Focal Points Blog

Bush Administration Nuclear Policy Enabled India’s H-bomb Program

The scenic Karnataka state in India, site of a new nuclear complex. (Photo: Swaminathan / Flickr Commons)

The scenic Karnataka state in India, site of a new nuclear complex. (Photo: Swaminathan / Flickr Commons)

In December, the Center for Public Integrity published an investigative report by Adrian Levy titled Experts worry that India is creating new fuel for an arsenal of H-bombs. It was also published in Foreign Policy with the more alarming title India Is Building a Top-Secret Nuclear City to Produce Thermonuclear Weapons, Experts Say.
Read More

States Such as Saudi Arabia Bear as Much Responsibility for Islamic Extremism as Jihadists

When Saudi Arabia funds Salafist mosques and schools, mainstream Muslims can become susceptible to jihadism. Pictured: Saudi-funded mosque in Pakistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

When Saudi Arabia funds Salafist mosques and schools, mainstream Muslims can become susceptible to jihadism. Pictured: Saudi-funded mosque in Pakistan. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Salafi movement, sometimes referred to as Wahhabis, are fundamentalist Sunni Muslims who, in their beliefs, harken back to the time of Muhammad and who would like to see their lands governed by sharia law. Like many religions, they are divided into worshippers and political activists. Unlike most religions, a small minority of them are violent revolutionaries — jihadists, of course.

In December of last year at Salon, Steven Zhou wrote about the injustice of labeling all Salafist as terrorists.
Read More

Were the U.S. Boats Off Course in the Persian Gulf an Actual Example of the Mythical “Rogue Operation”?

Iran navy patrolling the Persian Gulf. (Photo: the Guardian)

Iran navy patrolling the Persian Gulf. (Photo: the Guardian)

The 10 U.S. sailors and two boats that were detained in the Persian Gulf by Iran on January 12 were released a day later, but questions remain. Military historian and war gamer Jack Radey attempts to answer them. — Ed.

The problem is not hard to address logically. All of the official and unofficial stories that have come out are based on the notion that the boats accidentally strayed into Iranian waters, specifically within 3 miles of Farsi Island. The first story was mechanical problems, then one boat had mechanical problems (engine conked out) and the other ran out of gas, so couldn’t tow the first, then the SecDef announced no, no mechanical problem, a navigation error. Of some 50 miles.
Read More

Excuse the Middle-East for Resenting Tyranny

Few nations want American troops on their soil, but none less so than those of the Middle East, which have experienced the results first hand. Pictured: Afghan students demonstrating. (Photo: 1.bp.blogspot)

Few nations want American troops on their soil, but none less so than those of the Middle East, which have experienced the results first hand. Pictured: Afghan students demonstrating. (Photo: 1.bp.blogspot)

At Salon, FPIF regular David Vine, author of a book published this summer titled Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, writes about the Pentagon’s proposal to build yet more American bases in the Middle East.

Though this is being presented as a response to the rise of the Islamic State and other militant groups, there’s remarkably little that’s new about the Pentagon plan. For more than 36 years, the U.S. military has been building an unprecedented constellation of bases that stretches from Southern Europe and the Middle East to Africa and Southwest Asia.

Read More

President’s Obama’s Goals for Syria Are at Odd With His Actions

U.S. ability to effect change in Syria is limited. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

U.S. ability to effect change in Syria is limited. (Photo: Thierry Ehrmann / Flickr Commons )

A number of words and terms can be used to characterize President Obama’s policy toward both Syria and the Islamic State. Charitably: evolving; less so: tentative, hesitant, undecided, in a state of flux.  

In a National Interest article titled Choosing Not to Choose: Obama’s Dithering on Syria, Paul Saunders provides some reasons why. Among them:

… the president’s defensive approach to foreign policy. On too many issues, President Obama seems primarily motivated by what he wants to avoid rather than what he wants to achieve.

Read More

Increasing Accuracy and Flexibility in Nuclear Weapons Actually Undermines Arm Control

The B-61-12 is a “dial-a-yield,” weapon, which means the explosive power can be tailored to its target. (Photo: Visokio.com)

The B-61-12 is a “dial-a-yield,” weapon, which means the explosive power can be tailored to its target. (Photo: Visokio.com)

The B-61 is 12-foot-long, 700-pound thermonuclear (hydrogen) bomb that has been a stalwart of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal since the 1960s. (Hey, at least it’s not as old as the B-52 bomber, which first flew in — you guessed it — 1952.) Its re-design, which now makes it the B-61-12, has generated even more controversy than nuclear weapons in general. Here are three of the sticking points.

