I have been writing this blog for over two years and have never felt so overwhelmed by trying to understand international events as I have lately. Secretary of State John Kerry is hopping around the world dealing with hot spots so frequently I wonder how he can recall what he is supposed to be doing at any given moment. I get confused just rushing to the next room.
I’m not even positive where he is right now, maybe Washington, but a couple of days ago he was in Vienna trying to finish up that nuclear deal with Iran by this Sunday deadline. He said there are “real gaps” in the negotiations but we have a few days to hope.
Some good news came when Kerry was in Afghanistan late last week. He brokered a deal between presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani who had both contested election voting results to agree to abide by the results of an audit. We’ll have to see how well the loser and his followers abide by that recount, but at least we no longer have Hamid Karzai bugging us at every call.
While Kerry is busy elsewhere, the Egyptian government has tried to broker a cease fire between Hamas and Israel, but from the hope perspective I should have written this sooner as Hamas has refused the deal and Israel seems to be ramping up its attacks on Gaza (tired as they are of Hamas lobbing hundreds of missiles at them for months).
The one positive I see here is that Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi is no friend of Hamas, unlike the Muslim brotherhood who formed the government before him. That means they have less access through Egypt for various forms of support. On the other hand, that may be one reason Hamas did not approve their deal as they don’t think of Egypt as an “honest broker”. Hard to find a ray of hope here.
Where I do see hope is in the Ukraine. True, Russia and Ukraine are exchanging heated words about cross border shellings and that might get out of hand, but I still doubt Putin wants to send his troops across the border. The Ukraine is an economic mess he doesn’t want to own. I think he would rather deal with Ukrainian President Poroshenko’s than make war against him, but all of his bravado about protecting Russians everywhere has put him in a bind as Poroshenko’s troops have shown a willingness to fight now and they are squeezing the rebels. A delicate situation, but my sense is this will be worked through without Russian troops pouring across the border (if I’m wrong, I’ll get back to you).
A more chaotic situation than Ukraine at the moment is Iraq, though yesterday the parliament finally elected a speaker. a Sunni moderate. This is the first step to then finally forming a new government in six weeks (details here). Real slow p9key I know, what with ISIS doing its best to threaten Bagdad, but there are signs of infighting between ISIS and other Sunni militants that is a plus for the government.
Also, given all the enemies ISIS has developed as mentioned in a previous post, I find it hard to believe they can actually succeed in their quest to establish a new Muslim empire. Unless, of course, they are destined by Allah to do so. Whatever, they can cause a hell of a havoc while trying.
Finally, while Syria remains the problem from a hell, it seems worth mentioning that the deal struck months ago between the Russians, Assad and us about the destruction of chemical weapons there has actually accomplished the destruction of most of them, at least the worst. That achievement doesn’t get the attention it deserves because “crises” grab more attention than solutions.
It also points to the necessarily fragmented nature of our foreign policy these days in response to an increasingly fragmented world. Necessary because while at times we seem close to playing bullets and bombs with Russia in one spot, we are working with them in many others. With other countries as well, as is likely happening in Iraq in quiet ways now. In a future post I will say something about the tension between a foreign policy based on a desire for international stability, and other ways to serve self-interest as well as democratic values, a tension difficult for us to deal with which also makes policy erratic, which is not always a bad thing, yet is always lambasted as such.