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Analysis and Comment (34)

Over it: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (L) and his foreign minister Javad Zarif. Over it: Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (L) and his foreign minister Javad Zarif. EPA/STR

Frozen out of anti-IS effort, Iran is losing patience with the West

Since Hassan Rouhani was elected Iran’s president in June 2013, relations between Iran and the United States have significantly improved – though they remain very fragile. To explain why, most analysts…
Barack Obama is reluctant to jump in with both feet with a major military intervention in Iraq and Syria. Barack Obama is reluctant to jump in with both feet with a major military intervention in Iraq and Syria. EPA/Valda Kalnina

Why ‘fools rush in’ is Obama’s watchword in Iraq and Syria

US president Barack Obama has yet to work out exactly what America’s strategy is in confronting Islamic State (IS), and has been foolish enough to say so in public. Cue the foreseeable torrent of point-scoring…
In telegraphing toughness on foreign policy issues, Hillary Clinton hopes to send the message that the US will act like a great power when she’s president. In telegraphing toughness on foreign policy issues, Hillary Clinton hopes to send the message that the US will act like a great power when she’s president. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Clinton fires first shot in battle to show she’ll be different as president

Few people expected the opening shots of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign to be fired across the bow of the Obama administration. Yet in a recent interview, the former secretary of state took aim…
Iraq is rapidly spiralling into a humanitarian catastrophe, with the persecuted Yazidi religious minority facing genocide. Iraq is rapidly spiralling into a humanitarian catastrophe, with the persecuted Yazidi religious minority facing genocide. EPA/Mohammed Jalil

Iraq’s Yazidis are on the brink of genocide – who will save them?

US president Barack Obama has confirmed that the US military made targeted airstrikes and carried out a humanitarian operation in Iraq, marking the deepest US engagement in the country since US troops…
Provocative words chucked out by Hagel. Provocative words chucked out by Hagel. EPA/Robert Ghement

Hagel speech on China’s ‘rise’ exposes hypocrisy in Washington

When US defence secretary Chuck Hagel recently accused China of destabilising the Asia region to an audience in Singapore, he knew he was preaching to the converted. China’s modern-day development is complex…
Protect and defend: President Obama takes the pledge at West Point’s graduation ceremony. Protect and defend: President Obama takes the pledge at West Point’s graduation ceremony. EPA/Peter Foley

From D-Day to today: US foreign policy is at a turning point

As President Obama looks across the beaches of Normandy for the ceremony commemorating the D-Day landings, he could be forgiven for feeling ambivalent. Certainly, these are sites of great tragedy and a…
Shake? Please? NATO Secretary General Rasmussen (l) visits Romania. Shake? Please? NATO Secretary General Rasmussen (l) visits Romania. EPA/Robert Ghement

Ukraine gives NATO a reason to exist – but big players demur

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), once again saved from potential irrelevance, has come to the fore in the West’s reaction to the Ukraine crisis. In the aftermath of its withdrawal from Afghanistan…
China’s military spending has doubled over the past decade. China’s military spending has doubled over the past decade. US Marine Corps

Obama’s key message in Asia – if China wants a fight, we’ve got your back

Barack Obama’s weeklong visit to Asia took in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. His trip was supposedly focused on economic issues and in particular on enhancing trade links across the…
The US is desperate to revitalise its Asia-Pacific hegemony, trying to weave together a web of military and political alliances and relationships. The US is desperate to revitalise its Asia-Pacific hegemony, trying to weave together a web of military and political alliances and relationships. EPA/Jeon Heon-Kyun

Asia-Pacific focus will revitalise US hegemony, but at what price?

