North Korea’s Nuclear Drive will Upend Detente

2017 was a groundbreaking year for North Korea’s nuclear program. This year will bring more provocations intended to challenge the United States and bolster Pyongyang’s claim of being a full-fledged nuclear power.

Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for National Interest, already dubbed 2018 “the year of the North Korean missile.” But North Korea’s next move is on hold while it engages in talks with South Korea to ease tensions ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, which open in Pyeongchang, South Korea next month. Seoul and Washington suspended annual joint military exercises until after the Olympics as a sign of good faith.

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Iranian Protests Unlikely to Topple Anti-American Regime

Forecasting political developments in the Middle East is a fool’s errand—doubly so when the country is Iran.

On New Year’s Eve 1977, President Carter famously called it “an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world,” only to watch revolutionary students hijack the U.S. embassy in Tehran a year later, holding 52 Americans hostage for 444 days and crippling his presidency.

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Trump Sets China in his 2018 Sights

Sino-American relations will take a turn for the worse in 2018, as the Trump administration makes good on its trade threats and North Korea undermines President Trump’s positive relationship with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.

Despite his long-held skepticism about China’s trade practices, Trump spent his first year in office trying to woo Xi—Beijing’s most powerful leader in decades—in hopes of convincing him to take a harder line on Pyongyang’s nuclear provocations.

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Trump Decision on Jerusalem Stokes Anger Throughout Middle East (Corrected)

Here’s a good rule of thumb for forecasting the Middle East: Things will get worse before they get even worse. And in this part of the world, things always seem to be getting worse. Not surprising when the region’s other great maxim is: “The enemy of my enemy can still be my enemy.”

Virtually every recent U.S. president has ignored this lesson at his peril: Bill Clinton saw his efforts to secure peace between the Israelis and Palestinians succeed, then fail miserably. George W. Bush got bogged down in a long, costly and politically divisive war in Iraq. Barack Obama discovered, among other things, that killing Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, did not spell the end of Islamic terrorism as a threat to the United States.

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Palace Intrigue at the State Department: Trump Contemplates Plan to Force Out Secretary of State

Reports that President Trump may force out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo have rocked Washington, D.C., once again underscoring the ongoing turmoil within the administration.

To some extent, this isn’t a surprise. Washington pundits have been writing Tillerson’s political obituary ever since reports emerged this summer that the secretary of state privately called Trump a “moron.”

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Don’t Panic About North Korea’s Latest Missile Launch. (But Still Worry)

North Korea ended two months of relative calm with a bang this week, launching its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet in defiance of U.S.-led efforts to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear progress.

The missile reportedly traveled more than 2,800 miles into space – ten times higher than the International Space Station – flying for more than 50 minutes before splashing down in the Sea of Japan. Experts say it is another major leap forward in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, potentially putting the entire U.S. mainland in range, including Washington, D.C.

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Justice Dept. Trumps Blockbuster AT&T, Time-Warner Deal on Antitrust Grounds

The Justice Department moved this week to block AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. Now, the courts must decide the fate of the blockbuster deal that, if approved, would give America’s largest telecom company control over a media empire that includes CNN, HBO and other cable staples.

Will the merger go through? Flip a coin. This isn’t how antitrust cases of this kind normally proceed. The Justice Department regularly blocks transactions it deems “anti-competitive,” among them AT&T’s 2011 bid to acquire rival T-Mobile. But so-called “vertical mergers,” which involve firms operating at two different levels of an industry, have a better record of success.

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Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon

As you relax over the holiday weekend, pay close attention to what’s happening in Lebanon. Tensions are rising in this perennial Middle East battleground, with potentially big implications for the stability of an already unstable region.

The trouble began Saturday when Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned during a trip to Saudi Arabia, saying his life was threatened by the Iran-backed militia-cum-political party Hezbollah. Continue reading “Assertive Saudi Prince Sets His Sights On Lebanon”

Trump’s Travel Ban: Third Time Not a Charm

It’s deja vu all over again for President Trump’s travel ban. This week, a federal court in Hawaii blocked the latest version of the president’s controversial executive order from going into effect, only seven months after the same court put a similar hold on Trump’s second travel ban.

Much has happened in those seven months. After multiple unfavorable lower level rulings, the second ban finally reached the Supreme Court this summer. But the justices ultimately declined to hear the case during the court’s fall session, arguing that the issue was moot since the order had already expired.

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Trump To Poke Holes In Iran Deal, Not Rip It Up

On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump frequently vowed to “rip up” the Iran nuclear deal—a near-impossible promise to keep considering that the agreement is roughly the size of a large phonebook, making it physically the biggest multilateral treaty negotiated since World War II.

The hardline rhetoric remains, but Trump is unlikely to keep his word. The president still refers to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the official name of the document signed by the U.S., Iran, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia that placed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program for the next 10-15 years in exchange for sanctions relief, as “an embarrassment to the United States.” Continue reading “Trump To Poke Holes In Iran Deal, Not Rip It Up”