Sanctions hurt Russia, but still far from changing minds -Reuters

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An analysis of the sanctions regime levied against Russia because of the Ukraine crisis. As the title suggests, the article argues that sanctions will not force Moscow to change its policies any time soon: “two more years of these sorts of sanctions will be rough but not impossible for Russia…” and that is with oil prices staying low.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/02/04/us-investment-russia-sanctions-analysis-idUSKBN0L80W720150204

Photos To Remind You How Beautiful Yemen Is -Scoopempire.com

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With the country slipping quickly into civil war, its easy to focus entirely on the warring factions and violence and write the country off. It is easy to forget what is being lost in Yemen, just like what was lost in Syria.

The following photo essay shows what is at risk in Yemen: http://scoopempire.com/photos-remind-beautiful-yemen/

To add some perspective, see Al Jazeera, “Death of Aleppo”. http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2015/03/150325072934200.html

Aleppo was a UNESCO world heritage site, it is now in ruins. In a sense, for Yemen, Alleppo is the ghost of Christmas future (to borrow a little bit of Dickens) .

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the ‘Great Game’ in Yemen -al Jazerra

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Interesting article on the unrest in Yemen and where it fits in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. I think the author is correct in his argument that the Yemen is intrinsically important to Saudi Arabia, but is primarily seen as leverage in Iran. If so, hopefully they will cash in their bargaining chip quickly.

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/09/saudi-arabia-iran-great-game-ye-201492984846324440.html

Debate: The expansion of Canada’s mission into Syria -Globe and Mail versus McLeans

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The Harper government’s decision to expand its anti-ISIS military operations was sure to be controversial. The Globe and Mail editorial supports operations in Iraq, but stakes out a pragmatic argument for staying out of Syria. The rebuttal, from Michael Petrou, makes a humanitarian argument for getting involved. Who is right? http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/why-canada-is-in-iraq-and-should-stay-out-of-syria/article23603559/ http://www.macleans.ca/politics/ottawa/three-reasons-why-we-must-expand-our-mission-into-syria/

China Can’t Be Contained; It Has to Be Accommodated -The New Yorker

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Interesting take on the rise of China. Also of note: another historical analogy involving Germany. This time however it is Germany pre-WW1 not Pre-WW2, and the argument is not that we must always stand up to tyrants, but that being overly defensive guarantees a hostile response.

What, then, should Obama do? Despite all the uproar about corporate espionage and hacking, the first thing on his to-do list should be reassuring the Chinese government, and the Chinese people, that the United States seeks cooperation rather than confrontation. As Ross wrote: “The right China policy would assuage, not exploit, Beijing’s anxieties, while protecting U.S. interests in the region.” That doesn’t mean ignoring examples of egregious behavior by Chinese, but it means dealing with them in the right setting. For example, complaints about intellectual property theft can be pursued through the World Trade Organization, which China joined more than a decade ago.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/china-cant-be-contained-it-has-to-be-accommodated

The Biggest Threat to America’s Future Is … America -The New Yorker

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Given the level of the political debate in the US regarding the negotiations with Iran, not to mention the ridiculous letter sent to Tehran, this article is all the more relevant:

Rather than accomplishing any of these things, Washington seems to be trapped in a never-ending back and forth, in which sloganeering substitutes for analysis and political point-scoring is elevated above policymaking. It’s a dismal spectacle, and if it goes on indefinitely it will exact an increasingly high price. Not the sudden collapse of Pax Americana, perhaps, but the gradual undermining of it.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/john-cassidy/the-biggest-threat-to-americas-future-is-america

I Don’t Want to Be Right -The New Yorker

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The following article does not deal with foreign policy or international politics directly. However it is very relevant if you are thinking about these issues in relation to public opinion and the media. This article suggests that opinions, once formed, are very resistant to change. This means that for policy-makers looking for public support for their initiatives it will likely be easier to frame policies in terms of preexisting beliefs rather than challenge established ideas. It also suggests that politicians who play to established ideas may have an advantage over those suggesting change. It also suggests that the powers that be cannot make the public believe what ever they want. One wonders what implications this has for the Almond-Lippmann consensus.

http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/i-dont-want-to-be-right

Turkey claims person detained over U.K. girls Syrian trip linked to Canada -Globe and Mail

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“Spy services often rely on foreign networks of local people and informants, whose ability to blend in and speak the language reaps more intelligence. Usually, the foreign governments where this takes place don’t know about such operations.

The allegations in Turkey come as the Conservative government is moving legislation through Parliament that would increase the latitude CSIS has to conduct spying missions outside Canada. One bill would give the agency explicit authority to work overseas, or as top Canadian spymaster Michel Coulombe told MPs this week, to “conduct a threat-related activity investigation abroad.””

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/spy-from-us-led-coalition-helped-british-girls-join-islamic-state-turkey-says/article23418045/

Technically, CSIS is not supposed to be gathering information out side of Canada, although there have been grey areas and loopholes. Currently, two pieces of legislation have been introduced that would change that: Bills C-44 and Bill C-51 would allow CSIS greater scope to operate on foreign soil and not only monitor but also disrupt potential threats to Canadian security. The legislation is of course extremely controversial. There has been a long running debate about whether Canada needs the institutional capacity to spy abroad. There are also concerns about judicial oversight, the process by which information is shared with foreign governments and other agencies, and the question of what constitutes a threat to Canadian security. Many critics are concerned that legitimate dissent could be categorized as terrorist subversion. Indeed, the laws and institutional structure which has been in place since the 1960s was a response to excesses by the RCMP, so there is historical precedent for concern.