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: Iranians Vote, the G8 Meets in Northern Ireland, and Obama Visits Berlin

by James M. Lindsay
June 13, 2013

Supporters crowd around Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili during a rally in Tehran on June 12 (Yalda Moayeri/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters crowd around Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili during a rally in Tehran on June 12 (Yalda Moayeri/Courtesy Reuters).

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the presidential elections in Iran, the G8 summit in Northern Ireland, and President Obama’s trip to Berlin.

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The highlights:

  • Iranians head to the polls tomorrow to cast their ballot for a new president. If none of the six men on the ballot wins a majority of the vote on the first go, there will be a run-off election next Friday. Whether the Iranians vote once or twice, the election hardly qualifies as free and fair. The list of six candidates was vetted by the Supreme Leader and the powerful Guardian Council; potential candidates who posed a possible threat to the regime or opposed its policies were booted off the ballot. So none of the final six candidates favors halting Iran’s nuclear program. Indeed, one of the leading candidates, Saeed Jalili, has been Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator since 2007. One open question about the election is whether the regime’s opponents will head to the polls or sit out the vote. Iran’s last presidential vote saw the Green Movement emerge, but the regime forcibly crushed the protests. A repeat of that dynamic is possible, though probably not likely. One thing is certain: the election marks the end of the eight-year-long Ahmadinejad presidency. Like the United States, Iran limits its presidents to two terms.
  • The leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized countries—or G8—will be watching the Iranian elections closely as they make their way to Lough Erne in Northern Ireland for their annual meeting. Britain currently holds the G8’s rotating presidency, and Prime Minister David Cameron has prioritized the “three Ts”–trade, transparency, and tax–as topics for discussion. The discussion of first “t” could be the most interesting. The United States and Europe have opened negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If successfully negotiated, it could turn out to be a watershed development for the global economy. The discussions at Lough Erne could give us a sense of TTIP’s chances for becoming a reality. Global terrorism and Syria will also be on the G8′s agenda, but the likelihood of a major breakthrough on either issue is low.
  • After the G8 summit wraps up, President Obama heads to Berlin, Germany. Obama was last in Berlin in 2008 when an estimated 200,000 people turned out to hear what the then-presumptive Democratic presidential nominee had to say. Obama gave that speech in front of the Victory Column in the city’s Tiergarten rather than at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate because German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she had “little sympathy for the Brandenberg Gate being used for electioneering.” This time around Obama gets the Brandenburg Gate, which is where Ronald Reagan gave his famed “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech twenty-six years ago yesterday. Obama is expected to speak about the “deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Germany, the vital importance of the transatlantic alliance, and the values that bind us together.”  Merkel, who is up for re-election in September, may press Obama in their private meetings on the U.S. government’s surveillance programs. While Obama is personally popular in Germany, his surveillance policies aren’t.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is Edward Snowden. My Figure of the Week is 4.9 million. 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:

Presidential Elections in Iran: Al-Jazeera has an inforgraphic outlining Iran’s election process and the candidates. Ray Takeyh predicts that the winner of the election will most likely come from the conservative or revolutionary wings, but the moderate Rowhani may provide momentum for the reform movement. The Washington Post reports Israel is concerned about the lack of change Iran’s nuclear program.

The G8 Convenes in Northern Ireland: The UK government has a letter from British prime minister David Cameron to G8 leaders and fact sheets on trade, tax, and transparency. The Guardian writes the G8 is a “curiously outdated” body but may be able to reinvent itself to focus on international development aid. CNN reports that arrests have already been made in London ahead of the summit. The Voice of Russia outlines possible topics of conversation for the side meeting between Obama and Putin.

Obama Goes to Berlin:  The New York Times reports President Obama will get his chance to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. Spiegel Online writes that both the United States and Germany see the importance of Asia as an economic partner. Reuters says German officials are concerned about the recent surveillance programs unveiled in the United States and their implications for European citizens.

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