The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed President Obama’s State of the Union address, European Central Bank (ECB) president Mario Draghi’s speech to the Spanish parliament, and reconciliation talks in Bahrain.
- President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday night. The speech is likely to flesh out the themes in last month’s inaugural address and favor domestic policy issues over foreign policy ones. The president will undoubtedly mention, directly or indirectly, most of the major foreign policy challenges facing the United States: Iran, Middle East peace, the Arab Awakening, maritime disputes in Asia, and North Korea to name the most obvious. That means that experts at home and abroad will be listening carefully for any changes in the administration’s standard talking points.
- European Central Bank president Mario Draghi will address the Spanish parliament on Tuesday. He will be looking to persuade the parliamentarians to forge ahead with austerity policies as Spain seeks to climb out of the deep hole created by its banking crisis. Draghi’s pledge last summer to do “whatever it takes to preserve the euro” helped Madrid. The yield on Spain’s ten-year bonds, which had risen above 7.5 percent, fell below 7 percent, thereby easing some of the pressure on the country’s finances. Unfortunately, neither Draghi’s defense of the euro nor austerity policies he favors has done much for the Spanish economy. It continues to shrink, and unemployment stands at 27 percent.
- Bahrain’s Sunni king, Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, has invited Bahrain’s established Shiite opposition leaders to join reconciliation talks aimed at resolving the country’s two-year old political crisis. The Obama administration has its fingers crossed that the talks are productive. Washington prides itself as a champion of democracy, which is what the Bahraini opposition is demanding. But the Bahraini royal family, which allows the U.S. Fifth Fleet to operate out of Manama, isn’t inclined to grant the opposition’s wish. An additional layer of geopolitical complexity comes from the fact that the Saudi royal family has been pushing its Bahraini counterparts to hang tough, on the grounds that Iranian meddling is what is driving Bahrain’s crisis. In all likelihood, the Obama administration will find it difficult to reconcile America’s values and interests when it comes to Bahrain.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is $612 million. My Figure of the Week is John Brennan. 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:
Obama gives his 2013 State of the Union address: Politico reports on the Republican response to the president’s speech, which will be delivered by Senator Marco Rubio. The Hill argues that the State of the Union address usually has little effect on a president’s approval ratings. Reuters has more on Obama’s efforts to garner public support for immigration reform. The New York Times has an interactive transcript of Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address.
ECB president Mario Draghi speaks to Spain’s parliament: CFR.org maps out the history of the eurozone crisis and of European economic integration. Time gives an overview of Draghi and his tenure as president of the ECB. Bloomberg Businessweek reports on Draghi’s efforts to save the Euro so far and how a scandal within Spain’s ruling People’s Party may jeopardize recovery.
Talks between Bahrain’s monarchy and the opposition begin: Reuters covers disputes over terms and conditions for the talks. The BBC reports on Bahrain’s repressive justice system and the monarchy’s use of torture. The New York Times covers the use of tear gas by Bahraini government forces. ProPublica reports on the U.S. government’s sale of weapons to Bahrain.