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  • Author: Gwynne Taraska, Hardin Lang
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: In recent months, multilateral efforts have produced two historic agreements aimed at improving global security: the Iran nuclear agreement and the Paris climate agreement. The Iran nuclear agreement, which blocks Iran’s nuclear capacity in exchange for a gradual lifting of economic sanctions, was finalized in July and is expected to be implemented imminently. Before negotiations concluded, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, which gave Congress a 60-day period in which it could seek to pass a joint resolution of disapproval. On September 10, all but four Democrats in the U.S. Senate voted to filibuster such a resolution. The agreement, which is nonbinding under international law, therefore proceeded without the need for a presidential veto. Concurrently, the country parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, or UNFCCC, were negotiating an international agreement to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and improve resilience to the effects of climate change. The agreement, which has force under international law, was finalized in Paris on December 12. It obliges countries to submit and update national climate goals and participate in systems to review national and collective progress. In the run-up to the Paris agreement, Congress held several hearings, but there were no developments akin to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. As these two feats of international cooperation were under negotiation, Congress played an unusually involved role in the case of Iran but a more minimal role in the case of Paris. This brief discusses the status of both agreements and explains why the Iran and Paris agreements differ with respect to triggers of congressional intervention.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Multilateral Relatons, Paris Agreement
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Ken Gude
  • Publication Date: 01-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: With one year left in his administration, President Barack Obama remains committed to closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay during his time in office. Congress has prohibited, at least for now, one aspect of the president’s preferred pathway to close the prison—transferring some detainees into the United States for trial or continued law of war detention. Much of this debate has focused on the question of whether President Obama will use executive action to override the congressional transfer ban. Doing so would be impractical and extremely unwise. The Obama administration should state publicly that it will not use executive action to bring large numbers of Guantanamo detainees into the United States in defiance of congressional statute. A better strategy would be to pursue alternative options for closing Guantanamo that, even given current statutory constraints, remain entirely in the control of the executive branch. Amid disappointment at the failure to close Guantanamo, it is easy to forget that President Obama originally believed it was feasible to identify, categorize, prosecute, and transfer all 242 detainees in just one year—the same amount of time he has left for the remaining 91 detainees. While congressional resistance is a new obstacle not present at the time of President Obama’s original pledge, moving the majority of detainees out of Guantanamo is now mostly about the implementation of policies and decisions already made, a much more manageable challenge than the one that Obama faced in 2009. If that goal is to be achieved, however, President Obama must command a greater level of urgency throughout his administration and especially at the Pentagon. The risk is not simply a failure that becomes a stain on the president’s legacy; rather, the much more serious risk is that the next administration could resume sending detainees to Guantanamo, which is on the wish list of many conservatives. The latter would do irreparable harm to American national security—and be a colossal waste of money. Holding a detainee at Guantanamo now costs $4 million per year per detainee, compared with less than $100,000 per inmate in the highest security prison in the United States. And while it is fair to say that the salience of Guantanamo as a recruiting tool for terrorist groups has faded during the Obama administration’s efforts to close it, it is not gone. Hostages held by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, are not dressed in Guantanamo-like orange jumpsuits by accident. And if new detainees were to be sent to Guantanamo by the next administration, the prison would roar back to prominence in terrorist propaganda and be an enormous self-inflicted wound on the country. We cannot afford to risk this possibility. Guantanamo must be closed during the Obama administration. This can be achieved by completing the following steps: Hold Periodic Review Board hearings for all eligible detainees by July 1, 2016. Accelerate transfers of those detainees designated for transfer or release. Order the Department of Justice to review detainee cases for prosecution and potential plea bargain in federal court. Pursue agreements with countries to prosecute under their laws any Guantanamo detainees accused of serious crimes. Engage the Afghan government to seek an agreement to transfer back to Afghan custody any remaining law of war detainees captured in connection with the war in Afghanistan. Some of these options may not represent the best or preferred method for the Obama administration to close Guantanamo, but this is a feasible and realistic path to close the prison in one year. Some of these choices will be difficult, but when measured against the possibility that Guantanamo could be back in the business of accepting new detainees in 2017, those difficulties should not be disqualifying. A reinvigorated effort from the Obama administration is urgently needed to make 2016 Guantanamo’s last year.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Prisons/Penal Systems, Counter-terrorism, Detention
