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Washington’s World: April 20th, 2015 – April 26th, 2015

After the exhilaration of the roll out of new strategic moves on Iran and Cuba, the Administration now faces the more sober task of turning these policies into reality. The Iran deal continues to attract criticism from distinguished former high officials and even those who favor the deal do not conceal its risks. However, in a compromise agreement with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the White House has bought itself time. This agreement with the Senate is still not in final form and could change substantially as it proceeds to the full Senate and then the House of Representatives. However, assuming that it survives in a form acceptable to President Obama, this means that he will have until the end of June to seek a final agreement without further involvement by Congress. The next round of negotiations with Tehran begins next week in Vienna. Meanwhile, in Yemen – another front involving Iran – we understand from Pentagon contacts that the US has taken over targeting responsibilities from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, providing a much needed boost in effectiveness. Additionally, there are reports that a number of senior military officers have resumed their loyalty to the deposed president Hadi and are putting some well-disciplined units into the field to blunt the Houthi advances. Military analysts see ground for hope that the Houthi rebels will be forced to the negotiating table. A similar strain of cautious optimism may be seen in Iraq, whose Prime Minister Abadi received fresh assurances of support during his recent visit to Washington. Turning to Asia, the chances of a successful conclusion to the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations have improved significantly with legislation to grant Obama Trade Promotion Authority now introduced into the Senate. With large numbers of Democrats firmly opposed to the TPP, this legislation faces a perilous path to passage. On the – at this stage – reasonable assumption that Obama does win TPA, US officials believe this will give him the opportunity to conclude a TPP deal that, in some respects, will redress the balance after the Administration’s setback on the China-sponsored Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

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