Trump’s speech is not the end of the world for Iran

by Sabbah Zanganeh

 

Donald Trump’s Friday night speech in which he decertified Iran’s compliance to the JCPOA followed one key objective: to increase pressure on Iran and trigger a new wave of Iranophobia in the Middle East. When it comes to regional affairs, Iran should naturally fine-tune its relations with those states in the region with which it has closer ties. These policies should revolve around prevention of any new tension.

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Total’s Iran Deal Gives Rouhani Space to Push Reform

by Sanam Vakil and Neil Quilliam

The time is now for European governments and international companies to ignore distractions from Washington and the Gulf countries and encourage economic reform in Tehran. Total’s agreement to re-enter Iran after an absence of five years is a major boon for former US president Barack Obama’s landmark nuclear deal reached in 2015 between Iran and the P5+1. The deal is significant because it signals Total’s confidence in the Iranian market in spite of growing anti-Iranian rhetoric in Washington, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, which aims to further isolate Iran and actively discourage international businesses from investing in the country.

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The president just made a titanic foreign policy shift. The media missed it

by Newt Gingrich

This newspaper’s legendary former publisher, Philip Graham, famously described journalism as the business of writing the “first rough draft of history.” This week, as President Trump gave a historic speech in Saudi Arabia before the leaders of more than 50 Muslim-majority nations, journalism’s first draft missed the history almost entirely. While the media focused on the ephemeral questions — whether the president would use campaign rhetoric in a diplomatic setting, or how the trip would affect the Obama legacy — they largely missed the real drama of the moment: a titanic shift in U.S. foreign policy occurring right before their eyes.

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Trump au Proche-Orient: l'essentiel est dans ce qui n'a pas été mentionné

Lors de sa tournée au Proche-Orient, Trump a isolé l'Iran et occulté le financement des terroristes par l'Arabie saoudite. Mais l'essentiel est qu'il n'a pas évoqué d'engagement américain au sol dans la région, analyse le journaliste Martin Jay. Donald Trump a rencontré les dirigeants de plus de 50 pays musulmans, le 21 mai, lors d'un sommet à Riyad dont l’Iran était évidemment absent. Quelle est votre vision de cette situation? Martin Jay: C'est simple : l’Iran ne fait pas partie de sa vision globale, qui implique en grande partie un retour de la politique étrangère des Etats-Unis au modèle des années 1980 : réformer et rétablir les relations avant tout avec l’Arabie saoudite, et les rassurer d'un point de vue idéologique dans la région... Regardez, l’Iran étend son influence sur la région ces dernières années. Il est obligé de laisser l’Iran de côté, le contraire aurait été malhabile d'un point de vue politique. Mais en réalité, tout cela relevait des marchés de la Défense.

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Is Belt and Road Initiative just political rhetoric?

The Belt and Road Initiative has made headlines. While some Western commentators view it as just political rhetoric, those skeptics have failed to see the facts. The initiative is positioned as a stimulus for common prosperity in a world fraught with sluggish growth, shrinking trade, stalling investment and emerging de-globalization. It passes on the genes of the ancient Silk Road -- peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit -- and more importantly, capitalizes on modern finance, technology and logistics networks. Infrastructure, policy coordination, lower trade barriers, financial support and closer personnel exchange are the centerpiece of the initiative, and these are progressing step by step. Over the four years since its proposal, the Belt and Road is gaining partners because of the tangible outcomes it has yielded, not the immensity of its ambitions. Hefty investment and brick-and-mortar projects have made the initiative a reality, bringing it far beyond just a vision.

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Indonesia: politics just became more complicated

by Stratfor

A polarizing election for the Jakarta governor post has come to an end, but a more complicated era of Indonesian politics is just beginning. The official results of the April 19 runoff will not be released until May. Nonetheless, according to "quick counts" tallied by several Indonesian research firms, former Cabinet minister Anies Baswedan appears headed for a landslide victory, with 57-60 percent of the vote, compared with just 41-43 percent for incumbent Gov. Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

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US becomes an extremely dangerous partner for Russia

by Dmitry Suslov

The shelling by the US Tomahawks of the Syrian Air Force base Shayrat represents a milestone turn in the internal and external policies of the Trump administration. From an internal policy view, this means the final victory of the American establishment over Trump. We can now say that the Trump administration has become an ordinary Republican administration, where key decisions are now taken by the vice president Pence and Defense Minister Mattis. People close to Trump are pushed into the background, Dmitry Suslov, Programme Director of the Valdai Discussion Club, said in an interview to valdaiclub.com.

