Nawaz Sharif to Boycott January Elections

This is just breaking news, I don't have a link yet, but here's what I have so far: Sharif says his party to boycott Jan. 8 election.

This could help him take the lead in Pakistani democracy movement by taking such a hardline, but it makes you wonder, who will take over on the political front? I see two viable candidates: Bhutto's husband, and one of Bhutto's political rivals that I still cannot remember the name of.

More importantly though, you can see why this complicates the U.S.'s anti-terrorism interests there. Sharif's boycott will totally undermine the elections unless a new, strong leader emerges from the PPP, Bhutto's party. Undermined elections = undermined Musharraf, and Musharraf will be weaker than ever.

On Benazir Bhutto's Assassination

The details are still emerging of this horrific event, but we can make some significant conclusions.

How will this effect the PPP, Bhutto's political party? They no longer have a leader. There are leaders within the party who could take over (their names escape me), but I don't know if they have international democratic recognition.

What about Nawaz Sharif, the other internationally recognized democracy activist and political candidate? This will certainly boost his popularity. Also, this is likely to fracture voters in Pakistan, who were mostly united behind Bhutto.

Will this boost the chance of democracy? Bhutto's been martyred, and is likely, at least for the short term, to boost the calls for reform in Pakistan

Then again, one could look at this the opposite way. The attack could give President Musharraf an excuse to call for martial law.

The other question to ask: Who carried out the assassination?
Was it Islamists?
Was it the Pakistani Intelligence Service?
Was it one of her political rivals?
Was it Musharraf?

We can definitely say this: This will complicate the U.S.'s work in the Middle East.

Bali: What was achieved?

On Wednesday we published an article, “What to Expect at Bali: Nothing, or Worse”. The good news is we weren’t wholly wrong in our predictions (you can still trust us). The better news is we were wrong in some of our predictions.

What wasn’t achieved
As we predicted, nothing on the scale of the Kyoto Protocol was produced. The European Union wanted a mandated 25%-40% carbon cut in developed nations, but the United States blocked any chance of that.

One ‘achievement’ that we predicted did not come into realization: a weak carbon mandate. We had predicted the possibility that the U.S could force the world into a weak, non-binding climate treaty, setting back the possibility of a real treaty probably more than a decade. Luckily, this type of treaty did not come into fruition. The U.S. had not even one country standing beside it by the end of the talks.

What was achieved
There still is a possibility for carbon caps. The deal sets a framework to create a subsidiary committee at the U.N. Views of the committee will be sought by April next year, and the deal commands a full carbon cap deal on the scale of the Kyoto Protocol be completed by the end of the 2009 U.N. Copenhagen summit.

This is the story the media is reporting, but they are missing the most important news to come out of this conference: the deforestation pact.

20% of anthropogenic emissions are from deforestation – it’s arguable the worst humanity has done for the planet. So when deforestation was barely mentioned in the Kyoto Protocol, many were surprised.

Delegates corrected that mistake this time around. A $300 million grant program was assigned to be created at the World Bank, to assist developing countries with planting new trees. The real achievement was REDD: reducing emissions from deforestation in developing countries, a pay-and-preserve program.

"It is one of the substantial achievements of this conference,” said EU Environmental Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

It’s not one of the substantial achievements; it is the most substantial achievement of the conference.

You can probably see why it is a good thing we were wrong in saying nothing would be accomplished.

To infinity, and beyond?
The reason I’m quoting Buzz Lightyear (If you don’t understand the above quote, go out to Blockbuster right now and get Toy Story. Or order it on Netflix. I don’t care. Just do it. Now) is to ask, “Where do we go from here?”

Buzz Lightyear knows exactly where he is going, but do we?

The framework set out at Bali mandates a deal be completed by early 2009. For most of the short timeframe the Bali roadmap provides for a deal to be agreed upon, George W. Bush will be president of the U.S. He was willing to make concessions at this summit because essentially no countries stood at the United States sides. It showed that the U.S. is in fact vulnerable to international pressure

That means the real question is: will the pressure be maintained?

