Iran’s leader is losing his grasp on power. Does this mean diplomacy is doomed?



President Hassan Rouhani came to office with an olive branch, but his hard-liners rivals now appear to be setting the political agenda in Iran.
Iranian Presidency Office Handout/EPA

Shahram Akbarzadeh, Deakin University

Iran’s announcement last Sunday that it would break the limit on uranium enrichment agreed to in the nuclear deal with world powers was not a surprise. It came hot on the heels of another breach only a few days earlier on the 300-kilogram limit agreed to in the deal on stockpiles of low-enriched uranium.

Iran had warned Europe that it would start dismantling the nuclear accord if the promised economic benefits of the agreement did not materialise. A year after the US withdrew from the nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, and imposed very strict sanctions on Iran, the Iranian leadership appears ready to give up on finding a diplomatic solution to this deadlock.




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This bodes ill for the future of President Hassan Rouhani and regional security. A weakened Rouhani will find it difficult to fend off his hard-line critics in Iran and keep the nuclear deal alive.

With every step away from diplomacy, the hard-liners have taken a step forward and appear to be now setting the political agenda in Iran.

Rouhani’s riskiest gamble

The JCPOA was signed in 2015 between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany.

This was Rouhani’s greatest achievement and riskiest gamble. He faced the ire of hard-liners in Iran who continue to have a formidable presence in the parliament, as well as the security and judicial system.

They accused Rouhani of selling out Iranian sovereignty and betraying the ideals of the Islamic revolution by scaling back Iran’s nuclear program and subjecting it to an unprecedented international monitoring regime.

Rouhani nonetheless pushed through his agenda of finding a diplomatic solution to Iran’s isolation because he believed that years of sanctions and mismanagement had pushed the Iranian economy to the brink of collapse.

He staked his political fortunes on bringing Iran out of isolation.

The JCPOA was the compromise deal to assure the international community that Iran would not pursue a nuclear weapons program in return for sanctions relief to revive the Iranian economy.

But US President Donald Trump never liked the deal. He campaigned against it and often questioned Iran’s commitment to it, though the UN International Atomic Energy Agency consistently reported on Iran’s compliance with the terms of the agreement.




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Despite much lobbying by European powers, Trump withdrew from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed severe unilateral sanctions on Iran, and anyone dealing with Iran.

Losing control to the hard-liners

Trump’s decision to tear up the nuclear deal was seen by the conservatives in Iran as a vindication of their feelings towards the United States. They lambasted Rouhani for putting his trust in the US.

In May 2019, the situation got even more tense after Trump announced that US warships were sailing to the Persian Gulf to counter potential Iranian hostility. No intelligence regarding a suspected Iranian threat was shared.

The escalation of tensions following the alleged Iranian attack on two oil tankers last month, and the downing of a US reconnaissance drone by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards has made it very hard to find a diplomatic solution. Drums of war are silencing voices of diplomacy.

While Rouhani came to office with an olive branch, he realises that he has effectively lost the political contest against his hard-line critics. He has another two years in office, but is at risk of losing the presidency if the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who yields ultimate power in Iran, is disillusioned with his performance.

This realisation has seriously undermined Rouhani, who appears to have adopted the language and posture of the hard-liners in relation to the US. It is unclear if this can save him in office, or embolden his critics who seem to be gaining significant momentum.

In May, the Supreme Leader appointed a battle-hardened General as the commander of the Basij paramilitary force, an arm of the Revolutionary Guards that suppresses domestic dissent.




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This was a significant development for the hard-liners in case they seek to assert political control. Basij has been a ruthless security force inside Iran and can provide the necessary street support for a potential coup against Rouhani.

Another notable military commander is General Qasem Soleimani, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise in Iran due to his performance as commander of Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards’ international arm operating mostly in Iraq and Syria to defeat the Islamic State.

He is considered a war hero by the public and now has the confidence of the Supreme Leader. This is an ominous development for Rouhani.

A woman carrying a picture of Qasem Soleimani during an anti-US demonstration in Tehran earlier this year.
Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA

Breaking with the tenets of the nuclear deal was also clearly not Rouhani’s objective, as it would reverse his hard-won diplomatic gains and discredit his legacy.

Iran’s recent breaches on uranium enrichment and stockpiles were incremental steps to exert pressure on European leaders to adhere to their promises of sanctions relief. This strategy was predicated on the assumption that Europe has more to lose with the collapse of JCPOA than a rift with the United States. It can only be described as a desperate move, showing that Rouhani is fast running out of options.

