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National Security

The Optimist's Year

Tired of hearing about the Broken, Angry, Dysfunctional (BAD) Middle East? Exhausted by annoyingly negative analyses and news coverage generating the same old, same old, or worse? Persuaded that things can’t and won’t change for the better?

I can see why. The Carnegie Endowment recently asked its experts what region of the world would be home to the most “headline-making crises” in 2015? The answer? Seventy-five percent of those polled said the Middle East.

As Cuba and U.S. mend ties will Venezuela follow their lead?


Cuba alone gets 100,000 barrels a day from Venezuela — a vital lifeline for the Cuban regime which pays for the fuel in kind by sending doctors and military advisers to Venezuela. Venezuela’s economic collapse was likely on Cuba’s mind as it pursued talks with the U.S., analysts said.

“Given the economic disaster in Venezuela today any rational person dependent on Venezuelan financial support would have to be looking at other options,” said Cynthia Arnson, the director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars.


Japan’s Relations with the Korean Peninsula, 1975

Click the image to be redirected to the Wilson Center's Digital Archive to view additional documents on Japan-Korea relations.

Iran: Diplomacy Infinitum

The headline across the top half of Iran’s conservative newspaper Vatan Emrooz summed up a year of arduous diplomacy: “Nothing!” Iran and the world’s six major powers conceded on Monday that they had failed to meet a second deadline on terms to insure that Tehran’s advanced nuclear capacity cannot produce a bomb. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced in Vienna that all parties—Iran, along with the United States, Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia—had agreed, at the last minute, to an extension.

4 Big Reasons the Iranian Nuclear Deal Didn't Happen

So what went wrong? How come the champagne corks aren’t popping in Vienna? After all the hype, drama, and suspense, why is it that all we have to show is a close-but-no-cigar seven-month extension?

All is not lost. With a deadline pushed until next summer, the negotiations are already set to resume in December. And though critics of the deal will shout from the rooftops that this extension will only give Iran more leverage, it’s still possible that a way could be found to reach a comprehensive agreement.

Iran’s Nuclear Politics and Missed Opportunities

Already, the extension of nuclear talks announced Monday is being portrayed in Iran as a victory for its negotiating team. In a televised interview Monday night, President Hasan Rouhani made clear that Iran would not stop its centrifuges or give up its technology. What’s been agreed to is, indeed, a bonus for Tehran as its government continues to access about $700 million a month from its frozen assets.

Iran Nuclear Extension: Key to Deal or an Empty Room?

The Takeaways:

  1. While negotiators failed to reach a deal by the original November 24 deadline, this was not due to a lack of will. Both Iran and all the members of the P5+1 have made an earnest effort to advance negotiations and avoid being distracted by global politics. As Ms.Wright pointed out, there is a precedent for negotiations of this magnitude to take at least a year.

Authorization for Use of Military Force: Will Congress Step Up to the Plate?

In recent months, U.S. domestic politics was focused on midterm elections. Meanwhile, the Middle East’s political and strategic landscape was drastically changing as ISIL advanced into Iraq. While the role of the U.S. military has expanded and evolved as ISIL’s capabilities change, U.S. policies have not. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), and others inside and outside of government, believe that Congress needs to debate and outline a new military policy and ultimately vote on a new Authorization for Use of Military Force. That’s the focus of this edition of REWIND.

Iran Nuclear Negotiations Deadline Approaches: Deal or No Deal?

With the latest deadline approaching, P5+1 and Iranian negotiators are attempting to make headway on a long awaited deal over Iran’s nuclear program. Is a deal possible or likely? What will it take to reach a compromise? And if talks break down, what are the consequences? Robert Litwak has been following the story and provides an overview of the possibilities in this edition of Wilson Center NOW.

About Robert Litwak