Reuters blog archive
from The Great Debate:
On Thursday, negotiators from the United States, Iran and five other world powers begin the final stretch of negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear agreement. A deal is within reach. But time is short.
With fewer than three months before the Nov. 24 deadline for an agreement, defining the size and scope of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program remains the most significant gap. To bridge it, negotiators must move away from extreme positions toward more realistic ones.
There are several ways to square the circle and find a formula that meets the basic requirements of all parties. For Iran, the goal is a meaningful uranium-enrichment program. For the five permanent member of the United Nations Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France -- plus Germany, or P5+1,the goal is to limit Iran’s enrichment capacity and to monitor its activities to ensure that the time it would take Tehran to amass enough weapons-grade nuclear material to build a bomb is extended.
Under the interim agreement reached last November, the parties agreed that Tehran could maintain an enrichment program based on its “practical needs.” Both sides base their positions on technical assessments of Iran’s needs yet strongly disagree on the amount of enriched uranium required to meet them. The problem here is essentially political.
The French government faces a confidence vote in the national assembly after President Francois Hollande and his prime minister, Manuel Valls, ousted dissident ministers in a signal perhaps that they are prepared to push ahead with unpopular structural reforms to breathe life into a moribund economy.
Rebel lawmakers in Hollande’s Socialist party say they may abstain. On top of the reshuffle, they are angry at Hollande's policy switch in January to favour tax cuts to business in a bid to revive the economy - a move that has failed to kickstart a flatlining economy.
from The Great Debate:
When President Barack Obama makes the case for military action against Islamic State militants on Wednesday night, it won't be hard to convince Americans to get involved in the conflict. The hard part will be explaining how we get out.
The president is speaking to the American people -- not to Congress. He may not even ask Congress to authorize the use of force. Just to fund it. Which they will do because they don’t want to undercut the U.S. military.
from Jack Shafer:
Compiling an enemies list was a cinch for the United States during the Cold War, what with most of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal targeted its way. Friends of the Soviets immediately became America’s enemies, and Soviet enemies became U.S. friends. That made China a U.S. enemy of the highest order, a ranking sharked by the Soviet client-states of Cuba, North Korea, and North Vietnam, against which the United States fought. Muammar Gaddafi's Libya rose to high-enemy status under President Ronald Reagan, a position it maintained until he surrendered its nuclear program.
The enemy-allies partition had a few anomalies, notably the non-aligned nations and double-dealers like the Indians and the Romanians, who exploited frenemy relations with the United States. But it drove U.S. foreign policy for more than two generations until the Soviets sloughed off both communism and empire, laid down their ICBMs, and exited the enemy business.
from The Great Debate:
In 21st century Iraq, the enemy is not a state, though it calls itself one. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is a group of Islamist insurgents whose presence stretches across the border between Syria and Iraq.
The only way to defeat the Islamic State is through military force, but Americans will not be doing the fighting on the ground. General John Allen, who commanded NATO forces in Afghanistan, has observed that, “the Kurds, the Sunnis and the Free Syrian resistance elements of the region are the ‘boots on the ground’ necessary to the success of this campaign.”
Ukrainian government forces say they are preparing for the final stage of recapturing the city of Donetsk from pro-Russian separatist rebels after shelling its outskirts and making significant gains over the weekend.
The city faces increasing shortages of food, water and electricity. Vladimir Putin must now decide whether to leave the rebels to their fate or step up his support. Kiev said on Saturday it had headed off an attempt by Russia to send troops into Ukraine under the guise of peacekeepers accompanying a humanitarian convoy sanctioned by the Red Cross. Moscow dismissed the allegation as a "fairy tale".
A day before the European Central Bank’s monthly policy meeting, ECB President Mario Draghi will travel to Luxembourg for talks with incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Oh to be a fly on the wall.
Some in the ECB are concerned that ultra-low sovereign borrowing costs and Draghi’s “whatever it takes” promise has relieved pressure on euro zone governments to carry on with structural economic reforms.
Juncker has signalled he is comfortable with a Franco-Italian drive to focus on growth and job creation rather than cutting debt.
President Barack Obama and the leaders of Germany, Britain, France and Italy agreed on a conference call last night to impose wider sanctions on Russia’s financial, defence and energy sectors.
EU ambassadors are meeting today and are expected to target state-owned Russian banks and their ability to finance Moscow's faltering economy.
EU leaders said over the weekend they would be prepared to impose tougher sanctions on Russia, giving Vladimir Putin one more chance to douse the violence in eastern Ukraine and help investigators do their work at the site of the crashed Malaysian airliner or face the consequences.
A statement from the British government said Germany’s Angela Merkel, Britain’s David Cameron and France’s Francois Hollande agreed on a telephone call that their ministers should be ready to announce a fresh round of sanctions at a meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council on Tuesday.
Could the shooting down of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine be a fundamental turning point in the crisis that has pitted Russia against the West? And if so which way – towards rapprochement or a further escalation?
Kiev accused militants fighting to unite eastern Ukraine with Russia of shooting down the Boeing 777 carrying nearly 300 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with a Soviet-era ground-to-air missile. Leaders of rebels in the Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement, although around the same time their military commander said his forces had downed a smaller Ukrainian transport plane.