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Zach Paikin

What America’s Mid-East Foreign Policy Directive Should Look Like

President Obama recently unveiled his administration’s new foreign policy directive for the Middle East and North Africa. Unfortunately, by choosing to ignore Iran almost entirely, it is even worse than his administration’s previous one.The previous regional foreign policy directive clearly espoused the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the root of the region’s lack of peace and stability. The President’s thesis was as follows: Arab states, for the most part, cannot enjoy diplomatic or openly strategic relations with Israel due to its conflict with the Palestinians. Hence, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the key to gain Arab approval for action against Iran.Last year, however, U.S. State Department cables, made public by WikiLeaks, revealed that most Arab states are more concerned about the threat that Iran poses to the stability of their own regimes than they are about the plight of the Palestinians. Several Arab states had even urged the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear installations, fearing that a nuclear-armed Iran would spark a regional arms race and might force some traditionally U.S.-allied regimes to align with Iran to ensure their own security.An Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty is not a prerequisite to obtaining a consensus among most Arab states on Iran. In fact, the converse is true. Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be possible so long as Iran funds and arms the terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah, and pursues a new regional order that threatens the security of American allies.Moreover, the way the Obama administration addressed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not well thought out. By making an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem a prerequisite to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) — something that has never been a precondition to talks in the past — President Obama gave the PA a reason not to negotiate.Indeed, refusing… Read More

The Party of Reform

Over the past few weeks, I have outlined issues that the Liberal Party should claim in order to build a new political coalition within the electorate. Among them: restoring Central Canadian traditions, pushing for a balance between public and private healthcare, and strengthening ties with the US to take environmental action.The Liberal Party needs to do something else as well. It needs to become the party of reform.Here’s what we Liberals need to realize: On many issues, we can have it both ways. All it takes is developing several, non-contradictory consistent messages that resonate with the electorate.Allow me to illustrate with an example. On the issue of the environment, as I recently wrote, the Liberal position can attract the votes of both environmentalists and free-market economists. On top of that, we can know that we’re doing the right thing by reducing pollution. Similarly, it is not contradictory for the Liberal Party to sell itself as both the party of Canadian tradition and as the party of reform.Restoring the traditions of Central Canada is a call to bring political accountability back to Ottawa. It is a call to ensure that our democratic system functions as it should. It is a call for the prime minister to be first among equals, not presidential. Promising such accountability can appeal both to conservatives who feel alienated by Stephen Harper’s non-traditional way of governing as well as to those on the left who clearly oppose Mr. Harper.Becoming the party of reform – without compromising on economic or national stability – is less a set of policies in itself and more a mantra. If we don’t claim that mantra soon, we risk losing it permanently.Both the NDP and the Conservatives have adopted a position on Senate reform.The former wants it abolished while the latter wants it to be elected. The Liberals… Read More

Pakistan, An Unreliable Partner but Disengagement is No Answer

The discovery that Osama bin Laden had been living comfortably in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad, directly under the noses of the Pakistani military, has some policymakers seriously questioning whether Pakistan, the recipient of more than$3 billion in U.S. foreign aid in 2011 alone, can be considered a trustworthy partner, especially with the military commanding such significant influence over the state’s policies. Indeed, many are asking if Pakistan is or ever was a reliable ally in the War on Terror.Due to its chronically weak central government, American cooperation with Pakistan is fraught with difficulty. The country’s present civilian government is representative but ineffective. For more than half of its history, the military has governed Pakistan outright. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, creator and supporter of the Afghan Taliban and several anti-India terror outfits, is considered to be a largely independent actor beyond the oversight and control of either the military or the civilian government.Cooperation with Pakistan is made even more difficult by a consensus held by the country’s elite since the 1980s that Pakistan requires “strategic depth” to counter the existential threat they believe India poses. Recognizing that a conventional war with India would yield little success, the security services pursued their conflict with India by supporting anti-India terrorist groups. One example is Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks.Pakistan adopted “strategic depth” as one of its key foreign policy directives following the 1979 Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The essence of the policy was to support anti-Soviet – chiefly Islamist – elements within Afghanistan to prevent encirclement by India and an Afghanistan favourably disposed toward India. New Delhi and Kabul have traditionally enjoyed close relations. Since the Taliban’s defeat, India has pledged more than $650 million in reconstruction and development aid to Afghanistan making it Kabul’s largest aid… Read More

Turkey—a Long-Term Threat to the West and to Middle East Peace

Radical Islamism—the formal union of mosque and state often cloaked in an anti-West garb—is on the rise in the Middle East. By the end of 2011, there is a distinct possibility that 250 million people will be living under Islamist rule in Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.In Iran, the revolutionary Islamist regime has held power since 1979. It is the world’s leader in state-sponsored terrorism, violently represses its own people, calls for the destruction of Israel and possesses and illegally pursues nuclear weapons.Iran’s terrorist proxies in Lebanon and in the Palestinian territories—Hezbollah and Hamas—continue to grow stronger. New Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati recently unveiled his cabinet, dominated by Hezbollah and its allies. Hezbollah, in possession of more than 55,000 rockets, represents the largest and most powerful armed force within Lebanon’s borders.Meanwhile, as the Palestinian Authority calls for a UN General Assembly vote on recognition of a Palestinian state, Fatah continues negotiations with Hamas over the formation of a “national unity” government. Egypt’s opening of Gaza’s Rafah crossing has facilitated the movement of funds, weapons and terrorists into the Hamas-controlled territory.In Egypt, parliamentary elections set for September are likely to deliver a plurality—possibly even a majority—to the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies. The momentum from these elections may propel Brotherhood-backed Abdul Moneim Abul Futuh to the presidency shortly thereafter. Furthermore, Egypt’s constitution might be rewritten to provide for the Qur’an becoming the primary source of law and the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of 1979 may be undone.Yet the largest long-term threat to Western interests in the Middle East is likely to be Turkey.The Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won a third consecutive majority mandate on June 12. This will bring about the end of the secular republic established… Read More

Balancing the Books

The Conservative government re-introduced its budget earlier this week, with few changes. Notable among those changes are a plan to gradually scrap the per-vote taxpayer subsidy to political parties as well as keeping an election promise of reimbursing Quebec—at a price tag of $2.2 billion—for harmonizing its sales tax with the GST.The government has promised to balance the books by 2014-2015, one year ahead of schedule, by finding a total of $11 billion of unidentified savings, beginning with $1 billion next year, $2 billion in the following year, and $4 billion in each of the ensuing two years.This year’s budget included no major cuts in spending, despite the Conservative government’s recent majority victory.It is generally acknowledged that Canada has a structural deficit, not a cyclical one. The end of the recession—which will cause a reduction in spending and an increase in revenue—in itself will not eliminate the deficit.Since it took power in 2006, the Conservative government has in fact increased government spending in every single budget. Its 2006 budget included $222.2 billion in total expenditures, up from Paul Martin’s $209 billion in 2005. That number ballooned to $280.5 billion in 2010. In particular, program spending has increased by 42% under Harper’s tenure.Spending increases under this government began before the economic crisis. Paul Martin’s 2005 surplus of $13.2 billion was transformed into a $1.1 billion deficit in February 2008—before the recession hit.The prognosis is simple: Stephen Harper’s government used the room provided by Paul Martin’s surplus to increase spending and cut taxes. The deficit that Mr. Harper created is hence structural, and the principal ways of eliminating it will have to be to cut spending on pre-recession programs or to increase taxes.To be fair, government spending as a percentage of Canada’s GDP has indeed gone down since the 1990s. Yet this does not eliminate… Read More
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