Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

What if Iran gets the bomb?

Bernd Debusmann
Jun 22, 2012 15:25 UTC

The West worries too much about the prospect of Iran going nuclear. If it did get the bomb, the Middle East would probably become a more stable region. So says Kenneth Waltz, a veteran scholar, in an essay in one of America’s most influential magazines.

“Why Iran Should get the Bomb,” says the headline in Foreign Affairs, the house organ of the Council on Foreign Relations, a New York think tank. “Nuclear Balancing Would Mean Stability.”

The author is a senior research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies. His contrarian essay coincides with yet another unsuccessful round of negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group of countries who insist the government in Tehran must do more to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful, as it claims, rather than intended to build weapons.

The talks this week in Moscow brought Iranian negotiators together with officials from the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. The negotiations produced no breakthrough and no sign of compromise. New U.S. and European sanctions, including a ban on Iranian oil imports, are coming into force next month. Whether they will be more likely to make Iran bow to Western demands than previous turns of the sanctions screw is open to doubt. What next?

“Most U.S., European, and Israeli commentators and policymakers warn that a nuclear-armed Iran would be the worst possible outcome of the current standoff,” Waltz writes. “In fact, it would probably be the best possible result: the one most likely to restore stability in the Middle East.”

The world expected more from Obama

Bernd Debusmann
Jun 18, 2012 18:46 UTC

The 2012 global performance scorecard is in and the grade for Barack Obama is “failed to meet expectations.”

To varying degrees, that’s the view in each and every of 20 foreign countries — some close U.S. allies, some not – whose citizens were polled for the Pew Global Attitudes Project, a widely-respected survey that has tracked the standing of the United States, its president, and assorted foreign leaders every year for the past decade. The Washington-based Pew Research Center polled more than 26,000 people.

Though views of Obama are not as rosy as they were in 2009, when he took office after a campaign that promised “hope and change,” the U.S. president’s star is still shining so bright in 11 countries that sizeable majorities in seven and pluralities in another four would like to see him re-elected for a second term in November.

America and Syria’s ‘dead man walking’

Bernd Debusmann
May 22, 2012 13:06 UTC

When U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of  Germany, France, Britain, Canada and the European Union first issued public calls for President Bashar al-Assad to step down, the death toll in Syria stood at 2,000. That was in August 18 last year.

When Obama repeated the call on May 19, as host of a summit meeting of the Group of Eight, the body count had reached 10,000, according to United Nations estimates. The two figures highlight the lack of success of economic sanctions and diplomatic pressure on a ruthless leader who learned lessons in unrestrained brutality from his father, Hafez al-Assad, whom he succeeded in office.

A peaceful solution to Syria’s protracted crisis now looks remote enough to wonder whether Bashar al-Assad might outlast Obama in power. The U.S. president is not assured of winning another term in office next November. But the odds of the Assad regime surviving into 2013 look better with every passing day, even though one of the U.S. government’s top experts on Syria has labeled the Syrian president a “dead man walking.”

Iran ramps up courtship of Latin America

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 30, 2011 14:07 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

For decades, American foreign policy on Latin America has gone through cycles of neglect and concern. It’s in a cycle of concern again, prompted by an Iranian campaign to make friends and influence people in the American backyard. Washington’s message to Iran’s Latin friends – don’t get too close – does not appear to impress them.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in unusually strong language, sounded the first warning on December 11: “I think if people want to flirt with Iran, they should take a look at what the consequences might well be for them. And we hope that they will think twice.”

President Barack Obama followed up eight days later with a message focused on Venezuela, Iran beachhead in Latin America. Ties with Iran had not served the interests of Venezuela and its people, he said in an interview with a Venezuelan newspaper. “Sooner or later, Venezuela’s people will have to decide what possible advantage there is in having relations with a country that violates fundamental human rights and is isolated from most of the world.”

America’s unfulfilled promise to Iraqis

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 16, 2011 16:15 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

When Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency, he spoke eloquently about America‘s moral obligation to Iraqis working for U.S. forces in their country. “We must keep faith with Iraqis who kept faith with us,” he said in a 2007 campaign speech.

