Focal Points Blog

More Sanctions on Iran = Uranium Enriched to a Higher Grade

Ratcheting up the Rhetoric on Iran

(David Holt / Flickr)

In light of how much it has invested in uranium enrichment, it’s unrealistic to expect Iran to abandon the process. At the National Interest, Colin Kahl explains.

Given the significant financial investment—estimated to be at least $100 billion—and political capital the regime has expended to master uranium enrichment, the supreme leader will not agree to completely dismantle Iran’s program as many in Congress demand. … If Khamenei senses [President] Rouhani and [Minister of Foreign Affairs] Zarif are headed in that direction, he will likely pull the rug out from under continued negotiations, regardless of U.S. threats to escalate the pressure further.
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To Washington, Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan Has Gone Off the Reservation

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyio Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyio Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen

The current corruption crisis zeroing in on Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyio Erdogan has all the elements of one of his country’s famous soap operas that tens of millions of people all over the Middle East tune in to each day: bribes, shoe boxes filled with millions in cash, and dark whispers of foreign conspiracies.

As prosecutors began arresting leading government officials and businessmen, the Prime Minister claims that some foreign “ambassadors are engaging in provocative actions,” singling out U.S. Ambassador Frank Ricciardone. The international press has largely dismissed Erdogan’s charges as a combination of paranoia and desperation, but might the man have a point?
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Is Assad Really a Master Strategist?


With recent events in Syria, President Bashar al-Assad seems to have pulled off two coups. In November, NBC’s Richard Engel described the more obvious of the two.

In exchange for destroying the poison gas and the factories that make it — a process that’s almost impossible to verify — there would be no U.S. military strike. Assad would get to stay in power and continue his war with “conventional weapons,” including artillery and Scud missile attacks on civilian areas, napalm dropped on schools, and starving the opposition into submission. Even more shocking is that Assad has weathered the crisis appearing to the world as reasonable, rational and ready to compromise.  
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Beta Testing Drones on Unwitting Subjects


In a moving testimony at the Guardian, Heather Linebaugh, a former drone analyst for the United States, writes:

“Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them a few questions. I’d start with: ‘How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?’ And: ‘How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?'”
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Hungary’s Relative Income Equality Hides Other Inequities

Robert Braun, chairman of Hungary's  New Economics Foundation

Robert Braun, chairman of Hungary’s New Economics Foundation

Cross-posted from

If you look just at the statistics, Hungary seems to be doing pretty well, inequality-wise. The country experienced a significant spike in poverty and household inequality after the political changes of 1989-90. But since then, its rate of inequality has remained around the European average. It moved from Scandinavian levels of inequality (according to the Gini coefficient) to a situation comparable to, say, France. Moreover, according to at least one estimate, significant government redistribution efforts have been responsible for this trend.

But these statistics obscure a couple important facts. Particularly after the financial crisis of 2008, the poorest segments of the population were hit hardest in terms of loan repayments. “Indebted households in the lowest income quintile pay a higher share of their income as debt repayment, and they are also more likely to be in arrears with their repayments because of financial difficulties,” according to one article on income inequality in Hungary.
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Pakistan Allows China to Use Karachi as Lab Rats in Nuclear-Energy Experiment

Karachi. Wikimedia Commons

Karachi. Wikimedia Commons

As if Karachi didn’t have enough problems. Already, it’s “far and away the world’s most dangerous megacity,” writes Taimur Khan in Foreign Policy. Due, in large part to Sunni attacks on Shiites, its homicide rate is “25 percent higher than any other major city.” Now it’s broken ground on two new nuclear power plants. All together now: What could possibly go wrong?

In fact, even more than you think and for a reason outside the bounds of nuclear energy’s attendant risks.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (12/26)

Image Wikimedia Commons

Image Wikimedia Commons

More Affection? When Was There Any?

“There’s now more appreciation and even some nostalgia for [George W. Bush’s] resolve, the clarity of his convictions; things that were sometimes seen as liability when he was in office are now looked at with more affection,” said William C. Inboden, a former aide and the executive director of the Clements Center on History, Strategy and Statecraft at the University of Texas, Austin.  [Emphasis added.]

As Bush Settles Into Dallas, Golf Tees and Family Time Now Trump Politics, Peter Baker, the New York Times
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Is South Sudan a Failed State?

 South Sudan President Salva Kiir. Image Wikimedia Commons

South Sudan President Salva Kiir. Image Wikimedia Commons

Back in July 2011, after a long civil war, South Sudan split from Sudan to become an independent country. However, even though statehood was achieved and a new country was born, the efforts to transform South Sudan into a proper nation-state seem to have come to a standstill.

Is South Sudan a failed state? Even worse, is the country almost on the brink of collapse? In this article, I shall attempt to answer these questions.
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U.S. Determined to Re-freeze Thaw in Relations With Iran

Arak large

Iran’s Arak heavy-water facility

It was only supposed to be Iran’s uranium enrichment progress that was frozen after talks with Iran last month. But now, acting in bad faith by violating the spirit of the Geneva deal between the G5+1 (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) and Iran, the United States seems to be doing its level best to re-freeze the recent thaw in relations between the G5+1 and Iran. If you’ll bear with me for a final sub-Arctic-temperature metaphor, the United States has frozen the assets of (reports the Jerusalem Post) “companies and individuals engaged in transactions on behalf of other companies that the United States previously designated under the sanctions.”

Now is as good a time as any to ask what Americans ― from “low-information voters” to those who follow the news ― think the problem is between Iran and the West. Speaking in the broadest terms, many are under the impression that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Moving up one level of awareness, others believe that, at present, Iran is not building nuclear weapons, but that it must be stopped from enriching uranium lest it one day divert it to nuclear weapons.
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Tajikstan President Rahmon Brings Stability, But Not Prosperity

Emomali Rahmon, four-term president

Emomali Rahmon, four-term president of Tajikstan

Out of all the poor countries that emerged from the ashes of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Tajikistan stands alone as the poorest. While the papers surely talk about the rapid macroeconomic growth of the country, most of the ordinary Tajiks are yet to witness the brighter side of the economic progress.

Amidst such dismal scenario, back in November 2013, Tajikistan re-elected Emomali Rahmon as its leader, giving him a seven-year term at the office. Former chairman of a collective farm, Rahmon has been dominating the national politics ever since the country came into existence back in 1992 — he became the President in 1994, won for the second time in 1999, and then again in 2003 and 2006. It surely would have been a wonderful political resume had it not been for the absence of any serious political competition.

Question is, if there is rampant poverty in Tajikistan, why is everyone repeatedly giving one chance after another to Rahmon?
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