Analysis

On the eve of US President Donald J. Trump’s first meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Washington on June 26, the US State Department approved the sale of twenty-two Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial System drones to India. This prospective purchase of drones manufactured by General Atomics marks the first of its kind from the United States by a country that is not a member of NATO. General Atomics (GA) and its affiliated companies now constitute one of the world's leading resources for high-technology systems ranging from the nuclear fuel cycle to electromagnetic systems, remotely operated surveillance aircraft, airborne sensors, and advanced electronic, wireless and laser technologies.

Both governments will need to finalize the terms and conditions of this foreign military sale.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s ouster by the supreme court is a rare example of a country’s leader being held accountable for corruption, but it has also created the possibility of instability in this South Asian nation that is a vital partner in the United States’ counterterrorism efforts.

On July 28, Pakistan’s supreme court disqualified Sharif ruling that he had been dishonest by not disclosing earnings from a Dubai-based company in his nomination papers filed at the time of the 2013 general election. The court recommended corruption cases be filed against Sharif, his daughter, Maryam Nawaz; his son-in-law, Capt. Muhammad Safdar; his two sons Hassan and Hussain; and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar.
Russia has decisively expanded its global footprint in a way that analysts say challenges the West and will force US President Donald J. Trump to rethink his “America First” strategy.

This challenge extends well beyond Russia’s neighborhood—Ukraine, Georgia, and the Baltic States—to Syria, Libya, and even Afghanistan. Western governments and intelligence agencies have also accused Russia of meddling in elections in the United States and Europe.

John E. Herbst, director of the Atlantic Council’s Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is “pursuing a clear revisionist agenda designed to change the post-Cold War order in Eurasia; permit Moscow to establish a clear sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space; weaken NATO and the EU; weaken the transatlantic relationship; diminish American prestige and power; and project Russian power globally.”

With this as a backdrop, Trump and Putin will meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 7. The meeting takes place amid investigations by a special prosecutor and congressional committees into ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.
A resolution to the diplomatic fallout between Qatar and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries will only come from the nations themselves, until which time the United States must avoid being dragged into the fray, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.

Solutions “lie in the region,” and will only come about “when all… sides are tired of fighting” each other, said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. Meanwhile, the United States, navigating between allies on both sides of the conflict, must avoid being “caught in the firefight.”

Handjani joined Rachel Ansley, editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council, for a Facebook Live interview on June 14 to explain the implications of the rising tensions between Qatar and other GCC countries.
US President Donald J. Trump’s America First approach will have to take a back seat when it comes to Afghanistan.

As the Trump administration wrestles with a decision on whether to send several thousand additional US troops to Afghanistan in an effort to end a fifteen-year-old war and make peace with the Taliban, there is a firm belief in policy circles that there is a critical need for the United States to deepen its engagement in that country.

Yet, with Trump there is a “real possibility that the United States, if it is not successful within some acceptable period of time, could choose to reduce its commitment to Afghanistan and ultimately withdraw,” said Ashley Tellis, Tata chair for strategic affairs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “If that outcome occurs the door will be open to internecine regional competition in Afghanistan, which will only make circumstances in Afghanistan worse,” he added.
The outcome of its presidential election on May 19 will determine whether Iran is the next nation to succumb to a populist candidate seeking to upend the normative world order, according to an Atlantic Council analyst.   

“This is going to be the next test in that wave,” following the election of US President Donald J. Trump and the defeat of French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, said Amir Handjani, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

Iran’s upcoming election will have tremendous implications for both the future of Iran and the US-Iranian relationship. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, widely recognized as a moderate proponent of a rules-based world order, will face off against conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, generally considered the preferred candidate of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

By dropping the ‘mother of all bombs’ on an Islamic State target, the United States reaffirmed its commitment to fighting terrorism, said the Atlantic Council’s James B. Cunningham

The United States sent a clear message of its commitment to fighting terrorism when it dropped the so-called mother of all bombs on an Islamic State target in Afghanistan on April 13, said James B. Cunningham, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

“It really is a military instrument used to accomplish a military task,” said Cunningham, a former US ambassador to Afghanistan, adding, “there is a political element to it as well in terms of showing our commitment and determination in this particular fight.”

The US military dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on an Islamic State cave and tunnel complex in Achin district in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), dubbed the “mother of all bombs,” is a 21,600-pound, GPS-guided munition. While dozens of people are believed to have been killed in the explosion, the Afghan defense ministry said civilians were not among the casualties.

Afghan foreign minister sees threat to peace process

Russia’s support for the Taliban—a terrorist group with which the United States has been at war for more than fifteen years and that is dedicated to overthrowing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government—is causing considerable unease in Afghanistan where officials worry it will undermine efforts to make peace in their war-torn country.

“[E]stablishing contacts with these terrorist groups will give them a wrong message and they will think that the international community is recognizing them,” said Salahuddin Rabbani, Afghanistan’s foreign minister and a former head of the country’s High Peace Council. This, in turn, would undercut a peace and reconciliation process because the Taliban “will not be encouraged to come to the negotiating table,” he added.

The peace process has had scant success in part because, as Rabbani noted, Afghanistan’s eastern neighbor, Pakistan, continues to provide material support and sanctuary for the terrorists.
US President Donald Trump’s likely hands-off policy toward South Asia may provide an opportunity for Pakistan and India to address longstanding disputes and reap the long-awaited benefits of cooperation.

While there is significant uncertainty about the next four years of US diplomacy, it is unlikely that Trump will succeed where so many before him failed. As he may not solve the serious security, economic, and environmental problems confronting South Asia, it is time for the region to solve these problems on its own.   
Since his election, US President Donald Trump has taken steps that harm the Iranian people by suspending visas to the United States. Trump has also adopted harsh rhetoric toward the Iranian government over missile tests and attacks by Iran-backed Houthi rebels. So far, however, he has not carried out a threat to dismantle the landmark nuclear deal that went into full implementation a year ago. This suggests that he will not attempt a “repeal and replace” strategy for an agreement that took several years and the strenuous efforts of diplomats and technocrats from seven nations to achieve.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is known, verifiably prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons for at least another fourteen years. Iran is not allowed to possess sufficient quantities of enriched uranium to make a single nuclear device, and it cannot build the infrastructure needed for a plutonium path to a bomb. Round-the-clock monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including mine-to-centrifuge scrutiny of nuclear fuel, impedes any covert dash to nuclear weapons.


    

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