Obama and Rouhani about to clasp on the trapeze

The decision making systems in Washington must be saturated with memos, position papers, backgrounders, by dove-nosed hawks and hawk-nosed doves, both in and outside the administration, on the atmospherics required for the initial moves with Iran after the recent signs of a thaw. President Hassan Rouhani, meanwhile, must also be casting a glance on the internal dynamics in Iran. That a casual meeting with President Obama on the margins of the UN General Assembly did “not” take place is, by the admission of Iranian diplomats, a “good outcome” because a “casual” meeting at such a delicate juncture would give out misleading signals.

Israel and Saudis cannot be amused at the Obama-Putin pirouette

The Cuban Missile Crisis produced great scholarship. A classic of the period, 'Essence of A Decision' by Prof. Grahame Allison, is a study of decision making in the Kennedy administration during a crisis when the world came close to a nuclear collision.   By that reckoning, research proposals must be in the process of being cleared as to who ordered the two ballistic missiles towards Syria which Russian intercepts brought down in the Mediterranean? The whole episode is frightening.

The Saudi, Qatari dogfight and Al Jazeera’s fluctuating fortunes

If there is one group the Saudis fear and suspect more than Iran and Shiaism, it is the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is an outside power. Brothers are available even within Saudi society and they despise monarchies just as the Prophet of Islam despised monarchies. So, the coffers of the House of Saud have been opened for Gen. Abdel Fattah el Sisi to break the back of the Brothers in Egypt. Al Jazeera, which became a mouthpiece for the Brothers during the year that Morsi was in power, is in the process of packing up its bags in Egypt.

Bahrain key if Saudi-Iran lock is to be opened

The key to a Riyadh-Tehran rapprochement is Bahrain. A 37 Km causeway links Saudi Arabia’s oil bearing, Shia dominated Eastern province to this small Kingdom, which is also home to the US Fifth Fleet. Neither the Saudis nor the Americans will abandon their key interests. This much is clear. Likewise, it is inhuman that the staunchly Sunni regime in Bahrain, should treat 80 percent of the population, all Shias, as the “opposition”. This majority population has faced state repression for demanding their human rights since the Arab Spring first stirred.

Egypt after the coup: A primer on the aftermath

Between American and Saudi diplomatic choreography the “hidden” is often more important than the “apparent”. American effigies being burnt in Cairo by anti-Morsi crowds shows the American hand is still in the hand of the Brothers. But Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel talking to coup leader Gen. Abdul Fatah al-Sissi on the phone, points to exactly the opposite. Heads I win, tails you lose. Don’t forget, Americans have lived with Egypt’s army for 50 years. That’s the important equation. So don’t worry, Americans and the Saudis are in bed under the same sheet.

Slips possible between Rouhani’s election and inauguration in August

To the various puzzles America pores over has been added one more: Iran’s President elect, Hassan Rouhani. As an opening gambit, he is being described as “moderate”. It is being speculated that he will be “moderate” on the nuclear issue even though he has deep roots in the country’s conservative establishment whose views on the issue are known and not liked. Years ago, “moderation” in all discourse concerning West Asia had a distinct meaning. It was an adjectival expression approving of states which were willing to tow the Western line on the Israeli-Palestinian question. The antonym for moderate those days was “rejectionist”.

Washington and Moscow trying to square a circle in Syria

After 70,000 Syrians have paid with their lives in the foreign induced conflict in Syria, why has the American perspective changed? Even so, it was nice to see Secretary of State, John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, embrace each other two weeks back in Moscow.

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