What to Expect at Bali: Nothing, Or Worse

Written in coalition with Thoughts on Global Warming, Environmental Graffiti, Thoughts on the World, and The International Relations Blog.

The Bali climate conference taking place right now is one of the most important climate conferences, if not the most important, since the conference at which the Kyoto Treaty was designed. This conference has a potential to achieve something, relative to other recent conventions.

Throughout late 2006 and early 2007, global warming was high on the public’s mind, especially in the U.S. Global warming was an easy target; it could be blamed for just about any weather related disaster. And after the hurricanes of 2005 and skyrocketing oil and gas prices, the public needed something to blame. Not only that, but Inconvenient Truth was bring the real science of global warming into the eyes of the public. Al Gore was riding high. Many Floridians, who hurricanes had hit the hardest, were probably regretting a vote or two from a couple of years back.

This climaxed in early 2007, when negotiators from developing and developed countries announced the current climate convention in Bali, Indonesia.

So what can we expect at this year’s climate conference: nothing, or worse. That is my prediction – and give me a chance to back it up.

After May of this year, things started to cool down a little bit. Although oil prices skyrocketed in September and haven't come down, and sea ice hit a record low in August, there have been some disappointments. Number one: hurricanes.

Just as a disclaimer, I don’t live in Florida or down south (though I have at one point). Hurricanes are just such a huge natural disaster it can’t help but be noticed when an abnormally large amount of super storms hit. And people noticed in 2005 and 2006. But then this year, an uncharacteristically high number of intense storms were predicted, but they never showed. That’s only case number one. I’m sure I could find other examples, like ski resorts doing very good business this year, but I think I get my message across.

Let me say something else: though this has weakened public resolve to fight global warming, that doesn’t mean every environmentalist caught the plague. Public support for a climate solution is still stronger than it was 10 or even 5 years ago. But relative to a year and a half ago, global warming has fallen to the edge of the radar. It’s still there, but not as obvious.

This leads me to another point: the economy. The economy in the U.S., and therefore China, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, is slowing down. Emissions cuts APPEAR to be hard enough to achieve in good times, but in bad economic times, there is less public (let alone political) support for emissions cuts. This is a much bigger issue than my first point, even if it is a shorter read – in other words, this is more important and don’t forget it!

This is evidence for my assertion that ‘nothing’ will be achieved at the climate conference, but you probably wonder what I mean when I say ‘or worse.’

Well, given the fact that the U.S. and China would like to get out of binding carbon caps for as long as they can, the governments could collaborate to produce a very weak climate framework. This framework would theoretically set unenforceable benchmarks for emissions. Once this framework would be in place, it would be unlikely to be replaced for several years. And during these several years, President Bush will be replaced, meaning that there is a possibility that the U.S. could soon have a totally different environmental policy during the lifespan of the framework. Not to attack the president over the top, but it would give him a legacy many would remember happily – until they see the effects of global warming really get going.

Cash Money

Days after I publish my analysis concluding the U.S. will use the NIE to work with Iran over Iraq... Well what do you know... More U.S., Iran talks next week

Iran and the NIE: Where We Go From Here

We’ve talked a lot about the recent National Intelligence Estimate, and rightly so. It is having a tremendous impact on U.S. foreign policy on the foreign policy of any great power. What we have not yet discussed is where we go from here.

In Iraq
As I’ve pointed out before, the NIE can be and most likely will be exploited as a tool to solve the crisis in Iraq. To summarize, the U.S. needs Iran on board to have a politically stable Iraq, and Iran needs the U.S. to allow Iran to influence events in Iraq in Iran’s favor. You might want to read that sentence twice. The biggest obstacle since negotiations have begun stopping the U.S. from getting what it wants has been Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons program. Iran has been using its nuclear program as a bargaining chip; if they surrender on the nuclear issue, they would expect to see concessions from the U.S. on the Iraq issue.

