29 October 2017   Leave a comment

Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has announced that he will step down after it has become clear that the Kurds cannot implement their plans for independence within Iraq.  Barzani has been the de facto leader of the Kurdish Autonomous Region within Iraq since 2005.  But Barzani overplayed his hand in the bid for independence.  His principal ally, the US, refused to back the move, and the Kurdish inability to retain control over the city of Kirkuk made clear that despite the undoubted strength of the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Kurds lacked the ability to sustain an independent state.  We should now look to see if Iraq maintains a concilatory policy toward Kurdish autonomy or if it clamps down on Kurdish freedoms.

Masoud Barzani


The continuing stand-off between the US and North Korea is weakening the willingness of several states in East and Southeast Asia to remain nuclear weapons-free.  The erosion is most obvious in South Korean and Japan which have both long relied on the US nuclear deterrent for defense.  The situation is a major test of the sturdiness of the non-proliferation regime which has been in place since 1968.  Both Japan and South Korea have been running peaceful nuclear reactors for many years and each has plenty of fuel that could be processed to produce thousands of nuclear weapons.  Japan remains staunchly pacifist, but Prime Minister Abe has the necessary votes to amend the Japanese constitution which prohibits offensive military capabilities.  Public sentiment in South Korea seems to be shifting in support of a nuclear deterrent given the huge casualties likely in a conventional war with North Korea.


The US considered launching a pre-emptive military strike on the People’s Republic of China in order to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, a situation roughly reminiscent of the current position of the US vis-a-vis North Korea (one should not forget that North Korea alreadyFranz-Stefan Gady describes the decision-making process has nuclear weapons so the situation is also dramatically different).  But the opinion of Mao Zedong as “irrational” seems to be the judgment of some US policymakers about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  Fortunately, the US did not launch the attack and  and how the US State Department exercised the necessary leverage to commit the US to the policy of deterrence instead.

Posted October 29, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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