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If You Thought 2017 Was Bad, Just Wait for 2018

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发表于 1/9/2018 16:08:10 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
If You Thought 2017 Was Bad, Just Wait for 2018Last year, Trump corroded U.S. foreign policy, but avoided disaster. This year, there are powerful reasons to think that matters will worsen.BY HAL BRANDS | JANUARY 8, 2018  Foreign policy
Is 2018 the year when President Donald Trump finally pulls it together in the realm of foreign policy, or is it the year when the train goes fully off the rails, with potentially disastrous consequences? As I argue in my new book, American GraOn all these issues, Congress and other outside actors in some cases and his own advisers in others have blocked the president from carrying out his own worst ideas. For all the pyrotechnics associated with the first year of his presidency, then, the damage has been more the result of a slow bleed than an instantaneous blowup.
To put it more bluntly, Trump’s first year has been quite bad, but it could easily have been far more damaging still. The key question for 2018 is whether things are likely to get better or worse.
For those inclined to be charitable, there are, perhaps, some reasons to think the trajectory might improve. Advisers such as Secretary of Defense James Mattis have largely proven to be pillars of responsibility, managing a volatile president and restraining some of his potentially more destructive impulses. If anything, the internal balance of power seems to be swinging toward the adults, as true-believing, America-first firebrands such as former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn were gradually pushed out of the administration over the first year, and the lower ranks have been populated — albeit at a glacial pace — with more mainstream figures. Chief of Staff John Kelly has reportedlybrought somewhat greater order to the running of the White House, mainly by controlling information and thereby reducing the quantity of wild ideas that make their way to the top. (The wild ideas that originate at the top are another matter, unfortunately.)
To his own credit, Trump has also changed his position on a few key issues — by not immediately terminating NAFTA or precipitously withdrawing from Afghanistan, for instance — and he has acknowledgedthat the world looks different from the Oval Office than it did from the campaign trail. Finally, he displayed occasional flashes of normality as 2017 came to a close, namely the publication of a National Security Strategy that had its Trumpian flourishes but was far less extreme than the president’s previous rhetoric might have suggested it would be.
The trouble, however, is that for every piece of good news regarding Trump’s foreign policy, there often seem to be two pieces of bad news. And if there are some grounds for optimism regarding what’s likely to come in 2018, there are also powerful reasons to think that matters will not improve — and that they could actually get much worse.
For one thing, Trump’s position may have shifted on a few issues, but fundamentally he remains as erratic, volatile, and destructive as ever. The examples of his immutable nature are innumerable by this point, but just take two from the previous month. In December 2017, the president might have simply basked in the modest applause he would likely have received for issuing a relatively measured and mainstream (by Trump standards) National Security Strategy. Instead, he gave a typically incendiary speechthat slammed U.S. allies, soft-pedaled differences with adversaries, and amplified the inevitable doubts about whether he had even read — let alone agreed with — his own strategy. More recently, the president issued what the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf rightly wrote, “may be the most irresponsible tweet in history,” in which Trump casually threatened nuclear war with North Korea and thus continued his apparently ongoing quest to make Washington seem more reckless than Pyongyang. Trump will never evolve, we have now learned: He is who he always appeared to be.
Trump will never evolve, we have now learned: He is who he always appeared to be.

Second, if the quality of policy debate is a predictor of the quality of policy, then there are some worrying trend lines. It may be that Kelly is better at screening access to the president. But Trump’s economic and policy illiteracy on key issues seems to be dragging down the level of argument within the administration and encouraging gamesmanship that can have unpredictable results. Figures such as Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor, and Steve Mnuchin, Trump’s secretary of the Treasury, have reportedlysought to pull the president away from his protectionist impulses by making arguments that are dubious on their merits but designed to appeal to Trump’s vanities. That may be the best way to steer the president away from bad decisions on NAFTA and other economic issues. But it is a risky game to play, given that proponents of unwise policy choices can do the same thing.
Third, and most troubling of all, Trump’s penchant for talking tough but kicking the hardest issues down the road has created a series of time-bombs for the administration — all of which could explode in 2018. In mid-January, Trump must decide whether to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Iran in the absence of discernible progress toward his notion of fixing the Iran nuclear deal. The NAFTA renegotiation is coming to a head, with little evidence that Canada and Mexico are willing to accede to the administration’s demands. Most dangerous of all, 2018 will almost certainly be the make-or-break year in determining whether North Korea masters the intercontinental ballistic missile capability needed to reliably deliver nuclear weapons to the United States. On all of these issues, Trump has essentially talked himself into a humiliation-escalation trap by making big promises that will be extremely difficult to fulfill.
Trump has essentially talked himself into a humiliation-escalation trap by making big promises that will be extremely difficult to fulfill.
He may soon have to choose between backing down and ratcheting up confrontations with enemies and friends alike.
Trump will be making these calculations, moreover, as the political temperature again starts to rise. He always seems to be in campaign mode. But as the 2018 midterms approach and he begins looking forward to 2020, he will feel increasing pressure to fire up his base by delivering on his ill-advised public statements and campaign promises. Given that Trump is becoming ever-more politically dependent on mobilizing a relatively small base of voters, the temptation to do so will be strong indeed.and Strategy in the Age of Trump, the first year of Trump’s presidency has been plenty corrosive to U.S. power and influence, because Trump has steadily undermined a number of qualities that made American statecraft effective in the past. Trump has often seemed determined to erode longstanding pillars of U.S. diplomacy: America’s reputation for steadiness and reliability, commitment to a positive-sum global order in which all countries that play by the rules can prosper, soft power and identification with the advancement of universal values, and image as a dependable ally and a country committed to solving the world’s toughest problems. Meanwhile, the administration has struggled (to say the least) with systematic policy formulation and execution. The combination of internal disorganization and understaffing, erratic presidential behavior, and very public disputes between Trump and his cabinet secretaries has made 2017 one of the messiest first years ever.
What can nonetheless be said for this administration is that it has so far avoided some of the most disastrous outcomes that were widely — and quite reasonably — feared when Trump took office. The president’s tweets have often proved beyond irresponsible, but so far there has been no preventive war with North Korea. Symbolically decertifying the Iran nuclear deal was a bad idea, but Trump did not commit the far worse error of unilaterally withdrawing from the accord. The White House reportedlyflirted with lifting sanctions on Russia and bringing back torture and CIA black sites, but internal and congressional resistance apparently blocked those ideas. The president withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, thus making a major strategic misstep, but he has so far refrainedfrom initiating trade wars or pulling out of existing agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.





