Swoop: Washington’s World: November 5th – 11th, 2012 – The Decision Week

Swoop: Washington’s World: November 5th – 11th, 2012 – The Decision Week
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Swoop: “In the final weekend before the presidential and other elections, SWOOP will forebear to make any predictions other than to sound a cautionary note: the incoming president will inherit a very divided nation.

The electorate, which splits virtually 50/50, has been further polarized by a divisive campaign which was notable as much for the issues it dodged as for the ones its engaged. Neither President Obama nor Governor Romney will enjoy a broadly based mandate and both will face a divided Congress. The losing party will have difficulty accepting the winning party’s legitimacy, let alone be ready to work with it constructively. In terms of American governance, therefore, the election will bring little clarity. The best that can be hoped for in terms of the fiscal cliff is that the plunge over it – scheduled at present for January 2nd, 2013, will be postponed for up to six month.

This is an unpromising background for progress on foreign policy. Nonetheless, there are three outstanding issues which will present themselves as early priorities:

1) Syria: now that Secretary of State Clinton has announced that the US will seek a fundamental restructuring of the Syrian opposition in meetings in Doha next week, the time is more pressing for a more active US engagement in this issue. We still see no prospect for a heavy footprint US military intervention there, but the pace of US activity will accelerate.

2) Iran: in meetings with US High Representative Catherine Ashton last week, Clinton explained that, while the run-up to a US election was an inappropriate time for action on this issue, the next Administration will move to grasp it more actively. Some debate is taking place behind closes doors about whether to harden US demands to the extent of requiring Iran to abandon its nuclear program totally before obtaining sanctions relief. We doubt that so uncompromising a policy will emerge, but it does signal that US attitudes are hardening. We anticipate that the spring and summer of 2013 will see tensions mount.

3) China: US officials are becoming increasingly alert to the rising dangers in relations between Beijing and Tokyo. No administration will want to choose between these two, but, if forced to do so, will honor treaty obligations to side with Japan. US-China relations, which may often be contentious, will occupy much of the incoming Administration’s time.

Relations with Europe are now almost a footnote, handled through the global financial institutions as a sub-set of economic issues or as part of coalition building on third-country topics. Relations with Europe as an end in its own right have lost salience.”

Last NBC News Poll – Nov 4th 2012


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