Swoop: Washington’s World: June 4th – 10th, 2012 – The Asia-Pacific Focus

Swoop: Washington’s World: June 4th – 10th, 2012 – The Asia-Pacific Focus
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Swoop: “Top US diplomatic and defense leaders were hoping to use the coming week to focus on Asia where both Deputy Secretary of State Burns and Defense Secretary Panetta are due to attend the June 1st-3rd round of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. In advance of this, officials had outlined the new focus of defense strategy on the Asia-Pacific region, contrasting this with the drawdown of dispositions and operations in the Euro-Atlantic and Middle East theaters.

These plans have, in the words of a senior State Department official speaking privately to us, been “hijacked” by the immediate crisis in Syria, the deepening uncertainty in Egypt and increasing pessimism over Iran. Among US officials there are now clear differences of opinion about the best next steps on Syria. To some extent these mirror the divisions over Libya, with State Department officials and some powerful advisors in the White House urging more robust action than the Pentagon which continues to reject unilateral US military intervention.

Overall, there remains an overarching sense of the risks involved in any military option which does not command wide international support and authorized by the UN. With Russia attracting harsh US criticism for blocking this avenue, the US finds itself with few viable options available other than to back the Annan plan despite the fact this is essentially being disregarded by Damascus.

On Egypt, Administration analysts believe that the outcome of the first round of the presidential elections has lit a “slow burning fuse” for the June 16th/17th presidential run-off.  As one senior intelligence community official commented to us: “The two poles of Egyptian society are colliding. It is difficult to see how the eventual winner will be able to govern.”

On Iran, the White House has been gratified that Republican reaction to the disappointing outcome of the May 23rd Baghdad talks has been muted. The optimism that preceded the talks is now in very short supply and there is very little prospect that the tougher oil-related sanctions will not go into effect on July 1st.  As can be seen, the overhang from the Middle East over the hoped for “Pacific Century” is a commanding one.”

Source: Swoop
Photo Credits: Egypt and Jordan, Pyramid By Jon Wiltshire / FlickR
Video: The International Institute For Strategic Studies – IISS