 楼主| 发表于 1/9/2018 16:27:49 | 显示全部楼层
ARGUMENTIt’s Time to Bomb North KoreaDestroying Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal is still in America’s national interest.BY EDWARD LUTTWAK | JANUARY 8, 2018  Foreign policy
Nothing can be known about this week’s talks between North and South Korea other than their likely outcome. As in every previous encounter, South Korea will almost certainly reward North Korea’s outrageous misconduct by handing over substantial sums of money, thus negating long-overdue sanctions recently imposed by the United Nations Security Council. Meanwhile, the North will continue to make progress toward its goal of deploying several nuclear-armed, mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles, having already tested nuclear-explosive devices in October 2006, May 2009, February 2013, January 2016, September 2016, and September 2017
    Each test would have been an excellent occasion for the United States to finally decide to do to North Korea what Israel did to Iraq in 1981, and to Syria in 2007 — namely, use well-aimed conventional weapons to deny nuclear weapons to regimes that shouldn’t have firearms, let alone weapons of mass destruction. Fortunately, there is still time for Washington to launch such an attack to destroy North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. It should be earnestly considered rather than rejected out of hand.
    Of course, there are reasons not to act against North Korea. But the most commonly cited ones are far weaker than generally acknowledged.
    One mistaken reason to avoid attacking North Korea is the fear of direct retaliation.
One mistaken reason to avoid attacking North Korea is the fear of direct retaliation.
    The U.S. intelligence community has reportedly claimed that North Korea already has ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads that can reach as far as the United States. But this is almost certainly an exaggeration, or rather an anticipation of a future that could still be averted by prompt action. The first North Korean nuclear device that could potentially be miniaturized into a warhead for a long-range ballistic missile was tested on September 3, 2017, while its first full-scale ICBM was only tested on November 28, 2017. If the North Koreans have managed to complete the full-scale engineering development and initial production of operational ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads in the short time since then — and on their tiny total budget — then their mastery of science and engineering would be entirely unprecedented and utterly phenomenal. It is altogether more likely that they have yet to match warheads and missiles into an operational weapon.

    It’s true that North Korea could retaliate for any attack by using its conventional rocket artillery against the South Korean capital of Seoul and its surroundings, where almost 20 million inhabitants live within 35 miles of the armistice line. U.S. military officers have cited the fear of a “sea of fire” to justify inaction. But this vulnerability should not paralyze U.S. policy for one simple reason: It is very largely self-inflicted.
When then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter decided to withdraw all U.S. Army troops from South Korea 40 years ago (ultimately a division was left behind), the defense advisors brought in to help — including myself — urged the Korean government to move its ministries and bureaucrats well away from the country’s northern border and to give strong relocation incentives to private companies. South Korea was also told to mandate proper shelters, as in Zurich for example, where every new building must have its own (under bombardment, casualties increase dramatically if people leave their homes to seek shelter). In recent years, moreover, South Korea has had the option of importing, at moderate cost, Iron Dome batteries, which are produced by both Israel and the United States, that would be capable of intercepting 95 percent of North Korean rockets headed to inhabited structures.
But over these past four decades, South Korean governments have done practically nothing along these lines. The 3,257 officially listed “shelters” in the Seoul area are nothing more than underground shopping malls, subway stations, and hotel parking lots without any stocks of food or water, medical kits or gas masks. As for importing Iron Dome batteries, the South Koreans have preferred to spend their money on developing a fighter-bomber aimed at Japan.
    Even now, casualties could still be drastically reduced by a crash resilience program. This should involve clearing out and hardening with jacks, props, and steel beams the basements of buildings of all sizes; promptly stocking necessities in the 3,257 official shelters and sign-posting them more visibly; and, of course, evacuating as many as possible beforehand (most of the 20 million or so at risk would be quite safe even just 20 miles further to the south). The United States, for its part, should consider adding vigorous counterbattery attacks to any airstrike on North Korea.
    Nonetheless, given South Korea’s deliberate inaction over many years, any damage ultimately done to Seoul cannot be allowed to paralyze the United States in the face of immense danger to its own national interests, and to those of its other allies elsewhere in the world. North Korea is already unique in selling its ballistic missiles, to Iran most notably; it’s not difficult to imagine it selling nuclear weapons, too.
Another frequently cited reason for the United States to abstain from an attack — that it would be very difficult to pull off — is even less convincing. The claim is that destroying North Korean nuclear facilities would require many thousands of bombing sorties. But all North Korean nuclear facilities — the known, the probable, and the possible — almost certainly add up to less than three dozen installations, most of them quite small. Under no reasonable military plan would destroying those facilities demand thousands of airstrikes.


 楼主| 发表于 1/9/2018 16:52:51 | 显示全部楼层
ARGUMENTHow to Break Up Europe’s Axis of IlliberalismIf the EU really wants to punish Poland, it should turn up the pressure on Hungary.BY SLAWOMIR SIERAKOWSKI | JANUARY 8, 2018 foreign policy
Western observers tend to conflate Europe’s two leading proponents of right-wing populism: Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, and the chairman of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski.
Kaczynski has long promised the advent of “Budapest in Warsaw,” an allusion to Orban’s model of “illiberal democracy” that the Hungarian leader unapologetically touted in a 2014 speech. And in 2016, both leaders proudly announced a “cultural counterrevolution” within the European Union.

So when the EU turned up the heat on Warsaw in late December, Orban unsurprisingly pledged to “defend Poland,” implying that he would veto the threatened introduction of EU sanctions against the Polish government. But that outcome is far from certain.
For now, Kaczynski and Orban may be able to ensure their impunity, as long as each vetoes sanctions against the other. But there are ways to drive a wedge between them.
For now, Kaczynski and Orban may be able to ensure their impunity, as long as each vetoes sanctions against the other. But there are ways to drive a wedge between them.
Indeed, if politicians in Brussels and beyond want to stop being outplayed by the Polish and Hungarian governments, they must first understand the strengths and vulnerabilities of each leader and grasp the fundamental differences between their respective countries.

