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IranMonday, July 14, 2014

Understanding a Potential Iran Nuclear Deal

  Secretary Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif Sit Down For Second Day of Nuclear Talks in Vienna. [State Department photo, 7/14/14]Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are in Vienna this week as Iran and the P5+1 attempt to conclude negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program prior to the July 20 deadline. After a meeting between Kerry and Zarif on Sunday, Zarif noted that the two had “made some important headway.” While significant gaps between the Iranian and P5+1 negotiating positions remain, there are still opportunities for compromise, which should continue to be explored even if the talks must be extended beyond July 20. The potential for a deal has frequently been muddled by misunderstandings about Iran’s proposed enrichment capacity, the… Read More ›

Friday, July 11, 2014

Critical Issues in the Senate Defense Appropriations Bill

  Service members from the Senegal Military Police, United States Army, United States Marines and Senegalese Paratroopers stand in formation for Exercise Western Accord opening ceremony [US Army Africa photo by by Staff Sgt. Donna Davis, 6/16/14]As the Senate begins consideration of Pentagon spending next week, several issues in the proposed defense budget warrant closer scrutiny. The Defense Appropriations Bill will be marked up at the subcommittee level next week and legislators should pay careful attention to  the Administration’s proposals for a Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) and European Reassurance Initiative (ERI); both programs have been framed with sound policy objectives, but Congress should not fund these expensive measures without greater clarity about their implementation, which could circumvent base defense budget caps and critical human rights… Read More ›

AfghanistanWednesday, July 9, 2014

What Afghanistan’s Election Crisis Means for Kabul, the Taliban, and the United States

 What Afghanistan’s Election Crisis Means for Kabul, the Taliban, and the United States July 9, 2014 The divisive Afghan elections have escalated into a crisis. Preliminary results from the June 14 presidential election run-off, released on Monday, showed Ashraf Ghani leading with 56.4% of the vote, ahead of Abdullah Abdullah’s 43.6%, but millions of votes reportedly remain under review amid accusations of fraud. Abdullah’s campaign has leveled accusations of fraud for weeks and is now threatening to form its own parallel government, even in advance of the release of final results. The crisis is inflaming Afghanistan’s ethnic divisions and threatening not only the government in Kabul, but the country’s peaceful, democratic future. If the election is not resolved peacefully, the United States and its coalition… Read More ›

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Obama Could Counter Critics of His Foreign Policy | Brian Katulis

By Brian Katulis, NSN Board Chairman July 9, 2014 Remember President Barack Obama‘s effort to reset his foreign-policy narrative in May with his West Point speech? Probably not. The administration’s attempt to use speeches to avoid being defined by domestic opponents and world events was overtaken by a rapid succession of stories and fierce criticism at home, including the furor over the deal with the Taliban to release Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and the Islamist terrorist blitzkrieg across Iraq. By mid-June, Americans gave Barack Obama the lowest foreign-policy ratings of his presidency: only 37% approve, with 57% disapproving. Though foreign policy was once a perceived strong suit, President Obama’s rating is as low as President George W. Bush‘s was in mid-2006, the summer of discontent with Mr. Bush’s Iraq policy. This state… Read More ›

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Obama’s Understated Foreign Policy Gains | Michael A. Cohen

By Michael A. Cohen, NSN Board Member July 9, 2014 It’s been a pretty good couple of weeks for American foreign policy. No, seriously. On June 23, the last of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile was loaded onto a Danish freighter to be destroyed. The following day, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia asked his Parliament to rescind the permission that it had given him to send troops into Ukraine. Meanwhile, there is still cautious optimism that a nuclear deal with Iran is within reach. What do these have in common? They were achieved without a single American bomb being dropped and they relied on a combination of diplomacy, economic sanctions and the coercive threat of military force. As policy makers and pundits remain focused on… Read More ›

IranMonday, July 7, 2014

Iran Nuclear Talks: Compromise Possible as July 20 Deadline Approaches

  EU High Representative Ashton Speaks at the UN in Geneva, Switzerland. [US State Department Photo, 11/24/13]Negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 resumed on July 3 in Vienna, as teams of diplomats enter the final phase of talks to reach a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program ahead of the expiration of the Joint Plan of Action on July 20. Significant gaps remain between Iran’s demands and those of the United States, but there are indicators that compromises are possible. Critics of the negotiations have laid out plans to unravel a deal even before the terms are settled, by making sanctions relief conditional on issues unrelated to the nuclear negotiations and questioning the credibility of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In this late stage, Congress… Read More ›

IraqWednesday, July 2, 2014

What the Islamic State Really Means for al-Qaeda, Iraq, and the U.S.

  Photo from Islamic State Media’s twitter profile, 7/2/14. On Sunday, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) declared that it had established itself as a new nation, the Islamic State, and restored the caliphate, led by ISIS’ ruthless leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In its announcement, the organization now known as the Islamic State demanded all Muslims swear their allegiance to Baghdadi and his ultraconservative Salafist regime. In principle, the announcement seems threatening: The Islamic State, the most active jihadist organization in the world and a rival to al-Qaeda, claims to have established its own emirate, a terrorist state with the goal of extending its empire across the Middle East from its foothold in western Iraq. But that overstates the Islamic State’s strength –… Read More ›

LibyaMonday, June 30, 2014

The Right Call: Benghazi Suspect to be Tried in Civilian Court

The E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington, DC [Wikimedia, accessed 6/30/14] On Saturday, Ahmed Abu Khatallah, the alleged mastermind behind the Benghazi attack, appeared in a Washington, D.C., court to plead not guilty to charges of conspiring to support terrorism. Khatallah’s arraignment in an Article III federal court has prompted outrage from conservatives who claim Khatallah should be tried as an enemy combatant or war criminal, argue that he should be detained at Guantanamo Bay, and suggest he was insufficiently interrogated. But these complaints ignore the facts of the case. Legal experts have noted that Khatallah could not have been tried as an enemy combatant, as he has not been part of any armed conflict in a legal sense. He was also interrogated by… Read More ›

FY15 BudgetOCO BudgetPoliticsFriday, June 27, 2014

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Vigilance Required

Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Vigilance Required June 27, 2014 Yesterday, the White House submitted its Fiscal Year 2015 request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. The request totaled $65.8 billion – what would be the  fifth highest-funded military in the world if it were a stand-alone force – $58.6 billion of which is slated for the Pentagon. While modestly below last year’s $80 billion, this year’s request appears larger than necessary to fund ongoing contingency operations given that the expected cost of war in Afghanistan this year was previously cited at $20 billion by administration officials. This $40 billion difference fuels the bipartisan concern already voiced by lawmakers that OCO dollars will continue to be used as a slush fund to avoid the spending caps… Read More ›

IraqFriday, June 27, 2014

Colin Kahl Quoted From NSN Press Call By US News On Iraq

Sayonara, Iraq Borders By Paul D. Shinkman June 27, 2014 | US News  Throughout the confusion and disarray that has plagued the Middle East in recent weeks, one likelihood has emerged: Iraq, as the Western world knows it, is likely over. Extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has turned the Iraqi-Syrian border into little more than a doormat as it continues to strike security bases, seize territory across the former U.S. war zone and descend upon the capital Baghdad. President Barack Obama said last week he would deploy as many as 300 special operations commandos to not only bolster what’s left of the Iraqi forces, but also attempt to add some clarity to a situation that has left most national security… Read More ›

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