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US foreign policy stalled on many fronts Comment on this post ↓
November 15th, 2013 by Warren Swil

American initiatives

threatened by domestic

and foreign opposition

Secretary of State John Kerry is seeing US foreign policy crumble on many fronts.

IT MUST BE a miserable time to be the U.S. Secretary of State.
Top of the agenda American foreign policy initiatives are, at best, stalled. At worst, they are threatened by opposition both at home and abroad.
Talks with Iran over its nuclear weapons ambitions are coming apart amidst acrimonious charges of who is to blame and resolute opposition from Israel.
Attempts to get a peace process started in Syria are stymied by reluctant opponents of President Bashar al-Assad.
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are threatened by new settlement plans and a vicious killing of an Israeli solder.
Further, a new trade agreement with 11 Asian-Pacific partners suffered two blows this week with opposition emerging in the U.S. Congress and publication of the secret text of a crucial part of the treaty by WikiLeaks.
John Kerry has more than a few headaches.

PERHAPS THE MOST important development came in Congress with a move to tighten sanctions on the Iranian regime even while talks are under way.
Kerry had to rush to Capitol Hill, as reported in The Guardian in Iran negotiations: John Kerry warns US Congress against passing new sanctions.

The story in the Jerusalem Post about the Israeli prime ministers position on negotiations with Iran. Click image to enlarge.

“The US secretary of state, John Kerry, warned Congress on Wednesday against hurting a historic opportunity for a nuclear pact with Iran by pressing ahead with new sanctions while international negotiators seek to prevent Tehran from being able to assemble an atomic weapons arsenal.”
The Guardian reported that Kerry said new sanctions now “could shatter an international coalition made up of countries with interests as divergent as France, Russia and China, endangering prospects for a peaceful end to the decade-long nuclear standoff with the Islamic republic.”
Kerry, however, reportedly faced skepticism from members of Congress determined to further squeeze the Iranian economy and wary of yielding any ground to Iran in the talks.
Meanwhile, the rhetoric from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has been ratcheting up for over a week.
In a Wednesday report in the Jerusalem Post Netanyahu: Bad deal with Iran could lead to war it reached a crescendo.
“Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday that war could result from a bad deal between world powers and Iran over its nuclear program,” the report said.
“Netanyahu has been lobbying against any agreement at talks due to resume in Geneva on November 20 that would fail to strip Iran of nuclear enrichment capabilities. He has urged no let-up in international economic sanctions.”
And, not for the first time, he hinted at possible Israeli military action if diplomacy fails to block Iran’s goal of building atomic weapons.
“Addressing the Knesset, in a session focusing on housing issues, Netanyahu said continued economic pressure on Iran was the best alternative to two other options, which he described as a bad deal and war.”
Apparently quite a few members of the US Congress agree with him.
On another hot topic in the Middle East, the secretive talks between Israel and the Palestinians suffered another setback as reported in The New York Times in Attack on Israeli Worsens Tensions With Palestinians.
Isabel Kershner reports:

The New York Times story about new threat to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Click image to enlarge.

“A Palestinian teenager fatally stabbed a 19-year-old Israeli soldier on a bus in northern Israel on Wednesday, according to the police, shocking Israelis who have grown unused to such killings in their cities and further clouding a peace process that was already severely strained by Israeli settlement plans in the West Bank.”
In fact, the killing was just another nail in the coffin of the peace talks, which were already in jeopardy after a recent announcement in Israel of plans for more settlements in the West Bank.
“Infuriated by news of long-term planning for more settlement housing, the Palestinian leadership [was] expected to meet on Thursday to discuss the future of the American-backed negotiations, which began this summer and were supposed to continue for nine months,” Kershner reported.
The latest crisis was set off by reports on Tuesday that Israel’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, had started planning for about 20,000 new settlement homes.

MEANWHILE, ON THE other side of the globe, attempts by the Obama administration to rush through a trade pact amongst 12 Pacific Rim partner countries suffered two setbacks.
The first was reported Wednesday by The New York Times in House Stalls Trade Pact Momentum.
Members of Congress are balking at granting the secret pact (much of it not known to the public) so-called “fast-track” authority under which is would simply get an “up” or “down” vote by the U.S. Senate.

The news release from WikiLeaks announcing it publication of a secret trade deal draft text. Click image to enlarge.

“[T]he White House is now facing new hurdles closer to home, with nearly half of the members of the House signing letters or otherwise signaling their opposition to granting so-called fast-track authority that would make any agreement immune to a Senate filibuster and not subject to amendment” reported Annie Lowrey on Wednesday.
“No major trade pact has been approved by Congress in recent decades without such authority,” she wrote.
But a potentially far more devastating disclosure was made the same day by WikiLeaks, which published the hitherto secret text of the agreement on its web site.
It announced the disclosure in a news release Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and linked to the secret negotiated draft text for the entire Trans-Pacific Partnership chapter on Intellectual Property Rights.
“The TPP is the largest-ever economic treaty, encompassing nations representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s GDP,” the news release said.
The WikiLeaks disclosure comes just a few days before a meeting of TPP chief negotiators in Salt Lake City, Utah, scheduled to start on Nov. 19.
“The chapter published by WikiLeaks is perhaps the most controversial chapter of the TPP due to its wide-ranging effects on medicines, publishers, internet services, civil liberties and biological patents,” the release said. “Significantly, the released text includes the negotiation positions and disagreements between all 12 prospective member states.”
The fallout from this latest disclosure is bound to lead to further demands for transparency about a process that has been largely closed to public input as we reported last week in Secret trade pact could be bad for everyone.
To anyone following these different threads, it is quite apparent that American foreign policy is embattled on many fronts.
It is emblematic of the problems the US faces in trying to influence events all over the world in the face of its declining willingness to go to the mat over issues of vital national interest.
It remains to be seen if any of these stalled initiatives can be turned around. The world can only hope that wisdom will prevail and all parties can reach dispassionate, negotiated solutions.

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3 Responses  
  • Jack van Dijk writes:
    November 15th, 2013

    It occurs to me that the US has to get used to not being the policeman-of-the-world any longer, the world does not want that.
    Not making the conditions of the TPP open and readable for all is bad democracy. The US has to get used that secret deals are not accepted, neither by the Americans nor by the rest of the world. yes, a case can be made that in the international discussions some discussions are done behind closed doors, but agreements? No those cannot be secret. All IMHO.

    • Warren writes:
      November 15th, 2013

      Jack
      With the release by WikiLeaks, the pressure will be intense for publication of the rest of the terms of the TPP.
      Congress is demanding a chance to see it, also.
      I doubt if it will get done this year, as Obama wishes.

      • Jack van Dijk writes:
        November 15th, 2013

        Warren, he should feel the disapproval. As my Mother always said, if you do not want to hear it, you will feel it and punctuated it with her hand (on my behind). Some older, wiser statesman in Congress should take up the function of my Mother towards Mr. O.


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