“One tragic outcome of this war is that the Iraqis who stand with America – the interpreters, embassy workers and subcontractors – are being targeted for assassination. Keeping this moral obligation is a key part of how we turn the page in Iraq. Because what’s at stake is bigger than the war – it’s our global leadership.”

The war Obama inherited from George W. Bush officially ended this week when U.S. soldiers rolled up the flag of military forces in Iraq in a low-key ceremony attended by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. The remaining U.S. soldiers will be out by Dec. 31. They leave behind thousands of the faithful Iraqis Obama described on the campaign trail.

Goodbye to the myth of Iran’s “Mad Mullahs”?

Bernd Debusmann
Dec 9, 2011 18:25 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

After years of portraying Iran’s leaders as irrational actors driven by religious zeal, American neo-conservatives and their Israeli allies appear to be shelving the “mad mullah” argument used to underline the danger of Iran getting nuclear weapons. The mullahs are now seen as shrewd calculators of risk.

The change of tone was reflected in a report on Iran and the bomb by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Washington-based conservative think tank whose hawkish views influenced the decision-making on going to war in Iraq.

The report, published this week, is based on the assumption that sanctions and sabotage will fail and Iran will have a nuclear weapon by the time the next U.S. president takes office in 2013.

The US elections and pandering to Israel

Bernd Debusmann
Sep 23, 2011 16:28 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

So much for charges from conservative contenders for the 2012 U.S. presidential elections that Barack Obama is not pro-Israel enough — the president just won seals of approval from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his far-right foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, and the U.S. lobby that usually reflects their views.

If the elections, as some predict, will include a contest on who loves Israel most, Obama can use their praise to good effect. How much it will contribute to his legacy is another matter.

The plaudits came in response to Obama’s address to the United Nations on Sept. 21, when he rejected the Palestinians’ bid for U.N. membership in what one Israeli journalist, Chemi Shalev of the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, described as “probably the warmest pro-Israel speech ever given at an annual U.N. General Assembly meeting by any U.S. president, bar none.”

A Mexican massacre and a war without end

Bernd Debusmann
Sep 6, 2011 14:01 UTC

There’s good news and bad news on the war on drugs in Mexico and the United States. The good news: cooperation between U.S. and Mexican security forces has rarely been closer. “Unprecedented,” President Barack Obama termed it in a message of sympathy for 52 people killed in an arson attack on a casino in northern Mexico.

The unprecedented cooperation he referred to ranges from the United States providing intelligence drawn from wiretaps and aerial surveillance by U.S. drones to taking part in planning operations to capture drug lords.

American agents, according to accounts from both sides of the border, had a role in hunting down 21 of the 37 men on Mexico’s list of most-wanted organized crime chiefs.

Obama, Trump and the 2012 elections

Bernd Debusmann
Apr 12, 2011 13:39 UTC

“Part of the beauty of me is that I’m very rich. So if I need $600 million, I can put $600 million in myself. That’s a huge advantage … over the other candidates.”

So says real estate magnate and reality TV show host Donald Trump, talking about the 2012 U.S. presidential elections.

It’s 18 months to go to November 6, 2012, an eternity in politics, but two things already seem clear: it will be the most expensive campaign ever and the line between the political fringe and mainstream politics will often be blurred.

Obama, guns and media control

Bernd Debusmann
Mar 18, 2011 17:08 UTC

Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

There is fresh thinking, of a peculiar sort, in the perennial debate over gun violence in the United States, world leader in civilian ownership of firearms. Censorship of news reporting on the mass shootings that have long been part of American life will help prevent other mass shootings.

So says the National Rifle Association (NRA) in an open letter responding to President Barack Obama’s suggestion that it is time for all sides in the gun debate to get together and find a “sensible, intelligent way” to make the United States a safer place. The president mentioned common sense and a White House spokesman talked of the need to find common ground.

Common sense has not been in abundant supply in decades of on-again, off-again debate on guns and violence. As to finding common ground between the leading gun lobby and advocates of better controls, the NRA’s Executive Vice President, Wayne LaPierre, says his group will “absolutely not” take part in the sort of meeting envisaged by Obama. Such a meeting, he said in a series of media interviews, would be with people opposed to the constitutional right to bear arms.

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