Now, the U.S. has a real chance to turn Iraq into a stable, democratic country that can be a model for the whole region. The U.S. could possibly even imagine achieving the goal of the Iraq invasion: a safe, friendly, democratic country in the Middle East. This possibility can only come into fruition if we continue negotiations with Iran over Iraq, and take advantage of the fact that now Iran has lost its biggest bargaining chip.

At the U.N.
Though the threat of Iran has appeared to diminish, the need for global political pressure is still necessary. Iran still has the capability, though no longer the intentions, to restart its weapons program and to build nuclear weapons. Therefore, the need for continuing pressure and sanctions is twofold: one, to ensure Iran does not restart its weapons program and two, to possibly coerce Iran into giving up its civilian nuclear program.

The need to guarantee Iran’s weapons program is never resurrected is self explanatory. We need to continue sanctions at the U.N. until Iran allows full open inspections of its facilities. Until then, there is always the possibility that Iran could restart its weapons program, and we cannot allow that to happen.

The reasoning behind compelling Iran to give up its civilian nuclear program is not as simple. The logic behind this requires an understanding of the broader Middle East and its countries. When it became public that Iran had worked on a nuclear weapons program at one time, the neighboring countries, especially those with majority Sunni populations, reacted with fear. The possibility of a regional arms race quickly became clear. This hit a high point in late 2006 when several regional countries, including Saudi Arabia, expressed ‘interest’ in nuclear power.

A world where the highly volatile region of the Middle East constantly has nuclear missiles pointing at each other would be unacceptable. As unacceptable as that would be to us westerners, Saudi Arabians would find a nuclear Iran even more unacceptable. Not only that, but it is unlikely Saudi Arabia, or any other Middle Eastern country, would find an Iran with civilian nuclear power any more bearable than an Iran with a nuclear weapon. A country often can claim it is developing civilian nuclear power, when in actuality, it is developing nuclear weapons, hidden from the eyes of U.N. and U.S. weapons inspectors.

And if there were to be a regional arms race?

If you thought a single country going nuclear was bad…

On My NIE Analysis
The Significance of the NIE
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
How Will the NIE be Used?

On My NIE Analysis

I would just like to say, as a disclaimer, that I have no experience in government intelligence or at think tanks or anything like that. Although, I do feel I have read enough news reports and enough news analysis so that I think I have a good feel for what's going on in the world.

Shane has questioned the basic thesis of my analysis: that the NIE report will be used in negotiations over Iraq. Let me say this: This isn't why the intelligence was produced, but how it will be used.

Also, the thesis makes perfect sense. The government could have hushed up the report and never had it released. Or, they could have had it released, but criticized and attacked it and ripped it to shreds. But they haven't.

More on the NIE:

On My NIE Analysis
The Significance of the NIE
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
How Will the NIE be Used?

The Significance of the NIE

I left this out of the first post on this topic, so I'll include it now.

The significance of this report is not that we can stop pressuring Iran, but 2 different points:
1. Going to war with Iran would be pointless and dumb.
2. Iran is guided by 'cost-benefit analysis'. They're vulnerable to international economic and political pressure.

On My NIE Analysis
The Significance of the NIE
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
How Will the NIE be Used?

Why The NIE Should Be Trusted

I'm willing to trust the report for two reasons:
1. It was approved by the DNI, who in turn was appointed by the President
2. It doesn't make sense that Iran would have a nuclear program

I will elaborate more on the second. As I've argued before, as did the NIE, Iran is guided by 'cost-benefit analysis'. In an attempt to build a nuclear weapon, they would have to recognize, before it was completed, the program would be attacked and most likely destroyed bye either the U.S. or Israel. And Iran, guided by 'cost-benefit analysis' would realize it does not have the military might to stop an attack.

