11:55 AM, Dec 3, 2013 • By GARY SCHMITT
Absolute coherence when it comes foreign policy is a rare thing. International relations will forever be a mix of principles, interests, circumstances, and necessities. But recognition of that fact doesn’t mean one has to jump to the opposite conclusion that foreign policy is simply a grab bag of decisions, lacking any coherence whatsoever. But, more and more, this appears to be the case when it comes to the Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” to Asia.
The latest example has been the administration’s response to the Nov. 23 announcement by China that it was establishing an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over a huge expanse of the East China Sea, including over the Japanese administered Senkaku islets. In doing so, Beijing announced that it expected all commercial and military aircraft flying into zone to provide it with advanced warning about flight plans, be constantly available for contact by Chinese authorities and maintain clear identification procedures while passing through the ADIZ. Failure to follow any of these rules, the Chinese said, would elicit “defensive emergency measures.”
In response, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry were quick to condemn the Chinese decision and, to its credit, the administration then ordered a flight of B-52s through the ADIZ that ignored Chinese requirements. But, after having taken one step forward, the administration then took a step back when, this past Friday, the State Department told America’s commercial airlines that they should go ahead and abide by China’s ADIZ rules.
On the one hand, as any number of Chinese apologists have pointed out, China is within its rights in establishing an ADIZ, with U.S., Japan, and some other 18 countries having already done so. In short, it’s an accepted practice to create such zones. But what’s not common is Beijing’s insistence on advance notice for aircraft that are just passing through the zone and not headed to mainland China itself. (In the case of the US ADIZ, the US doesn’t require flight plans for planes that are not going to land in the United States.) Moreover, the shape and scale of China’s ADIZ is way out proportion to the object of ensuring flight safety and homeland security. One only has to compare the American ADIZ with China’s to see this point graphically:
State’s advice to U.S. airlines to follow China’s demands of course is intended to avoid any chance that an American passenger airline would find itself in a face-off with a Chinese jet fighter. And, undoubtedly, animating the department’s guidance is the memory of Korean Air Lines flight 007—a passenger plane shot down by a Soviet fighter as it inadvertently wandered into the restricted airspace of the Kamchatka Peninsula, resulting in the murder of 269 on board.
But such concern comes at a price. As the shape of China’s new ADIZ suggests, the sudden, unilateral decision to create the zone is designed to create the conditions for establishing Chinese claims of sovereignty over the Senkaku and surrounding waters and airspace. Once foreign aircraft, especially American aircraft, accept Chinese government rules for the ADIZ, the practice itself will become a precedent for China to assert that it is already exercising an element of sovereignty in this contested area. Instead of tamping down the dispute, Washington will, whatever its intentions, be giving credence to Beijing’s case. Suggesting, as one senior official did to the New York Times, that Federal Aviation Administration guidance for civilian passenger and cargo planes to identify themselves to China when entering the zone, does not “constitute any acceptance or recognition of this” is simply wrong. Accepted practice is the root and branch of international law, and the Chinese know it.
But it seems the administration thinks in this instance ambiguity—what others would call incoherence—is the right response as we’ve now seen reinforced by Vice President Biden’s remarks in Tokyo today. Yes, Biden noted, Washington is “deeply concerned” over China’s decision to create the ADIZ but then he said nada, zilch, when it came to demanding the Chinese retract their decision. Instead, Biden offered the puffery of China and Japan needing to create “crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication” to avoid accidents when of course the best policy for avoiding such an accident is for China to be told to stop with its provocations.
10:46 AM, Dec 2, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Kuwaiti news outlet Al-Jarida reports that President Obama is seeking to arrange a trip to Tehran, Iran next year.
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY and WILLIAM KRISTOL
The interim agreement that the United States and its partners cut with Iran last week stands as a centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. The Obama administration has walked away from a core objective of U.S. policy for two decades—preventing a nuclear Iran—thereby threatening fundamental regional and global interests.
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By GARY SCHMITT
While Washington and the world have been focused on the nuclear agreement reached with Iran last week in Geneva, on the other side of the globe, one of the parties to that deal, China, was at the very same time making the peaceful resolution of its dispute with Japan over a group of small islands in the East China Sea even less likely.
When liberals meet mullahsDec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them, unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of God’s anger, and his refuge is Hell—an evil homecoming!
The Iranian bomb is all that matters.Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By LEE SMITH
Last week’s interim agreement with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear weapons program offers the regime sanctions relief even as U.S. lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, are demanding more and stricter sanctions. The White House counters that more sanctions will only narrow diplomatic channels, drive the Iranians away from the negotiating table, and lead to war. Critics of the deal argue that by providing sanctions relief Obama is simply feeding an Iranian beast hungry for more concessions.
And Will Continue 'Construction Work at Arak Nuclear Facility.'8:43 AM, Nov 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Iran will continue to enrich uranium under the new nuclear deal, according to the Iranian foreign minister.
"Iran’s Foreign Minister says the country’s enrichment activities at Natanz and Fordow facilities would continue, but at a range of 3.5 to 5 percent purity level, and that their capacities would not be expanded," reports the Iranian propaganda outlet Press TV.
9:05 AM, Nov 26, 2013 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
The second line of the new nuclear deal with Iran is curious, to say the least: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons.”
But interim deal with Iran puts the White House and its traditional Middle East allies in opposing camps.2:52 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
In the wake of the interim deal that the White House signed with Iran Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said on the Sunday talk shows that nothing has changed, not with the American position in the Middle East, or with the U.S. alliance system in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is screaming his head off, but Israel has nothing to worry about says Kerry.
10:25 AM, Nov 25, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
The terrorist attack against the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012, awakened renewed interest in the security of overseas consulates and embassy facilities. A recent report by the State Department's Office of the Inspector General spotlights some major concerns regarding the safety of American diplomats and staff in Minsk, Belarus, as well as the security of communications. The report notes that some progress has been made during the last year, but more remains to be done.
11:16 AM, Nov 24, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
The Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reports that "Syria welcomes Geneva agreement between Iran and P5+1 countries." SANA is an organ of the Syrian regime.
"An official source at the Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said that Syria welcomes the agreement which was struck in Geneva between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 countries," reads the report from the propaganda machine.
What does Israel do now?8:50 AM, Nov 24, 2013 • By JOHN BOLTON
Negotiations for an “interim” arrangement over Iran’s nuclear weapons program finally succeeded this past weekend, as Security Council foreign ministers (plus Germany) flew to Geneva to meet their Iranian counterpart. After raising expectations of a deal by first convening on November 8-10, it would have been beyond humiliating to gather again without result. So agreement was struck despite solemn incantations earlier that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”