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Syria: an airstrike inspired by Tv images, not evidence

by Alastair Crooke

The United States airstrike on a Syrian air base was based on emotions, not factual evidence, and will have lasting consequences for the region, Valdai Club expert Alastair Crooke believes. “The rushed decision was made on wrong information,” he told valdaiclub.com on Friday. “The consequences of this will be profound in the longer term. It will impact not only Syria, it will impact Russia, China, their relationships with United States and many things in the region – from Lebanon to Yemen. But the decision was taken on the basis of emotional reaction in America to the images of the television screen, many of which we do not know whether they are true images or fake images.

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Chomsky: US, not Iran, greatest threat to global peace

Leading American political analyst and philosopher Noam Chomsky said the world agrees that it is the US government that is the greatest threat to the global peace, not Iran.

"That (war with Iran) has been going on for years. Right through the Obama years, Iran was regarded as the greatest threat to world peace. And that’s repeated over and over. ‘All options are open,’ Obama’s phrase, meaning, if we want to use nuclear weapons, we can, because of this terrible danger to peace" - Chomsky said in an interview with Democracy Now on Tuesday.

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A New Milestone in Iran-Russia Relations

by Kaveh L. Afrasiabi

By all indications, Iran's President Rouhani's two-day Moscow visit represents a new milestone in the already intimate neighborly relations between the two countries. Accompanied by several cabinet ministers, Rouhani's main aim is to expand the level of trade and economic ties with Russia and to deepen the strategic symbiosis that exists between Tehran and Moscow on a range of regional and global issues, including the conflict in Syria and anti-terrorism.

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Russian Realpolitik at Work in the Middle East

Geopolitical Diary by Stratfor

Visits to Moscow on successive days by two Middle Eastern leaders highlight how Russia's importance in the region has grown over the past couple of years. Russian President Vladimir Putin played host to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today for discussions that will be followed Friday by talks between Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Russian leader will hear their thoughts on trade, energy and investment topics, but security will be a prominent item on the agendas for both meetings, namely concerns that surround the conflict in Syria.

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Rouhani’s Visits to Oman and Kuwait: A Crack in the Wall

by Iranian Diplomacy

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani visited Oman and Kuwait on Wednesday, after a two-year hiatus. Observes see it as a major step to resolve issues between Iran and the Arab states in the region. Leading a high-profile delegation, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Kuwait and Oman on Wednesday, which was a first in the last two years. Rouhani’s visit came as a response to a visit made by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister three weeks ago, reportedly aimed to convey a message from the Kuwaiti Emir. The message had sparked media speculations that it contained a call for rapprochement between Iran and [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council states.

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Focus: For China, the demise of the TPP represents an opportunity to influence the Asia-Pacific region

by Stratfor

The fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is growing less certain by the day, and China, whose rise the U.S.-led trade deal is meant to contain, is seizing the opportunity to promote its own alternatives. Its failure is by no means guaranteed, but if the deal does falter — as current anti-trade sentiment in the United States suggests it might — Beijing will be ready to offer up two replacements. The replacements, as it happens, would be helmed by none other than China, which hopes to create a model for future economic cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.

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Global Times warns of 'dramatic changes' and discord after Trump's inaugural speech

"Frictions between the US and its allies, and trade tensions between the US and China seem inevitable within the four years ahead” - said an editorial in the Global Times

Trump era signals dramatic changes

by Global Times

Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America on January 20. He made an impressive inauguration speech with his unique persona, which has been drawing mixed and complicated reactions domestically and globally.

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Commentary: Principles, not impulsiveness, needed for China-U.S. ties

by Xinhua

Beijing - One must, whether an individual or a country, have principles when interacting with others. For China, the One China principle is one of the foremost preconditions for building formal ties with other countries. The principle, which holds that there is only one China and Taiwan is an indispensable part of China, has once again been challenged by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in an impulsive manner.