  • Political Geography: Caribbean, North America, United States of America, Guantanamo
  • Author: Dan Restrepo, Frank O. Mora, Brian Fonseca, Jonathan D. Rosen
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: As Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visits the United States this week, Colombia stands on the brink of a historic peace agreement that, if successfully reached and implemented, will bring an end to the longest-running internal armed conflict in the Western hemisphere. This reality is a far cry from where the country stood just 15 years ago, when it was on the edge of total state collapse. Although Colombia’s ability to overcome what many believed was a hopeless situation rests squarely upon the sacrifice of blood and treasure made by the Colombian people and its public forces, this promising new chapter in Colombia’s history also stems in part from the most successful, bipartisan U.S. foreign policy effort undertaken to date in the 21st century—Plan Colombia. As the United States encounters growing instability in other regions of the world, it is instructive to look back at the U.S. role in fostering the most successful counterinsurgency effort in recent history to understand what worked and what remains unfinished. President Santos’ visit also provides an important opportunity to look forward to how the United States and Colombia can solidify Colombia’s remarkable gains while becoming true strategic partners.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Peace
  • Political Geography: Colombia, South America, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Lawrence Korb, Adam Mount
  • Publication Date: 02-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: n the next decade, the United States will have to make decisions that will shape its nuclear arsenal for much of the next century. Nearly every missile, submarine, aircraft, and warhead in the U.S. arsenal is nearing the end of its service life and must be replaced. As Congress and the Obama administration continue to wrestle with the effects of sequestration on projected levels of defense spending, the U.S. Department of Defense has begun a series of procurement programs that will nearly double the amount the country spends on its nuclear deterrent in the next decade compared to what it spent in the past decade. Over the next 30 years, the cost of the nuclear deterrent could pass $1 trillion and crowd out defense and domestic investments needed to keep the United States strong and competitive. In addition, it could undermine U.S. credibility on the issue of nuclear proliferation—especially when it comes to dealing with regimes such as Russia, China, and North Korea.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Denuclearization
  • Political Geography: Russia, Japan, China, Europe, Asia, South Korea, North Korea, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Cathleen Kelly
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to the United States for his first state visit, he and President Barack Obama should seize the opportunity to launch a new era of U.S.-Canadian cooperation to curb climate change, accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and safeguard the Arctic. The United States and Canada share far more than borders; the two countries are close allies on key issues, including counterterrorism, the environment, the Arctic, law enforcement, and maritime safety. The two nations also trade more than $2 billion in goods and services daily. Obama and Trudeau’s March meeting will do more than bolster the U.S.-Canadian bond—it will also set the stage for their trilateral meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico at the North American Leaders’ Summit this spring and could help to catalyze more ambitious climate action globally. The energy ministers from the United States, Canada, and Mexico took steps toward accelerating North American efforts to curb climate change when they jointly signed a Memorandum of Understanding, or MOU, in February to expand climate change and clean energy collaboration. Time is running out for President Obama to secure new climate policy breakthroughs and a lasting climate change legacy by the end of his tenure, and this is cause enough for the two like-minded leaders to cement strong bilateral agreements. There are other reasons besides this ticking clock, however, that make Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit an ideal time to advance pro-environment policies.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Energy Policy, Environment, Regional Cooperation, Renewable Energy
  • Political Geography: Canada, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Shawn Fremstad
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: People living in single-parent families are much more likely to have low incomes and experience economic hardships than those living in both married and unmarried partnered families with children. At the same time, however, the vast majority of people in low-income families with children are in families headed by married or unmarried partners, as are most people in families with children that receive means-tested benefits. This fact flies in the face of claims that marriage is a panacea for poverty. This issue brief provides basic facts about differences in low-income rates for three family types—married-couple, cohabiting-couple, and single-parent families with children—and looks at, by family type, the share of low-income people in families with children and the share of people in families with children that receive major means-tested benefits. The hope is that facts such as these will generate a more balanced debate, one that acknowledges and addresses differences in economic hardship by family structure without minimizing the extent of married and partnered poverty in the United States.
