from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: Kerry Visits Asia, Obama Proposes a Budget, and Egypt Retries Mubarak

Secretary of State John Kerry walks across the tarmac of Baghdad International Airport on a March visit to Iraq (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

April 5, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry walks across the tarmac of Baghdad International Airport on a March visit to Iraq (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).
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The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon gave up his seat this week so that Isobel Coleman and I could discuss Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to East Asia, President Obama’s forthcoming budget proposal, and former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s re-trial in Cairo. Isobel directs CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, and she is the author of the beautifully written book, Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women Are Transforming the Middle East. If you haven’t read it, you should.


The highlights:

  • Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit South Korea, Japan, and China next week. Unlike his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, Kerry chose not to make Asia his first overseas trip as secretary of state. He instead went to the Middle East. Indeed, he will have made three trips to the Middle East before making his first visit to Asia, even though rebalancing (or pivoting) toward Asia is one of President Obama’s signature foreign policies. Kerry will be looking to focus the attention of officials in Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing on North Korea; they in turn will be looking to gauge his interest and commitment to Asia.
  • President Obama is expected to submit his budget proposal to Congress next Wednesday. Presidents typically send their budgets to Capitol Hill in February; Obama’s submission was delayed by the battles over the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, and sequestration. The delay has created an additional political challenge for Obama. The House has already passed a budget, as has the Senate. If Obama proposes significant changes to entitlement programs in a bid to entice House Republicans into striking a fiscal grand bargain, he may alienate Senate Democrats who pointedly chose not to take on entitlements in their budget. If, on the other hand, he submits a budget that resembles what the Senate has already passed, he may lose any chance to strike a grand bargain with the House. Can Obama thread the needle? Perhaps. But the most likely outcome is that Washington’s budget battles continue for months to come.
  • Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is expected to go on trial on April 13. He faces charges stemming from the deaths of more than 850 Egyptians during Egypt’s 2011 revolution. Mubarak and his former interior minister were convicted on these charges and sentenced to life in prison last June. This past January, however, an appeals court ordered a retrial. Whichever way the retrial goes, Egypt faces a difficult road ahead. Its economy is struggling, no one seems willing to make tough decisions about unsustainable government subsidies, and average Egyptians are growing increasingly frustrated that democracy is not bringing them a better life. Not surprisingly, some Egyptians look wistfully back on Mubarak’s rule.
  • Isobel’s Figure of the Week is Bassam Youssef. My Figure of the Week is four. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.

For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:

Kerry visits South Korea, China, and Japan: The New York Times has a chronology of rising tensions with North Korea and news on the U.S. decision to speed up the deployment of a missile defense system in GuamBloomberg Businessweek reports on Kerry’s meeting with South Korean foreign minister Yun. Voice of America writes that North Korea will be the main topic of discussion on Kerry’s upcoming trip.

Obama releases his budget: The National Priorities Project explains how the United States is running without a budget this current fiscal year and compares three budgets proposed by Congress and public opinion data for what changes Americans support. The Washington Post has interactive graphs comparing the budgets passed by the House and Senate, as well as two that failed in the House.

Egypt re-tries Mubarak: BBC News profiles Mubarak and reviews the legal proceedings against him and his top officials. The Los Angeles Times reports on Mubarak’s retrial. The Globe and Mail covers Mubarak’s legacy and the consequences his policies had on his regime’s survival.