The window of opportunity for a diplomatic solution is fast closing and the alternative scenario of the return of a combative government in Tehran is looking more and more unavoidable. This would shut the doors to diplomacy and increase the chance of confrontation with the West.

Trump accused Iran of not wanting to sit at the table. He may be fulfilling his own prophecy.


An earlier version of this article implied General Qasem Soleimani was the leader of the Basij security force, when he is actually the commander of the Quds Force.The Conversation

Shahram Akbarzadeh, Professor of Middle East & Central Asian Politics, Deputy Director (International), Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Diplomacy and defence remain a boys’ club, but women are making inroads



Julie Bishop and Marise Payne have risen to the top in foreign affairs, but their successes may be masking more systemic issues preventing women from advancement.
William West/AAP

Susan Harris Rimmer, Griffith University and Elise Stephenson, Griffith University

The Lowy Institute has launched a three-year study on gender representation in Australia’s diplomatic, defence and intelligence services, and the findings are critical: gender diversity lags significantly behind Australia’s public service and corporate sector, as well as other countries’ foreign services.

In a field which has long ignored research on gender or feminist approaches to understanding international relations, this report is welcome and sets forth an important research agenda within Australia.

Gender diversity is an important issue for all who value the pursuit of Australia’s national interests overseas. Attracting and retaining the best talent is more important now than ever before.

As then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in June 2017:

The economic, political and strategic currents that have carried us for generations are increasingly difficult to navigate.

The report’s most significant findings

The Lowy Institute found that of all the fields in international relations, women are least represented in Australia’s intelligence communities.

As the funding and resources of the intelligence sector continue to grow, this is a serious problem with little transparency. The sector appears to be struggling with a “pipeline” and “ladder” problem: women are both joining at lower rates and progressing at far slower rates than their male counterparts.

Another important finding is that the presence of female trailblazers in these fields, such as foreign ministers Julie Bishop and Marise Payne and Labor’s shadow foreign minister, Penny Wong, may be masking more systemic issues. This may be leading some agencies to becoming complacent, rather than proactive, on gender diversity.




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In the bid for more female leaders, ‘mansplaining’ probably won’t help


Women’s pathways to leadership continue to be impeded by institutional obstacles, such as unconscious bias and discrimination built into the cultures of these sectors, as well as difficulties in supporting staff on overseas postings. For instance, the report notes that in 2017 the government cut assistance packages for overseas officers, including government childcare subsidies. This has gendered ramifications given that women continue to do the bulk of domestic labour.

As such, the most important and high-prestige international postings are still largely dominated by men. DFAT’s Women in Leadership Strategy has proved successful in meeting initial targets for improving women’s representation, however the industry as a whole has not yet followed suit.

Further, it is not enough to just consider how many women there are, but what roles they occupy, given that women have often been siloed into “soft policy” or corporate areas and out of key operational roles needed for career progression.

The report also draws attention to the marginalisation of women from key policy-shaping activities.

From the study’s research on declared authorship, a woman is yet to be selected to lead on any major foreign policy, defence, intelligence, or trade white paper, inquiry or independent review.




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We would mention a few exceptions of women in other high-profile foreign policy roles – Heather Smith’s stewardship of the G20 during Australia’s presidency and Harinder Sidhu’s leadership in the crucial India High Commission. We would also note the contribution of Jane Duke to the ASEAN Summit in Sydney.

Rebecca Skinner has served as associate defence secretary since 2017 and Justine Grieg was appointed deputy secretary defence people in 2018. Major General Cheryl Pearce was also appointed commander of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus – the first Australian woman to command a UN peacekeeping mission.

Cheryl Pearce was commander of the Australian joint task force group in Afghanistan before taking up her current role.
Paul Miller/AAP

While the under-representation of women in international affairs remains a core concern, we would argue the report could have taken a broader look at gender representation in foreign affairs-focused academic communities, think tanks and publishing industries, as well.

Many of these organisations have similarly woeful records when it comes to gender diversity. For instance, Australian Foreign Affairs magazine has been criticised for the lack of women authors it publishes. We know that it is not for lack of credible voices, but rather seems indicative of a systematic form of marginalisation of women within the wider foreign affairs community.