When introducing the Pentagon’s US$496 billion budget last week – $31 billion below what President Barack Obama requested – US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said: We are repositioning to focus on the strategic…
US president Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have to find a way to conduct meaningful negotiations to help end the Syrian civil war. US president Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have to find a way to conduct meaningful negotiations to help end the Syrian civil war. EPA

Syria: why Russia and the US should take negotiations seriously

The Geneva II Syria peace talks concluded earlier this month in a sadly predictable failure, marked by the frustration of the UN-Arab League negotiator Lakhdar Brahimi, who apologised to the Syrian people…
‘Win or die’: Free Syrian Army rebels. ‘Win or die’: Free Syrian Army rebels. VOA

Syria peace talks will be fault line for post-US Middle East

Syrian rebels have dealt another blow to the prospects of a peace summit in Geneva in November. On Sunday, 22 of the armed groups fighting on the ground, including four of the most powerful, issued an…
Waning influence: is the US on the decline as a world power? Waning influence: is the US on the decline as a world power? Pete Souza, The White House

Obama’s soft power a hard sell after NSA revelations

For presidents, like sports team managers, the tough weeks tend to outnumber the jubilant. But even by the standards of an unforgiving job, Barack Obama could be forgiven for feeling unusually buffeted…
Could China be the big winner from the shutdown? Could China be the big winner from the shutdown? futureatlas.com

US shutdown has a hefty international price tag

George Washington’s Farewell Address is usually remembered for its admonition to “steer clear of permanent alliances". But Washington’s famous words contained a second warning too, one that is especially…
Is Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani proposing a new way forward in thawing the relations between his country and the United States? Is Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani proposing a new way forward in thawing the relations between his country and the United States? EPA/Brendan McDermid

Iran-US relations: is this Rouhani’s ‘grand bargain’?

As the presidents of Iran and the United States converged on the United Nations headquarters in New York this week, optimism seemed to be in the air. Washington and Tehran have eyed each other icily ever…
US president Barack Obama has been criticised recently for not taking a hardline enough approach on military action in Syria. US president Barack Obama has been criticised recently for not taking a hardline enough approach on military action in Syria. EPA/Michael Reynolds

In praise of prevarication: Barack Obama’s Syria strategy

Being the most powerful man in the world isn’t what it used to be. US president Barack Obama is currently being ridiculed for his apparent inability to decide how to handle the conflict in Syria. American…
US president Barack Obama addressed a doubting nation and Congress last night. US president Barack Obama addressed a doubting nation and Congress last night. EPA/Michael Reynolds

Obama’s Syria strategy: the war he doesn’t want

On Tuesday night Washington time, US president Barack Obama made a public plea to Congress to authorise a military action in Syria that he probably doesn’t want. The tell-tale sign Obama doesn’t actually…
Allegations of chemical weapon use by the Assad regime is leading to calls for Western intervention. Allegations of chemical weapon use by the Assad regime is leading to calls for Western intervention. EPA/STR

Obama’s credibility on the line as US weighs up a Syria response

Those who thought US president Barack Obama was chastened by his failure to subdue the Taliban in Afghanistan and his decision to “lead from behind” in Libya expected the White House to be less overtly…
It will soon be legal to grow, sell and smoke cannabis in Uruguay. It will soon be legal to grow, sell and smoke cannabis in Uruguay. Cuau Guerra

What Uruguay’s legal weed means for the war on drugs

Uruguay is set to become the first country to legalise marijuana use, cultivation and possession following a century of often authoritarian prohibition laws across the globe. In a landmark vote on President…
The tug-of-war between the US, China and Russia over fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden has increased diplomatic tensions between the three countries. The tug-of-war between the US, China and Russia over fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden has increased diplomatic tensions between the three countries. EPA/Guardian/Glenn Greenwald

Edward Snowden’s flight shows the limits of US power

The flight of fugitive former NSA contractor and CIA employee Edward Snowden has captivated the international media, and starkly exposed the increasingly strained diplomatic relations between the United…
Barrier to peace: Israeli settlements occupy 40% of the land area of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Barrier to peace: Israeli settlements occupy 40% of the land area of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Creative Commons

