Swoop: Washington’s World: February 6th – 12th, 2012 – The Persian Rubicon

Swoop: Washington’s World: February 6th – 12th, 2012 – The Persian Rubicon
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Swoop: “The foreign affairs debate in Washington continues to swirl around Afghanistan, Iran and the wider Middle East. Defense Secretary Panetta’s statement that US troops would limit their combat roles in 2013 a year before their final withdrawal in 2014 ran into a flurry of concern at surprised NATO allies in Brussels and conservative criticism at home. Pentagon contacts tell us that Panetta was ‘a little ahead of the game’ but that the US military is firmly planning for an exit from Afghanistan. The Republican presidential contenders continue to promise a longer engagement, but we believe it is highly unlikely whether they would follow through if elected. The exit strategy is now deeply embedded in US strategy and budgetary planning.

Of more immediate salience, Iran is much in the news. The analytic challenge is to separate the unceasing media and political drum beat about the imminence of an attack on Iran – by Israel unilaterally or in conjunction with the US – from the underlying reality of official exchanges between the two countries. In our conversations with the White House and Pentagon, there is no missing the concern of officials about statements by Israeli defense minister Barak that Iran is entering a ‘zone of immunity’ after which its nuclear program will become invulnerable to air attack. Nonetheless, US officials still believe that the high-level warnings to Israel of the dangers of military action are holding the line – at least for the moment.

This interview with Anthony Shaffer of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies goes back to Dec 2011 but provides a good perspective on the Iranian problematic.

Elsewhere, the downward spiral in Egypt is raising hackles on Capitol Hill where US aid for Egypt is coming under intense scrutiny. At the Pentagon and State Department by contrast attitudes are more relaxed. Military to military relation continue to be good, with US military officials working hard to persuade their counterparts in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to maintain a steady commitment to reform.

On Syria, the main fall out is likely to be deepening suspicion of Russian diplomacy once Prime Minister Putin return to the presidency. With Western options severely limited in Syria, US diplomats were counting on rhetorical solidarity at the UN from Russia. That this has been so hard to obtain bodes ill for the future of relations with Moscow.

A highlight of next week’s Washington agenda will be the visit of China’s expected next president Xi Jinping. A polite reception is to be expected but trade and human rights issues will be close to the surface.”

Source: http://theswoop.net

Photos Credits
Top: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen speaks with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping in Beijing on July 11, 2011.  By Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff / FlickR
Center: French, Russian and Royal Navy ships and the U.S. Navy USS James E. Williams participate in maneuvering exercises during FRUKUS 2011 By Official U.S. Navy Imagery / FlickR