It’s Starting to Feel a Bit Like Nicaragua

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 10, 2017

We’re Starting to Look Like Nicaragua: Hayden

The United States is starting to look a little like Nicaragua, suggests former CIA Director Michael Hayden following the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

“A lot has been made about the role of career professionals — what I call the permanent government, what Steve Bannon might label the deep state — in helping an impulsive, inexperienced, often fact-free, tweet-driven president to govern effectively,” Hayden writes in The Hill. “Today’s events suggest that may require more bureaucratic courage than we may have anticipated, indeed perhaps more bureaucratic courage than the bureaucracy can routinely muster.
“A very pro-American European friend weighed in with me by email shortly after the White House announcement: ‘Astonishing. Your institutions appear to be in meltdown.’

“He has a point,” Hayden says.

  • The turmoil in Washington is “sucking the air” out of key U.S. national security prioritieswrites Kori Schake in Foreign Policy. “[L]ike how to knit together our North Korea policy with the dovish bent of the newly elected president of South Korea, or whether sending additional forces to Afghanistan are a continuation of existing strategy or harbinger of a new direction in that 16-year war.

“This solipsism creates an enormous window of opportunity for America’s adversaries.”

  • Russia might “approve of the interim result” of Comey’s firing, writes Chatham House’s Keir Giles for CNN Opinion. “[S]owing further discord and dismay in U.S. government agencies…

“But the Kremlin might equally be dismayed at the style and timing of the dismissal since it could be seen both in Washington and Moscow as a clumsy move, suggesting panic and only drawing further attention to the investigation into Trump’s Russian ties.”

Does Germany’s Military Have a Pro-Nazi Problem?

Germany’s military is facing a growing problem: pro-Nazis in its ranks, writes Melissa Eddy for the New York Times. “The military police are currently investigating 275 cases involving accusations of racism or far-right extremism stretching back six years, according to the Defense Ministry. The number represents a small minority in a force of nearly 180,000. But nearly 70 percent of cases have emerged in the last year and a half, pointing to an accelerating problem that German military authorities are only now scrambling to address.”

U.S.-Russia Ties: Very Good, Or Very Confusing?

President Trump says his conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday was “very, very good.”

Jeffrey Mankoff, deputy director and senior fellow of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Russia and Eurasia Program, emails Global Briefing: “After the Washington meetings, Lavrov and [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson are heading to Alaska for a meeting of the Arctic Council. Despite some tensions over military activities in the region and spillover from broader tensions in the bilateral relationship, the Arctic remains one of the few areas where the U.S. and Russia retain an opportunity to deepen cooperation and build trust. But, more broadly, Mankoff says that Russia seems to view the situation in Washington “with a mixture of confusion, concern, and Schadenfreude: Confusion as to what U.S. policy actually is on any given issue, Russia included; concern that the U.S. administration’s erratic behavior could spark an unnecessary crisis; and Schadenfreude that U.S. is in no position to preach about the status of human rights and democracy in Russia.”

Indonesia’s Disturbing Turn

The decision to sentence Jakarta’s Christian governor to two years in jail for blasphemy is just the latest sign that radical forces are gaining strength in the world’s largest Muslim majority country, writes Thomas Latschan for Deutsche Welle. And these forces are seeking to transform Indonesia’s “pluralistic democracy into an Islamic state.”
“Political opponents have accepted the role of radical forces in Indonesian politics. But the genie of radical Islam can no longer be pushed back into the bottle. The 2019 presidential vote, therefore, will be a decisive moment for the future of the Indonesian state. It is obvious that a further radicalization of the most populous Muslim country in the world would have a devastating impact on the entire Muslim world.”

The Big Prize in Iran’s Election Isn’t the Presidency

The presidency itself isn’t the biggest prize up for grabs when Iranians head to the polls later this month. Instead, it’s all about “who will succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, whose power far exceeds that of the elected president,” writes Babak Dehghanpisheh for Reuters. “President Hassan Rouhani…[who] promises to open up Iranian society and reduce its international isolation, is widely seen as the favorite to win a second term next week. “But the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and the Basij, a volunteer militia under the Guards’ command, are taking steps to promote the candidacy of his main rival, hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi.”

Why Trump Will Disappoint the Saudis

Despite the early hopes of improved ties under President Trump, the Saudi leadership looks destined to be disappointed, write Yoel Guzansky and Sigurd Neubauer in Foreign Affairs.
“Although Trump surely wants to differentiate himself from his predecessor, it is doubtful that he will significantly tilt U.S. policy in a pro-Riyadh direction, whether by pushing for the removal of Assad or by confronting Iran with anything more than rhetoric to ensure that Tehran complies with the [nuclear deal].
“And other issues may provide further sources of friction: the U.S-Russian détente, which Trump promised to pursue on the campaign trail, could strengthen Assad and therefore Iran; and Trump’s quest to restart the Israeli — Palestinian peace process may require pressuring Riyadh to bring Ramallah to the negotiating table. In short, the kingdom’s hopes for a full reset are likely to be dashed.”

India’s Coming Housing Boom?

India’s economy is poised for a dramatic boost in infrastructure spending that could “add as much as 75 basis points to India’s gross domestic product,” Archana Chaudhary and Pooja Thakur Mahrotri report for Bloomberg. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s drive to bring homes to the country’s 1.3 billion people, rising incomes and the best affordability in two decades will unleash a $1.3 trillion wave of investment in housing over the next seven years, according to CLSA India Pvt. “The firm expects 60 million new homes to be built between 2018 and 2024, creating about 2 million jobs annually.”



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