This week the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will present a report with new details on components of Iran's nuclear program that have long been a concern. The report will not, apparently, contain a "smoking gun," and it will not answer what intelligence officials say is the critical question: has Iran made the political decision to obtain a nuclear weapon. Before the report is even out, bellicose rhetoric has ramped up, based on what security experts say is the false assumption that a limited aerial strike - rather than a full-scale invasion - could eliminate the nuclear program and avoid harming America's security and that of our allies. Experts say that this saber-rattling may actually make an Iranian decision to weaponize more likely.
The debate over war with Iran is back in the headlines this week, even as Iran's economic and political systems are in disarray-with Iran's president announcing last week that sanctions are working. Experts continue to stress that military action would likely reverse these trends and prove enormously destabilizing. As a Stimson-USIP report warned last year, "Allusions by U.S. officials to the potential use of military options plays into the hands of the ultra hard-liners among Iran's elites, strengthening their arguments that the country will only be safe from American threats when it has nuclear weapons... U.S. military capabilities are well known. Reminding Iran of them only strengthens the arguments of those in Tehran who press for acquiring nuclear weapons."
Leaders of the G20 nations, which account for 90 percent of the world economy, are set to meet in Cannes, France, this week. The summit comes at a tumultuous time for the world economy, as the European debt crisis rages on and China debates its possible role in any bailout. Challenges to global economic recovery are broader than just those facing Europe though, as President Obama wrote late last week. American action to fix problems at home, chief among them high unemployment and weak demand, is needed to spur a global response and global growth that will, in turn, lift the U.S. economy. Leadership also means looking beyond today's emergency: In order to create balanced, sustainable and equitable growth, the G20 - and Washington - must quit "careening from crisis to crisis."
As NATO announced the official end of its mission in Libya and the transitional government named a new prime minister, speculation surrounding the applicability of this model elsewhere in the region continued, even as NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Monday that "NATO has no intention whatsoever to intervene in Syria." Government scandals and shakeups rocked Iraq and Iran, while Palestine's membership to UNESCO sparked a firestorm in Washington. And U.S. counterterrorism officials have set their sights on the top bomb maker of al Qaeda's Yemeni branch as violence continues to spread throughout the country. What should the U.S. responses to these disparate challenges have in common? They should be viewed through the prism of U.S. national interests, not ideological and political distractions.
This weekend, a suicide bomber blew up an armored bus in the capital of Afghanistan, killing 17 people, including 13 Americans. That attack is one more tragic event in a mixed picture where violence in Afghanistan is trending. While the Pentagon sees fewer insurgent-initiated attacks, the UN notes a rise in civilian casualties. No attack should derail the essential process of transition to Afghan authority - on security but also in politics and the economy. The first of two international conferences aimed at coordinating the transition process begins this week in Istanbul, Turkey. That conference will focus on security, good governance and economic growth. Governance, specifically, is an area that needs strengthening for the handover to be successful. As a Pentagon report noted last week, the government of Afghanistan has made only "limited progress" towards being sustainable and accountable.
As the Super Committee convened yesterday to discuss possible deficit-reduction deals, its members were bombarded with faulty claims about the relationship between defense spending and jobs. Economists and strategists alike point out that, because military spending is capital-intensive, not labor-intensive, it is a poor job creator.
A consensus has emerged among national security, intelligence and law enforcement leaders in Congress that our nation's law enforcement needs freedom to do its job interrogating and prosecuting terrorism suspects. Experts, officials and a growing number of media outlets are speaking out about controversial proposals to authorize indefinite detention, mandate military custody of terrorism suspects and impose stringent restrictions on transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay. These diverse leaders believe that the extreme provisions in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) are, in the words of two retired judges and a Bush-era FBI Director, "counterintuitive and could pose a genuine threat to our national security."
This weekend marked an important moment for the future of the Middle East. Tunisia held the first election since the "Arab Spring" uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. Tunisia, where the protests began, held an orderly election amid scenes of public rejoicing just nine months after the fall of its prior government. As expected, the moderate Islamist al Nahda party is reported to have won the most votes, receiving a plurality of votes and joining a coalition with liberal parties. Bipartisan experts have stressed that the role of political Islam will increase in the Middle East as part of the process of democratization. The U.S. response must be calm and pragmatic, while at the same time holding all parties to their pledges to work within norms of democracy and pluralism. What happens next in Tunisia - and the Western reaction - will be critical signals about the prospects for democratic and economic reform across the Middle East.
Last Friday's announcement by President Obama that all US troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year marks an important closure. As NSN Senior Adviser and former Commanding General of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) in IraqMajor General Paul Eaton, US Army (Ret) said in response: "His decision honors the commitments of the United States: to a sovereign Iraqi nation, to the brave American troops and diplomats who have served for almost a decade and to the American people... Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Americans have served our country in Iraq, and nearly four thousand five hundred people have given their lives to support Iraq's transition to a sovereign democratic nation. Today we thank and honor these men and women and mark a promise kept to Iraqis, to Americans and to the values they serve."
Information is still emerging about the apparent death this morning of Muammar Qaddafi and the last of his inner circle in Sirte. What is clear is that Libyans are celebrating the departure of a tyrant who caused terror at home and abroad for decades. Americans will also welcome the defeat of a man who killed and terrorized our citizens - a defeat which came without U.S. troops on the ground and by sharing the burden with our allies and partners who are more directly affected by the events on the ground.