Bright spots for gender diversity

However, there is some cause for optimism. For instance, our current PhD project is documenting the gender make-up of leaders and internationally deployed representatives in the departments of foreign affairs and trade, defence and home affairs, as well as the Australian Federal Police. As of this January, women represented 39.5% of those in the senior executive service in DFAT, and 41.4% of those employed as heads of Australian embassies and high commissions globally.

Further, we’ve found an increase recently in the number of women who work in diplomatic defence roles. While the Lowy report notes that women held just 11% of international roles in defence in 2016 (it is unclear exactly what international roles they are talking about), we found a slightly higher percentage of women (19%) currently employed in defence attaché roles.




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The achievements made in this sphere are not just limited to gender either, with women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds forming an important and growing part of representation.

In fact, a more in-depth analysis of the Lowy report’s data would have produced some very interesting, and more nuanced, findings. For instance, foreign affairs has long been the preserve of men, however it has also been the preserve of certain types of men. Diplomacy remains a bastion of prestige, social class, heteronormativity, and in Australia, Anglo-Saxon privilege. It was only last year, for example, that Australia’s first Indigenous woman, Julie-Ann Guivarra, was appointed ambassador (to Spain).

Overall, as the report outlines, gender equality is not just nice to have, nor is it a marginal issue in foreign policy. Rather, the findings are clear: addressing the continued gender gaps are imperative to Australian foreign policy, national security and stability.

We can, and must, do better. Australian foreign policy needs good ideas, and it needs a lot of them. We cannot assume they will all come from the same place.The Conversation

Susan Harris Rimmer, Australian Research Council Future Fellow, Griffith Law School, Griffith University and Elise Stephenson, PhD Candidate, Griffith University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Megaphone diplomacy is good for selling papers, but harmful for Australia-China relations


Wanning Sun, University of Technology Sydney

The issue of China’s influence in Australia is complex. It ranges from worries about national security, political donations and media infiltration to concerns about scientific collaborations, Confucius Institutes, the patriotism of Chinese students, and allegiance of the Chinese community. The most recent trope is China’s so-called “debt trap” diplomacy with Australia’s neighbours in the Pacific.

But there’s a simple reason this anxiety about China’s influence is so vexed. For the first time in history, Australia has had to deal with a world power that is not, as longtime defence analyst Hugh White puts it, “Anglo-Saxon”, and is not a liberal democracy. To quote The Australian’s Dennis Richardson in relation to China and the US: “Australia is friends with both, ally of one”.

The media in both countries have played a significant role in inflaming tensions, as well. Increasingly, China is cast in an adversarial light in the Australian media, and vice versa with Australia in the Chinese media.

There is less and less space for journalists who try to put forth an objective opinion and for commentators who attempt to steer the debate in a more rational and less visceral direction. Each side feels the need to simplify its message and take an increasingly radical position.

War of words

Of course, the media narratives in both countries need to be considered in the context of the rise of political populism globally — particularly the triumph of President Donald Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK.

Australia has a free but financially struggling media. This makes for a tricky combination. Take a media sector that is desperate to boost its readership, combine with a populist turn in the political discourse, add a generous dash of fear of China’s growing global power, and stir. The result, while great for sound bites and political posturing, is not a pretty picture, but it does make a good story.

Some commentators argue the public debate about Chinese influence in Australia tends to be dominated by hawkish voices who favour close ties with the US. This strident position runs counter to the diplomatic, business and university communities, who argue for a more culturally sensitive and constructive engagement with China.

To the anti-China hawks, concerns for Australia’s multicultural harmony and social cohesion are secondary.




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Meanwhile, China’s extensive soft power ambitions to improve the country’s appeal on the international stage also seem to have been moved to the backburner when it comes to Australia. The charm offensive is no more; it’s now just plain offensive.

Populism also reigns supreme in China, although in different ways. The tighter and wider the scope of the Communist Party’s political control, the less space there is for dissenting voices, and the more fertile the ground becomes for nationalistic discourses to flourish.

In fact, in an increasingly repressive environment of control and censorship, nationalism is the only populist game in town if you want to make a profit.

Over the past two years, the Chinese state media’s reaction to Australia has shifted from indifference to bemusement, and now to anger. This change in tone is evidenced in an article in the Global Times last year:

Australia poses a problem for China. If we mind its silly carryings-on, it will deplete our energy, and it doesn’t seem worth our while; however, if we leave it be and pretend nothing is happening, that would only encourage it, and it may go from bad to worse. Australia is one of the countries that have benefited most from China’s rise, yet it is also one of the most provocative voices in the Western bloc. It is beginning to look like a piece of chewing gum stuck to the bottom of China’s shoe.