In Hungary, unlike in Poland, the concentration of political power has been accompanied by a remarkable concentration of wealth. Orban’s closest friends and those with whom he has built the Fidesz party are now among the richest people in Hungary. Thanks to state contracts, the mayor of Orban’s native Felcsut, a childhood friend of the prime minister, jumped to number five in last year’s list of the wealthiest Hungarians. Other apparent beneficiaries of Orban’s rule include his friend Istvan Garancsi (with a fortune that has tripled since Orban came to power in 2010) and Istvan Tiborcz, who is the prime minister’s son-in-law. In Poland, the government is not conducting this kind of large-scale transfer of public assets to the private bank accounts of Kaczynski’s entourage. On Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, Poland was still ranked a respectable 29th as of 2016, while Hungary was further down the list at 57th in the company of Malaysia, Romania, and Cuba.
Orban’s illiberal democracy has already been legitimized in Hungary, whereas Kaczynski’s system has not gained comparable support in Poland. Orban does not need to violate the Hungarian Constitution because he has a much larger support base than Kaczynski has ever had. This is the best explanation for why the EU is ready to use Article 7 against Poland’s government, but not against Hungary’s, which has advanced much further in entrenching its illiberal project. Fidesz’s standing in the polls has even reached 70 percent. In Poland, a similar result is unimaginable; Law and Justice’s popularity peaked at 47 percent, and in elections it has never garnered more than 38 percent of the vote.
Orban also has a much better foundation for arousing nationalist sentiments. Hungary has a large — and widely vilified — Roma population of between 450,000 and 1 million and this community is projected to reach about 15 percent of the country’s population by 2050. Hungary also lies in the middle of the refugee path through Europe, a fact that Orban ruthlessly exploits to arouse anti-migrant sentiments. Poland, by contrast, remains the most homogenous country in Europe, without any significant ethnic minorities to speak of, aside from the recent inflow of Ukrainians. Orban also has a diaspora that he can rally; he can potentially count on millions of citizens of Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Serbia who have Hungarian ancestry and could become an electoral gold mine for Fidesz. It is easy to kindle nationalist sentiments among this demographic, and it’s no coincidence that Orban has introduced legislation that bestows significant benefits on Hungarians living abroad.
Finally, Orban can blackmail Brussels by appealing to EU fears of his far-right adversary, the Jobbik party, which he claims to be keeping at bay. The Hungarian opposition is hamstrung by virtue of the fact that it is politically polarized — the two largest parties accuse each other of being “communists” (in the case of the post-communist Hungarian Socialist Party) and “fascists” (Jobbik). This division guarantees that the opposition can’t challenge the ruling party.
Yet despite all of Orban’s success at entrenching his power, Hungary remains much more economically dependent on the West, and that gives the EU leverage.
Yet despite all of Orban’s success at entrenching his power, Hungary remains much more economically dependent on the West, and that gives the EU leverage.
The Hungarian economy depends on exports, while the Polish economy draws on both exports and domestic consumption. Poland’s domestic market is several times larger than Hungary’s, because its population is four times the size. But Hungary needs Europe.

It’s no accident that Orban visited his close ideological allies among the leadership of Angela Merkel’s sister party, the Christian Social Union, in the German state of Bavaria last week. Germany is Hungary’s largest economic partner, accounting for close to 30 percent of exports, and as many as one out of every three new Hungarian jobs is created by a German company. That means Germany could exert significant pressure on Hungary in a way that it could not vis-à-vis Poland.




 楼主| 发表于 1/9/2018 17:23:37 | 显示全部楼层
EXCLUSIVEDancing to Russia’s Tune in SyriaAs the United States stands back, the Saudis and even the U.N. special envoy are now open to a greater Russian diplomatic role in shaping the future of Syria.BY COLUM LYNCH | JANUARY 8, 2018 foreign policy
In Dec. 24, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, called together a delegation of Syrian opposition leaders to deliver a blunt message: Riyadh would be throttling back its military support for their efforts to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
It was time, Jubeir counseled, to devote their energies instead to securing a political deal with Damascus at a peace conference in January in Sochi, Russia, according to two opposition sources and two other diplomatic officials who described the meeting to Foreign Policy. If they were well prepared for Sochi, Jubeir argued, they would be in a better position to get an agreement on a political transition. (Saudi officials in New York and Washington did not respond to requests for comment.)

Jubeir’s appeals mark another reversal for Syria’s beleaguered anti-Assad forces, who already lost the covert military backing of the United States in July. More important, the Saudi message underscores the success of Russia’s diplomatic push to shape the future of postwar Syria, which is quickly coming to rival the official, U.N.-led process that has sputtered along for five years in Geneva.
Even the United Nations is now torn over whether to take part in Russia’s peace plan, with Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, mounting a behind-the-scenes push to secure a seat at the table in Sochi and urging Saudi Arabia and the Syrian opposition to attend.
Moscow’s growing diplomatic clout in the Syrian endgame has been made possible, in part, by Washington’s passivity. The Donald Trump administration has focused more on fighting the Islamic State and fending off Iran than on shaping the political future of the war-ravaged country.
“Syria is an example of how U.S. diplomacy is not front and center,” one U.N. Security Council diplomat said. “The U.S. has lost ground to Russia on that issue.”
Even if the United States wanted to play a bigger role in postwar Syria, its disengagement has weakened its ability to do so, said retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the former U.S. envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition.
“In many respects, the political trajectory has been decided by the Russians,” Allen said last month. “And sadly, the United States has little capacity now to exert leadership in this process or to participate.”
Russia’s latest diplomatic drive began more than a year ago. In January 2017, the Russian government held talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, with Iranian and Turkish officials to work out a cease-fire; the United States was largely excluded from the process, which is ongoing.
Now Moscow is planning to use a conference later this month at the Black Sea resort of Sochi to help determine the contours of Syria’s political future — which the Russians hope will include Assad.
Russia’s diplomatic push worries many Western governments and Syrian opposition leaders. They fear the meeting will simply consolidate recent military gains by Russia and the Syrian government, perpetuate Assad’s brutal rule, and drive a new generation of Syrians into the insurgency. They also worry the Russian process will jettison some core parts of what was agreed in Geneva, such as a transitional government and a blueprint for life after Assad. Many critics charge that Russia, as a party to the conflict, cannot be an honest broker.
“There is no alternative to the Geneva process led by the U.N.,” France’s U.N. ambassador, François Delattre, told reporters late last month. “There is no other game in town.”
More than 130 Syrian opposition groups, alarmed by the apparent willingness of de Mistura to take part in the Sochi talks, sent him a letter on Jan. 3 calling the negotiations a “dangerous departure from the [U.N.-led] Geneva process” and a “serious threat” to Syria’s prospects for peace.
The problem is that the Geneva process is starting to look less viable. Russia’s military assistance to the Assad regime has made Damascus less open to the idea of ceding power to a transitional government, a key element of the Geneva plan.
And Washington is doing little to keep Geneva alive, as the Trump administration focuses instead on stamping out the Islamic State and minimizing Iran’s influence. European allies privately complain that the United States hasn’t used its diplomatic muscle to support the Geneva talks and that there’s no single figure at the White House or State Department tasked with shaping the discussions.
“Someone has to own this and nobody does,” said a former senior U.S. national security official who has ties to the White House. To judge by the Saudi message to the Syrian opposition, however, as well as divisions inside the U.N., it increasingly appears that someone does indeed own the process: Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Trump administration officials counter that the United States has more leverage in Syria than it did a year ago, now that its Kurdish partners control more territory and U.S. troops remain on the ground.)
While U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has made it clear that the U.N. will only go to Sochi if the United States, Saudi Arabia, and other key allies either attend or give him a green light, de Mistura has argued that both the U.N. and the Syrian opposition should take part.
Last month, during the eighth round of Geneva talks, he pulled aside opposition leaders and pressed them to attend the Russian talks. Guterres ordered him to stand down, but not before the message got out.
“There is a split at the U.N.,” one diplomat said. “De Mistura wants to go so he can inject a U.N. viewpoint into the proceedings.” But his colleagues in New York “feel it will simply legitimate the Russian aims.”
“So far, the secretary-general feels Sochi doesn’t pass the smell test,” the diplomat said. Guterres is scheduled to meet with an opposition delegation at U.N. headquarters Monday afternoon.
“De Mistura has a tendency to lean toward the Russians rather than the United States,” said Radwan Ziadeh, a Syrian human rights activist based in Washington. “He feels the U.S. has withdrawn from the Syrian file and the only way for him to deliver is to lean toward the Russians.”
A spokesman for de Mistura declined to respond to questions about his support for the Sochi talks and referred FP to a series of statements by the U.N. special envoy indicating that any constitutional committee that might emerge from Sochi would have to be endorsed by the U.N., in consultation with the U.N. Security Council.
Officially, the United States still pins its hopes on the talks in Geneva, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, and Secretary of Defense James Mattis all trying to push Assad toward the exit.
“Geneva is the only way forward,” one State Department official told FP. “As our focus remains on Geneva and substantive progress from those negotiations, all other methods only serve as a distraction.”
But there are signs of a split in Washington, too, which could open the door to a more active Russian role.
Several top U.S. officials, including Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter the Islamic State; Michael Ratney, the special envoy for Syria; and David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, favor a limited approach to Syria that focuses on defeating the Islamic State, countering Iranian activities, and then winding down U.S. activities in Syria, according to diplomatic sources. McGurk seems especially open-minded about Moscow’s diplomatic efforts.
“We’ve engaged with the Russians on this about exactly what they have in mind, and they have said that Sochi would be kind of a gathering of Syrian figures, and then what happens in Sochi would feed directly into Geneva,” he told reporters last month.
“What we would not support and what would have absolutely no legitimacy would be a parallel process that’s parallel entirely to Geneva.”
But with the United States taking a back seat in Syria, a parallel diplomatic push seems to be exactly what is taking place.
FP chief national security reporter Dan De Luce and State Department reporter Robbie Gramer contributed to this report.



