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Geopolitics

Trump And The Ayatollah

With the choice of controversial retired Gen. Michael Flynn to be White House National Security Advisor comes a new flurry of anticipation (and worry) that American foreign policy will be turned on its head with the election of Donald Trump.

Take the Iranian nuclear accord negotiated by the Obama Administration, which Trump has called "the worst deal ever" in, well, the entire history of dealmaking. Tehran is watching the coming changes in Washington, with conservative Fars news agency this week quoting past remarks by the hawkish diplomat John C. Bolton, touted as a possible Secretary of State, urging support for Iranian opponents intent on toppling the regime. The more moderate ISNA agency preferred to cite, hopefully perhaps, comments by another Trump ally, Rudolph Giuliani, saying that the nuclear deal with Iran could not be ignored completely.

The conflicting reports reflect unease in Tehran over the best- and worst-case scenarios of a Trump presidency. A commentator in the conservative daily Resalat, Hamed Hajiheidari, wrote Thursday that at least America's "mischief" would now become more evident. Democrats were always "more destructive," he argues, as they "tricked" many governments into trusting the United States as benign.

In his first comments on Trump's election, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei offered what can only be described as a yawn. He told a crowd Wednesday that "we have no judgment" on Trump's election, because "this is the same America that has brought us no good whichever party is in power" the reformist paper Shargh cited him as saying.

If Trump's foreign policy turns into nothing more and nothing less than an extension of his "Art of the Deal," we can safely say that Tehran will be like no other re-negotiation he has ever faced.


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Geopolitics

Smaller Allies Matter: Afghanistan Offers Hard Lessons For Ukraine's Future

Despite controversies at home, Nordic countries were heavily involved in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan. As the Ukraine war grinds on, lessons from that conflict are more relevant than ever.

Photo of Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Finnish Defence Forces in Afghanistan

Johannes Jauhiainen

-Analysis-

HELSINKI — In May 2021, the Taliban took back power in Afghanistan after 20 years of international presence, astronomical sums of development aid and casualties on all warring sides.

As Kabul fell, a chaotic evacuation prompted comparisons to the fall of Saigon — and most of the attention was on the U.S., which had led the original war to unseat the Taliban after 9/11 and remained by far the largest foreign force on the ground. Yet, the fall of Kabul was also a tumultuous and troubling experience for a number of other smaller foreign countries who had been presented for years in Afghanistan.

In an interview at the time, Antti Kaikkonen, the Finnish Minister of Defense, tried to explain what went wrong during the evacuation.

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“Originally we anticipated that the smaller countries would withdraw before the Americans. Then it became clear that getting people to the airport had become more difficult," Kaikkonen said. "So we decided last night to bring home our last soldiers who were helping with the evacuation.”

During the 20-year-long Afghan war, the foreign troop presence included many countries:Finland committed around 2,500 soldiers,Sweden 8,000,Denmark 12,000 and Norway 9,000. And in the nearly two years since the end of the war, Finland,Belgium and theNetherlands have commissioned investigations into their engagements in Afghanistan.

As the number of fragile or failed states around the world increases, it’s important to understand how to best organize international development aid and the security of such countries. Twenty years of international engagement in Afghanistan offers valuable lessons.

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