From this, one can draw the logical conclusion that Iran would only build a nuclear weapons program because it wants the U.S. or Israel to attack. One reason could be is that they need a reason to strike at Israel. This argument cannot stand because, first of all, Iran would not be able to carry out the attack. The U.S. and/or Israel would first take out major military installations so that Iran cannot retaliate. And even if Iran could retaliate, it would spell doom. A U.S. or Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear weapons would only take out nuclear and military installations. Iran - if they could - in retaliation,would be sure to strike civilian centers. The U.S. and/or Israel would then wipe Iran 'off the map'. And if Iran is basing its decisions off of 'cost-benefit analysis', they would realize this, and would never retaliate.

The only other reason Iran would build a nuclear weapons program, other than looking for a fight (which we just proved makes no sense), is that they would be looking for a North Korea-like deal. They would expect some economic or geopolitical aid in return for the shutdown of weapons.

Iran is different from North Korea. In North Korea, they had already spent a huge amount of money developing their weapons program. Iran hasn't. North Korea wasn't planning from the beginning to ask for economic aid in return for its weapons program. It was planning to use its weapons program as a threat against South Korea. Also, North Korea is ruled by a crackpot dictator who loves attention. If Iran is basing its work on 'cost-benefit' analysis, the cost is much different from North Korea's cost. The benefit would not outweigh the cost in Iran's case, unlike in North Korea's case.

Iran could be looking for 'geopolitical aid' in return for the shutdown of its weapons program. But once again, the benefits do not outweigh the costs. The 'geopolitical aid' Iran would receive from the U.S. would almost definitely be in Iraq. Iran would be given more influence there. But the geopolitical cost of even having a nuclear weapons program would be huge.

And remember, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the U.S. never has to give Iran any aid at all. The U.S. could just say, "Nope, we're not giving you anything," and give Israel the go ahead to blow up Natanz and other nuclear facilities. That would mean Iran gets a negative return. They spend all their resources building facilities, and in return, get their infrastructure destroyed.

Is it worth the cost? No.

On My NIE Analysis
The Significance of the NIE
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
How Will the NIE be Used?

Commenter of the Week - Shane

I command my army of invisible blogreaders to go to Shane's multiple blogs, because he was the first to comment here at IRB

Shane's blogs:
Vindication Media
Political Vindication
Political Vindication Radio

How Will the NIE be Used?

About time I wrote about this. Iran nuclear weapons report finally released, and says Iran has suspended its nuclear weapons program, etc., here comes the analysis.

It is important to consider the use of this report by the Bush Administration. Far lefties *cough* DAILY KOS *cough* have been milking this for all it’s worth. It’s a big dent in the Administration’s policy towards Iran, and the far right isn’t going to get a war with Iran. It’s huge. But in fact, I’d say this helps Bush more than it hurts him. Are you skeptic? You should be. But I won’t need a National Intelligence Estimate to convince you.

Uses by the Administration

1. To discredit Hillary Clinton based on her vote to classify the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as terrorists - HIGHLY UNLIKELY
2. To pass the problem of a nuclear Iran on to the next administration - UNLIKELY BUT POSSIBLE
3. As an excuse for NOT going to war with Iran - LIKELY
4. To take away Iran’s biggest bargaining chip - HIGHLY LIKELY

Iran’s biggest bargaining chip
As you can probably tell, numbers three and four are the most important. Number one I’d reserve for hardcore Clinton supporter conspiracy theorists.

We’ll start with use number four. To understand this, we have to take Iraq into the equation. Iraq is the President’s biggest concern right now. He may not show it in public, but it’s his biggest worry. It’s his legacy. He’s not going to be remembered for denuclearizing North Korea, or an attempt at Israeli-Palestinian peace. He’s going to be remembered for the invasions of both Afghanistan and the disastrous invasion of Iraq. And with little more than a year left in his presidency, it’s more on his mind than ever.

Consequently, he’s been working hard in order to improve the image of how successful the coalition of the willing has been in Iraq. He’s hired General Petraeus, a counterinsurgency expert, and has willfully engaged in talks with Middle Eastern states over the situation in Iraq. One of those states has been Iran.

