Opinion / Middle East, Arab Spring

The Politics of Decompression

My latest piece for DIPLOMAT explores how Optimists, Pessimists and Cynics view options for helping a grotty dictatorship (say the dismal state of Sibya) move to something rather better. Back in the mists of 2016, I shared with Diplomat readers my thoughts on bad leaders: “Yes, we were wicked. But hey, look […]

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Diplomatic Negotiating (2)

My second piece on diplomatic negotiating is now out, over at AP Insights. The first one was here. Thus: Russia and Poland for centuries have been negotiating through war and peace over their borders and cultures. Wary rivalry between England and France has been carrying on since the Battle of Hastings […]

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Diplomatic Negotiating

Here’s my new piece for The Ambassador Partnership Insights series. On the strange world of diplomatic negotiating: In other words, for most negotiating purposes we expect and want the negotiating to end. And it does end. A deal is reached in some sort of reasonable time, or it isn’t. The […]

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Trump v North Korea

+ + + Stop Press + + + North and South Korea leaders meet again today. Have armchair pundits ever been so clueless? * * * * * I’ve been opining over at the new 7DNews on the never dull saga of President Trump and the North Korea knot of […]

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Syria: Red Lines

Take a look at my previous thoughts on Syria and diplomacy. Quite a lot of them. Every pessimistic prediction has been borne out and worse. Remember the long list of Hillary, Obama, Cameron and others who faux-toughly intoned that Assad must go!  They’ve gone. He’s still there. This proclamation, BTW, is […]

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Do You Want Our Money?

Back in November I wrote about the logic and reality of sanctions: One last genre of sanctions is ‘conditionality’. Yes, we’ll give you development assistance, but on conditions. One of which is that if you use our assistance to promote extremism we’ll stop supporting you. This issue comes up periodically […]

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#IranProtests – How to Respond?

What is President Trump to make of this latest turmoil in Iran? He looks at how the new President Obama responded to a wave of protests across Iran in 2009: Huge crowds in Iran are demanding minimum standards of transparency, fairness and democracy.  You know, the sort of thing we in the […]

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Iran’s Democracy

Happy New Year! Great news from Iran. Many people there have Had Enough. In these circumstances where else to start but World Bank graphs? This is GDP per capita since 1970. Note how under the clueless rantings of successive Ayatollahs Iran has managed to spend the nearly four decades since […]

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The Logic of Sanctions

My latest piece at DIPLOMAT looks at sanctions. Crime? Punishment! Thus: Back in the day when I was paid to do diplomacy, it was a refreshing if not a bracing bucketful of icy water to hear Russian diplomats talking about their professional discipline. I remember one telling me about a […]

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President Trump at UNGA (2)

So how was President Trump’s UNGA speech for you? Opinions are broadly divided: Hostile! Dangerous! Dishonest! Much to like! Let’s look at some of the language itself. In his final address to the UN General Assembly, President Obama used the word nations some 20 times: we can rally our nations to […]

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