Saturday, March 2, 2013


'US policy in the Middle East is undergoing a double change. Toward Syria, the posture is becoming noticeable harder. While senior analysts in the intelligence community continue to warn of potential chaos and bloodletting on a large scale in the event of a sudden collapse of the Assad regime, the deepening of the humanitarian crisis is moving the Administration toward more active support of the opposition. The supply of non-lethal aidthat will allow the opposition to consolidate their positions in territory they hold is already underway. No decision is yet in place on whether this assistance will escalate to arms, but US officials tell us privately that this is the “logic of the situation.” Regarding Iran by contrast the Administration is adopting a softer approach. The package offered to Tehran at the 26th/27th P5+1 meeting in Almaty had less of the “take-it-or-leave” tone of previous offers. As an NSC official commented to us: “We are deliberately embarking on a process in which there is a prospect of genuine give and take.” This approach does not lack for critics either inside the national security community nor on Capitol Hill where Senators are pressing for a resolution that would bind the US to support Israel in the event of an attack on Iran by the latter. At the very least, President Obama is preparing for an “ “earful of criticism” when he visits Israel later this month. One argument he will employ is that by being tougher on Syria, he is also weakening Iran. However, with an important element  of US naval forces delaying its deployment to the region for budgetary reasons, Obama is not looking for a pretext for war. With regard to China, the chronically unresolved dilemma in US policy between regarding China as a necessary partner on trade, finance and issues like North Korea or seeing it as a military competitor and threat to US allies is trending in the adversarial direction. Intelligence analysts see increased and more hostile patrolling by the Chinese navy in disputed waters of the South and East China Seas.  The consensus is that tensions are on the rise for 2013, including over Tibet.'

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