Iran is crucial to the stabilization of Iraq. They have influence over much of the Shiite population, their leaders, and their weapons. It will be impossible to have even semi-stable state in Iraq without the support of Iran. The good news, Iran would love to see a friendly, stable Iraq under Shiite control. To get a friendly, stable, Shiite Iraq, Iran needs the U.S.

It may sound like a win-win situation, but like everything geopolitical, it’s not that simple in any way. It’s complicated by bad U.S.-Iran relations and uncooperative presidents on both sides. Iran wants a more Shiite dominated, Iranian influenced Iraq than the U.S. would care to give them. But Iran has had one huge bargaining chip the U.S. hasn’t been able to ignore: its nuclear weapons program.

Up until a few months ago, when the current NIE was being finalized, it appeared Iran had a weapons program (the last NIE thought the same). Iran didn’t mind; it gave them a huge bargaining chip. So, behind back doors, it played along.

But now Iran has lost this influence, because of this report. The U.S. could have the upper hand in Iraq negotiations, and Bush could receive a more favorable view from historians than even appeared possible six months ago.

Use number three, “an excuse for not going to war with Iran,” has just as much to do with Bush’s legacy as use number three. A third war on the president’s report card would be given an ‘F’ by historians, and could possibly an expulsion (read: impeachment) by the school administrators even before that.

Of course, this is a very oversimplified version of the situation. There are many more players involved: Russia, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Now that we’re done with all that, it’s probably a pretty good idea to see the consequences of the report. These, compared to the reasoning for the report, are simple.

1. Repercussions at U.S.-Iran discussions over Iraq (as discussed above)
2. Allies less likely to pursue sanctions at the U.N. (specifically Russia and China)
3. Virtually no chance of war with Iran
4. Cheney very disappointed (just kidding)

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the months ahead.

On My NIE Analysis
The Significance of the NIE
Why The NIE Should Be Trusted
How Will the NIE be Used?

Annapolis: What if the Conference DOES Succeed

Yes, then Israelis and Palestiians appear to be finally making some progress. But it is hard to be optimistic. Beyond the Cusp (a fantastic blog/blogger) takes a cold, hard look at reality. What happens if Annapolis does succeed? He goes on to make 3 main points:

1. Implementation of the agreement would be extremely difficult
2. Once Israel withdraws from the Palestinian territories (which will be certainly part of the agreement), Hamas will take power from Fatah and declare any agreement invalid.
3. If the agreement appears unsuccessful, Iran and/or Syria could take advantage of the situation and could possibly invade Israel, leading to a regional war.

Hits the nail on the head.

Australian Elections: The Deciding Factor

Today, Australians went to the polls and voted for a new direction. They voted out the incumbent, John Howard, and voted in Kevin Rudd.

The opinion is held wisely that Howard was voted out because of his failing economic policies – wait, excuse me, I’m being handed a note by my producer. It appears that – no! Howard’s economic policies were hugely successful! High economic growth, low unemployment, relatively low interest rates, tax reform, a more flexible workplace, zero Government debt, excellent international credit rating, strong investment in defense force funding, the list continues. This is strange…

Why was Howard voted out? Because of global warming. Australia is the only major industrialized country other than the U.S. not to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Howard was the staunchest backer of the Bush administration’s environmental policy. Australians seem to be very displeased not with the economic direction of their country, but the environmental direction.

Why? One report suggests that Australia, because of its geographic position and natural climate, will be hit hard by global warming.

Okay. Maybe there were one or two other policies the Aussies didn’t like. Like his support of the Iraq war, and his decision to send troops there.

But it is pretty safe to say that one of the major issues this election was global warming. Hopefully, the environment will be just as important in other elections.

Garry Kasparov Arrested by Russian Police

Russian police detain opposition leader at protest

This comes days after a Russian parliamentary candidate was shot, and is in critical condition at a hospital.

