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: Syrian Massacre, Iran’s Nuclear Program, Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit

by James M. Lindsay
May 31, 2012

People gather around a mass burial for victims purportedly killed at the massacre in the Syrian village of Houla on May 25. (Courtesy Reuters) People gather around a mass burial for victims purportedly killed at the massacre in the Syrian village of Houla on May 25. (Courtesy Reuters)


The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the UN Human Rights Council’s special session on Syria; the International Atomic Energy Agency board of governors meeting in Vienna; and the start of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit.

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The highlights:

  • The massacre of more than one hundred civilians, most of them women and children, in the Syrian town of Houla has triggered outrage around the world. But it seems unlikely that the outrage will prompt anything other than ritualized condemnations of Syria’s government at the UN and the UN Human Rights Council. Russia and China are poised to veto any resolutions at the UN Security Council that would impose a price on the Assad government, and neither the United States nor any other western governments looks eager to become involved militarily in Syria.
  • The IAEA’s board of governors will meet next week. Iran will likely top the group’s agenda given that IAEA inspectors recently found evidence that Iran has enriched uranium to a higher grade than it has previously disclosed. The IAEA will release a report detailing that discovery in conjunction with the board of governors meeting. That report will get a very close reading as the U.S. Congress considers motions to impose new sanctions on Iran that would give President Obama very little leeway in when or how they are imposed.
  • Iran’s nuclear program will also be on the agenda of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit next week in Beijing. The SCO is a regional security forum for China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be attending the summit as an observer. China and Russia had hoped to build the SCO into a major counterweight to U.S. influence in central Asia. So far, however, the organization hasn’t proven itself to be a significant force in regional, let alone global, affairs.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is 1.9 percent. My Figure of the Week is Mitt Romney. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

The UN Human Rights Council’s Special Session on Syria. Bloomberg tells how the Red Cross and Red Crescent found 5,000 refugees from Houla. Reuters says that the United States might bypass the UN on Syria if the international body does not act. The Guardian has live updates on the ongoing situation in Syria and across the Middle East. The New York Times reports that Susan Rice, the U.S. envoy to the UN, sees a grim outcome in Syria. The Washington Post says that Turkey and Japan have joined a number of Western nations in expelling Syrian diplomats in protest over the massacre.

The IAEA Board of Governors Meeting in Vienna. Al-Arabiya reports that IAEA inspectors have found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent in Iran, which is a higher level of enrichment than Tehran said it had achieved. The news agency also says that Russia is willing to work with Iran to build another nuclear power plant, as long as it is allowed to do so. Bloomberg’s editors argue that keeping Iran at the negotiating table will require skillful manipulation of the sanctions on oil currently imposed by the West. Fox Business reports that the IAEA has begun a two-week inspection of South Korea’s second-oldest nuclear reactor in the wake of concerns after the Fukushima disaster.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization Summit. AFP notes that Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will attend the summit while Reuters reports that China has attacked new sanctions against Iran. The China Daily writes that a senior Chinese diplomat has indicated that regional security issues will be addressed at the summit. The Eurasia Review predicts that the meeting will not be run of the mill.

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