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Waiting for the Shoe to Drop in Kosovo

The New York Times runs a fascinating interview with Kosovo Prime Minister Agim Ceku, who lets us know that in no uncertain term Kosovo will declare independence in the very near future. Negotiations on Kosovo's "final status" -- semi-autonomy with Serbia, or as most Kosovar's desire, full independence -- are seemingly terminally stalled. And in August, the Kosovo government declared that if an agreement is not reached by December 10, Kosovo will declare independence unilaterally. Talks resumed today in Vienna, but according to Reuters, "there is no deal in sight." So in all likelihood Kosovo will declare independence next month. Says Ceku:
"We have no more moral right to say we need more time. If Washington asks us to delay for a short time, we will wait. But if the date is much after December 10, we will say, 'let us go.' It is better to ask for an apology than for permission. The time for a decision has come."
The big question, of course, is how the United States, which in principle backs Kosovo's independence, and Russia, which has close ties to Serbia, will handle the diplomatic crisis that will ensue.
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The Grinch

Obviously not getting into the spirit of United Nations Day, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad derided as "piles of paper" UN Security Council resolutions demanding Iranian halt its nuclear program.
"The so-called dossier at the Security Council is a pile of papers that have no value. They can add to those worthless papers everyday because it has no effect on the will of the Iranian nation," state television quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Wednesday.
Ahmidenijad has always positioned himself as the fly in the American ointment. But here, he's not just insulting the United States, but Europe, Russia, and China as well. China, in particular, has increasingly sought to use the Security Council as a locus of its foreign policy priorities so it would seem to me that they have an interest in defending the authority of the Security Council against attacks like this. To the extent that Ahmidenijad has sought to stoke divisions within the Security Council, I have to wonder if his bluster today is ultimately counterproductive.
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New Blog on the Block

Besides being unfortunately named and hard on the eyes (memo to Secretary Rice: blogs should not have black backgrounds!) bravo to the State Department for launching its new blog, "DipNote." It's nice to see the State Department getting into the blogging game. Of course, a blog like this runs the risk of being dismissed as propaganda and completely ignored. (Especially if it is used to post re-worded press releases or becomes self-congratulatory.) On the other hand, if State's in house bloggers are willing to engage other foreign policy blogs in debate and discussion, the forum could really take off. There are plenty of smart folks in the State Department who already read top foreign policy blogs like The Washington Note, Matthew Yglesias, Passport and others . Our discussions would surely be enhanced should State Department experts chime in from time to time. So, DipNoters, please don't be afraid to enter into the discussion. Doing so is quite critical to your blog's success!
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Hans Blix Makes Sense…Again

I paraphrase, but former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix (now a private citizen) suggests that the international community apply the same diplomatic strategy that worked with North Korean to Iran. That is, offer Iran a security guarantee and extend the promise of normalized relations in exchange for the verifiable dismantling of Iran's uranium enrichment program. He also suggested that the international community work toward a uranium enrichment and plutonium production freeze in the Middle East.
"The powers negotiating ... are willing to give North Korea a guarantee ... both against attack from abroad and, implicit in that, a guarantee against regime change," he said. North Korea was also offered normalization of relations with Japan and the U.S. "These two elements have not been tried to my knowledge in the case of Iran," Blix said. [snip] "They would commit themselves for some period of time not to build enrichment plants, so Iran would not be alone ... the others would be there as well," Blix said. "It would also mean Israel, that has (plutonium-based) nuclear weapons, would not produce more plutonium, could not make more bombs on the basis of that plutonium," he said.
Sound advice from someone who has a proven track record on these issues. Unlike, say, folks at the Weekly Standard.
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New IAEA Report on Iran

In a report out today, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirms that, as expected, Iran's progress on uranium enrichment and plutonium production is moving along sluggishly. Further, it seems that some in the Iranian ruling elite are doubting the political utility of pursuing the nuclear program full steam a head. From the AP:
...while Iran continued to expand its uranium enrichment program, it was doing so much more slowly than expected, and had produced only negligible amounts of nuclear fuel that was far below the level usable for nuclear warheads. One of the U.N. officials also noted that construction of the plutonium-producing reactor at the city of Arak had slowed in recent months. He said that "design difficulties, getting equipment, materials and components, and fuel technology, plus perhaps some political considerations," could be causing the delay. The allusion to "political considerations" appeared linked to reports that Iranian officials might be considering stopping construction of the Arak reactor in another sign of good will calculated to blunt the threat of new U.N. sanctions. Citing unidentified Iranian sources, Jane's Defense Weekly earlier this week said some members of Iran's Supreme National Security Council were pushing for such a move.
Remember this little nugget the next time the war chorus heaps scorn on the diplomatic process and urges a swift military confrontation. There is still plenty of time for diplomacy to work. That is, as long as we want it to work.
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About that Russian Arctic “Claim”

Since a Russian submarine planted a flag 13,000 feet underneath the North Pole twelve days ago there has been a new scramble (of sorts) for the Arctic. Denmark sent two ice breakers to survey its potential claims; the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just announced a new mission to map part of the Arctic near Alaska; and at a North American summit in Ottawa today, the Canadian prime minister is expected to assert Canada's territorial claim over the Northwest Passage. Fortunately, there is a forum for resolving territorial disputes in the Arctic. So, like Scott Paul says, a "new Cold War" this isn't. Here is how it works. Common international maritime law stipulates that each country's territory stretches 200 nautical miles off shore. This means that most of the outer ring of the Arctic Circle is neatly divided by Canada, Russia, Norway, the United States, and Denmark (which controls Greenland). It is the inner ring, however, where the confusion -- and competition -- arises.
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Reengagement Tops ’08 Foreign Policy Agendas

Today, in the Council on Foreign Relations' Daily Analysis, deputy editor Robert McMahon does a good job summarizing a common thread that runs through the foreign policy agendas of the leading '08 candidates:
What is striking so far about the candidates’ foreign policy presentations is the consistent desire, expressed by Republicans and Democrats alike, to have the United States improve and deepen its engagement with the world.
Although the suggested methods of engagement differ, it is clear that the candidates are tapping into the sentiments of American voters, who are becoming increasingly tired of costly, and largely ineffective, unilateral action.