Nawaz Sharif to Return to Pakistan Sunday - Will Musharraf Let Him?

Nawaz Sharif has announced that he will return to Pakistan on Sunday, begging the question: will General Musharraf allow him to stay?

Last time Sharif attempted to return, he was promptly shipped back out. Then, Musharraf had not declared martial law, was on good terms with Benazir Bhutto, and was not politically isolated.

Does that make Musharraf more likely to kick out Sharif once again? On one hand, Musharraf seems increasingly desperate to hold onto power. On the other hand, the General needs to placate the West in order to continue receiving our support. What will Musharraf do?

Decisions, decisions…

Russian Opposition Presidential Candidate Shot

Russia gets worse by the day. Coming out today: Russian opposition candidate shot.

Farid Babayev, who will lead the regional list for the liberal anti-Kremlin Yabloko party was in a serious condition in hospital, RIA novosti news agency reported after an unidentified gunman fired on him in the regional capital Makhachkala.

This comes as Putin continues his maneuverings that will essentially allow him to stay in power indefinitely. He has dissolved parliament recently, and appointed a close ally prime minister. He has promised to take part in parliamentary elections, with victory assured. He will be elected prime minister. From there, Putin will either sap powers from the presidency making the prime minister’s office the most important one (which has no term limits, by the way), or will manipulate the lame-duck president from the shadows.

Kosovo Sets Precedent for Other European Break Away Regions

Yesterday I wrote that “Kosovo declaring independence would be bad, because it would anger Russia, who the U.S. needs to help sanction Iran at the Security Council.”

One thing I didn’t mention at all throughout the article is another reason some are concerned about Kosovo declaring independence. Countries of the E.U. are worried that, should Kosovo break away, it will set a precedent for break away regions in their own countries. Specifically:
• Catalonia (Spain)
• Basque (Spain)
• Ossetia (Georgia)
• Abkhazia (Georgia)
• Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)
• Transnistria (Moldova)

Not mentioned on this list, but making many more headlines than these regions, is Kurdistan. Though the countries which Kurdistan has ‘citizens’ in are not part of the European Union, the Kurds will be affected just as strongly by a declaration of independence.

What's the Big Deal?

Kosovo partial official results confirm Thaci win

This is very interesting. Hashim Thaci, besides being the newly elected prime minister of Kosovo, is the president of the political party PDK, Democratic Party of Kosovo. But what is even more interesting is that he headed an ethnic-Albanian guerilla group, the Kosovo Liberation Army, which fought for independence from Yugoslavia and Serbia in 1990’s. In other words, he is very much an Albanian nationalist. Kosovo has said it will declare formal independence in December if a deal cannot be reached.

So Kosovo might gain independence. What’s the big deal? The region of Kosovo exists in Serbia, which Russia supports extensively. Russia is very much pro-Serbian, and has made its position very clear to both the E.U. and U.S. The U.S. Russia has given special attention to because the U.S. has a large amount of influence over Albanians.

Once again, so the Russians care. What’s the big deal? Well, it’s kind of a big deal that the Russians control a permanent veto-wielding seat on the U.N. Security Council.

The United States needs the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, to impose sanctions on Iran, so Iran can be isolated (once again, coming back to that in a couple of weeks). The sanctions will only be effective if the United States can prove international unity on the issue, which right now it has not, primarily because of Russia and China.

Let’s recap. Kosovo declaring independence would be bad, because it would anger Russia, who the U.S. needs to help sanction Iran at the Security Council.

Expect to see Russia flexing its muscles for two reasons in the coming days and weeks. One, to send a message Mr. Thaci and the rest of Kosovo. Two, to publicly remind the U.S. Kosovo declaring independence would not help the American cause at the U.N.

Want more on Russian influence? Check out last week's post Russian Chess in the Middle East.

Does ANYONE Agree With Me?

On Friday, I wrote that the current situation in Pakistan is a Bhutto-Musharraf power play. More famous pundits have not been discussing this theory as much, but there is a growing number of blogs that are stating the fact that Bhutto isn't the democratic savior she is made out to be.