 楼主| 发表于 1/9/2018 17:58:52 | 显示全部楼层
ARGUMENTChina’s War on Poverty Could Hurt the Poor MostThe government is pushing people out of rural squalor — and into urban dependence.BY EUGENE K. CHOW | JANUARY 8, 2018 foreign policy
China’s war on poverty is in danger of turning into a war on the poor.
At China’s 19th Communist Party Congress in October, President Xi Jinping renewed a lofty pledge to lift 70 million people out of poverty by 2020. That’s a worthy goal in a country where over 43 million people still live on less than 2,300 yuan ($350) per year, the poverty line set by the government, and roughly 40 percent of the population, some 500 million people, get by on less than $5.50 a day. But that effort relies heavily on an opaque, arcane, and already overburdened social benefits system that is likely to buckle under the strain — and on policies that may leave poor Chinese worse off than before.

Xi’s pledge is an extension of the government’s effort, starting in 2012, to move 100 million rural residents into the cities by 2020. Officials believe that urban life brings higher standards of living and, more importantly, increases domestic consumption to rebalance China’s export-reliant economy.
In a 2014 speech, Premier Li Keqiang vowed to “wage a war against poverty with a stronger resolve.” The key to the plan, according to Li, was to “relocate people living in inhospitable areas, and nurture small towns where the relocated [people] can enjoy the same public services as urban residents.”
But China doesn’t want the poor moving to any old city. Thriving megacities like Beijing and Shanghai have officially capped their populations, following existing residents’ worries that an influx of migrants could drown out their access to superior schools and hospitals.
In November, authorities in Beijing began aggressively evicting internal migrant workers by demolishing entire city blocks, in some cases with only a few hours’ notice. Officially, this is a crackdown on “illegal structures” following a deadly fire that claimed the lives of 19 in a crowded neighborhood filled with domestic migrants — but the result has been to render tens of thousands of people homeless in a freezing winter.
To help keep numbers low in major cities, officials are encouraging, sometimes forcefully, rural residents to move to complexes on the outskirts of second- and third-tier cities such as Liaocheng, Zhengzhou, and Ankang, which often lack critical infrastructure.
Residents of these new towns have limited access to basic services like health care and education due to a severe shortage of medical staff and teachers in less developed regions. China’s tiered system, whereby schools in the big cities receive more funding and better staff, leaves smaller ones struggling and often forces people to travel hundreds of miles in the hope of better medical treatment.
More than a lack of services, rural transplants have been cut off from the subsistence-based life they once knew and thrown into a world they’re unprepared for. The case of Qin Huamei, 45, one of China’s newest urban residents, highlights the pitfalls.
A few months ago, Qin traded her mud house in Guizhou, one of China’s poorest provinces, for a new two-bedroom apartment in a white-walled government housing complex in Guiyang, the provincial capital, she told NPR. No longer does she have to draw water from the village well each morning — instead Qin can simply turn the taps in her sink.27
“Life here is much better than my hometown, but now I need money to pay for my food,” Qin told NPR. “Before, we just ate what we grew.”
While life has improved, Qin and other rural transplants must now find a way to earn an income. She is uninterested in any of the available jobs such as street cleaning, and is instead hoping that something better will come along once the technology park across from her building eventually opens. Even then, it’s unclear if she will be able to get a job.
With limited experience outside of farming, many rural transplants have difficulty finding and maintaining jobs. A study of 960 rural migrants who were resettled in Chongqing foundthat over half struggled to find stable jobs due to their unfamiliarity with the city and their lack of social networks.
The process can be particularly alarming for the elderly, who have almost no chance of employment in the urban job market. As one woman in her 70s told researchers in Hebei in 2011, echoing Qin, “Before, we grew food. Now we have to go and buy it in the store. But what happens if there’s no food in the store, or if the government takes away our money, now we don’t even have our own land to grow it?”
For younger transplants, the promised jobs may never materialize. Villagers are dumped on the edge of empty third-tier cities, which were largely built by overzealous provincial leaders who hoped to attract businesses and residents with glittering downtown buildings and empty malls.
“Cities and extensions get built purely based on speculation, but not on direct demand,” Eduard Kögel, an urban planner who studies Chinese cities, explained to German public broadcast network Deutsche Welle. “Massive stretches are built, and it is assumed that the future growth and prosperity will somehow fill the space up.”
A study by a state-run think tank found China’s building boom created ghost cities with enough housing for 3.4 billion people — more than twice the country’s population.
***
Lured by government promises of relocation compensation, a new apartment, and good jobs, many rural residents have joined the ranks of urban dwellers, but at the cost of becoming almost entirely dependent upon the government for what little income and benefits they receive.
Under Chinese law, villagers have limited property rights. In the case of government land seizure, a farmer is entitled to only a small fraction of the land’s value. Payouts vary from village to village and project to project, and nearly a quarter of the time residents get no compensation at all. But when villagers are compensated, they only receive 5 to 10 percent of the land’s value, while local authorities sell the land to developers for millions.
According to one survey, 43 percent of Chinese villages had experienced government land grabs, with nearly 20 percent of these cases being forced evictions. Though more than three-quarters received some form of compensation, more than half were left feeling dissatisfied.
Two decades after the colossal Three Gorges Dam displaced 1.2 million people along the Yangtze River, many continue to petition the government over their compensation. Some residents complain that they received less than 30,000 yuan ($4,600) per person, far below what was originally promised.
Although 30,000 yuan is not insignificant in the countryside, it doesn’t go far in the city, where the average household earns over 33,000 yuan a year in disposable income per capita.
A 2013 visit by the New York Times to a newly built town in Shaanxi province revealed that relocated residents huddled around open fires in their front yards despite having indoor heating because they could not afford the electricity costs.
“The supportive policies can relieve poverty in the short term, but from a long-term perspective, they will easily fall back into poverty,” Professor Yang Lixiong, who studies poverty at Beijing’s Renmin University, told CNBC. According to Yang, if the government were to cut back on infrastructure spending and subsidies for health care and education, as many as half of residents lifted above the poverty line in some areas of western China would fall below it again.
By law, all Chinese workers are entitled to a pension, unemployment insurance, health care, and housing assistance as well as access to public education. However, in reality, access to the system is grossly unequal, heavily favoring urban residents and leaving out rural farmers and those who have left the countryside in search of work.
But providing rural transplants and migrant workers with the services they need is a prohibitively expensive proposition. The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a state-run think tank, estimates it would cost $15 billion to provide a million new urban residents with crucial services like education and health care. Moving 70 million, as the government plans, would cost more than a trillion dollars, more than one-third of all current government expenditures.
This additional spending comes as China’s pension system is bracing for a wave of payouts. Due to the one-child policy, much of the nation’s workforce is rapidly approaching retirement age while a shrinking number of young workers replace their ranks and replenish the pension system.
An analysis by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences shows the nation’s pension fund surplus will turn into a deficit by 2023 and grow to $118 trillion by 2050 if significant reforms are not made. On top of that, local governments are buried in more than $2.5 trillion of debt and often unable to provide necessary services to residents.
To fill their coffers, cash-strapped local authorities have taken to the unsustainable practice of seizing land from villagers and selling it to developers. Over the last decade and a half, this has led to deadly clashes, and dozens have set themselves on fire in protest.
***
China’s anti-poverty plan hinges on attracting rural residents to second- and third-tier cities, but villagers have shown little interest in moving there. Instead, they have clung to their rural homes and traveled to thriving cities to seek opportunities.
The government has a long record of forcefully relocating residents, but it has always risked social unrest by doing so. In 2011, the village of Wukan made international headlines after authorities laid siege to the town following a mass uprising over a land grab. The protest was eventually quieted, but the government has little appetite for the costs of further suppression. So to incentivize voluntary moves, the central government has promisedmassive infrastructure spending, linking every city with more than 200,000 residents by rail and expressways, and cities with more than 500,000 by high-speed rail.
But it is unclear if the government can continue stimulating growth by pouring money into infrastructure, let alone maintain the pension system and fund needed improvements in health care and education. Last summer, authorities made the unprecedented move of halting construction on a multibillion-dollar subway project in Inner Mongolia, a potential red flag.
In August 2017, the International Monetary Fund warned that China’s aggressive debt-driven growth strategy was putting the country on a “dangerous trajectory.” From 2000 to 2014, Chinese debt soared from $2.1 trillion to $28.2 trillion, and it is projected to rise to nearly 300 percent of GDP by 2022.
The fate of China’s war on poverty rests on shaky ground. Moving 70 million people out of poverty will require a complete overhaul of its entire social welfare system as well as trillions in new debt. This is a rocky path, even if the government avoids plunging off the cliff into economic crisis. But however the cost is managed, China’s farmers will have to suffer the consequences of the government’s plans, as they always have.