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Rouhani's UN speech seen as warning to the US

by Iranian Diplomacy

“The US is fully aware that JCPOA constitutes a recognized multilateral agreement, and any failure on the part of the United States in implementing it would constitute an international wrongful act and would be objected to by the international community. Any failure in implementing the JCPOA will further erode the credibility of the United States in the world. The lack of compliance with the JCPOA on the part of the United States in the past several months represents a flawed approach that should be rectified forthwith.

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An Analysis of Turkey’s Bungled Coup Attempt

by Ja'far Haghpanah

 

Analysis of Turkey’s botched coup attempt is very important not simply because of geographical and spiritual propinquity of this incident to our country as well as cultural, social, political, economic and security ties between Turkey and Iran, but also because of its regional consequences and its effects on Iran's interests and national security. The following points must be taken into consideration in this regard.

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Why the Turkish Coup Will Likely Fail

by Stratfor

Turkey’s coup plotters certainly had the element of surprise working in their favor. The speed with which the military deployed in major cities and took control of critical power nodes showed a high degree of organization and efficiency. But the coup attempt is already starting to fray, and its chances of failing are high because a polarizing faction is leading it. There are multiple indications that followers of the Gulen movement embedded within the military are spearheading the coup attempt.

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Riyadh Has No Intention of Reconciliation

by Ali Mousavi Khalkhali

 

It has been a while that ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been diminished. The history of tensions between the two countries is not limited to the developments in the past year and a half. Tehran’s ties with Saudi Arabia have seen tensions over the past eight years. The difference is that the tensions escalated slowly before Salman took office as the monarch but when he did, they peaked so much so that Iran now has no diplomatic relations with the Saudis. Even though the eighth and ninth Iranian administrations played a significant role in ruining the ties, it is not fair to blame them for everything. Far from the truth.

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La Chine n'accepte pas l'arbitrage sur la Mer de Chine méridionale

by Zhai Jun

La souveraineté sur les îles de la Mer de Chine méridionale et leurs eaux adjacentes appartient à la Chine. Dans les années 1970, les Philippines se sont successivement emparées de plusieurs îles de l'archipel chinois de Nansha et ont commencé à réclamer la souveraineté sur ces îles et leurs eaux environnantes, ce que le gouvernement chinois n'a eu de cesse de dénoncer comme une violation grave de sa souveraineté territoriale et de ses droits maritimes. Le différend entre la Chine et les Philippines sur la Mer de Chine méridionale porte en réalité sur la souveraineté de ces îles.

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Refugees deserve action and investment, not indifference and cruelty 

by Filippo Grandi 

In 2015, when more than a million refugees and migrants arrived on European shores, the reaction in many countries quickly turned to tightening border controls and erecting fences. Public opinion became increasingly alarmed, with some irresponsible politicians stoking fears and adding to growing tensions. This was not a rational response; this was denial. Sheltering and supporting people fleeing bombs, bullets, torture and rape is not an act of charity, it is a legal and moral obligation prescribed both by international law and by our common humanity.

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Commentaire du père Georges Maximov au sujet de la déclaration commune du Pape François et du Patriarche Cyrille de Moscou

by Georges Maximov

 

Pour commencer, laissez-moi rappeler à ceux qui, du fait même de la rencontre se lamentent, en s’exclamant « Tout est perdu, tout est perdu ! », que rien n’est perdu ! Les canons nous interdisent de célébrer avec les hétérodoxes, de prier avec eux et de recevoir leur bénédiction. Le seul fait de les rencontrer n’est pas interdit par les canons. Le patriarche n’est pas devenu catholique par cette rencontre. Maintenant, pour ce qui concerne la rencontre elle-même. Dans la mesure où notre patriarche n’a été envoyé à cette rencontre, ni par le Synode, ni par l’Assemblée des évêques (pour autant que je le sache), c’est ipso facto une rencontre personnelle.