US is the real obstacle to peace between Israel and Palestine

United States secretary of state John Kerry is in the Middle East this week. Among other tasks, he is attempting to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Undoubtedly, Israel’s recent approval…
The conflict in Syria continues with no end in sight - is it time for true foreign intervention to solve the crisis? The conflict in Syria continues with no end in sight - is it time for true foreign intervention to solve the crisis? EPA/SANA

Failure to intervene shows Syria is heading in the wrong direction

The situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and could lead to a reconfiguration of the political order in the wider region. The military capacity of the government appears to be in decline and there…
Kim Jong-un’s threats against South Korea and the US have become more dramatic. Kim Jong-un’s threats against South Korea and the US have become more dramatic. EPA/Yonhap News Agency

North Korea’s month of bluster: is there method in its ‘madness’?

Western commentators seem generally mesmerised by North Korea’s quixotic behaviour. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, is described as “delusional”, “fruitcake”, “reckless”, and the actions of North Korea’s…
Iranian students demonstrate in Tehran to mark the 33rd anniversary of US Embassy takeover. Iranian students demonstrate in Tehran to mark the 33rd anniversary of US Embassy takeover. EPA/Abedin Taherkenareh

Obama’s legacy could lie in the Middle East, but will he go for it?

The re-election of Barack Obama to a second term will have significant ramifications for an America struggling with economic and social difficulties. But will it have the same impact on residents of the…
Now that Barack Obama has been re-elected for a second term, what are the implications for Australia? Now that Barack Obama has been re-elected for a second term, what are the implications for Australia? EPA/Shawn Thew

Australia and Obama’s return

All the world has a stake America’s presidential election. Barack Obama has seen off a surprisingly strong showing from Republican candidate Mitt Romney and now has four final years in the executive office…
President Barack Obama, pictured here with Chinese President Hu Jintao, will continue to ‘pivot’ to Asia. President Barack Obama, pictured here with Chinese President Hu Jintao, will continue to ‘pivot’ to Asia. EPA/Alex Wong

Foreign affairs: what can we expect from Obama’s second term?

Sitting in New York, in the aftermath of an American election dominated by a domestic agenda, it is easy to lose sight of both the pressing external problems that the US continues to face, and the impact…
Mitt Romney outside 10 Downing Street during his gaffe-plagued trip to Europe earlier this year. Mitt Romney outside 10 Downing Street during his gaffe-plagued trip to Europe earlier this year. EPA/Neil Munns

A Romney presidency: the implications for Europe

There is less than a week to go in the US presidential race, and the candidates are coming agonisingly close in various battleground states. Imagining Mitt Romney in the White House might turn a few Democrat…
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney finally discussed the war in Afghanistan during the third debate on US foreign affairs. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney finally discussed the war in Afghanistan during the third debate on US foreign affairs. EPA/Michael Reynolds

The third debate and the nagging Afghan-Pakistan question

For a war that has gone on for more than a decade, cost the American taxpayer some US$500 billion, claimed the lives of more than two thousand GIs and inflicted many more thousands of wounded, the conflict…
Mitt Romney and Barack Obama face off in the third and final debate on foreign policy. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama face off in the third and final debate on foreign policy. EPA/Jim Lo Scalzo

Round three to Obama – now it’s a race to November 6

In the heavyweight clash of the presidential candidates, round three went to President Barack Obama on points – not by knockout. This means the incumbent won two out of the three match-ups. Interestingly…
Republican candidate Mitt Romney has promised a tougher stance on China, but his policy responses have left a lot to be desired. Republican candidate Mitt Romney has promised a tougher stance on China, but his policy responses have left a lot to be desired. EPA/Bryan Bedder

Mitt Romney’s China policy could be yet another flip-flop

With less than a month to go in the presidential campaign, the next two debates provide President Barack Obama with a chance to be more assertive against Republican candidate Mitt Romney following his…

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