  • Topic: Poverty, Income Inequality, Family, Socioeconomics
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Michael Werz
  • Publication Date: 03-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: Policy communities in the United States and Europe are increasingly identifying climate change, environmental deterioration, water management, and food security as key concerns for development and global governance. The interplay of these trends is visible in the upheavals across the Middle East, with food riots and water disputes illuminating the region’s food insecurity. In the five years before the uprising in Syria, for example, the country experienced one of the worst droughts on record, which decimated wheat production and wiped out livestock. In Yemen, tensions—and outright conflicts—over water rights and illegal wells underpin the ongoing insecurity and anti-government sentiment. There is little question that the effects of climate change will cause more extreme weather events and crop insecurity in the decades to come, and it is reasonable to expect that they will magnify such dangerous problems. A few years ago, the complex interplay of several factors—including droughts in major grain- and cereal-producing regions, increases in biofuel production that reduced grain supplies, and other long-term structural problems—triggered the 2007-2008 world food crisis. The disruptions that this crisis caused affected both developed and developing countries, creating political and economic instability around the world and contributing to social unrest. The crisis highlighted the critical importance of better understanding the interdependencies and cascading effects of decisions made throughout the global food system, as well as how climate change could exacerbate such challenges. The increasing urgency of food and climate security requires greater international cooperation and, more specifically, innovative and forward looking transatlantic policy responses to address these pressing issues. Over the past decade, the links between climate change, food security, and political instability have steadily risen on the global policy agenda, and both adelphi and the Center for American Progress have played a role in bringing attention to their importance. CAP has conducted significant research and analysis on the security effects of climate change, including its effect on human mobility, and has elevated these issues in Washington, D.C. For its part, adelphi has a long track record of raising climate security issues in Europe and in 2015 led an international consortium that prepared a report and knowledge platform for the Group of Seven, or G-7, nations on climate change’s effect on state fragility.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Governance, Food Security, Transatlantic Relations
  • Political Geography: Europe, North America, Atlantic Ocean, United States of America
  • Author: Dan Restrepo, Silva Mathema
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: It is impossible to understand the flow of refugees emanating from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—collectively, known as the Northern Triangle of Central America—without understanding the security and economic conditions in each of the three countries. Despite important differences, the three Northern Triangle countries are among the poorest in the Americas and the most violent in the world. Based on statistics from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador were three of the five most dangerous countries in the world in 2013—the last year for which U.N. statistics are available. That year, Honduras had the world’s highest per capita homicide rate, at 90.4 homicides per 100,000 people; El Salvador ranked fourth, with a rate of 41.2 homicides per 100,000 people; and Guatemala was fifth, with a rate of 39.9 homicides per 100,000 people. Since then, the situation in El Salvador has dramatically worsened following the 2014 breakdown of a 2012 truce between two of its largest and most powerful street gangs: MS-13 and Barrio 18. In 2015, El Salvador became the most dangerous country in the Western Hemisphere, with a homicide rate of 108.5 per 100,000. This made it 24 times more dangerous than the United States, which had a homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 in 2014. The violence in some of these countries’ cities is even worse. For example, San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador, averaged one murder every hour in August 2015—the highest number of murders since the end of the country’s horrific civil war in 1992.5 The 2015 homicide rates in both Honduras and Guatemala improved to 62.5 and 29.2 homicides per 100,000 people, respectively.
  • Topic: Migration, Border Control, Refugee Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Central America, North America, Honduras, El Salvador, United States of America
  • Author: Philip E. Wolgin
  • Publication Date: 05-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: Over the past half-decade, rising violence and structural poverty in the Northern Triangle region of Central America—which encompasses El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala—have pushed thousands of children and families to flee for safety. These three countries are some of the most dangerous on the planet, with high rates of homicide and specifically femicide—the killing of women and girls. Violence, corruption, and extortion play a big part in everyday life. Since 2014, more than 120,000 children and another 120,000 people in family units from this region have arrived in the United States seeking protection. The flow of these asylum seekers peaked in fiscal year 2014 before dipping, perhaps temporarily, in FY 2015. This drop occurred not because conditions improved in the region but because of a sustained effort by the U.S. government—with the help of Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries—to stop people from making the dangerous journey or to intercept them on the way to the United States. This year, in FY 2016, the numbers of children and families arriving in the United States have begun to rise again as conditions in the region continue to deteriorate. This report lays out short-term recommendations for ensuring that all asylum seekers who reach the United States receive a full and fair shot at protection. The recommendations are structured to follow the process that children and families go through when seeking protection: arrival in the United States, custody determinations and detention, and proceedings in the immigration courts.