First, the cost of refurbishing the U.S. nuclear weapons program: Up to $1 trillion over 30 years, it does — under the department of thank-goodness-for-small favors — lend credence to those who think that the program will die a slow death due to budgetary attrition.
Read More

Saudi Arabia v. Iran as Much of a Schism as Arabs v. Israel

King Salman seems bent on returning Saudi Arabia to the past. (Photo: the Guardian)

King Salman seems bent on returning Saudi Arabia to the past. (Photo: the Guardian)

On January 3, Saudi Arabia announced that it had executed 47 people. Among them were prominent Shiite cleric and protester Nimr al-Nimr. As Rob Prince wrote at Focal Points, it may have been an attempt at goading Iran, ever growing in arch-enemy-hood in the eyes of Saudi Arabia, into responding and thus somehow torpedo-ing the recent nuclear deal it had signed.
Read More

Removing Cancer of the Islamic State Can Kill the Patient

Not only has the Islamic State been driven out of Ramadi, but most of its citizens. Pictured: Government building in Ramadi.(Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons)

Not only has the Islamic State been driven out of Ramadi, but most of its citizens. Pictured: Government building in Ramadi. (Photo: Beshr O / Flickr Commons)

Iraqi security forces, with the help of the United States, may have managed to dislodge most of the Islamic State forces and personnel occupying Ramadi, Iraq. But the combination of Iraqi ground forces and U.S. airstrikes took a terrible toll on the city. Writes Ben Hubbard in the New York Times.

… the widespread destruction of Ramadi bears testament to the tremendous costs of dislodging a group that stitches itself into the urban fabric of communities it seizes by occupying homes, digging tunnels and laying extensive explosives.

…  Few civilians remain from a population that once numbered around 400,000, and the city lacks electricity and running water.

The Islamic State plays dirty by embedding with the population. But neither did the U.S. and Iraq do Ramadi any favors by killing the patient to save it.

 

Recent Beheadings Show Saudi Arabia Is the One Really Running Around Like a Chicken Without Its Head

Iran refrained from over-reacting to the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Iran refrained from over-reacting to the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Cross-posted from View from the Left Bank.

The Saudi P5+1 counter-offensive sputtering

When Israel – Netanyahu in particular, but past Israeli prime ministers as well – wants to “stick it” to Washington, knowing that it could complicate Obama’s agenda some, it announces it is going to build more settlements in the Occupied Territories at a sensitive moment for Washington, the goal being, repeatedly, to sabotage any genuine progress towards a diplomatic solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

It works like a charm every time! Washington bristles, perhaps makes a few critical remarks, but never does anything that will seriously undermine the underlying strategic relationship. This political tango has gone on for decades ad nauseam. In the end, it is based on an illusion, that being that Israeli policy is somehow independent of Washington’s overall policy. Nothing could be further for the truth as Washington holds virtually all the cards in the relationship in its hand. The idea that the “tail is wagging the dog” is, in a word, nonsense.
Read More

Fear of Wounded Pride Drives Our China Policy

U.S. policymaker are wearing blinders if they think China will take containment sitting down. Pictured: Chinese missiles. (Photo: the Diplomat)

U.S. policymaker are wearing blinders if they think China will take containment sitting down. Pictured: Chinese missiles. (Photo: the Diplomat)

Right-wing mass media, for instance, Fox and its publications, has demonstrably affected public opinion. Progressive sentiment is frozen out, but sometimes it does find its way into centrist or once conservative media. An example is the once conservative, now more centrist, New York Daily News featuring front page after front page attacking gun advocates. In that setting progressive media is probably capable of having its greatest impact.

Another example is the National Interest, a national-security publication that was actually co-founded by a Kristol (Irving), but, devoted to realist policy, is currently center right. Yet if often features progressive opinions.

For instance, a recent article by John Glaser titled The Ugly Truth About Avoiding War With China. He writes that “China threatens the United States only insofar as America insists on being the dominant power in China’s backyard.” Apparently the United States seeks to follow a policy of containment. But, “If we try to contain China’s rise … these predictions of doom may prove right.”
Read More

Page 14 of 227« First...1213141516...203040...Last »