Wednesday 8 April 2015

Proxy wars and new deals

openDemocracy argues that Saudi Arabia's attempt to save the government of ousted President Mansour Hadi in Yemen is doomed, as he lacks any significant support in Yemen and is facing both Shia Houthi rebels and troops of the former President Saleh.
Saudi Arabia, by committing itself to an unlimited military escalation in Yemen, has over-reached itself. There are several reasons for this. First, they have already lost one war against the Houthis. In 2009 the Houthis killed more than 100 Saudi soldiers after Riyadh bombed Houthi positions along the border. Chastened, the Saudis backed off. This time around, it is doubtful that Saudi Arabia has the stomach to comprehensively defeat them.
Second, President Hadi is, from a military point of view, beyond saving. He has few allies within the Yemeni military – many of the units operating in and around Aden have refused to follow his orders. His tribal allies are no match for the experienced, better organised and well-armed Houthi rebels. 
Der Spiegel sees it as a proxy war as Iran and Saudi Arabia vie for regional supremacy, especially in the light of the negotiations about Iran's nuclear programme. A basic framework for a deal - not a finalized deal - was found in Lausanne (here are the terms), requiring Iran to reduce the number of centrifuges, limit to what level it enriches uranium, significantly reduce its enriched uranium stockpile, and agree to inspections by the IAEA. If Iran meets these requirements, EU, US and UN security council sanctions will be lifted. Saudi Arabia cautiously endorses the deal, and the New York Times profiles the reaction of Iranians living in Tehran to the prospect of seeing the sanctions lifted.
The deal will require the approval of the US Congress, and before it was reached, Republican senators went as far as signing a letter to the Iranian leaders threatening that any agreement would be rejected by Congress or by the next President should he be Republican. The International Crisis Group plays through how both sides will have to argue to defend the deal back home - and The American Conservative outlines why the position of the so-called Iran hawks is indefensible. 
The US ability to lead, to shape international relations, and to influence other countries’ decisions depends on its stature. A country that follows one policy through several presidencies with bipartisan support and then suddenly reverses course midstream will be diminished. A country that cannot speak abroad with a single voice will not command the respect the US expects and needs. 
The New York Review of Books: The New Deal, April 2015
Thomas Friedman interviewed President Obama after the negotiations. 
What struck me most was what I’d call an “Obama doctrine” embedded in the president’s remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that “engagement,” combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis-à-vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities — like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer. 
The New York Times: Iran and the Obama Doctrine, April 5, 2015

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