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Pope’s China comments sound kind note

by Global Times China

 

During an interview with the Asia Times on January 28, Pope Francis noted that China is "a great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom." That the Pope sent greetings to China for its upcoming New Year is a glad event for China's Catholics as well as for common Chinese. The world's media has noticed that the Pope has sent more messages of kindness to China recently. This makes people wonder about the future trajectory of China-Vatican ties.

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Raja-Mandala: A Most Exceptional Friendship

by C. Raja Mohan

 

The participation of French troops in the Republic Day parade on Tuesday — the first ever by a foreign contingent on Rajpath since Independence — is doubly significant. It marks the end of India’s prolonged military isolationism and unveils the emergence of France as India’s most trusted international partner. 

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Four Predictions on the Future of Europe

By  Jan Techau

 

At the end of all this madness, what is the EU going to look like? This is a question heard a lot these days, in one form or another. Most observers sense that these are extraordinary times for Europe, and that political realities might look very different rather soon. And while it is impossible to predict how the greatest political project in history will transform under existential pressures from both within and outside, all of these pressures point in a certain direction when it comes to Europe’s future. 

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The Jihadists' Promise: Power over Death

By Louis René Beres

"Jihadi violence serves not only to advance the terrorist's delusion of immortality, but also to add, however perversely, an apparent and desperately needed erotic satisfaction, using religion as the justification. Persuasive promises of immortality -- the desperate hope to live forever -- underlie virtually all major religions.Washington and Jerusalem should finally address what needs to be done in addition to military remediation -- reinforcing efforts to convince these terrorists that their expected martyrdom is ultimately just an elaborate fiction".

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Russia's Orthodox Church and Syrian jihadis agree on one thing: that Russia's intervention in Syria is a 'holy war'

by Milo Comerford

Defender of the Faith? Russia's 'Holy War' in Syria. Russia is the latest player in the Syrian conflict to describe its fight as holy, with the Orthodox Church voicing support for Moscow's decision to carry out air strikes in Syria against ISIS. Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's public affairs department was quoted as saying "the fight with terrorism is a holy battle and today our country is perhaps the most active force in the world fighting it".

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Rouhani at UNGA: On Syria

New York - In a September 27 meeting with American think tanks, academics and NGOs, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani covered a range of issues from working with the United States to the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, tensions with Saudi Arabia, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and more. These following are excerpts from his comments on the Syrian conflict. 

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BRICS & Syrian crisis

by Na'eem Jeenah

 

Last week at the BRICS Summit in Ufa, the BRICS leaders formalized the creation of the world’s newest bank: the New Development Bank (NDB), which will use its $100 billion in initial capital to fund infrastructure and sustainable development projects both at home and overseas. The NDB will not only bind together the BRICS in common purpose but will also introduce something not seen since the dawn of contemporary multilateralism: competition to the Western-dominated international financial system.

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Khamenei Vs. Rouhani: Projecting very different views on the Nuclear Deal

by Mehdi Khalaji

 

The Supreme Leader's initial reaction has sent discouraging signals about Iran's willingness to comply with its commitments in the long term. As expected, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's reaction to the nuclear deal was utterly different from that of President Hassan Rouhani. Right after the agreement was announced on July 14, Rouhani appeared on state television and praised the outcome. Yet when he and other officials visited Khamenei's home a few hours later, the Supreme Leader did not say anything about the deal apart from a few lines thanking the negotiators. This reticence signaled to hardliners that they should increase their attacks on the agreement.

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Another BRIC(S) in the Great Wall

 

by Alexander Gabuev

 

This week, the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa will gather for the seventh annual BRICS summit in Ufa, a city in Russia’s Ural Mountains at the geographical heart of Eurasia. The BRICS’s leaders will be joined by the heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states. Standing next to Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely see the summit as proof that the West’s attempts to isolate Russia have failed, that the Russian president is surrounded by powerful and likeminded friends. 

