Swoop: Washington’s World: February 27th – March 4th, 2012 – The Gas Prices Constraint

Swoop: Washington’s World: February 27th – March 4th, 2012 – The Gas Prices Constraint
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Swoop: “Foreign policy issues continue to lag well behind domestic concerns in the political debate. However, on three issues – Syria, Iran, Afghanistan – President Obama is coming under pressure from the Republican presidential candidates to be more aggressive in asserting US interests.

They have criticized his apology to Afghan President Karzai over the accidental burning by US troops of copies of the Koran; a group of prominent conservative foreign policy specialists has called for immediate US action on Syria; on Iran, there is Republican unanimity on the need for military action. This pressure is uncomfortable for the White House and, on Iran, is pushing policy in a more confrontational direction. However, on Syria, Secretary of State Clinton has made clear that US policy is to act in concert with US allies and partners, not to take unilateral action. The debate about arming the Syrian opposition is an active one within the Administration but, unlike Libya which, officials remind us, represents a growing worry for the White House, perceptions of the Syrian National Council are cautious, with few officials seeing it as a viable structure to assume governing. We are also told by Pentagon officials that the daily death toll in Iraq sometimes exceeds that of Syria.

With regard to Afghanistan, we also do not expect Obama to respond to the Republican criticism by making any radical changes in the US approach.

On Iran, tensions continue to rise in the wake of downbeat assessments from the IAEA. Within the US intelligence community, the analysis is that there is still no hard evidence that Iran is presently working on a nuclear weapons program. None of this will be relevant at the March 4-6 AIPAC conference in Washington at which President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu will both speak. The hardest of hard lines will be on display from all participants, which will include the entire Congressional leadership. Nonetheless, US policy is unchanged in seeking to deter Israel from military action and allowing the force of sanctions to play out. Rules of engagement for US naval forces in the region continue to be to avoid provocative action, while at the same time beefing up their capability to ward off Iranian attacks and attempts to close the Strait of Hormuz.

Our assessment is that the Administration will continue to play for time.”

Source: The Swoop

Photo Source: Moon Rise behind the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm By Caveman Chuck Coker / FlickR