The Global Times is a subsidiary newspaper of the Chinese government’s mouthpiece People’s Daily, but unlike People’s Daily, it is profit-driven and licensed to drive sales by pandering to populist sentiments rather than to reason.

The question is whether the Australian media should take the bait, trade insults with The Global Times, and allow such visceral responses to shape the debate.




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When it comes to China’s influence on Australia, beware of sweeping statements and conflated ideas


There are signs the Australian media are not only taking the Global Times seriously but also literally.

In fact, so literally that if you enter the current China debate in Australia and critique some aspect of the anti-China rhetoric — and then get quoted favourably (and possibly out of context) by The Global Times — you may automatically qualify for being labelled a Beijing apologist.

Impact on relations

Can this kind of sustained war of words have an actual impact on how the two countries view one another? Yes, it can.

One only need look at the recent rhetoric of top government officials in both countries as an example. Last year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull vowed to “stand up” to China in an unusually sharp statement, while Foreign Minister Julie Bishop made a blunt assessment of China’s lack of democracy. China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, just last week told Bishop that Australia needs to remove its “tinted glasses”.

Anecdotally, I’ve been told by some of my Chinese-Australian friends that their friends and families in China are repeatedly urging them to “stay safe” and “take care of themselves” as Australia becomes more anti-Chinese.




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But are Australia-China relations really as bad as the media have been making them out? If you look at the current number of Chinese tourists and students here, maybe the answer is no, or at least not yet. But the business community has already started to suffer.

As recently as two years ago, both countries were hoping to use their respective media to promote public diplomacy towards each other. At the moment, media organisations in neither country are doing that. In fact, public diplomacy has well and truly been replaced by megaphone diplomacy, specialising in what The Guardian’s Katherine Murphy calls “binary and cartoonish talk and analysis”, as is often found in the “graphic novel” genre.

The ConversationThe question we should be asking is not whether the relationship between Australia and China is as bad as the media in both countries portray it. Rather, it’s how much power the media has in shaping this relationship, and whose interests this current megaphone diplomacy is serving.

Wanning Sun, Professor of Chinese Media and Cultural Studies, University of Technology Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Why China’s ‘debt-book diplomacy’ in the Pacific shouldn’t ring alarm bells just yet


Michael O’Keefe, La Trobe University

Talk of Chinese “debt trap” diplomacy is nothing new, but a recent report by Harvard University researchers has resurrected long-held fears that China’s debt diplomacy poses a threat to Australian interests in the Pacific.

The crux of the report is that Pacific island states like Vanuatu and Tonga, as well as other nations in Southeast Asia, are at risk of undue influence from China due to unsustainable loans they’ve received for infrastructure projects.

The Australian Financial Review quoted the report as saying that while Papua New Guinea in particular has “historically been in Australia’s orbit”, it’s been “rapidly taking on Chinese loans it can’t afford to pay and offers a strategic location in addition to significant LNG and resource deposits” for China.

The story follows a well-trodden path from speculation to suspicion to alarm. Last month, another media report emerged saying China had approached Vanuatu about building a permanent military presence in the South Pacific – an assertion Vanuatu quickly shot down.




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Response to rumours of a Chinese military base in Vanuatu speaks volumes about Australian foreign policy


The latest report by the Harvard researchers comes with interesting context. A classified version of it was allegedly produced for the US Pacific Command last year, but the version leaked to the Australian Financial Review was written by graduate students, purportedly for the US State Department.

Interestingly, the students were supervised by Professor Graham Allison, who wrote the book Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides’s Trap?. The “Thucydides’s Trap” in the title relates to whether the US as a hegemonic power can accommodate China’s rise without resorting to war.

But this so-called trap does not necessarily point to historical inevitability. Therefore, a thorough analysis of the dynamics in the region is needed to fully understand China’s motivations, and what can be done to avoid conflict.

China has long been accused of using “chequebook diplomacy” to gain favour with nations around the world. The implication of the new “debt-book diplomacy” in the Harvard report is that China is using unsustainable loans to gain influence with Pacific island states that aren’t able to repay them.

Suffice it to say, this form of leveraging takes influence to a different level.