  • Topic: Migration, Border Control, Refugee Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: Central America, North America, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, United States of America
  • Author: Brian Katulis, Rudy deLeon, Peter Juul, Mokhtar Awad, John Craig
  • Publication Date: 04-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: When President Barack Obama arrived in Saudi Arabia last week to participate in the U.S. summit with the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, he landed in the midst of regional turbulence and major economic and foreign policy changes by the Kingdom. Today, the Middle East remains caught up in a period of fragmentation and competition for influence among the leading powers in the region. In the aftermath of last year’s nuclear deal between Iran and other global powers, President Obama has yet to achieve the new equilibrium in the Middle East that he envisioned. His recent suggestion that GCC countries “share” the region with Iran received a cool reception in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the GCC. Saudi Arabia—along with other GCC countries—remains deeply concerned about Iran’s subversive activities in the region, including its support for terrorist groups and ongoing conventional military efforts, such as its ballistic missile program. This current period of insecurity following the Iran nuclear deal is the latest episode in a U.S.-Saudi relationship roiled by tension for more than a decade. Since 2000, the decades-long foundation of close relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia—namely, regional stability, energy security, and military cooperation—has come under considerable stress. The 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 and the 2003 Iraq war ushered in a rocky phase in bilateral U.S.-Saudi relations. These two incidents—along with the end of the U.S. policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq—led to a decline in mutual trust between the United States and Saudi Arabia that’s now reaching critical mass.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Economic Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: David Dyssegaard, Silva Mathema
  • Publication Date: 06-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: Refugees are admitted to the United States for humanitarian reasons: They face well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries and seek a safe haven here. But they also contribute to the American economy, bringing vitality to areas with declining populations, contributing to the growth of areas whose populations are already increasing, and expanding the labor force as they seek and find work to make better lives for themselves and their children. Around 3 million refugees have been admitted to the United States. This report focuses on four groups—Somali, Burmese,* Hmong, and Bosnian refugees—that are identifiable in U.S. Bureau of the Census data and that together constitute about 500,000 U.S. residents. Refugees come from a wide range of backgrounds and regions, so no single group can be considered typical. The groups examined here, however, show that there are some broad trends among them, as well as some distinctions. Other studies have illustrated that refugees quickly become self-sufficient in the United States, a central goal of federal resettlement policy. What this report examines is how these groups fare in the long run, finding that over time, refugees integrate well into their new communities. After being in the United States for 10 years, refugees are in many regards similar to their U.S.-born neighbors, with similar rates of labor force participation and business ownership. The large majority have learned to speak English after being in the country for 10 years and have become naturalized U.S. citizens after being in the country for 20 years. The following are among the report’s major findings, which are based on an analysis of 2014 American Community Survey, or ACS, 5-year data for Somali, Burmese, Hmong, and Bosnian refugees:
  • Topic: Refugee Crisis, assimilation , Humanitarian Crisis
  • Political Geography: North America, United States of America
  • Author: Zhang Fan
  • Publication Date: 06-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: American presidential elections have an impact that goes far beyond U.S. national borders. People around the world follow the campaign for the U.S. presidency with great interest, and many feel that they have a stake in the outcome. People in China pay particularly close attention because China, almost more than any other nation, regularly becomes a key topic in U.S. presidential debates. During this particular campaign season, candidates of both major political parties have frequently mentioned China. However, what’s more noteworthy in this election cycle is that the Chinese populous is not focusing solely on how their homeland is bandied about by the candidates, but even more so on the entire American electoral process as a whole. Certainly, some Chinese are tuning in primarily for entertainment value; but many others are trying to figure out exactly what this election will mean not only for the United States but for the entire world—including China. Regardless of what motivates individual Chinese election-watchers, the 2016 U.S. presidential election is popular in China. Zhang Fan, a Visiting Fellow on a Ford Foundation Global Travel and Learning Fund Program exchange, has spent the past five months at the Center for American Progress, studying the U.S. presidential election and Chinese reactions to it. She recently shared her views during a question-and-answer session with Blaine Johnson, China and Asia Policy Research Associate at the Center.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Elections, Democracy, Election Observation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Hardin Lang, Muath Al Wari
