Sunday, October 27, 2013

"It will not be possible for Riyadh to discern a viable candidate to replace the full range of the US relationship"

'The end of the government shutdown afforded the Administration a brief week of respite. But it has now run into a raft of problems, some domestic involving wide-ranging deficiencies in the rollout of the new health care system. Others involve foreign policy: the deepening row with the Europeans over NSA surveillance, an unsatisfactory meeting of the London 11 ministers over Syria, tensions with Israel and Saudi Arabia over Iran, disagreements with Congress over Iranian sanctions and criticism from international human rights agenciesover the use of drones. The relatively problem-free visit of Pakistani President Nawaz Sharif provided scant relief. At the end of a difficult week it fell to Secretary of State Kerry to look into the future with a more optimistic depiction of American leadership. As one State Department official commented to us: “After the initial euphoria over the breakthrough on Syrian chemical weapons and a promising first session with Tehran over the nuclear program, we are now back on the treadmill.” With regard to the row over intelligence gathering, opinions in Washington are mixed. The first instinct of many members of the Intelligence Community is to dismiss the French and German complaints as na├»ve and hypocritical. However, a more conciliatory attitude is developing, motivated in part to prevent the Europeans from developing alternative Internet infrastructure that would be impermeable to US monitoring. With German intelligence officials due to visit Washington soon for talks on this issue, we expect a modus vivendi to be reached. The rift with Saudi Arabia will, we believe, have longer-lasting implications. US commentators close to the Saudis point out that it is extremely unusual for members of the Saudi Royal Family to indulge in detailed public criticism of the US. They are concerned that the Saudis have concluded that the US is no longer a reliable ally and will be looking elsewhere for partnerships. The one consolation for the Administration is that, for all the current disagreement, it will not be possible for Riyadh to discern a viable candidate to replace the full range of the US relationship. On Iran, the Administration continues to speak with measured optimism, but it will have to plot a perilous course with Congress where pressure for tighter sanctions is growing. The ferment over Europe and the Middle East leaves little space for the Administration’s “rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific, but Pentagon officials have noted Japanese Prime Minister Abe's comments about “standing up to China.” This remains the underlying trend in US policy.'

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