On the subject of...

Global Politics

2
Feb
2018

Trump’s State of Union

The annual State of the Union address to Congress by the President is regarded as a fairly formal report on what he regards as having happened over the past year, the accomplishments and the already known policies being pursued (the full text of Trump’s address is attached). The event is however seen as one of the most important in the US political calendar because it is one of the few occasions when all three branches of government are collected under one roof and it has also been used as an opportunity to honor the achievements of some individual Americans.
28
Jan
2018

Trump at Davos & Australian Comments on US Defense Strategy Statement

What with the likely winners of both the women’s and men’s Australian tennis being Swiss and the address by Trump at Davos, the Swiss are in the News. Once again Trump found a phrase which helped rebut the criticism of his “America First” statement by adding “but not America alone” and, with China in mind, emphasising the need for “fair” trade as well as “free” . Separately, it is reported that Trump approved increased duties affecting about $US10bn of imports but it is not clear whether this was “justified” on a fair trade assertion. An article in The Economist, republished in yesterday’s The Australian, says that the actions were “broadly in line with the steer from the US International Trade Commission” and were weaker than sought.
26
Jan
2018

Pence Address to Knesset & Threatened Turkey/US Clash in Syria

Although the Palestinians refused to meet him, US Vice-President Pence’s visit to the Middle East and his address to Israel’s Knesset highlighted a wide range of important issues and explanations of the US’s foreign policy not previously made clear. Considerable publicity has been given to his confirmation that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but his Knesset address (text here) says a lot more than that. As with such speeches, it probably includes statements of policy which may not be achievable: but Pense has made an important US foreign/defence policy statement.
20
Jan
2018

Failure to Assess CChange Threats, Attitudes to Trump

On 19 January The Australian published a half page advertisement on The Next Ice Age by Richard Morgan’s Climate Study Group (the ad was also published in the Herald Sun on 12 Jan and is on my web). This contains carefully considered views by people who are aware of the possible influences on climate. The day before I had sent a letter to The Australian complaining that it had published a letter by Energy Minister Frydenberg criticising an analysis published in the paper by Judith Sloan but had not published any letters critical of Frydenberg even though some had been sent, including by me (see attached Energy Policy Letter Sent to The Australian 18/1).
18
Jan
2018

US Foreign Policy, Frydenberg’s Energy Policy & Trump’s Medical Test

The US Secretary of State , Tillerson, has made a major speech in which he effectively says the US will increase its political and military roles in the Middle East.The attached report by the Washington Post (not generally supportive of Trump) says: “Tillerson listed vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad as among the goals of a continued presence in Syria of about 2,000 American troops currently deployed in a Kurdish-controlled corner of northeastern Syria. His comments represented the most comprehensive and ambitious articulation of Washington’s often-contradictory policy in Syria since President Trump took office a year ago, and they underline the extent to which the war against the Islamic State has inevitably also entangled the United States in the region’s other conflicts.
14
Jan
2018

Iran & US Sanctions Policy, Climate in 2017

It appears that the protests in Iran have virtually ceased following deaths and many arrests by the Revolutionary Guard. However, according to a Reuters report Supreme Leader Khamenei still felt it necessary to make a public statement that “citizens had a right to air legitimate concerns, a rare concession by a leader who usually voices clear support for security crackdowns.These concerns must be addressed. We must listen, we must hear. We must provide answers within our means", Mr Khamenei was quoted as saying, hinting that not only the government of Rouhani, but his own clerical leadership must also respond”. "I'm not saying that they must follow up. I am also responsible. All ofus must follow up" (see attached Khamenie Statement 10 Jan).
9
Jan
2018

Iran’s President Speaks Out Publicly

There has been a significant development in the political situation in Iran. According to a Reuters report dated 9 Jan, “President Hassan Rouhani said on Monday young Iranian protesters were unhappy about far more than just the economy and they would no longer defer to the views and lifestyle of an aging revolutionary elite”. He is also quoted by Tasnim news agency as saying “It would be a misrepresentation (of events) and also an insult to Iranian people to say they only had economic demands”... “People had economic, political and social demands.”... “We cannot pick a lifestyle and tell two generations after us to live like that. It is impossible... The views of the young generation about life and the world is different than ours,” he said. Note also that it is reported that Rouhani said on Monday that “people should be allowed to criticize all Iranian officials, with no exception”.
7
Jan
2018

Where is Australia on Iran?

Despite reports of thousands of arrests and over 20 deaths, the anti-government protests in Iran appear to be continuing, albeit on a much smaller scale. A member of the US think-tank, Brookings Institution, Suzanne Maloney, is a senior fellow on Middle East policy and describes them as reflecting “Anger over these [financial] losses came on top of years of pent-up frustration over a sluggish economy. When the government announced recent price increases and released an austere budget bill, it ignited at-times violent protests that spread rapidly to dozens of cities nationwide. Demonstrators quickly turned their fury on corrupt officials and the Islamic republic as a whole”… "What's different is that it seems to have tapped into a deep sense of alienation and frustration, that people aren't just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself " (see article from the Washington Post dated 7 January, “Iran Expert says…”).
6
Jan
2018

Iran After Five Days

Today’s Australian published my letter calling for the Turnbull government to support the US initiative opposing Islamic regimes in Iran as it did with the caliphate in Iraq (see below). At the same time, however, it published what can only be described as a strange Op-Ed by Clive Williams, who is a visiting professor at the Australian National University’s Centre for Military & Security Law and an adjunct professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy
3
Jan
2018

Potential for Major Improvements in Governance in Iran

In my Commentary of 1 January I drew attention to the absence of any substantive references in our media to the successful defeat of the ISIS caliphate by Iraqi and Syrian forces, with support provided by US and Australian forces. I drew particular attention to Trump’s delegation of decision-making to Secretary Tillerson and commanders in the field and to his indication that the defeat of ISIS was a priority. This contrasted with the dire situation a year ago described in a special press briefing given on 22 December by the US envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (this was not reported in our media). His description of “a dire situation” may have reflected Obama’s policy of first requiring his clearance to take military action and his refusal to have US troops on the ground in Iraq (except for Special Forces).