from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: President Obama Attends the North American Leaders Summit, Iran Nuclear Negotiations Resume, and Kosovo Marks the Sixth Anniversary of Its Independence

U.S. president Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands in Mexico City in May 2013. (Mexico Presidency Handout/Courtesy Reuters)

February 13, 2014

U.S. president Barack Obama and his Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto shake hands in Mexico City in May 2013. (Mexico Presidency Handout/Courtesy Reuters)
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The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed President Obama’s trip to the North American Leaders’ Summit in Toluca, Mexico, the continuing negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, and the sixth anniversary of Kosovo’s independence.


The highlights:

  • President Obama heads to Toluca, Mexico next Wednesday to attend the North American Leaders’ Summit, where he will meet with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto and Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. Trade and energy are the topics likely to dominate the conversation. The United States and Canada are undergoing an energy revolution, and Mexico may soon join them now that it is opening up its energy sector to foreign investment. The United States, Canada, and Mexico are all negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So Pena Nieto and Harper will be listening to what President Obama has to say about the chances for congressional passage of trade promotion authority, which most experts think will be critical to finalizing any TPP agreement. Obama likely won’t have good news for Pena Nieto on the issue that many Mexicans care deeply about—immigration. The brief bout of optimism late last month that Congress might pass immigration reform has given way to talk of “maybe next year.”
  • Negotiators from the P5+1 countries and Iran will convene in Vienna next week to try to hammer out a comprehensive agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear program. But this past Monday, Iranian state television reported that the country had conducted two successful ballistic missile tests. That, along with celebrations of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic, prompted renewed speculation in the West that Tehran is using the talks to buy time to develop its weaponry rather than find a common ground that will allow it to escape from its current international isolation. Meanwhile, President Obama used his press conference with visiting French president François Hollande to say that his administration intends to come down hard on countries and companies that violate international sanctions on Iran. The tough talk in Tehran and Washington may be aimed just as much at keeping critics of the negotiations in both countries from gaining political advantage as it is at nudging the opposing capital. Even if that’s the case, it highlights just how difficult it will be to strike a binding long-term deal in an environment of deep, mutual suspicion
  • Monday marks the sixth anniversary of Kosovo’s declaration of independence, which itself came nine years after NATO fought an air war against Serbia on its behalf. Slightly more than one hundred countries, including the United States and most members of the European Union, recognize Kosovo’s independence. But some eighty countries, most notably Russia and Serbia, do not, arguing that its bid for independence is illegal under international law. Tensions between Kosovo and Serbia have been running high for years, but the past twelve months have produced some good news. In April 2013, the EU brokered an agreement between Belgrade and Pristina: Serbia agreed to withdraw from Kosovo, while Kosovo agreed to grant limited autonomy for Serbs living in Kosovo and to create a single police force and judiciary that would include Serbs. Late last year, Kosovo held its first local elections since declaring independence. Violence disrupted the balloting in a few places, but overall the election went smoothly. Kosovo still has its fair share of problems, including a severe drought. But things could be much worse for the fledgling nation of 1.8 million people.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is James Clapper. My Figure of the Week is 28. Our audience-nominated Figure of the Week comes from TWNW listener Millie Tran (@millie) who chose 46. 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:

North American Leaders’ Summit: Reuters reports that Harper, Obama, and Pena-Nieto will discuss “economic competitiveness, trade and investment, and citizen security.” The Centre for Research and Globalization writes that Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and immigration issues will likely take the stage at the meeting. Joseph Parilla and Alan Berube argue that the economy and the future of trade relations amongst North American countries will be the focus of the trip. Forbes discusses the campaign by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim to save the Monarch butterfly, which the World Wildlife Fund hopes the summit will address

Iranian Nuclear Negotiations: Reuters reports on the negotiations process and the challenges involved in securing a deal. Al Jazeera writes that Iranian president Rouhani is serious about nuclear talks. Elliott Abrams discusses the problems with using a “Cold War analogy” in analyzing strategy toward Iran. Mitchell B. Reiss and Ray Takeyh suggest how to fix the problems in the interim accord with Iran. NPR reports on the skepticism on both sides of the negotiating table.

Kosovo’s Independence Anniversary: Reuters reports that the Serbian war crimes court has jailed nine members of the Serbian paramilitary group the “Jackals” and describes the EU-facilitated agreement between Kosovo and Serbia. WorldBulletin reports that Kosovo’s prime minister Hashim Thaci demands wider acceptance of Kosovo’s sovereignty. The United Nations News Centre says that Kosovo and Serbia have made “remarkable progress” over the past year.