An earthquake hit Myanmar along its border with China providing yet another crisis for the world to solve. It does not get better:
1. My first thought was about Obama’s problematic Middle East strategy
2. Portugal might need a bailout
3. Sarah Palin’s Israel policy is contradictory and naive
4. Syria’s chaos or nothing thesis explains the Jasmine Revolution
5. My “Daily Rant” on NATO’s conflict over Libya
Overtime: Michele Bachmann will mostly like run for president and John Kerry vs. Richard Lugar on Libya
I’ll will be traveling to Washington D.C. this weekend, so there will not be any posts Friday or Saturday.
Syria is on the verge of its own civilian revolution. Bashar Assad, the leader of Syria, takes over where his father left off ruling during a 40 year state of emergency. How did he do this? Michael Young explains for Slate:
Bashar Assad still enjoys support from states preferring him to chaos. In the Gulf and Iraq, leaders facing popular rebellions of their own have no wish to see another despot ousted; nor do they want to have to manage a dangerous political void in Syria. Saudi Arabia still seeks cooperation with Damascus to contain Shiite influence in Lebanon and Iraq. Pointedly, the Syrian government defended the deployment of Gulf forces in Bahrain on behalf of the Sunni Al-Khalifa monarchy, even as Iran sided with the marginalized Shiites. Damascus won’t soon break with Tehran, but Assad needs the Saudis on his side to help absorb anger, especially Sunni anger, at home.
I feel like all the Middle Eastern autocracies used the same logic. Either you have me, brutal dictator, or you have a chaotic democracy where [insert radical force here] could take over. Its a neat trick, but one that the protesters know is losing its luster.
The former Governor of Alaska just returned from her low key trip to Israel with her husband. Last night, she gave an interview to Greta Van Susteren on Fox News when she said the following about Israel:
“President Obama was inappropriate to intervene in a zoning issue in Israel,” she said, referring to settlement building on the West Bank. “Let Israel decide their zoning issues themselves.”
Her understanding of foreign policy does not run very deep I see. Last week, during Palin’s trip to India, some were trying to find a coherent doctrine in her thinking. That “zoning issue” happens to be the settlement expansion that Israel has on and off frozen for the last few years. It is the biggest impediment towards getting a two state solution because every time the U.S. tries to negotiate with Israel, they decide to expand settlements the West Bank or Gaza Strip, or they decide to lift the current freeze they have on settlements. This is not just something the U.S. demands of Israel. Rather, the Palestinian leaders call for this when they want to negotiate. So, naturally, if a peace process started again, the settlements would be up for discussion.
My other problem with this statement, other than her ignorance of Middle Eastern politics, is the inconsistency Palin has in regards to sovereignty. On the one hand, she wants to the U.S. to criticize China for human rights abuses and supports both the nation building exercises in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the other hand, when it comes to our allies, we should just not tell them what to do because, in the case of Israel, these are local issues. This is highly contradictory in my opinion. If she wants to be serious in the foreign policy realm, she must work harder at understanding these complex topics and not contradict herself.
Photo Credit: Washington Post
Greece, Ireland, and now Portugal might be next in line to receive a bailout from the EU. It is unclear whether the process will go through of not. At a meeting in Brussels, the EU ministers are considering how to deal with the debt crisis with a possible Portugal bailout on the table. This comes on the heels of Portugal’s prime minister resignation. Bloomberg reports:
Analysts comment on Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates tendering his resignation after his plans to cut the budget were rejected by parliament, increasing speculation the country will seek an international bailout. The vote came hours before European Union leaders meet in Brussels to sign off on measures aimed at drawing a line under the region’s sovereign-debt crisis. The comments were collected from reports published by bank.
Even if Portugal does get a bailout, it will not be as big as Greece or Ireland’s:
“The news clearly increases the pressure on Portugal to accept a bailout. One EU source suggested yesterday that, if Portugal does opt for a bailout, it is likely to be in the 60-80 billion-euro region, which would make it smaller than both Greece and Ireland. Portugal has 4.3 billion euros ($6.1 billion) of coupon payments in mid-April and 4.9 billion euros in June and we suspect that a deal could be done before these payments.
Although, at this point it is unclear what will happen next. The Wall Street Journal notes the only reason to really give bailout to Portugal is to prevent contagion to Spain, which is unlikely now:
The pressure on European leaders was partly offset, though, by what seemed like limited financial contagion from Portugal’s woes. Spanish stock and bond prices rose while Spain’s Finance Minister Elena Salgado said her government will push ahead with reforms efforts.In the past, turmoil in other troubled countries of the euro-zone has roiled Spanish financial markets.
Arriving in Brussels for a meeting of center-right party leaders, the head of Portugal’s main opposition party, Pedro Passos Coelho from the Social Democratic Party, said he hopes Portugal can remain “free of a bailout.” He said new elections, which are likely to take place in late May or June, can leave the country with a strong government.