New Atlanticist

  • A Blueprint for a US Strategy in Asia

    The United States should update, revitalize, and defend the rules-based international order while considering “hard-headed” engagement with China, according to the latest in a series of Atlantic Council strategy papers.

    This “is not a strategy designed in Washington to be imposed on the region,” said Matthew Kroenig, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

    Kroenig, along with Miyeon Oh, a senior fellow in the Scowcroft Center, is the author of A Strategy of the Trans-Pacific Century: Final Report of the Atlantic Council’s Asia-Pacific Strategy Task Force.

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  • US Disengagement from Cuba will Hurt Ordinary Cubans

    Actions by US President Donald J. Trump’s administration—the withdrawal of all non-essential US diplomats from Havana after they reported mysterious ailments and the expulsion of fifteen Cuban diplomats from the United States—have made the US-Cuba relationship look eerily like it was before 2015. There is a danger that disengagement will limit the flow of resources to the island, further isolate Cubans, and deepen the social and economic gaps in the country.

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  • Xi Seeks to Solidify Grip on China

    The National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which opened in Beijing on October 18, will solidify Chinese President Xi Jinping’s grip on Chinese politics and society, part of a plan to guide the Asian nation toward dominance on the world stage, potentially at the expense of the United States, according to Atlantic Council analysts.

    During a three-and-a-half-hour speech which opened the Congress, Xi lauded the economic, social, and political gains made during his first five-year term. He also laid out his vision for further progress.

    Hardline reforms and a political crackdown from Beijing have brought China to the cusp of what Xi deems “new era.”

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  • Austrian Elections Demonstrate Success of Aestheticized Populism

    The victory of Sebastian Kurz’s conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) in parliamentary elections on October 15 is the latest manifestation of the rightward shift in European politics and the consequence of adjustments conservative politicians are making to attract a wider base. 

    The ÖVP came in at first place with more than 30 percent of the vote, followed by the far-right, anti-Islam Freedom Party (FPÖ) and incumbent Chancellor Christian Kern’s center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ).

    As Austria’s next chancellor, thirty-one-year-old Kurz will be the world’s youngest elected leader. Ahead of the election, he rebranded ÖVP the “New People’s Party” with an energetic slogan—“Zeit für Neues” (Time for Something New).

    Kurz asserts his positions as pro-European Union (EU)—free movement, with secure borders. As a consequence, he is mainstreaming his politics—an embrace of a populist, closed-door stance on refugees—as European. Far from...

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  • Raqqa Falls. Now Comes the Hard Part

    As the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is driven from its strongholds in Syria, US-backed forces face the challenge of stabilizing these conflict-ravaged territories.

    This task is made more urgent by the fact that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces and Iran-backed militias are swooping in on eastern Syria in an attempt to capitalize on ISIS’ defeat, said Frederic C. Hof, director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

    “If they succeed, the basis for ISIS 2.0 will be set,” said Hof, adding: “After all, it was the Iranian (and Russian)-supported brutality of the Assad regime that created the governance vacuum filled by ISIS in the first place.”

    The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on October 16 that they had seized control of Raqqa, the de facto capital of...

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  • Iraqi Operation Will Deepen Rift Among Kurds

    Iraqi government forces on October 16 seized vital oil fields and the city of Kirkuk from Kurdish forces.

    The military action, which pits two US allies against each other, followed a September 25 referendum in which the Kurds voted for an independent state. The Iraqi government had declared the vote unconstitutional. Kirkuk, which is not part of Iraqi Kurdistan but was under Kurdish control at the time, took part in the referendum. (Kurdish forces had controlled Kirkuk since 2014 when Iraqi forces fled as Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants advanced on the city.)

    Explaining the security offensive, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said in a statement on October 16 that he acted “in accordance with the constitution to serve the citizens and protect the unity of the country, which was in...

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  • In Somalia, Bombings Highlight Limits of US Military Assistance

    The deadly bombings in Mogadishu, attributed to, yet not claimed by al-Shabaab, highlight the need for a new strategy from both US forces and the Somali government to counter violent extremism as militant groups adapt to increased US military action, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

    “The weekend’s attacks highlight the limits of the military assistance [that the Somali government] has received,” said J. Peter Pham, vice president and director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center. “As the enemy has shifted, so too must the emphasis now move to building up police and intelligence capacities.”

    However, this is not a call for an increased US role in Somali state-building. “We need to recognize that what we can realistically do is minimize the threat that al-Shabaab and other militants can pose to regional security,” said Pham, adding: “What we cannot do is make Somalia ‘work’—only Somalis can do that.”

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  • Somalis are the Victims of US State-Building Efforts

    This weekend’s truck bombing in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, was the worst assault on civilians in that country’s long, sad history. But such attacks are a weekly event in Somalia and have been for the past decade. This attack was dramatically worse than most, but surely it won’t be the last. And it highlights a truth that Washington cannot afford to ignore any longer: its “strategy” in Somalia just is not working.

    Al Shabaab was once a radical youth militia on the fringes of Somali politics, but it was transformed into a national resistance movement when policymakers in Washington decided to bankroll and provide political cover for Ethiopia’s brutal invasion and occupation of Somalia. Ethiopia’s occupation enraged the Somali people, who turned to the only armed group that was capable of resisting the Ethiopian army and the unpopular,...

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  • Trump and the Art of the [Iran Nuclear] Deal

    As expected, US President Donald J. Trump on October 13 announced that he will not certify Iran’s compliance with the terms of a multilateral nuclear deal, accusing the Islamic Republic of “not living up to the spirit” of the agreement.

    While Trump did not take the United States out of the deal, he asserted the right to do so and warned that he would if the US Congress does not make amendments to the agreement.

    At the top of the list of amendments Trump would like is for Congress to address the issue of the “sunset clauses” in the deal. These clauses lift certain restrictions placed on Iran ten to fifteen years after the agreement took effect in January of 2016. However, even at that...

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  • NAFTA Negotiations: What is at Stake?

    If representatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico are unable to come to an agreement in the fourth round of negotiations on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the consequences could be dire for millions of US citizens whose livelihoods depend on the success of the trade deal, according to Atlantic Council experts.

    The close economic relationship between the three countries has led to unprecedented levels of trade and co-production of goods. “What that really means is ‘jobs,’” says Katherine Pereira, associate director of the Atlantic Council’s Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center. For as many as fourteen US states, 25 percent of their trade is with Canada, and for another fourteen who trade with Mexico that number is 13 percent. Essentially, millions of Americans stand to lose their job if NAFTA is ended.

    On October 11, the United States, Canada, and Mexico entered the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations in Washington, DC. NAFTA became...

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