The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed President Obama’s visit to Israel, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s New Year’s speech, the tenth anniversary of the start of Iraq War, and Chinese president Xi Jinping’s trip to Russia.
- President Obama visits Israel next week, his first trip to the country as president. (He visited Israel in 2008 when he was campaigning for the White House.) During the trip he will also visit the West Bank and Jordan. The White House has yet to confirm the exact timing of the trip, apparently because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu still has to form a new government in the wake of the Israeli elections in January. The most likely starting date for the trip is March 20. Iran, the peace process, and Syria will top the list of subject that Obama and Netanyahu will discuss when they meet.
- Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will deliver a live address on March 21 to mark the Iranian New Year. He will deliver the speech at Imam Reza’s holy shrine in Mashad, and it will be broadcast live in five languages. The speech is an Iranian tradition, and the ayatollah typically uses it to give guidance to the country. This year the world will be listening to see what he says about the upcoming Iranian elections, scheduled to be held on June 14, and about Iran’s nuclear program.
- March 19 (March 20 in Iraq) marks the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The passage of a decade has done little to settle the debate over whether the war was a good idea that was badly executed or a bad idea that was badly executed. Evaluations of the war’s merits have changed as events on the ground in Iraq have changed. That suggests that opinions about the Iraq War may change yet again as more time passes.
- Xi Jinping’s visit to Russia next week, his first trip outside the country after being formally named this week as China’s next president, is no doubt intended to send a message to the United States. China and Russia have made common cause in recent years opposing U.S. and Western efforts to override national sovereignty on issues like Syria. But Xi and Russian president Vladimir Putin will be talking about more than their mutual antipathy toward Washington. They will also be talking about energy. The Chinese and Russians have been in lengthy discussions about building pipelines to bring Russian natural gas to China. Those discussions have yet to produce a deal. If they do, and if the pipelines get built, the result could benefit more than just Beijing and Moscow. A shift to natural gas could enable China to rely less on coal, which produces far more greenhouses gases per unit of energy generated and which create more air pollution. Russian natural gas could also diminish Chinese concerns about being vulnerable to interruptions to energy supplies coming from the Middle East, thereby diminishing one source of maritime tension with the United States and its friends in the region.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is Pope Francis. My Figure of the Week is $130 billion. 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 visits Israel: Forbes covers Obama’s potential itinerary and agenda. The Washington Post reports Obama’s priorities during the trip. The New York Times explains Israeli and Palestinian leaders’ doubts that Obama’s visit will restart negotiations between their countries. The Economist explains why the two-state solution is growing ever more unlikely.
Khamenei addresses Iran: Ray Takeyh analyzes the recent summit in Kazakhstan. The Washington Post reports on Khamenei’s accusations that recent talks have produced no concessions for Iran and on a U.S. delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s calls for IAEA resolutions against Iran. Reuters reports on Khamenei’s recent warning about the upcoming Iranian elections.
The Iraq War’s tenth anniversary is marked: CFR has a timeline of the Iraq War. Meghan O’Sullivan gives her take on the problems Iraq will face in the coming years. The Christian Science Monitor describes how over 13 percent of U.S. spending to rebuild Iraq went to waste. Foreign Policy describes newly released documents that cover several opportunities U.S. forces missed in Iraq.
Chinese president Xi Jinping visits Russia: The New York Times covers Xi’s motivations for making the Russia the destination of his first presidential visit. The Financial Times reports on how Xi’s visit may lead to a deal on Russian gas exports. The Wall Street Journal reports on China’s new foreign policy leadership. CFR analyzes China’s leadership transition and its international consequences.