Opinion

The Great Debate

Iran election opens door to U.S. talks

Paul Taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

A wind of change is blowing through Iran, where hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad faces an increasingly tough battle for re-election on Friday.

Whether or not Ahmadinejad fends off reformist Mirhossein Moussavi and two other candidates after a turbulent campaign, Iran is likely to be more open to talks with the United States on a possible “grand bargain” to end 30 years of hostility. Tehran will not give up its nuclear program, whoever wins. But it may be persuaded to stop short of testing or making a bomb.

There is a sense of deja vu about this election.

In 1997, a soft-spoken reformist, Mohammad Khatami, swept to a surprise landslide victory over the establishment candidate, Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, on a tide of young people and women clamoring for greater freedom. But after his supporters won control of parliament, the conservative clerical establishment used unelected institutions in Iran’s complex power system to neutralize Khatami and block his liberal agenda.

There is, however, a crucial difference this time.

The United States, which had a policy of “dual containment” of Iran and Iraq at the time, never seized the opportunity of Khatami’s victory to open a dialogue. Now, U.S. President Barack Obama is waiting with an outstretched hand and has made crucial gestures by accepting the Islamic Republic by its name, offering talks without pre-conditions and admitting Washington’s role in ousting nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953.

India poll should boost world trade

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

India’s voters have just given stalled world trade talks their biggest potential boost since the financial crisis spurred fears of rising protectionism.

By handing the governing Congress party a decisive victory, unshackled from the Communist party, Indians have created a chance to break a deadlock in negotiations on global commerce that foundered last year on a U.S.-Indian spat over farm trade.

Fiat’s over-ambitious expansion strategy

paul-taylor
– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Could Italy’s cash-strapped Fiat, Europe’s sixth auto maker, build a workable alliance with Chrysler and Opel to become be a profitable global player? Or would it be a marriage of losers, doomed to fail?

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has made clear that his interest in Opel, the European arm of ailing General Motors, is more than just a well-timed tactic to get better terms in the alliance he is negotiating with troubled U.S. number three Chrysler. Chrysler faces likely bankruptcy if a deal is not clinched by April 30.

Buck-passing augurs ill for G20 summit

Paul Taylor Great DebatePaul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own

The foreplay to next month’s G20 summit is degenerating into a buck-passing exercise rather than crafting a Grand Bargain to save the world economy and regulate capitalism.

The industrialized powers do not agree on how to arrest the steep slide in output, how to handle collapsing banks, how much market regulation is needed, how to reach a world trade deal and prevent protectionism, or how to redistribute power to emerging nations in exchange for their money.

Too many hopes pinned on EU bank

paul-taylor– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

It works more like a sprinkler than a power hose, but the European Investment Bank has a role to play in preventing a financial inferno from sweeping across central and eastern Europe.

The trouble is that politicians have overloaded the European Union’s long-term lending arm with exaggerated expectations, calling on it like a fire brigade in every emergency, from saving credit-starved small firms to greening the car industry, combating the energy crisis and fighting climate change.

Arms control to start U.S.-Russia thaw

Paul Taylor Great Debate — Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Arms control is back and will thaw icy relations between the United States and Russia this year, but how far the new detente goes depends on the truculent mood in Moscow.

The potential exists for a grand bargain encompassing cooperation on the global financial crisis, Iran, Afghanistan, nuclear disarmament, missile defense, conventional armed forces and NATO enlargement.

Scoop! U.S. offers to cooperate with world

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

An American president vowing to cooperate with the rest of the world would barely be news if it did not follow eight years’ of George W. Bush’s tenure in the White House.

Barack Obama’s inauguration address was thin on foreign policy specifics, but his pledge to work with allies and adversaries on global problems from nuclear weapons to climate change was a message many have waited impatiently to hear.

Obama must redefine success in Afghanistan

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Barack Obama says he will make Afghanistan the central front in his fight against terrorism but the incoming U.S. president will have to scale back the war aims he inherits from George W. Bush and redefine success.

Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to oust a Taliban government that was harboring al Qaeda militants blamed for the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.

Ukraine gas crisis spurs EU energy policy

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

The gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine that has left hundreds of thousands of Europeans shivering in the winter cold is bound to accelerate plodding European Union efforts to build a common energy policy.

The cut-off of Russian gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine highlighted how little progress the 27-nation EU has made in connecting national energy networks and diversifying supplies since the first such crisis three years ago.

EU enters lame duck year amid challenges

Paul Taylor Great Debate– Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

The European Union is entering a lame duck year just as new challenges are mounting from Israel’s assault on Gaza, Russia’s gas cut-off to Ukraine and the impending inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama.

The EU’s active crisis management in the Georgia war and the global financial meltdown last year under the energetic leadership of French President Nicolas Sarkozy was an exception, not the dawn of a new, more effective Union.

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