Eugene K. Chow writes on foreign policy and military affairs. His work has been published in The Week, Huffington Post, National Interest, and The Diplomat.


 楼主| 发表于 1/10/2018 17:34:47 | 显示全部楼层
ARGUMENTWhat’s a Nuclear Hotline Good For Anyway?North and South Korea have revived their dormant direct line. That’s good news for the rest of the world.BY JEREMI SURI | JANUARY 9, 2018, foreign policy
Despite the proliferation of global communications, North Korea’s leaders have long pursued Tokugawa-like isolation from foreign influences. One of the few sanctioned exceptions is the crisis “hotline” that allows daily telephone conversations between North and South Korean military figures within the demilitarized border town of Panmunjom. Although the representatives from the two states talk from buildings only a few hundred feet apart, when the connection opened in 1971 it bridged oceans of violent separation. The hotline is the only channel for direct daily contact, and both sides used it regularly until early 2016, when North Korea stopped picking up.
    That changed on Jan. 3, 2018, when Pyongyang’s representatives returned to the line, in conjunction with direct negotiations that started five days later between high-level officials of both states. But how significant exactly is the reopening of the hotline on the Korean Peninsula? Will the hotline reduce the risk of war, which has flared dangerously with repeated North Korean nuclear missile tests and flamboyant personal threats from both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump in the last year?

    The history of previous nuclear hotlines offers an important perspective. Their uses have been infrequent and often quite trivial, but their existence has discouraged rash behavior and encouraged confidence that crises can be managed short of war. Hotlines have facilitated signaling between adversarial states, and they have reduced the likelihood of dangerous miscalculations. They are valuable tools for diplomacy, especially in regions — like the Korean Peninsula — locked in conflict.
    The Cuban missile crisis inspired the creation of the first nuclear hotline. During the two weeks in October 1962 when the United States and the Soviet Union approached the precipice of thermonuclear war, U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev struggled to control events. Khrushchev famously warned Kennedy: “If we succeeded in finding a way out of a dangerous situation this time, next time we might not safely untie the tightly made knot.”
    The absence of direct communications between the two leaders tightened the knot as they struggled to understand each other’s motives and actions.
The absence of direct communications between the two leaders tightened the knot as they struggled to understand each other’s motives and actions.
    Technological limitations, security concerns, and hostile Cold War attitudes made a point-to-point telephone line from the White House to the Kremlin impossible at that time. Instead, Kennedy and Khrushchev had to rely on intermediaries, including their ambassadors, who were underinformed and distrusted. They created special “back channels” to open new lines of negotiation, but these were often unreliable. Most significant unplanned events during the crisis, including the shoot-down of an American U-2 aircraft over Cuba, threatened to trigger major miscalculations and escalation.