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Why the Pope’s encyclical is about much more than climate change

by Belinda Reyers

While the main message from Pope Francis’s encyclical is the obvious and urgent need to act on climate change, this just skims the surface of this rich and far-ranging call to protect “our common home”. At 180 pages the text articulates in remarkable detail the depth and complexity of Earth and the changes it is undergoing, not in the language of standard religious texts, but often in the language of science. The encyclical explores in especially great detail our current scientific knowledge of the Earth’s biosphere – the layer of life on Earth made up of all the millions of species of animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms and their ecosystems. It does so not only to highlight the tragedy (and moral or ethical dilemma) of its deterioration as we lose species and ecosystems, but also to highlight the “extremely high costs” of this loss to humanity, now and in the future.

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Iran’s Stakes in Syria’s Economy

Although political considerations are the main drivers of Iran’s policy toward Syria, economic interests are playing an ever greater role.

by Salam al-Saadi 

Recent gains by Syrian opposition forces in the north of the county, where they took control of the Idlib province and the city of Jisr al-Shughour in April 2015, raised questions about Iran’s commitment to supporting the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has experienced a number of recent setbacks. But remarks on May 5, 2015 to Bloomberg News by Adib Mayalah, the governor of the Central Bank of Syria, dispelled these doubts. He announced that Iran has given “preliminary approval” for a new credit line to the Syrian government for $1 billion, which would be used to help finance imports. 

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What if No One Is Winning the War in Syria?

by Aron Lund

Regardless of who is or is not losing the war in Syria, it is safe to say that no one seems to stand any chance of winning it. It is a lazy pattern of thought, but a strong one: wars are always discussed in terms of winners and losers, first shots and capitulations. But what this perspective misses is that many conflicts have no discernible end at all. They simply drag on until readers yawn and reporters leave, and go on to mutate into new forms, settling into spheres of influence and establishing stateless violence as the new normal.

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Global East on the Rise

by Gleb Ivashentsov

(Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, RIAC Member)

 

Next July the Russian city of Ufa will host the BRICS summit, with the participation of President Putin and the leaders of China, India, Brazil and South Africa, in what seems further proof of how little substance there is behind certain Western allegations that Moscow has been isolated. BRICS account for 25 percent of global GNP, 18 percent of international trade, 45 percent of the world's population, and one third of the Earth's territory.

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New face but same old problems for EU foreign policy

By Paul Taylor

Brussels - Europe's chequered attempt to build a common foreign and security policy has a new face, Italy's Federica Mogherini, but the European Union is stuck with the same old problems despite her bright start. In her first six months as EU foreign policy chief, the 41-year-old former Italian foreign minister has tried to harness Europe's soft power and diplomacy more effectively and initiated a review of the bloc's outdated security strategy and of its flawed "neighborhood policy". 

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The European Strategy Ingredient List

by Jan Techau

It is a very good thing that Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, together with the member states and the European Commission, is conducting a review process that is ultimately meant to lead to a comprehensive EU foreign policy strategy. This exercise is overdue, despite the loathing many have for such debates, both inside and outside the EU. At a minimum, the review could provide the still-nascent European External Action Service (EEAS) with more of a sense of direction and purpose, which would be great progress. 

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RATP et chrétiens d’Orient: le non-dit et le mal-dit | Par Richard Prasquier

Le point de vue sur l’affaire de l’affiche du concert des Prêtres de Richard Prasquier, ancien président du Crif.

Censurer l’affiche d’un concert parce qu’elle se faisait «au bénéfice des chrétiens d’Orient»: la RATP aurait atteint un point bas dans le grotesque si le tollé général ne l’avait pas obligée, après plusieurs jours d’hésitations, à revenir sur sa décision. Matériellement minime, la tentative est lourdement significative.

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Saudi Troubles in Sanaa

 By Khaled Fattah 

The Houthis’ February 6 announcement that they will dissolve the Yemeni parliament and set up an interim governing body has heightened Riyadh’s concerns about Yemen’s political instability. For years, Riyadh has focused on preventing any major shift in the balance of power on Yemen’s northern highlands, favoring the Hashid tribal confederation, which includes Sanhan, the clan of former President Saleh, and the once-powerful Ahmar family. As Hashid enjoyed top military and security positions, contributing the lion’s share of middle ranking and senior officers, Riyadh’s patron-client tribal network provided the kingdom with unfettered access to the military establishment in Sanaa.

