The CNN Debate on National Security, moderated by CNN’s lead anchor, will be broadcast this evening from Washington, D.C. As the candidates prepare to answer some difficult questions dealing with national security, there are several trouble spots in the world that they need to brush up on that affect national security.
As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, there has been some discussion of defense spending cuts. One of the victims could be the missile defense system. Pakistan is sure to hit the headlines as well.
The issues are plentiful and while debates may be a good test for candidates, unfortunately the time allocated to address these difficult issues seldom provide the attention that should be paid to each issue separately.
Egypt. After much cheering at last April’s Arab Spring, protests are in full swing at Cairo’s Tahrir Square. 33 protesters have been killed during the last three days and Tahrir Square is filled with protesters again this morning, demanding that the military cede power to a national unity government led by Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Yesterday Egypt’s cabinet resigned, but that didn’t satisfy protesters. What happens in Egypt has a direct effect on Israel and its security. No one really knows how this will play out in the end. To say the least the situation in Egypt is troubling.
The three days of unrest have left at least 33 protesters dead. The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces issued a statement saying that it was watching the “escalating events” with “extreme caution and sorrow.”
It remained unclear whether the protests would disrupt parliamentary elections scheduled for next week. Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, said that the United States was “deeply concerned” about the bloodshed and urged all parties to focus “on holding free, fair and peaceful elections as scheduled” on Monday.
As the resignation offer from the military-backed cabinet was announced Monday night, Egyptians thronged into Tahrir Square chanting slogans against the military council. Riot policemen for a third straight day battled rock-throwing protesters with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets.
The cabinet, led by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, called the recent violence “unfortunate” and said it felt “politically responsible.” But it was unclear whether the cabinet’s offer to step down was intended to appease activists or register opposition to the rough treatment of protesters, which was carried out by security forces with military backing. Washington Post
Syria. On November 8th the UN reported that 3500 people had been killed in Syria since the start of the crackdowns in March. While the U.S., Canada, European powers and the Arab League have condemned the actions of the Assad regime, the crackdowns continue. While NATO with the co-operation of the UN Security Council was able to stop the killing of civilians with the establishment of a no fly zone and destruction of Gadddafi’s military assets, the Alliance has no intention of military intervention in Syria. The situation is different in that protesters have not asked, nor do they want, external military assistance. They have asked for a no fly zone. Without engagment of Assad’s military on the ground, it is not clear what a effect a no fly zone would have.
Syria is an ally of Iran, which complicates the situation even more. With Iran’s policy of the destruction of Israel, a military conflict or intervention with Syria, could trigger unintended events. Needless to say, Syria is a difficult issue, with complicated solutions. Try answering those in one minute.
Iran. Iran is on the brink of having a nuclear weapon. The UN has been unable to get agreement on the issue, with China and Russia bucking against the overall trend. What is certain is that if the United States doesn’t act, Israel will. Yesterday the U.S., UK and Canada have imposed harsher sanctions, which include denial of access to much of the world’s financial system in an attempt to isolate the country’s regime. The sanctions stopped short of crippling Iran’s central bank.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department plans to designate Iran as an area of “primary money laundering concern,” a move that’s expected to isolate the country from the global financial system.
The United States is not expected to add Iran’s central bank, Bank Markazi, to its formal sanctions list, a move which could effectively cut it off from the international financial system, cause oil prices to spike higher and hurt U.S. economic recovery. National Post
Israel/Palestinian Conflict. This is a conflict that has been center stage since the establishment of Israel in 1948. Over the years there has been hope that the conflict would finally been settled, with successive U.S. Administrations on the verge of success, just to be disappointed again. Obama made a promising Cairo speech at the beginning of his Administration, which didn’t work. His critics have accused him at being anti-Israel. To some extend this was demonstrated by Obama’s treatment of Bibi Netanyahu. There is, no doubt, friction between the President and the President.
While Obama and Netanyahu agree with a two state solution, they disagree on settlements and the start point for discussion. Obama has suggested that Israel’s start point should be its pre-1967 borders. While this might please the Palestinians it is a security issue for Israel. Its borders must be defendable. We should hear a lot on this at tonight’s debate.
Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq. After five months of NATO implementing UN Resolution 1973, it has ceased its operations in Libya, although it continues to maintain a naval fleet in the Mediterranean Sea, primarily to provide an overwatch on Syria and Libya. The Libyan National Transitional Council is in the process of establishing a cabinet and has the thankless job of trying to unite Libyan tribes. Gaddafi has been captured and killed. His son Saif al-Islam is in custoday and will be tried by the Libyan people, with the promise that he will receive a fair trial. Gaddafi’s Intelligence Chief has also been arrested, closing the Gaddafi chapter in Libyan history. The long road to democracy will no doubt be a challenge to the new Libyan government and to Western powers.
Iraq is also turning the page on U.S. military operations and protection. Obama has announced that all U.S. troops will be home for the holidays and Libya will take care of its own security. The Pentagon wanted to keep between 15 and 30,000 troops in country, however the Obama Administration could not get a negotiated deal to indemnify U.S. troops from prosecution under Iraqi law. Critics say that the Administration got engaged too late.
All of the surge troops will be out of Afghanistan by next summer with a final withdrawal date in 2014. There have been discussions that some NATO troops will remain past 2014 to continue training Afghan Security Forces. The Obama withdrawal timetable has received criticism, claiming that it will encourage the Taliban to wait out the departure of NATO troops and then effectively regain power. While the Administration has claimed that the Taliban have been effectively defeated, violence has increased in Afghanistan. The Taliban have targeted NATO troops and government buildings and officials with some success.
Egypt. The Mubarak regime was the only Arab regime that had signed a peace treaty with Israel. What initially seemed like an orderly transition to Democracy, has proven to be less than favourable. The military transition government has control of the country. In an attempt to mute protests, the Egyptian Cabinet resigned yesterday and a new Cabinet was designated today. Monday’s elections have been postponed to next summer, leaving the country in flux, as protests continue. Egypt and its future as well as the Republican candidate’s approach to Egypt is a must.
Pakistan. Pakistan is key to the success in Afghanistan. Mistrust exists between the U.S. government and Pakistan. The Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI) has been accused of planning and conducting operations in Afghanistan. What to do with Pakistan should be a major discussion point for the debate tonight.
Domestic Terror. Domestic Terror is a major factor in national security. To this point, the Obama Administration and intelligence services have been able to foil attempts of terror attacks. Whether it was by sheer luck or good intelligence is open to debate.
The debate should also include illegal immigration, the Mexican border and climate change.
Energy Security. The United States is a net exporter of oil, with bulk coming from the Middle East. Energy independence equal energy security. Most of the Middle East oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, which could easily be blocked by Iran. With the present stand off between Western nations and Iran, the protection of the strait could become critical. Add to that the problems in Egypt, Israel’s position in the Middle East, this issue is of relative importance to the United States.
President Obama has been pushing for alternate energy, including wind mills, solar and biofuels. Canada’s Alberta Oil Sands presently produce 500 million barrels a day and have the potential to double that capability. A pipeline, the XL Keystone pipeline, has been in the approval stage for 19 months and a decision was to be reached by the end of this year. The pipeline has come under constant attack over the past months by environmentalists and their celebrity friends in Hollywood. The pressure on the Administration has resulted in the decision being delayed beyond the 2012 election. Despite Nebraska and TransCanada Pipelines agreement to reroute the pipeline, the Administration has chosen not to approve it prior to the 2012 election. No surprise there.
Oil from Alberta would have provided oil from a friendly country with the safest technology and checks available for any of the pipelines presently traversing the United States. The approval of the pipeline would bode well towards energy independence and as a result to national security, besides providing shovel ready jobs.
Needless to say the issues are plentiful and a lot to deal with in a single debate that doesn’t permit discussing the issues fully. There are lots of opportunities for GAFs tonight and candidates will have to be on their toes and avoid trick questions.
Look to Newt Gingrich being targeted by the moderators and candidates. Newt should have little difficulty discussing these issues. Rick Perry and Herman Cain will be under pressure to perform. Mitt Romney will hold his own.
The debate should provide some interesting insight of the candidates’ preparedness to be Commander in Chief.