    Leaders had long relied on diplomats, spies, and other intermediaries for their communications with adversaries. The difference in 1962 was that the speed and depth of potential destruction in a thermonuclear world reduced the time for deliberation and increased the dangers of miscalculation. Kennedy and Khrushchev felt that they needed to talk with more urgency and sobriety than their predecessors.
    They began by exchanging letters after the moment of acute crisis had passed. Then, in March 1963, the United States proposed “the establishment of direct and more secure communications” between American and Soviet leaders. On June 20, the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding in Geneva — the first arms control agreement of the Cold War — to create “a direct communications link” and “take the necessary steps to ensure continuous functioning of the link and prompt delivery to its head of government of any communications received by means of the link from the head of government of the other party.”
    Implementation came quickly, reflecting the eagerness of leaders in both capitals. On July 13, 1963, the first Soviet-American hotline became operational. It consisted of two pairs of Teletype machines, linked by dedicated telegraph wires routed through Europe and under the Atlantic Ocean. The receivers sat in the Pentagon and the Soviet Communist Party Headquarters, where they were continuously manned to receive messages and send them immediately to the White House and Kremlin. The communication between leaders was still textual and indirect, but the time required was reduced from days and hours to minutes, and the possibilities for distortion were minimized. In 1967, the White House added a terminal, connected to the Pentagon receivers, and over the next four decades the technology was updated to include satellite communications, facsimile equipment, and eventually, in 2008, email.
    The superpowers communicated through the hotline during numerous crises, beginning with the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, when Washington assured Moscow of political stability within the United States. The first extended exchange occurred during the 1967 Six-Day War, when American and Soviet leaders reassured one another that they would not intervene directly and would mutually sue for peace in the region. Similar communications during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Yom Kippur War of 1973, and the Cyprus crisis of 1974 clarified the lines of deterrence in conflicts that could have expanded beyond their regions. Communications during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the Polish Solidarity crisis of 1981 were less successful in defusing conflict between Washington and Moscow, but the exchange of messages limited possible miscalculations as Cold War tensions increased.
    A direct voice link between the White House and Kremlin was possible by the 1990s, and it has largely replaced the textual hotline, although the latter still exists. American presidents now call allies and adversaries frequently, particularly during crises.
American presidents now call allies and adversaries frequently, particularly during crises.
     In the last decade, they have begun to use cell connections in addition to landlines. Mobile technology, coupled with secure long-distance capabilities, facilitates reliable voice communications as never before. For leaders in Washington, the notion of a hotline has become more diffuse — there are many “hotlines.”


 楼主| 发表于 1/10/2018 18:31:44 | 显示全部楼层
ARGUMENTThe Only Force That Can Beat Climate Change Is the U.S. ArmyAmerica’s military is the only institution that can break the partisan deadlock on the worst threat the nation faces.BY ANATOL LIEVEN | JANUARY 9, 2018 foreign policy
    The precise extent of human-induced climate change is unclear, but the basic science is unequivocal, as is the danger it poses to the United States. This threat comes from the direct impact of climate change on agricultural production and sea levels but equally importantly from the huge waves of migration that climate change is likely to cause, on a scale that even the world’s richest states and societies will be unable either to prevent or accommodate.
Yet for two out of the past four U.S. administrations, action on this issue has been frozen due to the refusal of a large section of the political establishment and electorate to accept the clear scientific evidence that this threat exists — and the Trump administration has now [url=http://nssarchive.us/national-security-strategy-2017/%20and%20http://thefederalist.com/2017/12 ... al-security-threats]decided[/url] to remove climate change from the list of security threats to the United States under its new National Security Strategy (NSS).

    The most urgent and important task facing climate change activists in the United States is to persuade the U.S. national security establishment of the mistakenness of this decision
The most urgent and important task facing climate change activists in the United States is to persuade the U.S. national security establishment of the mistakenness of this decision
. If no serious progress can be made under this administration, then concentrated thought must be dedicated to placing climate change at the heart of the next administration’s NSS and of U.S. security thinking in general.

    This is because the most promising avenue to convince conservative American voters and to generate genuinely serious action in the United States against climate change would be to firmly establish the link between global warming and critical issues of national security. The threat should be obvious, but even before Donald Trump took office, the security elites in the United States and other major countries had not yet really integrated it into their thinking. Thus the vast majority of reporting and analysis of security issues in the Persian Gulf relates to classical security threats: the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the geopolitical and religious rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar, and so on.
    Almost unnoticed by security institutions has been a report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which states that by the last quarter of this century, climate change is likely to make it impossible for people in the Persian Gulf and South Asia to operate in the open for much of the year due to a combination of extreme heat waves and humidity. South Asia is currently home to the largest concentration of people in the world, many of them engaged in agriculture. If the MIT forecast proves true, what will future historians say about the current security preoccupations of the Gulf and South Asian governments and their Western allies?
***
     Much of the failure to adapt comes from the security establishments themselves. These were established initially to meet the classical security threats of external invasion and domestic rebellion and evolved during the Cold War to meet the combined military and ideological threat of Soviet communism. Very little in their experience and structures equips them to think seriously about a completely new threat like climate change — especially since its worse impacts will hit far beyond the timescale of the usual military scenarios.
    Sometimes they simply cannot even recognize the existence of these challenges, since to do so would be to risk admitting their own redundancy. There are honorable exceptions to this pattern, such as the American Security Project and the Center for Climate and Security. Unfortunately, however, their voices have too often been drowned out by those trumpeting the importance of traditional, but actually far less important challenges to U.S. security. New threat  European think tanks specializing in foreign and security policy, though they take climate change more seriously, generally place it in a separate box from security issues, thus ensuring that most security experts will never read their reports. I have personally experienced how experts on Pakistan who focus on short-term security threats to that country completely ignore the existential long-term threat posed by the combination of climate change, population growth, and poor use of water resources.
    But climate change activists must also shoulder some of the blame. All too many have a visceral aversion to thinking about or recognizing the legitimacy of national security issues
All too many have a visceral aversion to thinking about or recognizing the legitimacy of national security issues
, national interests, and nationalism and patriotism as motivating and mobilizing forces. Thinking of themselves as “citizens of the world,” they forget that while the challenge — and the coordination needed — is global, the actual actions have to be taken by nation-states with the power to act and the legitimacy to persuade their citizens to support these measures





 楼主| 发表于 1/10/2018 19:13:37 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 郭国汀 于 1/10/2018 19:57 编辑

