Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, and Mohammad Zarif, Iran's foreign minister, ahead of talks in Geneva, November 7. Getty.
As Iran and world powers hold a new round of talks in Geneva on Tehran’s nuclear programme, western diplomats have one immediate goal in mind. They want Iran to call an immediate halt to further progress in the nuclear programme so that time can be found next year for a comprehensive solution to the stand-off with the west.
The first round of talks in Geneva last month between Iran and six world powers – the US, France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China – went well. Iran suggested it was looking to try and sign a comprehensive deal at some point in 2014 that lifts the full raft of international sanctions while setting out constraints on its nuclear activities.
But as they start negotiating over this hugely complex deal, western diplomats fear time is not on their side. Their concern is that while everyone is talking in Geneva, Iran is developing its nuclear programme on the ground at a speed which they believe is alarming. Read more
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attends a press conference after two days of nuclear talks in Geneva.
Iran and world powers are still a long way from agreeing a deal to allay global fears about the Iranian nuclear programme. But something has started to happen at this week’s negotiations in Geneva that may significantly improve the chances of a pact.
For the first time, the US and the west have started to explore what the “end state” of the Iranian programme should be – in other words what kind of nuclear facilities the US and its allies will allow Iran to retain over the very long term. Read more
Barack Obama with Mahmoud Abbas at the UN (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Image)
“Let there be no doubt: in the Asia-Pacific of the 21st century, the United States of America is all in”, declared Barack Obama in a speech to the Australian parliament in November 2011. But Asians might be excused for having a few doubts about that now that Obama has cancelled half of his upcoming trip to Asia – so that he can stay at home and concentrate on his budget fight with Congress. For the moment, the president is still planning to travel to the Apec summit in Bali. But even that promise is under review, depending on what’s happening in Washington. It would be acutely embarrassing if Obama cancelled the trip to Apec, since it would be the third time he has failed to show up for a scheduled trip to Indonesia. Previous efforts to visit the country that he lived in as a child were cancelled – in March 2010 and then again in June of that year – because of an argument, first over health-care and then over BP. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
The Middle East has a way of provoking wild mood swings. The Arab spring of early 2011 was greeted with euphoria in the US and Europe. A month ago, after the coup in Egypt and the chemical weapons attack in Syria, the mood was despairing. Now, hopes are surging again, after a historic phone call between Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani, the US and Iranian presidents.
Ordinary New Yorkers have good reason to dread “UNGA week” – the five days in September when world leaders descend en masse on New York for the UN General Assembly.
The result is gridlock in Manhattan as the east side of the city, near the UN, is blocked off to allow easier passage for presidential motorcades. On the other hand, the powerful and well-connected can be guaranteed a few good cocktail-party invitations. And interested spectators all over the world can be guaranteed some political theatre. Here is what to look out for this year when the leaders’ speeches get underway on Tuesday: Read more
By David Gallerano
♦ Angela Merkel’s main competitor in Sunday’s election – Peer Steinbrück – is a man prone to gaffes. His party, the SPD, is desperately campaigning in Germany’s industrialised urban centres to mobilise “an estimated 10m” of voters “who have drifted from the party since 1998”.
♦ Hassan Rouhani’s victory in Iran’s recent presidential election and the war in Syria: two developments that “provide reason to think that diplomatic progress” between Tehran and Washington might be possible, according to the New York Review of Books. The first result of this détente – the New York Times says – might be an agreement over Iran’s nuclear programme. Read more
Is Obama becoming a lame duck?
A week that has seen US president Barack Obama zigzag between diplomacy and military action on Syria and back away from nominating Lawrence Summers as chairman of the Federal Reserve has raised questions about the president’s leadership. Gideon Rachman and Richard McGregor in Washington join Ben Hall to discuss whether the Obama administration has stalled and whether he is in danger of becoming, very prematurely, a lame duck president.
David Cameron addresses the House of Commons during a debate on Syria. Press Association
How much has Britain’s standing in the world been damaged by the House of Commons decision last month to rule out military action against Syria? As the crisis has gone through its numerous twists and turns over the last few weeks, the verdict seems to be constantly changing.
At first, the judgment of many people was that the Commons vote on the night of August 29 was a serious blow for David Cameron’s government. The Commons had overturned the will of the PM. The UK was not standing shoulder-to-shoulder with its US ally. Britain looked like it had badly damaged the much cherished “special relationship” with America. Read more
By Gideon Rachman
Viewed from Washington, the Syrian crisis has been only partly about chemical weapons. The other crucial commodity at stake was American “credibility” – that mystical quality on which US and global security is often deemed to depend.
ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images
By Catherine Contiguglia and David Gallerano
Russia has been the talk of the town since the announcement by foreign minister Sergei Lavrov of a diplomatic initiative to get Syria to turn over chemical weapons. Then all eyes turned to Russian president Vladimir Putin when his New York Times op-ed appeared, arguing that air strikes could “could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance.”
Here are some of the best articles on the man who has managed to keep a grip on Russian power for over a decade, and his maneuverings around the Syria crisis and beyond. Read more