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The last round in Gaza – and the next

Heller Mark A

The recent round of inconclusive fighting across the Gaza-Israel border prompts several observations about the outcome and possible implications for the future

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Iron Dome   

Israel’s Iron Dome rocket interception system underwent its first operational test and achieved some notable successes. It was able to discriminate between rockets likely to land in open areas and those headed for population centers, and to refrain from wasting itself on the former while intercepting about 80 percent of the latter. As a result, many Israeli fatalities and injuries were undoubtedly prevented and extensive property damage was avoided. That result validates the economic rationale of the project, despite the huge cost imbalance between cheap rockets and missiles coming out of Gaza and expensive interceptors sent up to destroy them.

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Mr. Xi comes to town

Douglas H. Paal

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Xi Jinping recently visited the United States on a trip intended to keep relations between the two largest economies and often mistrustful partners within constructive channels. The visit was also meant to familiarize the figure likely to head China for the next five to ten years with his American counterparts, should they be reelected. Finally, in light of troubled economic times, Xi’s party signed contracts and made modest policy adjustments to benefit some American farmers and businesses and symbolize good intentions. It was an opportunity to lay out many issues forthrightly, but to leave partisan politics out.

Xi’s visit was conceived amid the tumultuous events of 2010, when China overreacted to incidents in the South and East China Seas and on the Korean Peninsula. The Obama administration, seeking to induce Beijing into more constructive interactions among other objectives, proposed a sequence of visits, starting with the January 2011 state visit by President Hu Jintao, a trip to China by Vice President Joe Biden in August, and culminating in Xi’s visit. The idea, put crudely, was to keep leadership skin in the game of high politics, thereby providing adult supervision for two massive and suspicious bureaucracies.

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The logic of Russia’s support for Assad regime

Mark N. Katz

From the March 2012 edition of Addis Standard magazine

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Russia and China have vetoed a UN Security Council resolution seeking to induce Syria’s Assad regime to stop killing its own citizens. Moscow has been particularly vociferous about preventing “external interference” in Syria or of even supporting the call for Bashar al-Assad to cede power to his vice president (as has occurred—at least officially—in Yemen). Chinese statements have been more measured, and it is doubtful that Beijing would have voted against the resolution if Moscow had even abstained on it.

Why, then, is Russia in particular so adamant about protecting the Assad regime? Many observers—especially Russian ones—note that Moscow felt betrayed by what happened in Libya last year. After abstaining (along with China) on the Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya, the US and NATO actively supported the Libyan opposition, which eventually overthrew the Qaddafi regime and formed a new government. Moscow fears that allowing the passage of a similar resolution against Syria would lead to a similar NATO intervention with similar results. Moscow would then lose its closest ally in the Middle East, along with access to naval facilities at Tartus, a close arms relationship, and investments in the petroleum and other sectors of the Syrian economy.

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