DemocracyPost OpinionTrump is not the only threat to America’s democracy

By Christian Caryl January 10  Washington post

A few weeks ago, I attended a dinner here in Washington with a group of political scientists from the West Coast. One of the professors, sitting across from me, asked me about my politics. “I consider myself a centrist,” I told her.
“Ah,” she said. “That means you’re a conservative.” She turned away and started speaking with someone else. Conversation over.
    I wasn’t offended. But I was struck by her unwillingness to explore my actual political views. Our exchange – if you can call it that – struck me as symptomatic of the fundamental problems facing American democracy.
    We are right to be worried about President Trump. His contempt for long-established norms of political behavior, and the unwillingness of his own party to constrain him, pose a serious challenge to our system.
    Yet we shouldn’t forget that Trump is also a symptom of a much deeper malaise affecting American democracy. As experts have been pointing out, a variety of political and social forces have, over the past three decades, converged to devastating effect. The list is long: the rise of tribalism and deepening political polarization; Congressional deadlock and the decay of legislative civility; echo chambers created by social media, talk radio, and cable TV; the capture of the political system by moneyed interests; voter suppression.
    So we should welcome this week’s news from North Carolina, where a panel of three federal judges has just overturned a gerrymandering law installed by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature. For years, North Carolina has been a showcase for a remarkable power grab by Republicans; their redrawing of districts to favor themselves is just one in a long series of similarly dubious maneuvers. Though the state’s electorate is divided relatively equally between both major parties, Republican politicians have blatantly skewed the rules to keep themselves in power. One recent international study concluded that North Carolina can no longer be considered a democracy. (Critics have attacked the study for putting the state in the same company as Cuba and Sierra Leone. But it’s hard to dispute that the state’s recent record has been dismal.)
    Yet Republicans aren’t the only ones guilty of this sort of maneuvering. If the Supreme Court decides, as some experts expect, that it will hear several current gerrymandering cases as a group, Republican-controlled North Carolina and Wisconsin will probably be joined by Democrat-dominated Maryland, which boasts some of the most bizarrely drawn electoral districts in the country.
    Happily, there are solutions for gerrymandering. But other problems, which reflect deep social transformations, are far more daunting. How, for example, do we counter the problem of self-sorting? The mobility of modern American society means that citizens are increasingly choosing where they want to live and work according to the proximity of people with similar backgrounds and political views. When that trend is compounded by the selective consumption of media that reinforce our existing beliefs, you have a perfect recipe for polarization.
    Our political parties, which once functioned as “big tents,” have reflected this by becoming more and more homogeneous. Not that long ago the Democratic Party still contained a sizable chunk of conservatives, and a certain number of moderate liberals counted themselves as Republicans. That helped both sides find common ground. But as the parties have become more ideologically focused, the room for compromise has shrunk – with the side effect that a growing number of Americans feel excluded from the system. (It’s odd how often discussions of the problems facing American democracy gloss over the issue of rampant voter apathy.)
    And what about the immense political power of companies such as Facebook and Google, which control much of the information their customers consume, yet have almost no political accountability to anyone other than their own shareholders? We’re only just beginning to talk about that one.
    So even as we worry about the damage done by the president, we shouldn’t forget that there are longer-term issues that also need our attention. Efforts to help Americans find a way back to shared values and political compromise may be a part of that. Reforming electoral systems and looking for ways to reduce the deep rifts in our culture would also help. But it’s not going to be easy. And it’s a struggle that will continue long after Trump has left office.




 楼主| 发表于 1/13/2018 15:04:41 | 显示全部楼层
本帖最后由 郭国汀 于 1/13/2018 16:37 编辑

ARGUMENTIran’s Elites Are Far More Fragile Than They Look An Islamic Republic divided against itself cannot stand.
BY SANAM VAKIL | JANUARY 10, 2018 foreign policy
The wave of recent protests throughout Iran is the latest sign of Tehran’s crisis of leadership. It is a crisis that has indicted all echelons of the state and all the factions that compete for power within it.
    For over a week, Iranian protesters, chanting slogans against figures including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and Chief Justice Sadeq Larijani, have managed to lay bare the divisions among the Islamic Republic’s elites — the reformist, pragmatist, and hard-liner factions that have held together since 1979. The protests also highlighted how all those groups now lay on one side of a deepening divide between the Iranian state and society.

    This crisis is not unique to Iran. The Arab Spring protests, the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, and the 2016 Brexit referendum are but a few examples that reflect the global trend of popular protest against status quo politics and an ever-distant political elite. Over the past two decades, Iranians have similarly expressed their growing discontent with the political status quo at the ballot box and in demonstrations. Factional tensions and political competition also accelerated during this time, becoming a defining feature of Iran’s politics. Different factions thus became the object of popular disproval at different times — neither the centrist and reformist group that controls the elected government nor the hard-line conservatives who dominate the Islamic Republic’s unelected centers of power were spared.
   The 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, which brought reformists into government, foreshadowed an accelerating shift toward factionalism among the Islamic Republic’s political elites.
The 1997 election of President Mohammad Khatami, which brought reformists into government, foreshadowed an accelerating shift toward factionalism among the Islamic Republic’s political elites.
    Seeking political, cultural, and economic liberalization of the Islamic government, reformists introduced the idea of change from within, at the expense of conservative elites. Their efforts, despite broad electoral support, were predominantly unsuccessful due to coordinated conservative maneuvering against reform.

    The 2005 election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought with it a populist wind of change. As a younger-generation revolutionary, Ahmadinejad sought to redress the imbalances of a revolution gone astray. His redistributive policies and confrontational politics upset the domestic balance of power — seen most clearly in the 2009 post-election protests and subsequent government crackdown, which also featured severe criticism of Supreme Leader Khamenei.
    The 2013 election of centrist Hassan Rouhani, who campaigned on a platform of pragmatic economic and social reforms, was meant to return balance to the system. There were hopes from within the elite that Rouhani, a quintessential insider, would be able to build bridges between the right and left wings of the political elite while also restoring the Islamic Republic’s lost popular legitimacy. For the duration of the nuclear negotiations with the United States and other world powers, factional tensions were relatively tempered at Khamenei’s behest to present a united front.
    Once the agreement was sealed in July 2015, however, these divisions aggressively resurfaced as hard-liners sought to discredit Rouhani and his proposed reforms. Like his immediate predecessors, Rouhani rose with the promise of change and is now in the process of falling, because he failed to bridge the very divide of factionalism he used to fuel his rise. He is falling victims to the same cycle of electoral change, unmet policy promises, disappointment, and popular unrest that has defined Iran’s crisis of leadership for the past 20 years.
    Hard-liners and reformists are at odds over not only their place in the political system but also its future. In theory, all factions are united in protecting and preserving the Islamic Republic’s political system — even if they are divided on how to do so. But pragmatists and reformists’ support for economic liberalization policies promises to create a more open private sector that hard-liners believe will erode the values of the revolution, and their place in it. Rouhani’s attempts to elevate issues of corruption and challenge the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) business interests also represents a threat to the hard-liners’ economic interests.
    It is against this backdrop that the recent protests began in the religious city of Mashhad and spread to over 70 cities, towns, and villages throughout the country. Some reports have suggested that conservative politicians in Mashhad close to Ebrahim Raisi, the hard-line candidate who was defeated in the 2017 presidential election, organized the initial protests to challenge Rouhani’s economic policies. From there, the demonstrations spiraled out of control.
    Rouhani’s recently unveiled budget has drawn much public attention for cutting back spending and criticizing institutionalized corruption. In order to attract foreign investment, Rouhani proposed to cut domestic spending on subsidies and increase fuel prices — moves that could have sparked further discontent. The ever-frustrated Rouhani also drew attention to the large percentage of government funds that were allocated to religious and cultural institutions without any oversight, going so far as to name these organizations, as well as highlighting the $8 billion allocated to the IRGC.

