Saturday, November 10, 2012

NSC Officials: 'Obama is not looking to precipitate a crisis with Iran'

'After an election campaign estimated to have cost over $6 billion, the question in Washington is what, if anything, has changed. On the surface, the balance of power remains as before with the Democrats holding the White House and Senate and the Republicans retaining control of the House. The key interaction in determining whether US governance remains locked in ideological partisanship or finds ways to reach compromise agreements will lie between President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.... .... The days ahead may see volatile trading conditions on world markets. In terms of foreign policy in the new Administration, we continue to see it taking a low priority and being event driven. With exit polls showing that only some 5% of voters express a high interest in international affairs, there is no incentive for Obama to undertake risky foreign initiatives, for example a deeper engagement in Syria. Personnel changes in the national security leadership are in the air – another reason for concluding that dramatic new moves are unlikely. Instead, we see the Administration focusing on three main areas where developments will take place in slower time: 1) relations with China. These are delicately balanced between partner and adversary status. We expect Obama to favor the former, while allowing the Pentagon to prepare for the latter. 2) Relations with Russia. US officials see this area as central to easing problems over Syria, Iran, nuclear proliferation, and the future of NATO. Some balancing against China is also playing a role. 3) Residual issues of which Iran and the drawdown in Afghanistan will be prominent. NSC officials tell us that Obama is not looking to precipitate a crisis with Iran, but will emphasize diplomacy via the P5+1 process. As US forces draw down regionally, we expect to see increased use of drone strikes to maintain the tempo of terrorist-related attacks. These are controversial inside the intelligence community, but their “small footprint” utility far outweighs their disadvantages.'

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