It’s been nearly two weeks since Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term, and Beyoncé is still in the headlines. “Give the girl a break…Wouldn’t you use a backing track?” Please….surely this kerfuffle has more to do with her own PR people looking to drum up anticipation for a little gig she’s got on Sunday and she wants to beat someone else’s record? I digress….
The US got a new Diplomat in Chief today in the shape of former Senator John Kerry. If the past two weeks are anything to go by, he’s got his work cut out for him.
Africa’s moving back in to the agenda (has the Asian pivot distracted State Department, I wonder?). France has taken the lead in Mali, but the UK quietly sent troops in this week. Will America follow? I was surprised at how quiet the White House and Foggy Bottom were during the siege at In Amenas, but Secretary Kerry said in his confirmation hearing that embassy security and stability in the Maghreb would be priorities for him.
Syria’s headed in to the third year of civil war; 65,000 have died and violence keeps dancing on the border with Turkey. And this week, Israel got involved. It will be interesting to see how that plays out in the next few weeks.
Later this month: picking back up with the “talks” with Iran with the UN Security Council (and Germany)….or they might happen, if those Western Powers would just stop being so darn tricksy. Potentially good timing – “defiant” Iran has just announced they’re upgrading their enrichment capabilities at Nantaz. (NB: I think calling Iran “defiant” is like calling one of these “potentially dangerous”).
Egypt continues to be rocked by instability, and more than 50 people have died after riots, which followed a ruling about…riots. Say what you will about President Morsi, he was able to step up when it came to negotiating with Hamas and Israel last autumn. Can Secretary Kerry rely on him to focus on “other people’s problems” when he’s got so much on his own plate? And would it be right to do so?
And that brings us back to Israel…Kerry has historically been a supporter of Israel. They just had elections too, and while Prime Minister Netanyahu is still in power, he’s weakened, and some far right parties have made gains. This may not bode well for the Palestinian peace process, or indeed for the situation with Iran. I’m not a foreign policy expert, or a political expert, but I can’t help but wonder if Kerry’s appointment was a subtle olive branch to Prime Minister Netanyahu that the US is still onside, despite the less-than-cuddly relationship between the Prime Minister and President Obama.
Secretary Kerry has big shoes to fill, and has to fill them at an increasingly fraught time for geopolitics and international stability, and to be the international face for a country that needs to redefine its role in world affairs. I shall be watching with interest…