Foreign Policy

Confidence building is needed in upcoming P5-1 - Iran talks

The most promising summit in years is scheduled to take place this week between the P5+1 and Iran to discuss the enduring stalemateover the Iranian nuclear program. A number of factors – the threat of additional sanctions, a growing divide in Israel, and an Iranian willingness to discuss ideas – are coming together in a way that indicates a successful dialogue may be achievable. This meeting has the potential to actually accomplish something tangible and finally cross the threshold from talk to action.
Even agreements to discuss additional IAEA inspections or small confidence building measures would mark a successful conference. The Iranian nuclear issue is at a point where even a small but concrete agreement will tip the slide and start rolling the ball forward.
Going into the summit, the list of demands from the P5+1 include the removal of Iran’s stockpile of 20% enriched Uranium, dismantling the Fordow enrichment site, and allowing IAEA inspectors into the Parchin military facility. But to achieve these goals the United States must allow for flexible and creative solutions thatincorporate Iranian political restraints.


A new way of doing business on food security

Today, Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world, home to seven of the world’s fastest-growing economies. In fact, just this week, the International Monetary Fund’s
Regional Economic Outlook for Sub-Saharan Africa projected Sub-Saharan Africa’s growth to remain above 5 percent — faster than many newly industrialized Asian economies.
The major force behind this dramatic growth has been significant increases in private sector investment and trade in the region. Foreign direct investment flows to the continent now hover around $80 billion and trade has tripled over the last decade. But this private sector boom has largely missed Africa’s agricultural economy, favoring investments in resources like oil, gas and minerals.


How to kill the nuclear triad

Thanks to weak enemies and economic austerity, the U.S. nuclear triad—the ability to deliver nuclear weapons with land and submarine based ballistic missiles and bomber aircraft— is getting wobbly. As Congress struggles to squeeze the defense budget under self-imposed caps, it should embrace proposals, like the one just offered by the former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright, to scrap either the bomber leg or land missile leg of triad and reduce the others’ size. That would save billions annually without sacrificing security.

The triad grew from bureaucratic compromise, not strategic necessity. After World War II, nukes seemed like the weapon of the future. The Air Force saw their delivery as part of the strategic bombing mission that had just given their service independence. Their ownership of that mission, and eventually land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, won them budget share at the expense of other services. The Navy, eager to avoid a becoming something like a transoceanic bus service, found an ingenious way to get into the nuclear game: they put missiles on submarines.


World leaders address global child malnutrition crisis

If you had $75 billion to spend on solving some of the world’s greatest challenges, where would you start? An expert panel of Nobel laureate economists known as the Copenhagen Consensus recently answered that question. After extensive research and consultation, they determined that the single best investment the world could make to advance health and prosperity would be to fight malnutrition in young children.

We have always known that tackling child malnutrition is the right thing to do. Perhaps now that it’s seen by experts as the smartest thing to do, we will be able to mobilize the investment needed to finally tackle a condition that plagues close to 200 million children, robbing them of their health and future potential.

Thankfully, we already know how to prevent the needless suffering and the nearly 3 million child deaths that result each year from malnutrition. Simple interventions such as breastfeeding and inexpensive treatments for diarrhea management in young children could save more than 1 million lives a year.


Libya: A country in transition

Libya is at a crossroads. The countries that spent billions on the air campaign to destroy Gaddafi’s military from above should do more to support democracy on the ground. Little in terms of resources or time is being spent by NATO countries. At a minimum they could send advisors to help create new democratic institutions, implement transparency mechanisms, provide greater support for electoral systems and train and equip security forces.
Last week’s attack on the Prime Minister’s office should be a concern, but not for reasons you might think. Such incidents have been portrayed as evidence Libya is torn apart by violent militias, is divided by geographical and tribal loyalties, and is on the brink of establishing a Sharia law state. These depictions are inaccurate. In fact, since January 1 there have been fewer homicides per capita than in the United States.


First, do no harm

This afternoon’s House mark-up of the State, Foreign Operations spending bill will show the world just how far and how fast some in the U.S. are willing to retreat from assuming America’s traditional leadership role in global affairs.

The House GOP leadership has allocated the State, Foreign Operations subcommittee 9 percent less funding than was appropriated for the same accounts last year. This puts the subcommittee in a challenging position. Cuts are inevitable.

The subcommittee has already telegraphed what it would like to do. Support for vulnerable countries in some of the world’s most volatile regions will be slashed; natural disaster preparedness and response capacity will be diminished; global health programs and American assistance to refugees will be drastically scaled back – at a time when the world’s most vulnerable people need it the most.


State and Foreign Operations cuts at odds with voters wishes

In a move that contrasts with voter sentiment, the House Committee on Appropriations is preparing to take up a fiscal year 2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that fails to fully fund the United States’ commitment to the United Nations. The move is entirely at odds with majorities of Republican, Democratic and Independent voters who support the U.S. paying its dues to the UN on time and in full, according to new polling data released by the United Nations Foundation.
While the measure presents cuts that are less drastic than proposals made last year, the $48.3 billion bill nonetheless comes up more than $400 million short of where it needs to be to properly fund the Contributions to International Organizations (CIO) and Contributions to International Peacekeeping Activities (CIPA) accounts.  This bill also eliminates all funding for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and UN climate change funds.


Nuclear weapons: A bad security investment

Most debates in Washington have battle lines that are predictable and largely unmoving. Certainly this is true of most of the budget battles, which often seem the political equivalent of trench warfare—lots of fighting, but the lines don’t move and little gets done. 

There are, however, subjects where bipartisan agreement can emerge. Things get done when members put country over partisanship and assess programs with a more objective cost-benefit analysis and set aside ideological rigidity. The ability to do so should be a litmus test for voters.

America’s nuclear weapons budget is a perfect case in point. A growing consensus has emerged that we should reduce spending on redundant nuclear programs that are hugely expensive, add little or nothing to our defense capabilities, and siphon money away from our troops and more important national security priorities.


What's next for the Iran talks?

Most agree that it’s a positive sign that the first P5+1 session with Iran got off to a reasonably good start. All parties involved described the talks as businesslike and constructive, with the next meeting taking place on May 23rd in Baghdad. While there was no major breakthrough, and none was expected, diplomacy must start somewhere and last weekend’s meeting was a good beginning.

But there is a long way to go to achieve the U.S. strategic goals of preventingIran from acquiring nuclear weapons and removing Iran’s now rather large stockpile of nuclear material. Iran continues to enrich Uranium to 20% at its Fordow site, which it has pledged to halt once it develops enough for its civilian purposes. Iran is also suspected of testing nuclear weapons components at its Parchin military base and repeated IAEA requests to inspect the site have been rebuffed.


Blasphemy bans threaten 'Arab Spring', religious freedom

Kuwait’s parliament has just passed draconian legal amendments that impose the death penalty on Muslims for blasphemy. The move to stiffen the penalty came after Hamad al-Naqi, a Shi’a Muslim, was arrested in March and taken into custody for allegedly cursing the Prophet Muhammad on Twitter.  The fate of the amendments and of Naqi rests in the hands of Kuwait’s emir.
This action is the latest sign of an alarming trend, not just in Kuwait, but across the Middle East and parts of North Africa. From Tunisia to Kuwait, blasphemy bans increasingly are being enforced and expanded. These bans threaten individual rights to freedom of religion and expression and often have led to human rights abuses.