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: World Powers Talk Syria, Mexicans Vote, and Congress Recesses

by James M. Lindsay
June 28, 2012

Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, speaks during a press conference in Geneva. (Denis Balibouse/courtesy Reuters) Kofi Annan, the joint special envoy of the UN and the Arab League for Syria, speaks during a press conference in Geneva. (Denis Balibouse/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon was out this week, so Stewart Patrick kindly offered to fill in. Stewart and I discussed the world powers crisis meeting on Syria in Geneva; the Mexican presidential election; and the U.S. House and Senate rise for recess.

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The highlights:

  • Foreign ministers from leading powers around the world are set to gather in Geneva on June 30 to discuss options for addressing the worsening situation in Syria. The meeting comes on the heels of two critical events: Syrian forces shooting down a Turkish military jet last Friday and Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad declaring that his country is in “a real state of war.” Russia looks positioned to play a pivotal role in the discussions. It has been Syria’s primary patron and has worked to head off significant international action against Damascus. There haven’t been any signs that Moscow has had a change of heart, which significantly diminishes the odds that the Geneva meeting will yield a diplomatic breakthrough.
  • Mexican voters go to the voting booths on Sunday to select a new president, and all the pre-election polls point to a big win by Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI). The PRI dominated Mexican politics from 1929 until 2000, when Vicente Fox of the Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party or PAN) broke the PRI’s hold on power. Fox was succeeded in 2006 by fellow PAN member Felipe Calderón, but an escalating murder rate, a moribund economy, and rising poverty rates look to have doomed the PAN’s current candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota. She is expected to finish behind Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the
    Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Party of the Democratic Revolution or PRD) who lost to Calderón by a whisker six years ago. Peña Nieto’s critics worry that the PRI will return to its authoritarian and corrupt ways. Peña Nieto insists that this is not your abuelo’s (grandfather’s) PRI; he has promised to make public officials declare their assets and to slash the number of federal deputies by one-fifth (to 400).
  • The House and Senate begin their Fourth of July recess next week without making any progress in averting the so-called fiscal cliff: the simultaneous expiration of the George W. Bush tax cuts and the start of sequestration (across-the-board budget cuts). Throw in the expiration of the payroll tax cut, bumping up against the national debt ceiling, a eurozone crisis, and slowing growth in China and India, and you have the recipe for an impending economic train wreck. Economists who have crunched the numbers say going over the fiscal cliff could shave four to five percentage points off of U.S. GDP. The betting money in Washington is that Congress will address the fiscal cliff only in a lame duck session after the November election. The question is whether Congress has the luxury of waiting that long to act. The market, as well as individual businesses, might decide that another recession is inevitable, which could send the economy into a tailspin even before voters go to the polls.
  • Stewart’s Figure of the Week is 42 million. My Figure of the Week is Chief Justice John Roberts. 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:

World Powers Hold Crisis Meeting on Syria in Geneva. The Financial Times reports that in an increased international effort to end the violence in Syria, UN envoy Kofi Annan has invited world leaders to a ministerial conference this Saturday to endorse a political transition plan. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov will attend the meeting. Reuters extends remarks by UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous, voicing concern over the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria’s inability to conduct its mission amidst the violence. The New York Times reports that armed Syrian opposition forces destroyed a pro-government television station near Damascus.

Mexican Presidential Election. Reuters reports that opinion polls show Mexican presidential front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto with a wide lead over opponents, as Sunday’s election approaches. The Guardian writes that the Mexican election is being disputed even before the votes are cast as allegations of vote-rigging arise. BBC reports that Enrique Peña Nieto ended his campaign with a colorful rally in his hometown. Reuters notes that the National Action Party is preparing for life in the opposition. The Guardian reports that the failure of the drug war is causing diplomats to explore new policy options.

U.S. House and Senate Rise for Recess. Bloomberg notes that taxpayers face complications with filing returns in early 2013 because of the impending fiscal cliff. The Hill reports that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is urging U.S. officials to find ways to avoid the fiscal cliff, while congressional leaders assure the public that Congress is close to a deal on student loans and the transportation bills. Bloomberg Businessweek reports that concerns about the fiscal cliff are causing companies to hold back on U.S. investment. The Los Angeles Times writes that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is warning Congress of the risks to come with going over the fiscal cliff.

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