The Boston Globe, as well, essentially agrees with the theory I described, as does fellow blogger Frank Hagan.

Pakistan State of Emergency -- A Bhutto-Musharraf Power Play

While Pervez Musharraf attempts to calm Pakistan after his declaration of emergency rule (effectively a declaration of martial law), Benazir Bhutto waits eagerly and the U.S. waits nervously.

That just about sums up Pakistan’s most recent conflict. But we need more detail.

If you aren’t living under a rock, you know that this is at its most basic level an attempt to hold on to power by President Musharraf.

Musharraf has been in a continuous power struggle with the Pakistani judiciary ever since the 1999 coup which brought him into power. The issue at the forefront of the confrontation has been the fact that Musharraf holds both the office of President and of Chief of the Army, constitutionally illegal. This struggle escalated this year, with the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry being suspended, reinstated, and suspended again during the current crisis.

The motive of the suspension was widely (if not universally) seen as a move to hold on to power by Musharraf. Elections were coming up in October, and it was essentially assured that the Supreme Court would not allow the Pakistani President to hold on to both his military and political posts.

The elections in October overwhelming went to Musharraf, though the election has yet to be certified by the Supreme Court. That decision was expected to come Monday, and was also projected to not be in favor of the President.

This led Musharraf to make the decision to declare martial law.

Benazir Bhutto has been cast as the democratic savior of Pakistan by hopeful analysts in the U.S. and hopeful citizens in Pakistan. But Bhutto is still a politician, and a corrupt one at that. She presided over two administrations overflowing with corruption and human rights abuses.

She is hoping to gain a third term as Prime Minister in the recently delayed parliamentary elections, though laws created by Musharraf block her and other former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from seeking third terms. This forced Bhutto to try to cut a power sharing deal with Musharraf to secure her position as prime minister, which appears to have been successful.

While the full details have yet to emerge, a consensus among analysts has emerged: the deal has hurt Bhutto’s image as a democratic leader and threatened her credibility.

This was the setting for the current power play. Rumors were swirling that Bhutto was aware of Musharraf’s emergency plans, and this was only the next step in their plan. They are both losing power and popularity, and know it. They had to take this step in order to have a chance at staying in power.

In fact, Bhutto knew well enough last week that there was a possibility of martial law being declared. But she left for Dubai anyway, after ‘delaying’ her trip temporarily.

Yes, Bhutto has been leading protests. But that is all to put on her democratic public face. Though she leads protests, she is still in league with the General.

Expect to see Bhutto in power next year, alongside Musharraf.

The U.S.
This is a military and diplomatic nightmare for the U.S. After months of diplomatic pressure, in Pakistan, a nuclear armed state teeming with Islamic terrorists, the President effectively declares martial law solely in order to hold on to power. Anything elections Musharraf’s government holds, any attempt to reconcile with political opponents, the sincerity of anything he does will be questioned.

Nevertheless, the U.S. must continue to rely on Musharraf. Even if Pakistan was not the hiding place of Osama bin Laden, withdrawing the support of General Musharraf would send the country and its multiple nuclear missiles into total anarchy.

Israel's Syrian Target Was Nuclear: The One Theory That Answers All the Questions

After the September 6 Israeli strike on Syria, I concluded that my ‘bet [on the reason for the Israeli strike] is on destroying Syrian arms headed towards Hezbollah’. Although the majority of those polled agreed with me at the time that North Korea was not giving Syria nuclear technology, I might be forced to retract that view as I write this post.

After the strike, we were left with many questions that needed to be answered:
• What did Israel strike?
• Why isn’t Syria commenting on the attack?
• Why aren’t the U.S. and Israel commenting on the strike?
• Why aren’t other Middle Eastern states complaining?

After much analysis, I have come to a new conclusion: there is only one theory that answers all the questions in a suitable way. Syria was developing a nuclear reactor based on North Korean technology, most likely for weapons purposes.

