James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Iran’s Nuclear Program and Syria’s Civil War

by James M. Lindsay
February 16, 2012

Iran-Nuclear-Program-2012-02-16 Iran's President Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility. (Caren Farouz/courtesy Reuters)


The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the UN inspectors visiting Iran for a second time; the “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunis; and the convening of G20 foreign ministers in Mexico.

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The highlights:

  • The signals coming out of Iran are mixed. Tehran’s boasts about landmark nuclear advances are tempered with a willingness to let visiting International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors return and offers to re-enter negotiations. These conflicting signals have experts debating whether they reflect a conscious effort to intimidate and buy time, or are evidence that the Iranian government is at odds with itself.
  • The upcoming “Friends of Syria” meeting in Tunis is not likely to have much impact on events on the ground in Syria, where the death toll now exceeds 7,000. Syrian president Bashar al-Assad called this week for a referendum on a new constitution, a move that protesters might have hailed had it been made last summer. Now it looks like the outcome in Syria will be decided by the bullet, not the ballot.
  • The meeting of the G20 foreign ministers will focus on how the G20 can address issues such as green growth, sustainable development, and global responses for human development. None of these topics are ones that foreign ministries typically have much expertise in or say over.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is 100. My Figure of the Week is Rick Santorum. As always, you have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

Reuters tracks a meeting between IAEA chief Yukiya Amano with the Iranian embassy in Vienna, and CNN’s Fareed Zakaria compares the current conflict between Israel and Iran to the Cold War. Foreign Policy‘s Colum Lynch describes France and Turkey’s push to help Syria, and Bloomberg argues  that the UN Security Council vote on Syria reveals that the UN may have “more gum than teeth.” CFR’s Stewart Patrick previews the G20 meeting’s priorities, and the State Department outlines what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hopes to accomplish while in Mexico.


Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Peter Duveen

    “Syrian president Bashar al-Assad called this week for a referendum on a new constitution, a move that protesters might have hailed had it been made last summer. ”

    Are the protesters representative of the Syrian people? What is there to object to about a referendum? One suspects that the “protesters,” whoever they may be, do not have as a goal a nonviolent transition to a new constitutional government.

    One must ask what the American government would do if faced with insurrection of the magnitude experienced in Syria. Would the American military just roll over and play dead while the insurgents took over?

    The American military, from what I understand, have units devoted to supressing an insurrection in the continental United States. A new law apparently allows the military to disappear people.

    We are better off adopting a policy of restoration recommended by Richard Haass, rather than getting mired in the gew that is the Middle East. It would be foolish to get involved in still another tentacle of a religious war in the region.

  • Posted by Anon

    @Peter Duveen It would be foolish to compare the United States to an oppressive dictatorial regime such as Syria, where there so called democracy has had a the previous president and his son in power for 40 years. A police state under emergency law where anyone who even whispered Assads name would disappear.

  • Posted by Dr. Fleischer

    There will be no war with Iran. Our Nobel Peace Prize President will not go to war with Iran before elections due to the great adverse economic fallout. Voters do not appreciate how a war with Iran would improve their personal lives. South Korea has lived with a nuclear North Korea who is not more sane than the divided leadership in Tehran. South Korea’s economy has grown during this period.
    Israelis do not support their right wing government sufficiently for that government to go to war with Iran, especially when the economic wishes of the large Israeli defense industry are considered. The Israeli defense industry will make more money with a containment policy than an actual military action. Just look at the military- industrial complex in America during the cold war. Containment was very profitable for the American military-industrial complex, just like it will be for the Israelis.
    Oil prices will go up somewhat from the talk of war. There is money to be made in this.

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