    Ahmadinejad’s role in fanning the flames of popular discontent is also relevant.
   Ahmadinejad’s role in fanning the flames of popular discontent is also relevant.
   Whether he too was involved is not yet known, although IRGC officials have implied as much. Mohammad Ali Jafari, head of the IRGC, intimated that “This [protest] … is linked to an individual who has opened his mouth in opposition to the values and principles of the system … Security officials are investigating this matter, to see if they see interference by this former official, certainly he will be confronted by law enforcement.” Since the end of his presidential tenure, Ahmadinejad continues to be a thorn in the side of the regime, which has made every effort to marginalize him.
    The Iranian leadership’s response to the protests has been tepid at best and reflects the deep political tensions and competition at the top of the government. President Rouhani has spoken twice since the protests, using the opportunity to set himself apart from his factional opponents. He acknowledged the root cause of the unrest being “distance from the younger generation” and called for regular access to the internet, government transparency, and the release of detained students. These are the same reforms that Rouhani has been calling for since 2013. It remains to be seen if he has the necessary political strength and courage to demand further change from his hard-line opponents. If he does not, he will ride out his remaining term as a lame duck president.
    But it’s important to note that reformists have also struggled to form a coherent response. As partners of the Rouhani government with many seats in parliament, they are in an awkward position of supporting the government and the rights of the protesters at the same time.
    Meanwhile, Khamenei’s comments have been limited to his usual game of blaming outsiders for their interference. The supreme leader continues to hold fast to a decaying vision of the Islamic Republic that has no meaning or value to many of the country’s citizens; the blame for failing to keep the system in balance ultimately falls on his shoulders. If there’s anyone who has been forthright about supporting the right of protests, and effective in acknowledging the public’s frustrations, it has been Friday prayer leaders who are ideologically close to the supreme leader and looking to promote their own hard-line populist ties to the people.
    If anything, the divergent response to the protests reveals the mirage of political unity within the Islamic Republic. Despite claims of collective support for the Islamic Republic, Iran’s factions are more vested in preserving their personal power and place in the system than in governing effectively.
    In 1858, at the Illinois Republican convention, then-senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln famously said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The same can be said of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Without significant reconciliation among the elite and Iranian society at large, the Iranian government faces a perilous and volatile path ahead.

 楼主| 发表于 1/13/2018 16:52:02 | 显示全部楼层
REPORTCoalition Analysis Warns of Potential Islamic State ResurgenceThe militant group is on the run, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be back.BY RHYS DUBIN | JANUARY 10, 2018 foreign policy
With the liberation, last November of Rawa and Qaim, two towns near the Syrian border, the Islamic State in Iraq appeared on the brink of defeat. The militant group had lost the last urban strongholds taken during its dramatic drive through Iraq in 2014, and with them the last slivers of territory it controlled in the country.
    But an unreleased analysis presented at recent coalition meetings by the United Nations speaks to a much more complicated and fluid situation on the ground — one characterized by delicate humanitarian considerations and the real possibility of an Islamic State resurgence.

    According to the U.N., five of the areas newly liberated from the group urgently require stabilization. “There is a risk that if we don’t stabilize these areas quickly, violent extremism might emerge again. The military gains that have been made against [the Islamic State] could be lost,” Lise Grande, head of the United Nations Development Programme in Iraq, told Foreign Policy.
    The areas, centered around the group’s former strongholds in northern Iraq, demonstrate the wide array of issues facing the Iraqi government and its international allies as they attempt to channel stabilization funds to sensitive areas and clamp down on a rapidly evolving threat.
    “While they don’t hold any territory, there are still pockets of Islamic State fighters that are looking to launch attacks and cause disruption. They’re still hiding,” said a U.S. State Department official involved in consultations on the analysis.
    According to both U.N. and U.S. officials who worked on crafting the document, the designated areas at risk were based on a number of metrics including tallies of security incidents, known Islamic State sleeper cells, the presence of political groups supportive of the group, and religious figures known to echo the group’s messages. “These are the areas that need specific attention,” said the American official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.
    Two of the areas, one centered on the city of Tal Afar and the other on Qaim, were also included for their proximity to the Syrian border. “There are still pockets of ISIS in Syria,” said the State Department official. “Adjacent to those pockets are areas that have been most recently liberated, and they are areas that have traditionally been politically volatile.”
     The other areas highlighted on the map, including clusters near the towns of Hawija, Tuz Khurmatu, and Shirqat, were selected because of long-standing political and security concerns. “These have always been critical — even before ISIS. Hawija and Tuz Khurmatu [a disputed city near Kirkuk] have always been political flashpoints,” said the U.S. official.
    These towns and cities, moreover, are all in a band of ethnically diverse communities, where Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds live in close proximity. Unlike the ethnically homogenous Kurdish region or Shiite-dominated southern Iraq, these areas have frequently seen bouts of sustained instability.
    In the past, the shifting ethno-sectarian balance in these areas led to fears, especially among Sunni communities, of displacement and discrimination. This persistent sense of disenfranchisement, combined with distrust of the central government and other complex factors, contributed to the initial rise of the Islamic State.
    The underlying instability in those regions is part of what prompted the U.N. to compile the map, as a way of guiding stabilization funding — money used to facilitate the return of displaced Iraqis — to the most sensitive and potentially explosive areas. “What they’re saying is that, unless we continue to work to stabilize these areas immediately, we run the risk of backsliding,” said the U.S. official. “It’s where the greatest needs are.”
    Some analysts, however, worried that the document left out key areas of potential concern. “They’re a couple places that just aren’t on the map,” said Michael Knights, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“For instance, the most serious red dot that you could possibly put on this map, but it isn’t there, would be Diyala province,” he said.
    Diyala has long been a hotspot for violence. According to some counts, the number of bombings and direct attacks against both civilians and military targets in 2017 was as high as in parts of 2013, during the Islamic State’s early days. “What observers are seeing in Diyala is a full-fledged Islamic State-led insurgency,” noted an August 2017 paper published by West Point.
    Coalition officials noted that the map’s designations were based partially on political concerns, but also on other factors, including the number of civilian returnees. “Diyala has been liberated for a while,” the State Department official told FP. “It’s always a hotspot, but a lot of money and effort has already gone into it, and almost all the population has returned.”
    Knights also pointed to the Baghdad “belts” — residential and agricultural areas ringing the city — as another potential flashpoint. In the past, higher levels of insurgent violence were preceded by what Knights termed “microbombings,” low-profile attacks that often flew under the radar of the central government or U.S. counterterrorism officials.
    “Individually, they aren’t high-profile events: they were all markets, bus stops, etc.,” he said. “But when you add them up, there are a lot of them. It’s really inflammatory stuff.”
    The risk, explained Knights, is potential complacency. “The perception right now is that they’re quiet,” he said, “and that’s not really a good guideline.”


Rhys Dubin is an editorial fellow at Foreign Policy. Before coming to FP, he worked for The Daily Star in Beirut covering defense, security, and Lebanese politics. His previous work and research includes time spent in Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia.


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