Monday, November 28, 2011

Swoop November 28th – December 4th, 2011
Despite the elaborate rhetoric surrounding the “pivot” to the Pacific represented by President Obama’s Asian trip, the ongoing reality of the US engagement in the Middle East continues to intrude. The imposition of new Iran sanctions, rising worries about Egypt and urgent exchanges with allies about Western policy toward Syria indicate that traditional US concerns will not fade. Further, the November 22nd Republican foreign policy debate in which the Administration faced strong criticism for its Iraq and Afghan policies ensure that these non-Asian issues will remain current. Indeed, the renewed turmoil in Egypt has rekindled an age-old debate in Washington regarding the tension between stability and democracy. The State Department’s public position has been to urge to military authorities to press forward as quickly as possible to civilian rule. Behind the scenes, however, there are rising concerns that public order is at risk - which in turn might open the door to extremists. In private messages, the Saudis have urged Washington to play things cautiously. US officials are taking encouragement from what they see as positive developments in Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya but nonetheless remain acutely aware that a peaceful transition in Egypt holds the key to regionalstability. Anything short of that risks throwing the region into disarray. At a time when the Administration is seeking to generate regional solidarity on a tougher policy toward Iran this possibility is most unwelcome. In the same region, US relations with Turkey remain of interest. Officials much welcome Turkey’s tough attitude to Syria, but are concerned by what they see as Turkey’s increasingly increasingly strident criticism of Israel. Overall they see Turkey as trying to “rewrite the rules of the Middle East” in ways that are challenging to the US. To return to Asia, there are signs that the tensions between China and the US over green technology support are worsening. Each side has now started an investigation of the other. Overall, trends in US-China relations tend to emphasize scratchy disagreements rather than areas of cooperation.

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