Author: Jo Coghlan

Obama: Leading from behind on Syria

The Syrian leader is out of options and out of friends and it seems it is only now that the Obama administration is talking tough on Syria. Obama has made America’s first explicit call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign, five months after what has been seen as “calibrated diplomacy”, including rounds of increasingly punitive sanctions and a slow shift by the American President towards a regime change narrative. Five months after the protests erupted in Syria and were brutally countered by the regime’s police and security forces, the American government has introduced an “immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria.” White House statements say this ban will work with European sanctions on Syrian-origin petroleum resulting in the “financial isolation of the al-Assad regime” in order to “disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people.” The executive order took effect immediately. The U.S does not rely on Syrian petroleum products; however the E.U. may feel the effects. The European Union has called for al-Assad to step down and warned of further sanctions. Catherine Ashton, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy has said: “The escalation of the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters and the intensifying large-scale use...

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U.S. Credit Rating: American Hegemony in Decline?

Standard and Poor’s (S&P) have reduced America’s sovereign credit rating from AAA to AA+. The rating puts the U.S. on par with Kuwait and Taiwan. America’s $14.3 trillion debt makes “the world’s richest nation” a worse credit risk than Australia, Germany, Britain and the Isle of Man. The downgrade followed the biggest weekly selloff in U.S. stocks in 32 months. S&P’s decision rested on two factors: America’s decision to raise the debt ceiling and concerns about America’s political processes. S&P were reportedly concerned about the “political brinksmanship of recent months” which had highlighted what they saw as “America’s governance and policymaking becoming less stable, less effective, and less predictable” than what they had previously believed. S&P were “pessimistic” about the ability of Congress and the White House to reach a broader plan to rein in the deficit “any time soon.” It has been widely reported that the legislation signed by Barack Obama on 2 August to reduce the fiscal deficit by $2.1 trillion over 10 years was well short of S&P expectations of US$4 trillion. The rating agency is also reportedly considering the possibility of lowering the rating to AA within two years if the U.S. government does not cut spending as much as recently pledged, or if higher interest rates and new fiscal pressures worsen the state’s financial picture. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the S&P...

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Arab Spring Refugees: the Cost of War

As a result of the uprisings occurring in the Middle East, large populations of internally displaced persons (IDP’s) have been created inside of those countries, as well as great numbers of refugees fleeing to bordering countries. This has consequences for a region with already existing refugee populations, notably the more than one million Iraqi refugees that have settled in Syria since 2006. The possibility of increased large-scale refugee movement from Libya and Syria will cause a devastating humanitarian crisis and may further destabilize the region. The United Nations is already warning of an aid crisis with significant food and...

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Patriot Act: A civil liberties breach or a foreign policy necessity?

U.S. President Barrack Obama signed an extension to H.R. 2975, an Act to Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (2001), known as the Patriot Act. The Patriot Act was put in place following the September 2001 attacks on America. The provisions expanded the abilities of law-enforcement officials to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists both in the U.S. and abroad. A New York Times article from 2 October 2001 described its passage as: “the climax of a remarkable 18-hour period in which both the House and the Senate adopted complex, far-reaching antiterrorism legislation with little debate...

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Where America goes, Australia goes, especially on Afghanistan

Military deaths, Afghani deaths, billions of dollars, war-weary constituents, declining public support, and a lack of moral legitimacy means that both Australia and America need to exit Afghanistan now. As we know in Australia, as soon as American gets out, so will we. So why is the exit taking so long? A bill to expedite the exit of the U.S. military from Afghanistan has only narrowly been defeated in the U.S. Congress—251 to 204 votes. There is little politically to keep American in the almost decade long war, especially with elections due in 2012. As we know in Australia—where...

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