Foreign Policy Chat - Escaping Sanctions, The GOP Budget, And The Top FoPo Twitter Feeds

State Department exempts 11 countries from Iran - related sanctions

Secretary Clinton announced that 11 countries had made reductions to their import of Iranian oil sufficient to earn a waiver from the expanded sanctions that Congress passed as part of the National Defense Authorization bill. Clinton hailed the move, recognizing that these countries "had to rethink their energy needs at a critical time for the world economy and quickly begin to find alternatives to Iranian oil, which many had been reliant on for their energy needs." The sanctions are part of the Obama Administration's multilateral strategy to contain Iran by tightening the economic noose around the regime's neck. This latest round, however, initially received some push-back from the White House because a number of countries whom the US has no interest in sanctioning would find it very difficult to comply within the timeframe allotted by Congress. This means that on March 30th the President will need to decide whether or not to sanction China, Turkey, India, and South Korea. He will almost certainly make a determination that avoids imposing those sanctions, but it will require some amount of procedural gaming. The Administration's Iran strategy appears to be inflicting real economic damage and the Congress should defer to Treasury and resist adding new layers or requirements which may well have unintended consequences for our allies.

Ryan Budget

Representative Paul Ryan released his House Republican budget yesterday and the wonks went to quick work moving beyond the platitudes and analyzing the impact this GOP vision would actually have on the country. The broad sketch of Ryan's proposal is to institute a large tax cut, increase defense spending, and pay for those things by making very deep cuts in income and healthcare supports for poor Americans. While avoiding sequestration and increasing defense spending appears to some as a real investment in the US foreign policy posture, the details of the plan actually tell a more complicated story.

The increased funding for the Defense Department is accompanied by fairly dramatic reductions in funding for the State Department and the US development infrastructure. Rep. Berman argued convincingly that Ryan's vision "fails to recognize that diplomacy and development are essential to protecting our national security, alongside defense." But it's not all roses for the Pentagon and intelligence community either. Ryan's drastic reduction in the Federal workforce could inadvertently force the national security bureaucracy to shed as many as 100,000 employees. And these are only the immediate results of this plan. The long-term effect of the GOP budget would be to functionally eliminate all nonhealthcare, nondefense undertakings of the Federal Government. That means no more foreign aid, development programs, the State Department missions; etc. With that in mind, it's difficult to understand how any serious person interested in the national security of the United States would endorse the Ryan Plan.

Top Foreign Policy Twitter Feeds

Time Magazine just released a list of its top 140 Twitter feeds in a range of categories. While there are many note-worthy listings for shopping and fictional characters, there are also a number of great feeds for the foreign policy-focused twitterati. Twitter has become a nearly indispensable tool for policy wonks and interested observers to stay connected to the fast-moving world of international affairs, so below are some of Time's favorite feeds that should be a must-follow for anyone reading this blog.

Wael Ghonim @Ghonim

He's the Google executive who disappeared during the early days of the Egypt protests, only to reappear as one of the faces of change as the government fell. Wael Ghonim's Twitter account offers a fascinating, opinionated look at the struggles of finding a government to fill the vacuum.

Felix Salmon @FelixSalmon

This Reuters journalist runs one of the best business blogs in the business-blog business - intelligent, thoughtful and fun.

Stephen Colbert @StephenAtHome

As host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, Stephen Colbert never shies away from a witty one-liner. He quips about current events and follows up jokes on his nightly fake newscast.

Blake Hounshell @BlakeHounshell

Few are better at combing through the endless stream of global news updates than Blake Hounshell, managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine. 

Andy Carvin @Acarvin

Operating out of the Washington area, Andy Carvin has pulled 16-hour days in the virtual trenches of the Arab revolutions. Following the Tunisian protests closely and leaning on his contacts from a 2010 trip to North Africa, his curated feed provides an unequalled content stream of analysis and on-the-ground reports. 

Nick Kristof @NickKristof

Nick Kristof, a columnist for the New York Times, offers a smart take on world affairs informed by experience - he was on the ground in Egypt during the revolution, the latest stop in the well-traveled journalist's trips to crisis zones and impoverished areas around the world.