Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October 17th – October 23rd, 2011
The uptick in US-Iran tensions, to which we have been drawing attention over the past weeks, has now metastasized into something much more serious. Irrespective of individual views about the alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington – commentary has covered the full spectrum between full-throated support for the Administration and outright skepticism – US officials are determined to use the incident to tighten the international sanctions regime against Iran. With US-Iran commercial relations virtually at zero, this means that Washington will be dependent on a positive response from its allies and partners. How these events play out is uncertain, though our official contacts assure us that no military action is contemplated. The emerging consensus in the intelligence community is that the story reflects personal and political tensions inside the Iranian leadership rather than a top-level involvement with the operation. In parallel, the Administration is re-emphasizing US diplomatic assertiveness, with Secretary of State Clinton making two major speeches on the importance of global leadership and economic statecraft. In these she has highlighted what she describes as a "pivot moment" in US diplomacy whereby the focus of US interests gradually transitions from the Atlantic to the Pacific. These dynamics were on display this week in the high-profile visit by South Korean president Lee Myung-bak. As we have noted, foreign policy is unlikely to be the central issue of the forthcoming presidential election. However, with none of the Republican contenders having deep foreign policy experience, the White House political staff sense an opening to highlight President Obama's credentials in this field. Next month he will make two overseas visits to attend the G-20 and APEC summits. Finally, the deployment of some 100 US combat troops to Uganda and three other Central African countries to advise on operations against the Lord's Resistance Army represents further confirmation of the influential role played by the "liberal intervention" faction among Obama's advisers which was so influential over Libya. In the Congress, Republican leaders are complaining of a lack of consultation, albeit cautiously as the interventions is grounded in 2010 legislation passed with substantial bipartisan support.
MANAMA, Bahrain, Oct. 18 (UPI) -- A top U.S. diplomat confirmed Tuesday the United States has finalized a $53 million weapons deal with the Persian Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain.

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