To answer the questions:

What did Israel strike at?
Syria’s nuclear reactor, obviously.

Why isn’t Syria commenting on the attack?
Syria could be compared to small boy, caught in the act of cheating on the test. They don’t want to say anything to their friends because they’re embarrassed.

Why aren’t the U.S. and Israel commenting on the strike?
This is where it gets complicated. Normally, you’d think Israel and the U.S. would use this extensively as a P.R. tool against Syria, Iran, and basically all radical Middle Eastern countries in general. But they’re not.

This actually makes perfect sense if you think about it. North Korea’s image is a huge part of its foreign policy. This is semi-understandable if you think about Kim Jong-Il. He’s very concerned about his image, which makes sense, once you remember he’s a fat midget with a funny hairdo (not to offend any fat midgets with funny hairdos out there, of course!). Anyway, North Korea takes its image very seriously. Any offensive name calling by Japan is taken as a declaration of war. Just kidding. Writing about fat midgets puts me in a lame-geopolitical-joke mood.

Who cares if North Korea’s got self-image problems anyway, right? Well, right now, we care, a lot. Christopher Hill just pulled through with one of the greatest successes of the Bush administration and North Korea is disabling its nuclear program. Any announcement of a Syrian nuclear program, aided by North Korea, could seriously piss off North Korea.

Yes, it is true Kim Jong-Il knows what’s going on in Syria. But as long as the U.S. doesn’t make any public statements concerning the nuclear program, the midget stays happy.

Why aren’t other Middle Eastern states complaining?
This is pretty interesting as well. The other states of the Middle East – Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and probably even Shiite Iran don’t mind a rival nuclear program taken down by the Israelis. Of course Iran is taking this as a serious threat, but in some ways, this attack was not an unforgivable move by ‘The Great Satan’.

Other great Syria-Israel analysis:
Security Dilemmas
Foreign Policy Watch
Middle East Analysis
Beyond the Cusp
Attending the World

Yup, that is just an awesome picture for no reason.

Russian Chess in the Middle East

IHT: The United States is prepared to offer concessions to Russia to soften its position on Iran and Kosovo

This is much bigger than most news organizations seem to realize. Russia has gotten exactly what it wants. Is this bad? Actually, it could lead to an end of the Iranian nuclear program.

What Russia wants
If one is to make any analysis, geopolitical or not, you have to look at what both sides want. In our case, the two sides are Russia and, of course, the U.S.

Russia is primarily looking to expand its sphere of influence back to the borders of the Soviet Union. The Russians realize they have a short window of opportunity to regain influence while the U.S. is bogged down in the Middle East.

But there are two serious roadblocks to expansion: the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

The Russians want these treaties amended.

The only problem: this is not in America’s interest.

Consequently, Russia has had to use leverage to attempt to force America into signing amended treaties.

Russian leverage
Russia has used this leverage, essentially geopolitical blackmail, in two primary areas: Iran and Kosovo.

On Iran, it has blocked all but very weak sanctions at the U.N., supplied Iran with weapons and resources, and been a total irritation. As I plan to write about in more detail next week, the purpose of Iranian sanctions is to isolate Iran more than anything else. Therefore, with Russians blocking sanctions, Iran cannot be successfully isolated.

On Kosovo, Russia has appeared to even consider recognizing Kosovo. This has become more and more problematic and the deadline for a deal approaches (December).

And that brings us to today’s program.

So is Russia an ally?
Hell no. There’s still the INF treaty, which is Russia’s least favorite treaty. Moreover, there’s another treaty the Russians love, and would like to see extended.

But will Russia be more assisting in our efforts at the U.N.? Most likely.


The International Relations Blog (IRB) will concentrate on (surprisingly) international relations. Most articles will be analysis mixed with common sense opinion.

Topics of interest include the Middle East, Russia, China, and of course, the United States.

Because blogging about U.S. politics is boring.