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: Two years on, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, or IS,* has achieved some important gains. This is particularly true in Iraq, where the liberation of Fallujah last month has focused attention on Mosul—the capital of the so-called caliphate. But military victory is only half the battle. As the Islamic State is pushed out of Iraqi cities and towns, the communities it ruled must be integrated back into Iraq. Nature abhors a vacuum; the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL should do more to support the Iraqi government in filling that vacuum. For its part, the Iraqi government itself must display a greater commitment to inclusive governance that reinforces its own legitimacy. Failure to do so would risk squandering hard-won gains by setting the stage for the Islamic State—or its successor—to return. It also could undercut U.S. strategic goals in the Middle East more broadly. The key will be to close the gaps in resources and priority afforded to the different elements of the global coalition’s campaign. That campaign is organized along five lines of effort: military efforts, counter-finance, stopping the flow of foreign fighters, stabilization, and strategic messaging. The military line, otherwise known as Operation Inherent Resolve, has cut the territory controlled by the Islamic State almost in half. Other key coalition lines have yielded less robust results. In particular, efforts to stabilize territory in the wake of combat operations have not kept pace with progress on the battlefield—even as that progress makes stabilization all the more urgent.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Islamic State, Political stability, State Building
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Hardin Lang, Muath Al Wari
  • Publication Date: 07-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: Two years on, the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State, or IS,* has achieved some important gains. This is particularly true in Iraq, where the liberation of Fallujah last month has focused attention on Mosul—the capital of the so-called caliphate. But military victory is only half the battle. As the Islamic State is pushed out of Iraqi cities and towns, the communities it ruled must be integrated back into Iraq. Nature abhors a vacuum; the U.S.-led Global Coalition to Counter ISIL should do more to support the Iraqi government in filling that vacuum. For its part, the Iraqi government itself must display a greater commitment to inclusive governance that reinforces its own legitimacy. Failure to do so would risk squandering hard-won gains by setting the stage for the Islamic State—or its successor—to return. It also could undercut U.S. strategic goals in the Middle East more broadly. The key will be to close the gaps in resources and priority afforded to the different elements of the global coalition’s campaign. That campaign is organized along five lines of effort: military efforts, counter-finance, stopping the flow of foreign fighters, stabilization, and strategic messaging. The military line, otherwise known as Operation Inherent Resolve, has cut the territory controlled by the Islamic State almost in half. Other key coalition lines have yielded less robust results. In particular, efforts to stabilize territory in the wake of combat operations have not kept pace with progress on the battlefield—even as that progress makes stabilization all the more urgent.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Islamic State, Political stability, State Building
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Melanie Hart
  • Publication Date: 08-2016
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for American Progress - CAP
  • Abstract: The relationship between the United States and China is at a critical juncture. On the Chinese side, Beijing is shifting toward a more proactive foreign policy stance that aims to expand China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world. This proactive approach is opening up new opportunities for U.S.-China cooperation in some areas but creating new tension in others. On the U.S. side, Washington is trying to figure out how to deal with a new, more confident and engaged China at a time when U.S. leaders are also realizing that some of the assumptions that guided U.S. policy toward China for decades may no longer apply. It is increasingly unclear whether past U.S.-China interactions can be used as a blueprint for the future, and that is creating a new nervousness. At a time of rising uncertainty, one resource both nations can draw on is a strong cohort of U.S. and Chinese foreign policy experts who have dedicated their careers to understanding and guiding this critical bilateral relationship. Exchanges at the mid-career level are becoming particularly interesting. Today’s mid-career U.S.-China experts have had more opportunities to travel between the United States and China to live, work, and study than any generation before them. Many of these experts are bilingual: The Americans speak Mandarin, the Chinese speak English, and they can communicate in a mix of the two languages to get their points across as clearly as possible. Because they began their careers in an era of unprecedented openness on both sides, many have known one another for years and can debate sensitive issues with a frankness that can be harder to achieve at senior leadership levels.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Diplomacy, Energy Policy, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: China, Asia, North America, United States of America