The eyes of the world are focused on the UN in New York this week in an amazing turnabout in international politics. We could have been in the midst of a Middle East war with the US and France having attacked Syria, triggering resumed fighting across the border of southern Lebanon and Israel. Instead, the UN is back on centre stage, the Security Council is functioning again, and its five permanent powers are in a constructive dialogue over chemical weapons in Syria for the first time in two and a half years.
You have to hand it to the new Iranian President. The Washington Post op ed, the NBC interview. Ahead of Rouhani's much anticipated visit to New York for the UN General Assembly, he's got the world singing his tunes. All the right buzz words are there: "peace and stability among all nations", "win-win game", "friendship and dialogue."
While the US-Russian deal to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons is a welcome sign that diplomacy has a central part to play in this crisis, the retreat from early talk of military action also suggests a growing reluctance on the part of the US and UK to intervene directly in the Middle East. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, it is certainly something new.
If the US attacks Syria on its own, it won't be the first time in a solo operation after a British rejection. UK politicians have short memories when trumpeting the Special Relationship. Some may recall Bill Clinton's first foreign trip as President was to the UK to seek support for operations to end the bloodbath in Bosnia after four years of carnage and NATO/UN fence sitting.
The coalition of the willing done a good job of creating just the opposite, seemingly. Large majorities in both the UK and US still do not support attacking Syria, and it is those most passionate about politics who seem to most object. For the antiwar left, any use of force by the West is neo-imperialism and repeats the mistakes of ten years ago...
According to Syrian opposition sources, more than 1,300 Syrian citizens have been killed in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Wednesday 21 August. The Syrian National Coalition claims toxic gas was used by President Bashar al Assad's forces during a bombardment of rebel-held areas outside the Syrian capital.
The sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN, the US, the EU, and others are supposed to be "smart sanctions." They are supposed to be measures that target the regime, the military, and above all, Iran's nuclear program. They are not supposed to be destroying Iran's health care, education, nutrition, or basic needs for the poor. But that is exactly what the sanctions are doing.
Despite Rouhani's friendly statements to the West, his statements about them have painted a different picture. His first bilateral meeting as president was with the head of North Korea's People's Assembly, to whom he expressed the view that the West was seeking an excuse for confrontation with countries it doesn't like over the nuclear issue.
Once again renewing Trident is in the news, so some time soon we can expect to hear politicians or commentators explain that Trident is necessary because off the threats from Iran or North Korea, or some other rogue regime. Unfortunately, this is a complete red herring of an argument as long as you've thought about the issue for a couple of minutes. And now I'm going to explain why.
The five things you need to know on Wednesday 17 July 2013... 1) ARMS FOR DICTATORS From the Independent's splash: "The Government has issued...