In today’s Foreign Affairs, RPI authors Farideh Farhi and Saideh Lotfian analyze Iranian foreign policy after the election using the schools of thought outlined in the RPI’s Worldviews of Aspiring Powers edited volume:
“As Iranians head to the polls today, much of the world is focused on the country’s domestic politics, particularly given the unrest that followed the last presidential election. A question that has gotten less attention is how the choice of president will impact the country’s foreign policy. But in Iran, like in other countries, domestic politics play a big role in foreign policy. The election has exposed the choices available to decision-makers and the political limits they face.
As we wrote in Worldviews of Aspiring Powers, two basic tensions underpin almost all the foreign policy perspectives in Iran. The first tension is between Iran’s outright rejection of the current international order and its desire to improve its own position within that order. The second tension is between the country’s sense of importance as a regional and global player and its impulse to emphasize Iran’s insecurities and strategic loneliness. The one guiding principle of Iranian foreign policy that is in no way up for debate is nationalism, specifically an emphasis on national sovereignty in the face of global arrogance.
These three broad forces shape the boundaries beyond which political players cannot step if they wish to remain relevant. Those seeking improved relations or accommodation with the global order, for example, need to walk a fine line between being seen as promoting the national interest and falling prey to sazesh (collusion). Meanwhile, those advocating resistance to the West and self-sufficiency have to be mindful of the country’s official desire to be the region’s technological and economic leader. And, one way or another, everyone must package their positions in a wrapper of nationalism.
In short, there is near consensus on the broad objectives of Iranian foreign policy: enhance Iran’s role in the Middle East and maintain the country’s Islamic identity despite the adversity of global powers. Where there is room for debate is over the scope of Iran’s foreign policy and the means through which it might achieve these objectives. It would be a mistake to reduce these discussions to a contest between hard-liners and ideologues on the one hand, and those who want accommodation with the West on the other.”
Read the full article here.Continue Reading →
Several nuclear armed countries in Asia have expanded their arsenal over the past year according to a new report. China, India, and Pakistan added 10 to 20 nuclear weapons to their stockpiles and made qualitative improvements to their delivery systems. Last week, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) – an international security think tank based in Sweden – published their latest SIPRI Yearbook, a helpful and comprehensive reference guide on global armaments.
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Since taking office as Japan’s Prime Minister for the second time, Shinzo Abe’s foreign policy posture has been under close scrutiny. Most have been concerned about his proposal to revise the Japanese Constitution, and how he has handled various expressions of nationalist sentiment from members of his ruling coalition. Some are also taking note of Abe’s recent visits to Russia and the Middle East. In this Policy Alert, we examine commentaries from Japan, China, South Korea, Russia and India.
Opinion is sharply divided on the question of revising Japan’s constitution to allow the country’s Self-Defense Forces to strike hostile nations if Japan comes under threat.
- Liberal-leaning papers have been strongly opposed to such constitutional revisions. “We are alarmed by this move,” worried the Asahi Shimbun. “Isn’t it more likely to aggravate, rather than ease, regional tensions and lead to an arms race?”
- The Mainichi News was more moderate in its criticism, saying that “the question of the SDF’s use of weapons in U.N. peacekeeping operations should be considered separately from operations to protect Japanese nationals.” It also voiced concern that procedural changes which would make it easier to initiate constitutional amendments risked undermining parliamentary democracy.
- In contrast, the conservative Yomiuri Shimbun declared, “The time has come to consider enabling SDF to attack enemy bases,” suggesting specific weapons systems (more…)
Dr. Hui Zhang, a participant in the RPI’s Nuclear Debates in Asia project focusing on China and senior scholar at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, recently wrote an op-ed for the The Diplomat:
On April 16, the Chinese Ministry of Defense released the eighth edition of China’s bi-annual white paper on defense since 1998. However, unlike the previous editions, this one does not reiterate China’s long-standing doctrine of no-first-use nuclear weapons. The obvious omission has sparked a debate over whether China is changing its nuclear doctrine. If China abandons its no-first-use nuclear pledge, which has guided China’s nuclear strategy since its first nuclear test in 1964, it would severely undermine the global disarmament process, potentially preventing the U.S. and Russian from further reducing their nuclear arsenals and even encouraging the U.S. to expand its nuclear forces. Is China really changing its nuclear policy? (more…)Continue Reading →
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s upcoming visit to India next Monday has been overshadowed by recent tensions over the two countries’ border dispute in the Ladakh region, which had flared up since late April. In this post, we examine the evolution of Indian and Chinese views on this crisis and the future of their bilateral relationship.
In the past few weeks, Indian media and politics have seen a deluge of commentary on this border dispute and India’s relationship with China. During the initial confusion when it was reported that Chinese troops had set up camp in Ladakh on April 15, many called for a stern Indian response , while others urged restraint .
With the withdrawal of troops on May 6 and the visit of Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid to Beijing on May 9, the stand-off was temporarily relieved. Commentary then focused on explaining China’s motives and assessing the Indian government’s handling of the crisis.
- According to Ananth Krishnan, journalist for The Hindu, Indian analysts have attributed Chinese actions in Ladakh to one of four factors : 1) a general trend of growing Chinese assertiveness; 2) Chinese President Xi Jinping’s need to consolidate support from the military; 3) China’s anxieties over India’s recent build-up of infrastructure at the border; and 4) moves by local PLA commanders. (more…)
The RPI recently published its 50th Policy Alert. We’re celebrating by bringing back the top 5 most widely read Policy Alerts. Thank you for your continued readership and support!
