The Political Landscape is a weekly conversation with National Journal writers, editors, and outside experts on the news of the day.
With a new calendar year, the U.S. government is getting a new cast of characters: a new Congress, new leaders in the CIA, a new secretary of State, a new secretary of Defense, and a White House administration with the same president but some new supporting cast members.
But the foreign-policy issues facing this new bunch have not changed much from 2012.
In Syria, will the ruling government use chemical weapons against rebellious forces?
Are U.S. sanctions against the Iranian economy the proper way of addressing the possibility of the country’s nuclear threat?
How will al-Qaida assert itself in its stronghold in Yemen?
How will the U.S. drawdown its presence in Afghanistan?
And perhaps most important, how will U.S. drone strikes affect each of these areas? Just this week, a U.S. drone strike killed a key Taliban commander and nine others in northwest Pakistan.
On this week’s episode, some of the most important foreign-policy issues facing a second Obama administration and the 113th Congress: Syria (2:40-10:35), Iran (10:35-17:07), al-Qaida (17:07-23:32), and drone strikes (23:32-26:36).
On Syria, we’ll talk to Global Security Newswire’s Elaine Grossman. Grossman has been covering the U.S. government’s evolving statements on Syria. As Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s grasp on power becomes more tenuous, and the Syrian rebels become increasingly radicalized, the U.S. has had to address concerns that chemical weapons might be used in an attack or fall into the wrong hands.
On Iran, we’ll talk to Barbara Slavin, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center and the Washington correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a new website devoted to news from and about the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pressed the U.S. to put more pressure on Iran and even commit to military intervention if Iran develops functioning nuclear weapons. We talked to Slavin in September after she had returned from Iran, where she witnessed, first hand, the impact of current U.S. economic sanctions on the country.
On Yemen, we’ll talk to author Gregory Johnsen. Johnsen’s recent book, The Last Refuge, charts the rise, fall, and largely unnoticed recent surge of al-Qaida’s presence in Yemen. The presence of al-Qaida in Yemen, he argues, poses the biggest terrorist threat to the U.S., and current military policies are not addressing the threat effectively.
And on drone strikes, we’ll talk to The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf. He’s followed the progression of U.S. drone strike tactics in 2012. What should we look for in 2013 to see what direction the drone program is going in under a second Obama administration? Friedersdorf will bring us his answer.
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Check out last week's episode, "Best of 2012: The Year of Comedy, Citizen's United, Health Care Competition, and Trolls."