US foreign policy

By Gideon Rachman
The story of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is turning into a diplomatic debacle for the US. By setting up and then losing a power struggle with China, Washington has sent an unintended signal about the drift of power and influence in the 21st century.

By Gideon Rachman

The British are used to syrupy American tributes to the “special relationship” that binds the US and the UK together. But this week, the Brits heard rather different noises coming from Washington: growls of frustration at the direction of UK foreign and security policy. Read more

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush arrives for a stop at Integra Biosciences Friday, March 13, 2015, in Hudson, N.H.

  © AP

It has been 15 years since Jeb Bush has been in New Hampshire for a political campaign – and then it was for his brother.

As he makes his first swing through the “Granite State” for a series of events this weekend ahead of the expected announcement of his own candidacy for the presidency, Mr Bush had a message for voters in the crucial early primary state: I’m a grown-up. Read more

  • If nations could agree a carbon tax, it would help create a more efficient, less polluting future, argues Martin Wolf
  • In Syria, opposition fighters struggle to navigate a war that seems to advance every agenda except ending Assad’s regime
  • If you measure Benjamin Netanyahu’s performance by the applause, his speech to the US congress hit the mark – but it may look very different in hindsight, writes Ed Luce
  • Boris Nemtsov was a very different kind of liberal or “ultra-liberal” (Pandodaily)
  • In a chaotic Middle East, America’s allies create as many problems as they solve (Brookings Institute)

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Benjamin Netanyahu is making his third appearance before a joint meeting of the US Congress on Tuesday morning in Washington.

In what is set to be a very controversial speech, he is expected to highlight what the Israeli leader insists are the risks of a nuclear deal with Iran

By Mark Odell and Sam Jones, Defence and Security Editor, and Siona Jenkins, Middle East and Africa news editor


When Benjamin Netanyahu rises to speak in Congress later on Tuesday he will become the first foreign leader since Winston Churchill to speak before Congress three times. John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the House, apparently intends to mark the occasion by presenting the Israeli prime minister, with a bust of Churchill.

Mr Netanyahu is probably vain enough to think that the comparison is appropriate. The Israeli prime minister believes that, like Churchill in the 1930s, he is a voice in the wilderness warning a complacent world against a “gathering storm” – in this case, an ambitious Iran that is intent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

But all politicians should be wary of comparing themselves with Churchill. George W Bush was also presented with a bust of Churchill, by the British government, which he kept in the Oval Office during the Iraq war. That didn’t work out too well. Beyond the threat of vainglorious self-delusion, the Netanyahu-Churchill comparison is dangerous for the Israeli leader himself, for a couple of reasons. Read more

Just as talks between Iran and world powers to nail down a deal restricting Tehran’s nuclear programme enter a decisive phase, the Islamic Republic last week put on a show. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) placed a mock-up of a US aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf, and then blew it out of the water. For the IRGC, praetorian guard of the Shia theocracy, it would not do to show flabby muscle tone at this juncture, to the US or its Gulf Arab neighbours.

In Washington, meanwhile, another form of triumphalism is on display. Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, is tomorrow due to address the US Congress – at the invitation of its Republican leadership – and is expected to say that the nuclear deal under discussion amounts to capitulation to Iran and will allow it to build an atomic bomb. As well as a brazen electoral stunt before Israel goes to the polls on March 17, this is a calculated snub to President Barack Obama. Mr Netanyahu is flaunting his ability to go around the White House to Congress, where ordinarily he enjoys the near unanimous support he could only dream of in the Knesset at home. Read more

The scenes of chaos during President Jacob Zuma’s speech at the opening of South Africa’s parliament last week will be remembered as one of the darkest days of the post-apartheid era

Visitors from the Chinese mainland to Hong Kong are known as “locusts” and now a long-simmering resentment at their presence in the territory is boiling over into angry protests

Greece must impose capital controls or repeat the costly mistake of Cyprus, where emergency funding from the ECB was spirited out of the country, argues Hans-Werner Sinn

What Isis Really Wants: The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. Here’s what its beliefs means for its strategy – and how to stop it (The Atlantic)

Washington’s uneasy partnership with Tehran now extends to Yemen (Foreign Policy)  Read more

Scott Walker, governor of Wisconsin and one of the early frontrunners in a crowded field of possible Republican presidential candidates, was expected to discuss foreign policy in an appearance on Wednesday at London’s best known foreign policy think tank.

Instead he talked a lot about cheese.

Mr Walker declined to opine on a wide range of international affairs, from whether the UK should stay in the European Union, to the current turmoil engulfing Greece and Ukraine to how to combat terror groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant at a Chatham House event. Read more

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By Gideon Rachman
The “global war on terror” was shot down in a hail of ridicule. Sceptics scoffed that President George W Bush’s GWOT was not global and it was not a war — since terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy. On taking office as US president in 2009, Barack Obama quietly dropped the term.

