Weekly Foreign Affairs Roundup

The Week's Top Stories in Foreign Affairs :

Non-Aligned Movement Meeting in Sharm el-Sheik

SI Analysis: Leaders of 50 nations convene in Egypt to discuss the world economic crisis, the universal right to nuclear energy, the fight against poverty and peace and development in general at the Non-Aligned Movement Summit. In recent years, analysts have seen the NAM as a palpable sign of geopolitical repositioning from a unipolar American-led world to a multi-polar one that will rely on developing as well as developed powers to drive a constructive world agenda. Though this is no less true today in absolute terms, the global economic crisis has taken the wind out of some of NAM's biggest tenors: Venezuela and Iran. Indeed, Iran has lost a lot of clout as the champion of the geopolitical underdog in light of its recent election crackdown and subsequent show trials and Sunni executions. US President Obama's speeches in Cairo and Ghana did much to stimulate and inspire many traditionally non-aligned nations to question their ideological opposition to all things American. Moreover, the recent events in Honduras, where everyone is counting on American intervention to resolve the crisis, will bolster this instinct. The alliance holds little if any tangible clout or mandate, other than positioning themselves in opposition to hegemonic powers and their presence on the world stage is less salient than a few years back. Meanwhile Israel, in a show of its maritime might to NAM member Iran, sent navy vessels through the Suez Canal.

Russian Roiling

SI Analysis: It was a big week for Russian posturing. After giving up nothing regarding Iran's nuclear program at the G8, Russian President Medvedev travels to Germany to talk tough to Europe about European energy independence, missile defense and NATO expansion. In addition, the last international peacekeepers left the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as Russia refused to renew their mandate in the UN Security Council. Medvedev made a quick visit to the region, while a US warship conducted exercises off Georgia's coast. Many find Russia's behavior bizarre as there is more and more evidence that its economy is faltering and it cannot maintain such grandiose exercises of international swagger in perpetuity. Furthermore, Russia's domestic problems are not limited to economic ones, as uprisings in Chechnya in the northern Caucasus demonstrated this week. However, Russian policy continues to crackdown on acts of dissidence with merciless vigor. Almost on cue, a prominent critic of Kremlin policies, Natalia Estemirova, was murdered in Ingushetia.

Indonesian Bombings

SI Analysis: Twin suicide bomb attacks against the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriot hotels in Jakarta smacked of Islamist insurgent group Jemaah Islamiya. The attacks followed last week's presidential election, which saw the incumbent Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono win by a landslide. This is the first attack by the Islamist group since 2005. This is in part the fruit of American and Indonesian military action against the group but also its waning popularity among the local population. This recent attack shows that the group is reorganizing and innovating in its approach to thwart Western interests in the region.


The Geopolitical Price of China's Crackdown

SI Analysis: China's harsh crackdown on its Uighur population met with a strong response from across the world. In addition to Western expressions of dissent, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan likened the Chinese action to a genocide and even Al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb threatened to retaliate against Chinese nationals in Northern Africa.

Clinton's Speech and Upcoming Trips

SI Analysis: Ahead of a trip to India and Thailand, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to the Council of Foreign Relations and laid out the new pillars of American foreign policy, calling for the use of "smart power." She called for: new "vehicles" or mechanisms of cooperation; development as a key lever of American power; "principled engagement" with countries at odds with the US; the coupling of civilian (read: provision and development of civil services) as well as military action in conflict zones; and a better leveraging of American economic strength and values.

The Nigerian Oil Insurgency

SI Analysis: The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) made its first attack in an urban center in Lagos signaling that the group is gaining confidence and strength. Following the attack the Nigerian government released MEND leader Henry Okah as part of an amnesty deal. Though MEND then called for a 60-day ceasefire, more violence is likely.

Progress on Nabucco?

SI Analysis: 18 nations claimed to give formal endorsement to the Nabucco gas pipeline this week. The pipeline would provide Europe with an alternative to Russian-supplied natural gas and oil. However no clear commitment from supplier nations has actually been obtained, making the likelihood of the project's success somewhat dubious. Meanwhile, Russian President Medvedev spoke specifically with German Chancellor Merkel about Russia's Nord Stream project, which would follow the Baltic Sea to Germany, thus circumventing a Western-leaning Ukraine.

Obama's Message in Ghana

SI Analysis: While in Ghana, US President Obama cautioned that American support will henceforth be predicated on good governance, anti-corruption and championing Africans' own initiatives to improve their quality of life.

War Reports:

SI Analysis on Afghanistan and Pakistan: Military leaders report that despite heavy coalition casualties, Operation Strike of the Sword in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province is progressing well. Analysts are hopeful that palpable progress in this new offensive will encourage Afhgans when they take to the polls on August 20. However reports of progress in Pakistan's Baluchistan region where local tribesmen have taken up against the Taliban have waned and analysts fear that the independently acting tribal militias do not have a staying power to effectively rid the area of Taliban. Pakistan and India spoke on the sidelines of the NAM conference for the second time since directly after last year's terrorist attacks in Mumbai (the first time was at the June BRIC/SCO summit in Russia).

SI Analysis on Iraq: American held prisoners are released in Iraq in accordance with the US-Iraq Strategic Understanding. Reports of attacks against religious and ethnic minorities are on the rise. Evidence of increased Arab-Kurdish tension builds up.

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