This Week's Top Stories in Foreign Affairs:
A New Strategy for Afghanistan
SI Analysis: US President Obama announces a new strategy for Afghanistan that focuses on a reinforcement of counter-insurgency actions in the south, stabilization of urban centers, political empowerment with anti-corruption efforts and training of indigenous security forces. An additional 30,000 US troops and up to 10,000 NATO troops (5,000 may be a more likely number) will be deployed over the next eight months, bringing the total presence to about 100,000 US troops and up to 50,000 NATO troops. Notably, Obama announced a commitment to begin the draw down of forces to begin in 18 months, setting a firm timeline for the new strategy to work and largely adhering to General Stanley McChrystal's approach to a "decisive period of war". Some critics say that the timeline gives the Taliban motivation to just hold out until 2011, others say that the timeline is an essential political tool to convince American and Afghan stakeholders of the urgency and temporal nature of the mission. A large part of the strategy focuses on bringing pressure onto the border areas with Pakistan. The real question then is what remains to be assessed: Does the Pakistani Army have the political conviction to fight the Afghan Taliban as it has the Pakistani Taliban? Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari ceded his control of the nuclear dossier to PM Yousuf Raza Gilani. This is an indication that the President is facing a political confrontation with the Army.
Iran Raises Its Nuclear Stakes
SI Analysis: In a surprising response to the scathing IAEA report and unanimous rebuke last week -- that said it had reached a dead end with nuclear inspections with Iran due to Iran's refusal to cooperate -- Iran announced that it was greatly expanding its civilian nuclear program with plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. The UN 5+1 (US, UK, France, Russia and China plus Germany) will most likely agree to impose harsh energy sanctions against Iran, greatly curbing the flow on gas into the country (though an oil rich country, Iran's infrastructure is so underdeveloped that it imports 40% of its oil). Analysts are divided on whether sanctions will have any important effect on Iran's nuclear dossier; some believe they will be ineffective and merely delay a possible war; others say that they will greatly cripple Iran so much so that it may withdraw from the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Meanwhile, Mohammed ElBaradei ended his term as head of the UN nuclear watchdog agency; Yukiya Amano took the healm of the IAEA. The worse case scenario is that this posturing will prompt Israel to make a preemptive strike against Iran.
Analysis in Brief:
EU Draft Peace Policy Riles Israel
SI Analysis: Israel took great umbrage with a Swedish drafted EU policy towards Middle East peace that recognizes the Palestinian claim to East Jerusalem. Israel insists that such a policy would marginalize Europe's role as a broker for peace. Presently, France is facilitating Syrian-Israeli talks and Germany is helping with the Egyptian-brokered prisoner exchange talks currently in the works.
What's Next for Honduras
SI Analysis: Porfirio Lobo, a conservative, won the controversial Presidential election on Sunday. However on Wednesday Honduras' Congress rejected the motion to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya to serve out the last few weeks of his term. The international community is divided on how to respond: whether to recognize the elections that seemed to go off well, despite an announced boycott, or to insist on Zelaya's reinstatement before re-engaging with Honduras. Many Hondurans themselves seemed divided on how to respond. The US will have to take the lead on finding a diplomatic solution tot his mess.
SI Analysis: Somali pirates seized a Greek tanker filled with Saudi crude oil bound for the United States 700 miles off the coast of Somalia. An attack so far off the coast indicates that Pirates are taking greater risks to elude the EU, NATO and American-led multinational patrols in the Gulf of Aden.
Latest from Russia
SI Analysis: Unprompted, Russian President Medvedev presented a proposed European security pact that would limit NATO expansion. Meanwhile, Radical political Islamists from the Northern Caucasus said they were behind the attack that killed 26 people by bombing a train en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
Upcoming Events of Note:
Lebanese President to Visit the US
SI Analysis: Lebanese President Michel Suleiman will visit the US on 12 December. Now that a coalition government led by Saad Hariri has been formed, it will be interesting to see what America's position with regards to Hezbollah will be: the Shia group presently labeled a terrorist organization by the US has made legitimizing political inroads. Much debate in Lebanon is currently focused on the effort to disarm Hezbollah's militia and integrate it into the Lebanese security apparatus.
Climate Conference Talks to Start
SI Analysis: Talks in Copenhagen will start next Monday with the EU, the US and China all making significant pledges for action.