 

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Letter From Prague

 By Martin Ehl 

Strategic Europe continues its series devoted to explaining the foreign and security policy ambitions of the 28 EU member states. We have asked our contributors from each capital to give a candid assessment of their country’s perception of security and strategy, with a ranking on a scale from 0 (the laggards) to 5 (the ambitious). This week, the spotlight is on the Czech Republic.

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Of secret diplomacy

Barack Obama apparently eyes the bigger picture as he talks of reconciliation with Iran. The United States president, if reports are to be believed, has sent a secret letter that many in the diplomatic circles term as an SOS to the Iranian leadership, urging upon it to work in close coordination to exterminate the ISIS threat from the region. The letter, fourth of its kind since Obama assumed office in 2008, in principle seems to be an attempt to persuade Tehran to reach an agreement on its nuclear programme before the November 24 deadline.

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Russia’s Policy in the Middle East and the Fight Against Extremism

By Alexey Malashenko

In early September 2014, the Islamic State (IS) posted a video message on the internet addressed to Vladimir Putin and Bashar Al-Assad. They warned Putin: "Your throne has already teetered . . . and will fall when we come to you . . . Vladimir Putin, the aircraft you sent to Bashar, we, with the grace of Allah, will send back to you."1 In that "message" the Islamic State also promised to "liberate Chechnya and the Caucasus."2 

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Russia’s Growing China Connection

By Dmitri Trenin

China's premier Li Keqiang is traveling to Russia for a regular meeting of the two countries' heads of government. Since the visit was first announced in April, Russia's geopolitical and geo-economic situation has changed profoundly, making its relationship with Beijing even more important. While the presidents of the two countries deal with broader strategic issues, it has been up to Li and the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to fill the relationship with substantive economic content. 

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Is There an Answer for Syria?

By Jessica Tuchman Mathews

The glaring weakness in President Obama’s new Middle East strategy, unveiled on September 24 at the United Nations, is the lack of troops on the ground in Syria. In Iraq, the Kurdish peshmerga, a reformed and remotivated Iraqi army, and the Sunni tribes that played a major part in the success of President Bush’s surge can all be brought into the fight against ISIS.

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Truly Ambitious Commitments After the Arab Spring?

By Jan Techau

Today, the EU’s response to the Arab Spring of 2010–12 is deemed to have been one of the great missed opportunities in the Union’s history. Analysts wonder whether these fledgling democratic movements could have avoided meltdown if only the EU had followed through on its rhetoric. But it misses the point to simply ask what would have happened if the EU had implemented its program of offering the “three Ms” to Arab countries (market access, mobility, and money) more vigorously. It is better to draw practical lessons than merely lament lost opportunities.

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Today’s China, Dazed and Confucian

Nearly two years into his tenure as China’s leader, President Xi Jinping has yet to expound on a clear notion of what the Communist Party should stand for as a whole or what direction the country should take. In the absence of a forward-thinking vision, Xi has instead often gazed backwards, into the periods of Chinese history the party once shunned. That China’s president is often more comfortable talking about the country’s past than its future was evident this week when he delivered a speech at a meeting of the International Confucian Association commemorating the 2,565th anniversary of Confucius’s birth – the first time, according to Chinese Central Television that a Chinese president has addressed an international meeting on the philosopher.

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Qatar and the Arab Spring: Policy Drivers and Regional Implications

by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

During the Arab Spring, Qatar moved away from its traditional foreign policy role as diplomatic mediator to embrace change in the Middle East and North. Africa and support transitioning states. Regional actors viewed Qatar’s approach as overreaching, and skepticism of Doha’s policy motivations increased. Qatar’s new leadership, which came to power in June 2013, is adapting by reverting to a more pragmatic foreign policy and addressing the fallout from its support for Islamist movements in the region.

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Iraq Illusions

By Jessica Tuchman Mathews

The story most media accounts tell of the recent burst of violence in Iraq seems clear-cut and straightforward. In reality, what is happening is anything but. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), so the narrative goes, a barbaric, jihadi militia, honed in combat in Syria, has swept aside vastly larger but feckless Iraqi army forces in a seemingly unstoppable tide of conquest across northern and western Iraq, almost to the outskirts of Baghdad.

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