Historical fears

There is a long history of alarmism in Australia over the activities of strategic competitors in the Pacific. During the second world war, Japan was widely believed to have been poised to invade Australia from bases in the Pacific islands. This threat was later discredited, but the legacy of this fear of invasion from foreign powers lingers to this day.

During the height of the Cold War, Soviet fishing agreements with Pacific countries were also perceived to be a threat to Australian interests. These agreements were widely seen as strategic threats that could lead to military bases and/or spying arrangements, but nothing significant ever came from them.




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The constant in Australia’s geostrategic view of the Pacific is that the region is viewed simultaneously as both a buffer and a potential location of threats.

In the second world war and the Cold War, perceived encroachments by strategic competitors led to a “strategy of denial”. This involved creating a buffer through forward defence initiatives, such as the Pacific Patrol Boat Program, in which Australia donated 22 vessels to Pacific island countries at the same time the Soviets were negotiating their “fishing agreements”.

It might not be a coincidence this program has been reinvented with a new Pacific Maritime Security Program that will see 21 vessels delivered to Pacific island nations from 2018-2021.

Reassessing Australia’s role

Australia has also been the largest aid donor to the Pacific region, a position that has withstood recent increases in Chinese aid. Furthermore, this development assistance to the region was prioritised in the latest federal budget.

This is significant considering the relative sizes of the two economies and the relative ease with which China can allocate resources (without transparency and without regard to a domestic constituency scrutinising its actions). Presumably, China could very easily overtake Australia as the largest donor if it wanted to, and the fact that it has chosen not to is telling.

It’s true China is becoming more active in the region. Australia appears to be responding through development assistance, defence cooperation and emergency disaster response with its Pacific neighbours, even if there is speculation the US doesn’t believe it’s doing enough.

But if there is a genuine Thucydides’s Trap in the Pacific, what’s needed is a coherent analysis of China’s interests in the region, rather than a quick and almost reflexive interpretation of their intentions as aggressive. (One angle worth exploring its China’s ongoing conflict with Taiwan over diplomatic recognition for the self-ruling island, as six of Taiwan’s 19 supporters are in the Pacific.)

Of equal importance for Australia would be to understand the motivations of Pacific island nations. What’s missing is any examination of why Pacific states might be welcoming China with open arms, or even whether they are simply begrudgingly welcoming them.




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This opens a Pandora’s box. Could Australia’s (benign) neglect and perceptions of neo-colonialism actually be part of the problem? One that exists independently of China’s intentions?

This is certainly the case with [Australia’s sanctions against Fiji]from 2006-2014, which led to Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum and the creation of alternative forms of Pacific regional arrangements, such as the Pacific Islands Development Forum, which are supported by China.

The ConversationAustralia sees threats coming through the Pacific, and not from the Pacific, and this should be the foundation of its Pacific diplomacy. If Australia continues to reflexively see threats in China’s diplomatic moves in the Pacific, it may close off just the sort of creative diplomacy needed to escape a Thucydides’s Trap.

Michael O’Keefe, Senior Lecturer of International Relations, La Trobe University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Tech diplomacy: cities drive a new era of digital policy and innovation



File 20180116 53292 13qk37z.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Cities will be driving globalisation and innovation in the emerging world order.
28 November Studio/Shutterstock

Hussein Dia, Swinburne University of Technology

France recently appointed a tech ambassador to the Silicon Valley. French President Emmanuel Macron named David Martinon as “ambassador for digital affairs”, with jurisdiction over the digital issues that the foreign affairs ministry deals with. This includes digital governance, international negotiations and support for digital companies’ export operations.

The appointment is part of France’s international digital strategy, which is becoming a focus of its foreign policy. And France isn’t alone in doing this.

In early 2017, Denmark appointed a “TechPlomacy” ambassador to the tech industry. Casper Klynge is possibly the first-ever envoy to be dispatched to Silicon Valley with a clear mandate to build better relationships with major technology firms.




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In an interview with Danish newspaper Politiken, Foreign Minister Anders Samuelsen said:

Big companies affect Denmark just as much as entire countries.

He isn’t wrong. According to geopolitical strategist Parag Khanna, the world’s top tech companies are achieving more international influence and economic power than dozens of nations put together. In 2016, the cash that Apple had on hand exceeded the gross domestic product (GDP) of two-thirds of the world’s countries.

Some of these global players are also influential policy actors in their own right. In 2016, Foreign Policy presented its Diplomat of the Year Award to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. The award was in recognition of Google’s contributions to international relations through empowering citizens globally.

