U.S. Foreign Policy In Tumultuous Times

Jan 15, 2018

 

The headlines involving North Korea, Russia and Iran have been alarming, including even the threat of nuclear war.  But fraught relations involving these countries go back decades. We examine that geopolitical history -- and try to untangle recent developments. 

 

GUEST: 

Wayne Lesperance - Professor of political science and Dean of undergraduate programs at New England College.

 

 

 

 

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RUSSIA

1) From The NY Times: American spy agencies have concluded that Mr. Putin directed a multifaceted campaign using hacking and propaganda to try to sway the 2016 presidential election against Mr. Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton, and, eventually, in favor of his campaign.

Mr. Trump’s response to those findings has varied. After Congress overwhelmingly passed new sanctions in August retaliating against Russia over a range of issues including the election interference, Mr. Trump was forced to sign the measure into law in spite of his own objections. In November, after speaking with Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump said he believed that the Russian leader was sincere in his denials of interfering with the 2016 race.

 

 

 

 2) From USA Today: Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, are leading three separate congressional investigations into Russia's interference in the presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates. 

 

 

 3) From CNN: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Wednesday he hopes President Donald Trump does not try to direct him to "take control" of the Russia probe.

 

 

NORTH KOREA

 

 1) From The Washington Post: South Korean President Moon Jae-in has resolutely opposed any military action and has warned that no strike must take place without his approval — although these are not the terms of the South Korean security agreement with the United States.”

 

Some analysts think that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is looking to drive a wedge between South Korea and the United States and expose a gap in their alliance.

 

A classic North Korean strategy in previous years: The Kim regime appeals to its “brethren” in the South to try to weaken the united front against it.

 

 

2) From The Washington Post: President Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have agreed to postpone the sprawling joint military exercise their nations hold each year until after the Winter Olympics, in what appears to be an effort to de-escalate tensions with North Korea ahead of an event that will draw people from around the world.

 

3)  From The Washington Post: The president’s tweets — which are rarely drafted with staff and were not part of the administration’s 2017 policy review — have been a persistent wild card in an otherwise conventional U.S. strategy toward Pyongyang. Some foreign affairs experts said the overall message is similar to what other presidents have conveyed. “We’ve always warned every country that our military force is stronger, our nuclear force is stronger, so don’t test us,” said  Michael R. Auslin, an Asia expert with the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

 

 

4) From The New York Times: The C.I.A. and other American intelligence services had predicted this moment would come, eventually. For decades, they accurately projected the broad trajectory of North Korea’s nuclear program. Yet their inability to foresee the North’s rapid strides over the past several months now ranks among America’s most significant intelligence failures, current and former officials said in recent interviews.

 

That disconnect — they saw it coming, but got the timing wrong — helps explain the confusion, mixed signals and alarm that have defined how Mr. Trump’s untested national security team has responded to the nuclear crisis.

 

IRAN

 

 

1)From The Washington Post: President Trump on Friday kept alive the Iran nuclear deal he detests by waiving sanctions for the third time, but he said he will not grant another reprieve unless the agreement is amended to permanently block a potential pathway for Iran to build nuclear weapons.

 

In conjunction with the waivers, the Treasury Department placed sanctions on 14 people and entities for alleged offenses unrelated to Iran’s nuclear industry. The new measures concern human rights abuses and censorship in Iran and the arming of groups throughout the region.

 

2)From The Washington Post: Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that it would not agree to any changes to the nuclear deal, as President Trump has demanded, and it vowed a “serious response” to new U.S. sanctions that it said crossed a red line.

3) From The National Review: A critic of the deal.

     

    4) From The L.A. Times: A supporter of the deal. 

     

      5)  From The Atlantic: Recent protests in numerous Iranian cities and towns caught the world by surprise, and embarrassed Iran’s government and ruling political establishment. But the expectation that the protests would escalate into a popular uprising and unravel the Islamic Republic did not come to pass.

       

      These were economic protests. They reflected deep-seated frustration with economic stagnation, mismanagement and corruption, and growing income inequality along with conspicuous concentration of wealth at the top.