- Policy Alert #45: Asian Powers Comment on French Intervention in Mali (February 2013)
- Policy Alert #48: Lessons from Cyprus: Rising Powers Comment on the Bank Bailout and Financial Globalization (March 2013)
- Policy Alert #50: Boston Marathon Bombings Elicit Mixed Reactions from Asian Powers (May 2013)
- Policy Alert #33: Sentiments from Asia’s Rising Powers on Winning & losing at the Olympics (July 2012)
- Policy Alert #44: Heightened Tensions in the East China Sea: Reactions from China and Japan (January 2013)
Reviewed by Meredith Oyen (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
Published on H-Diplo (April, 2013)
Commissioned by Seth Offenbach
The impact of domestic politics on foreign policy is a subject of long-standing interest for both historians of American foreign relations and political scientists concerned with international relations. A new volume edited by Henry R. Nau and Deepa M. Ollapally, Worldviews of Aspiring Powers: Domestic Foreign Policy Debates in China, India, Iran, Japan, and Russia, brings together prominent scholars from across the world to explore the domestic dimension of foreign policy in five important countries. The core argument of this book is that domestic debates powerfully affect foreign policy, sometimes exerting as much influence as external factors. The authors consider the implications of the contesting worldviews not only for each country’s foreign policy, but also for U.S. foreign policy responses. Worldviews of Aspiring Powers therefore offers both a model for future studies of domestic debates in other rising or aspiring powers as well as some thoughtful advice for policymakers.
In order to develop a common vocabulary for discussing and analyzing these debates across the countries under study, Nau’s introductory chapter discusses three aspects of foreign policy under debate everywhere: the scope, means, and goals of policy. By analyzing these three aspects across three broad categories of worldviews–national, regional, and global–he sets up a broad framework of twenty-seven possible worldviews, which the authors of the individual chapter then use as a guide to explore the unique variations of the country under their consideration. Nau makes clear from the outset that reality does not fit the generalized model perfectly, and each country under consideration possesses attributes that make it unique. (more…)Continue Reading →
Jogesh Joshi, visiting scholar at the Sigur Center and Ph.D. candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University, and Frank O’Donnell recently co-wrote an article for the East-West Center:
Pakistan is on the verge of a historic moment. For the first time in its national existence, a civilian government completed a full term of office in March of this year. A caretaker government is now administering the country until new elections are held this May. Many argue that if all goes well, successful national elections and a smooth power transition would help ensure that democratization is progressing in a country which has hitherto been ruled mostly by its generals.
However, democracy or no democracy, one trend which continues to unnerve the international community is Pakistan’s nuclear program. The country reportedly has the world’s fifth largest nuclear arsenal and it is projected to expand beyond that of France in the next few years. But this vertical proliferation is not only quantitative in nature; it is also qualitative, insofar as Pakistan is slowly but steadily diversifying the fissile base of its nuclear arsenal from uranium to plutonium. Plutonium-based weapons, unlike uranium ones, are more suitable for miniaturization because they require less fissile material. It also allows for both better concealment and swifter movement of nuclear arsenals. (more…)Continue Reading →
From 2005 to 2011, China rapidly developed its nuclear power capacity. In 2010 alone, it began operations at two new reactors and broke ground on 10 more, accounting for more than 60 percent of new reactor construction worldwide and making the Chinese nuclear industry by far the fastest-growing in the world. By the end of 2010, China had 14 nuclear reactors in operation with a total capacity of about 11 gigawatts electric, or GWe. That was still a relatively small amount — in contrast, the United States had 104 commercial reactors with a total capacity of about 100 GWe in 2010 — but China was pursuing ambitious plans to rapidly expand.
Then came the tsunami and earthquake that led to Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in March 2011, the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. After Fukushima, China changed course dramatically, slowing the pace of nuclear development to focus on safety. The slower pace is reassuring, but to really be a leader on nuclear safety, China should speed up the adoption of new laws on nuclear energy and enhance the independence and authority of nuclear safety regulators. (more…)Continue Reading →
In this post, we examine the contrasting reactions of Russia, China and India to last week’s bomb attacks on the Boston Marathon. Commentaries from these Asian powers reflect the differences in their attitudes on how to define and respond to problems of terrorism.
Editorials expressed mixed views on how the Boston bombings may impact US-Russia security relations while also using the incident to criticize US actions and policies against terrorism.
President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed their commitment tostrengthen US- Russia security coordination in a recent telephone conversation. However, others expressed skepticism:
- Though Russia’s Federal Security Service and the FBI have promised to focus on “all aspects of the challenge,” intelligence sharing efforts are “hampered by mistrust, bureaucracy, and self-interest,” said Russian intelligence expert Andrei Soldatov.
- “The Boston terrorist attack may provide for an uptick in the U.S.-Russian security partnership, but we should be careful not to overdramatize its significance for overall U.S.-Russia relations,” wrote George Washington University’s Cory Welt. “The history of post-9/11 relations suggests that a stable and constructive U.S.-Russian relationship cannot be built mainly on a counterterrorism foundation.”
- Duma Deputy Speaker and Liberal Democratic Party member Vlidimir Zhirinovsky predicted that the U.S. faces a grim future of repeated attacks. “There is a clash of civilizations. The United States bombs the Islamic world, and what can they do in return? As long as Islamic countries are being bombed, attacks will occur in London and New York.”
Several editorials criticized the U.S. for holding double standards regarding terrorism (more…)Continue Reading →