What’s different about TechPlomacy?

The recent ambassadorial appointments signify not only the important socio-economic and political roles of technology, but also how diplomacy is evolving and adapting to the disruptive changes in our societies.

These developments mark the prominence of tech-cities on the global scene. Nation states are no longer the only players in international affairs; cities are also taking centre stage.

As opposed to lobbying governments in the world’s capitals, the new breed of diplomats will target tech-cities with multi-trillion-dollar technology sectors. They will also rub shoulders and nurture a direct dialogue with organisations that have gigantic economic impacts. In 2016, for example, Google helped to inject US$222 billion in economic activity in the US alone.

The so-called “Google ambassadors” won’t be targeting Silicon Valley only. The Office of Denmark’s Tech Ambassador has a team with physical presence across three time zones in North America, Europe and Asia. It will also connect with tech hubs around the world.

As part of an interconnected planet, these tech hubs will increasingly play a more active role in the global economy. Decision-makers are starting to recognise the imperative to establish good relationships and understand the tech giants’ policies and agendas.




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Creative city, smart city … whose city is it?


Cities as autonomous diplomatic units

The rise of cities as “autonomous diplomatic units” may be a defining feature of the 21st century.

Already, just 100 cities account for 30% of the world’s economy and almost all its innovation. New York and London, together, represent 40% of global market capitalisation. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the top 600 cities generate 60% of global GDP and are projected to be home to 25% of the world’s population by 2025.

McKinsey expects that 136 new cities will make it into the top 600 by 2025. All these new cities are from the developing world – 100 of them from China alone.

These global cities appear likely to dominate the 21st century. They will become magnets for economic activity and engines of globalisation. Khanna argues:

… [C]ities rather than states or nations are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built.

He also suggests that connectivity through an expanding matrix of infrastructure (64 million kilometres of roads, 4 million kilometres of railways and 1 million kilometres of internet cables) will far outweigh the importance of 500,000 kilometres of international borders.

Still more questions than answers

As more cities assert their leadership on the world stage, new mechanisms and networks (e.g. C40 Cities) could emerge. That could signal a new generation of diplomacy that relates and engages with cities rather than bilateral collaboration between nations.




Read more:
This is why we cannot rely on cities alone to tackle climate change


The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group connects more than 90 of the world’s major cities.
The Independent UK

Although these new diplomatic outposts have generated some profound interest, questions remain.

Will this era of tech diplomacy create collaborative ways to develop and achieve foreign policy priorities? Will it increasingly become a unifying global priority?

Do these appointments signify a transformation in international relationships? Will big tech companies also develop diplomatic capacities?

And will we witness the emergence of a post-national ideology of civic-ism, whereby people’s loyalty to the city surpasses that to a nation?

What comes next?

Not everyone will be excited by these appointments. Many would downplay their significance. Others would argue that tech companies have been engaged globally for years, and that they do this anyway as part of their “business as usual” activities.

Whether you embrace or object to it, a new world order is emerging around cities and their economies, rather than nations and their borders. These cities may ultimately chart pathways to their own sovereign diplomacy and formulate their own codes of conduct.

The ConversationIt is anyone’s guess whether the future will bear any resemblance to TechPlomacy or something else we haven’t yet imagined. The significance of these appointments will become clearer as the envoys go to work and we begin to understand the possibilities.

Hussein Dia, Associate Professor, Swinburne University of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Beyond sanctions: a diplomatic path to peace on the Korean Peninsula



File 20171002 21580 6hnol7
North Korea has placed the Kim regime’s survival before any other priority.
Reuters/KCNA

Michael Hamel-Green, Victoria University

The ongoing war of words between the leaders of North Korea and the US has created international fears of a potential nuclear catastrophe. But each side’s actions go well beyond words.

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North Korea has conducted six nuclear tests since 2006, including its recent hydrogen bomb test and a spate of ballistic missile tests with ever-increasing range. The Trump administration, for its part, dispatched a naval armada to the region earlier this year, and recently conducted bomber flights close to the North Korean border.

But with much attention focused on both sides’ military moves, and on the rigorous enforcement of economic sanctions against North Korea, there has been little focus on calls for a diplomatic solution.


Further reading: Five assumptions we make about North Korea – and why they’re wrong


Where are we at currently?

Recent statements by the Trump administration and allies such as Australia appear to assume the impact of sanctions, coupled with demonstrations of overwhelming military capacity, will secure North Korea’s unilateral back-down.

Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, emphasised to the UN General Assembly recently that Australia would be vigorously pursuing sanctions of its own against North Korea. She argued such sanctions would “compel North Korea to abandon its illegal programs”.

Absent in Bishop’s speech, however, was an equally emphatic commitment to pursuing a negotiated diplomatic solution.

The most recent UN Security Council resolution against North Korea unanimously (China and Russia included) imposed a set of severe economic sanctions on the isolated country.

Less noticed in the US-drafted resolution was a quasi-military imposition of a naval interdiction of vessels transporting prohibited items from North Korea. This opens the way to a naval blockade of the country comparable to that imposed on Cuba at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It also potentially creates a further source of military confrontation with North Korea.

At the same time, the resolution called for a diplomatic resolution of the crisis. This was little noticed in subsequent public debate.

The resolution seeks a resumption of the Six-Party Talks involving China, North and South Korea, Russia and the US on the basis of negotiating verifiable denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula, a commitment to peaceful resolution of the crisis, mutual respect of sovereignty, and economic co-operation.

Sanctions might not work as they have in the past

Sanctions played a key role in the successful multilateral negotiation of the Iran nuclear agreement. However, they may not necessarily have the same impact in the case of North Korea. Its regime has long cultivated the ethos of self-reliance, and has made regime survival its top priority.

In this context, if war is to be averted, sanctions will need to be accompanied by a willingness to engage in substantive negotiations that might engage with the North Korean regime’s security and survival concerns.


Further reading: North Korea and Iran aren’t comparable – but Trump can’t tell the difference


It is sometimes argued that North Korea has never responded positively to negotiations. However, the 1994 agreement brokered by former US president Jimmy Carter did result in a significant pause in the North Korean nuclear program. There was verified compliance of North Korea’s ceasing plutonium production from 1991 to 2003.

The breakdown of the arrangement in 2003 was not wholly attributable to North Korea. The Bush administration’s delay in proceeding with agreed US oil shipments and full normalisation of political and economic relations played a key role.

What now?

In the case of the current crisis, it is unrealistic to expect North Korea to immediately surrender its nuclear and missile capabilities. Instead, it is important to initiate, without preconditions, a negotiation process involving phases.

Such a process would first seek an initial North Korean freeze on its current nuclear and missile testing programs in return for constraints on military drills close to its border. It would then move on to a possible longer-term resolution that tackles all parties’ legitimate security needs.

Experts such as Morton Halperin, a former senior security adviser to the Clinton, Nixon and Johnson administrations, have argued strongly for the need for a comprehensive agreement that would include elements like:

  • a Korean War peace treaty;

  • negotiation of a regional nuclear-weapon-free zone;

  • security guarantee inducements for North Korea to join such a zone; and

  • economic and energy assistance to North Korea.

Countries outside the region also have a key mediating role to play in breaking the current impasse on starting negotiations. Most recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered to play such a role, citing the process involved in the Iranian nuclear agreement.

The ConversationRather than talking of being “joined at the hip” in support of any US military “solutions” to deal with North Korea, Australia too could be far more proactive and constructive in promoting and facilitating multilateral negotiations to avert a catastrophic war or nuclear holocaust.

Michael Hamel-Green, Emeritus Professor, College of Arts & Education, Victoria University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

RUSSIA BECOMING A ROGUE STATE?


It would seem that Russia is continuing its military action in Georgia despite agreeing to a ceasefire and the presence of American military personal in Georgia. They seemed to halt for a moment when the Americans arrived, but have since continued their push into the heart of the country and onward towards the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. It would seem you can’t trust the Russians at their word, which would make them very close to the Soviet era approach to world diplomacy.

Is the Russian Federation becoming a rogue state? That is the question facing the West. I would personally view the Russian Federation as being very close to being a rogue state, if not already a rogue state. Russia is acting more and more like a tyrant toward the former Soviet republics that have gained independence.

Not satisfied with acting the bully toward the former Soviet republics, Russia is now turning its thug-like activities to countries that were formerly part of the Eastern Bloc, with Poland being a particular target.

Russian general, Anatoly Nogovitsyn has suggested that Poland is now open to a strike (which could mean a pre-emptive nuclear attack) for entertaining the possibility of joining NATO and deploying an American anti-missile system on its soil.

It would seem that the Cold War may be returning in a new manifestation – perhaps Cold War II.