By Gideon Rachman
For the first half of my life, international politics was defined by the cold war. The fall of the Berlin Wall ended that era and began another one: the age of globalisation. Now, 25 years later, it feels like we are once again witnessing the close of an era.

After watching their fortunes nosedive over the past year on the back of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and adventures in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s oligarchs caught a break on Friday night: a free meal on Vladimir Putin. Read more

Consequences of the US-Cuba rapprochement
Following president Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will begin normalising relations with Cuba, John Paul Rathbone, Latin America editor, joins Gideon Rachman to examine how quickly the island state’s Soviet-style economy is likely to change and the implications for the wider region.

The move by US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart, Raul Castro, to announce the tentative resumption of diplomatic relations is already prompting talk that the world’s oldest trade embargo may be coming to an end.

Introduced in 1960, the US embargo of Cuba has hit the island economy of 11m people hard over the decades. In its annual report to the United Nations on the subject Cuba in September estimated it lost $3.9bn in foreign trade in 2013 alone because of the embargo. Havana’s running tally for the total economic damage: $116.8bn.

That figure is obviously worth taking with a pinch of salt, as should be any idea that the embargo is going to be lifted soon.

But there is no doubt that a change in US policy would represent a huge economic opportunity for Cuba or that the potential looks alluring to plenty of businesses in the US. Here are some points to keep in mind and some charts worth pondering: Read more

When the Republicans took control of both houses of Congress last month, the conventional wisdom was that the final two years of Barack Obama’s time in the White House would be a sad affair. The president would be a “lame duck” – with no majority in Congress and waning authority, even over his own party. Some even suggested that Mr Obama was losing interest in his job.

Just a few weeks later, however, it seems that far from being crippled by the midterm elections, Mr Obama has been liberated. With no further elections to fight, he seems to have decided to use his last two years in office to advance some causes that he really believes in. By finding areas where he has executive authority to act without needing Congressional approval, the president has shown that he can get a lot done. His decision to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba is the latest dramatic example. Read more

US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy signs the order of naval blockade of Cuba, on October 24, 1962 in White House. Getty.

It was on February 7 1962 that John F Kennedy signed the US policy now known as the Cuban embargo into law. The day before, the US president had ordered an aide to buy him 1,000 Petit Upmanns cigars. It was only after Kennedy got word that his request had been carried out that he authorised the new regulations that banned Cuban imports and would have made the purchase illegal.

Today, 52 years later, Barack Obama has partially reversed that law. The changes he has made do not amount to a full repeal of the embargo – that requires an act of Congress. Nonetheless, the changes are profound. They recognise that US policy towards the island has failed to achieve its objective of change – Mr Obama is, after all, the 11th US president to face a socialist Cuba. They recognise that the embargo has often poisoned US diplomacy in the broader region. And the changes recognise that, for over half a century, the US embargo has been emblematic of Washington’s bully-boy approach to the socialist island, which has won Cuba international sympathy that the dictatorship of the Castro brothers would otherwise not have enjoyed. Read more

  • Bahrain’s royal family has built up vast private wealth, including a $900m portfolio of UK real estate, after embarking on development projects on disputed reclaimed land in the Gulf kingdom, an FT investigation reveals
  • The prospect of Greece’s self-styled “radical left” Syriza party coming to power has sown panic among investors, but its leader has softened his rhetoric and is changing tactics to reassure the business community
  • Beneath the surface of gridlock and hyper-partisanship in US political life is a national security establishment whose influence endures administrations and constantly seems to evade constraints
  • Narendra Modi has not made many sweeping reforms since he stormed to India’s premiership in May. But he has made some reforms about sweeping – showing his feel for the issues that affect the masses outside the Delhi beltway
  • The extent of the UK’s military and political catastrophe in Afghanistan is hard to overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began, and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money, writes James Meek in the London Review of Books

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  • The Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday released its long-awaited report into the CIA’s use of torture in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Here are five key findings
  • Retail businesses in Russia that built empires selling imported goods and foreign holidays to affluent Russians are now struggling to adjust amid a 40% drop in the rouble and a looming recession
  • The safety of Indian women is in the spotlight once again after a driver of the ride-hailing app Uber raped a 25-year-old in New Delhi, leading to calls for the service to be banned
  • The striking thing about Japan’s election is that nobody is able to articulate a different course to Abenomics, despite Mr Abe’s falling popularity and public opposition to his economic plan
  • Drunken and boorish behavior, cellphones, crying children and reclining seats have all led to episodes of flight rage. But a bag of macadamia nuts? (New York Times)

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