With the Congress in recess and Secretary of State Kerry on travel to Egypt for the next round of the US-Egypt Strategic Dialogue, and then onto South East Asia, foreign policy debate in Washington will focus on a small number of core topics:
1. The Iran debate is now conforming to our expected contours: there is blanket opposition from the entire Republican caucus, often cast in salty language, but the Administration’s tactic of courting its Democratic supporters is bearing fruit, with a long-serving, senior Democrat who is also a member of the Jewish community declaring his support for the deal. Even the most dedicated opponents of the deal are beginning to concede that they are unlikely to have the votes to override a veto and may be short of numbers to pass condemnatory measures.
2. The announcement of an agreement with Turkey on the use of Incirlik airbase for operations against ISIL has received a warm public welcome in Washington, but many Pentagon officials are concerned that Turkey is more interested in crushing Kurdish separatists than in confronting ISIL. Overall while Pentagon briefers speak optimistically about the performance of the anti-ISIL coalition, the private assessment is much more downbeat.
3. Turning to Asia, the unexpected failure of talks in Hawaii to conclude a deal for the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) leaves the Administration with a large gap in its Asia-Pacific strategy. In the light of the fact that agreement foundered on opposition from close US allies like Australia and Canada, the prospects for reviving the deal in time for the desired signature at the APEC Leaders Meeting in November.
4. Finally, tensions in the South China Sea remain a high-priority preoccupation for the militaries of both sides. Expectations for the summit between Presidents Obama and Xi Jinping are clouded.