krauthammer would probably respond by saying we don’t need or won’t get Russia’s cooperation, or making some otherwise cynical remark about the Russian government. This seems to turn a blind eye to the fact that this is no longer a unipolar world, and sometimes the United States has to get along with countries or regimes it may not particularly like. But setting aside Krauthammer’s reservations about impeding U.S. arms development (the “10 percent problematic”), one has to ask, why would the treaty be taking attention off of North Korea, Iran, etc.?

Because of people like  him who quibble over the ramifications while simultaneously saying it doesn’t matter. If it’s such a useless proposal, but has clear implications for helping U.S.-Russian cooperation in other areas, why not let it pass? Then we can move on to other issues.

I think the real answer lies with the fact that, as pointed out in the CS Monitor piece, Obama considers improved relations with Russia “among the top foreign policy accomplishments of his presidency”. Would there be any issue over the treaty’s passage if it was a Republican president? Probably not. Would Krauthammer still bemoan the loss of U.S. hegemony? Probably.

It’s ultimately a classic case of domestic politics interfering with foreign policy and the Congressional-Presidential power struggle playing out as a function of this.

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Figured I would do another post since, like everyone, I need to do more, and this is worth reading.

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