Cyprus in the News – but Where?

By: Alan Berlind

The most senior and most important American visitor to Cyprus in half a century, Vice-President Joseph Biden, arrived in the country on May 21. In public statements – and surely in his meetings with Cypriot officials – Biden made absolutely clear the United States’ position concerning the matter of sovereignty and the country’s importance to the United States, both in general terms and with respect to its role as a strategic partner in the future of energy production and distribution. That Biden had by his side a senior U.S. energy official underscored the last point. Continue reading

Kissinger and the Exit Strategy from Afghanistan

The debate is on about what we should be doing to deal with the challenge of our end point in Afghanistan.  Henry Kissinger, believe it or not, adds useful points to this debate in his op-ed in the Washington Post on June 8th. While I have had a number of disagreements with many of HAK’s policies and actions for decades and reviewed two of his “memoir” books for publications, I also need to disclose that I served him while a member of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff in the 70s.  In that position, I observed the decisions to respond to the Russian invasion of Afghanistan, and later I saw the results of that war on Afghan refugees in the region when I was director of the State’s Office of Asian Refugee Assistance in the 1980s.

I thought then and now that a number of HAK’s policies were, in my view, wrong and even immoral; nevertheless, some of his actions were quite innovative and historic, not least the opening to China and the famous “détente” policy towards the Soviet Union.  His mind was always a wonder to watch, including all of its contradictions.

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The Conundrum of Iran: Discussion of the “Military Options”

On June 7th, the Arms Control Association held its final meeting in a series about American policy towards Iran to discuss the military option regarding Iran. In some ways it was the best of the series.

The best speaker was Ambassador Thomas Pickering, who delivered the keynote lecture and is one of our most distinguished diplomats and certainly one of the smartest and wisest Foreign Service Officers of our time. I saw him in action in many different jobs including his service as the Ambassador to Moscow and his many assignments to the Department of State.

His talk should be the model of any who aspires to be the best in the Foreign Service – it was a model of clarity, precision, sharp analysis and setting forth of pros and cons of what can only be described as one of the most difficult national security decisions facing the U.S.  Any president would do well to have Pickering advise any major foreign policy act and would benefit from his perspective. Continue reading