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Policy Papers


Will U.S. 'Reset' Offers Work?
By Ilan Berman, Washington Times, March 27, 2009

In February, the Obama administration sent a secret letter to Moscow in which it reportedly offered up its predecessor's plans for missile defenses in Europe in exchange for a more constructive Russian role on dealing with Iran's nuclear program. The Kremlin happily pocketed that proposal, but made no firm commitments as to its cooperation in squeezing Tehran. So what does Russia really think of Iran and its nuclear ambitions?

Why Syrian-Israeli Peace Deals Fail
By Matthew RJ Brodsky, inFocus, March 24, 2009

Several myths lie at the core of the arguments in favor of resuming the Syrian-Israeli peace process. The first is that the two parties were close to completing a peace deal in 2000, but diplomacy faltered over final borders—and that it would be relatively simple to solve this territorial dispute. The second is that the return of the Golan Heights is a priority for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is not only capable of making peace with Israel, but could deliver the warm relations that Jerusalem seeks in return. Lastly, there is the myth that if the West sufficiently sweetened a Syrian-Israeli peace deal, Damascus could undergo a strategic shift and even reorient itself toward the West.

Rookie Mistake
By Ilan Berman, The American Spectator Online, March 18, 2009

Last month, as part of his plans to "push the reset button" on U.S.-Russian relations, the new president sent a secret letter to his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev. The missive reportedly contained a simple offer: America would move to scrap Bush administration-era plans to deploy missile defenses in Eastern Europe in return for the Kremlin's help in dealing with Iran's persistent nuclear ambitions.

Foreign Service Leadership Gap?
By E. Wayne Merry, Washington Times, February 27, 2009

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has repeatedly called for more emphasis on this country's nonmilitary instruments of international influence, and especially for a greater role, resources and capabilities for American diplomacy. Adm. Mullen and his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs ironically represent a critical weakness in this country's diplomatic establishment - institutional leadership.

On the Road to Damascus
By Matthew RJ Brodsky, Washington Times, February 26, 2009

The Obama administration appears to have set its sights on Syria as part of its efforts to turn over a new leaf on Middle East policy. Recent days have seen a spate of diplomatic overtures by Washington to the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. These overtures represent a major shift in American policy.

No Diplomatic Relations Until Terrorist Funding Stops
By Ilan Berman, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, February 12, 2009

The subject of diplomacy with Iran has been on Barack Obama's mind for some time. Back in October 2007, while on the campaign trail, the then-Democratic presidential contender famously announced that he would hold "direct diplomacy, without preconditions" with Iran as a counterpoint to the Bush administration's more hawkish approach to the Islamic Republic. Little has changed in Obama's outlook since. The new president has wasted no time since being inaugurated in making clear that he still seeks diplomatic engagement with the Iranian regime. He has selected a seasoned diplomat, former Israeli-Palestinian negotiator Dennis Ross, as his special envoy on the Iranian issue, and his administration is said to be moving forward with plans to set up an American interests section in Tehran.

Giving Up On Guantanamo
By James S. Robbins, National Review Online, January 23, 2009

President Obama has issued an executive order making good on his promise to close down America’s detainee facility at Guantánamo Bay, though not as rapidly as his supporters wanted. While activists will hail this as a major step towards dismantling the Bush administration’s wartime policies, the Guantánamo they object to exists more as reputation than reality. To many, the name Guantánamo screams “No Due Process!” “Torture!” and “War Crimes!” But Camp Delta is the most humane facility of its type in the history of warfare.

Israel Deserves Credit For Surgically Targeting Terrorists
By Ilan Berman, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, January 8, 2009

What should the United States do about the war in Gaza? That's the question plaguing policy-makers in Washington these days as they watch the unfolding conflict between Israel and Hamas. The cause for the current fighting – and its morality – is exceedingly clear. Since its bloody ouster of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party from the Gaza Strip 18 months ago, Hamas has established a virtual terrorist enclave there.

Iran and the Bomb
By Ilan Berman, Middle East Quarterly, January 1, 2009

Is Iran seeking nuclear weapons? For some, despite the mounting evidence, this is still very much an open question. Not, however, for Delpech, director of strategic affairs at the French Atomic Energy Commission and senior research fellow at the Center for International Studies in Paris. "[T]he quest for an atomic weapon is the only credible explanation" for the pattern of delay, secrecy, and obfuscation exhibited by Iran's ayatollahs over their nuclear effort, she writes.

Afghanistan: Back To Basics
By James S. Robbins, The Journal of International Security Affairs, December 10, 2008

As the conflict in Iraq winds down, the “forgotten front” of the War on Terror, Afghanistan, has moved back into the forefront of the national security debate. Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (hereafter OEF) is aptly named, since the conflict will endure long into the next administration. Whoever takes the oath of office in January of 2009 will face the same types of challenges in Afghanistan that have bedeviled the current administration since 2001, and to an extent have been characteristic of Afghan politics for decades.