Today’s Headlines

January 13, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Who is the new White House chief of staff?  (Jenny Lei Ravelo, Devex)

A new chief of staff with a strong development background is coming to the White House. On Monday (Jan. 9), President Barack Obama announced Jacob “Jack” Lew is the new White House chief of staff. The director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget will be replacing William Daley, who submitted his resignation last week.  In a statement released by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition — a broad-based influential network of businesses, nongovernmental organizations, national security and foreign policy experts, and academic and community leaders — executive director Liz Schrayer said the coalition welcomes the announcement of Lew as new chief of staff and looks forward to working with him.

Smart Power

Iran and the U.S. need a way to communicate (David Ignatius, Washington Post)

As the United States and Iran move closer toward open confrontation, it’s important that both take quiet steps to avoid the miscalculations and misunderstandings that can lead to an inadvertent military conflict.  Since the embassy takeover that followed the Iranian revolution of 1979, the two nations haven’t had diplomatic recognition. They communicate indirectly, through the Swiss embassy, which is inadequate.  So here’s a proposal in this period of deepening crisis: The United States and Iran should explore the possibility of direct contact through the sort of back channel that nations use to communicate urgent messages — namely, their intelligence services.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Undersecretary Tauscher: We will get a missile defense agreement with Russia (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

The United States and Russia will conclude a missile defense cooperation agreement this year as part of the “strategic stability” talks between the two powers, according to the State Department’s top arms control official. “We will get a missile defense agreement for cooperation with Russia,” Undersecretary of State for Arms Control Ellen Tauscher told a meeting of the Defense Writers Group on Thursday. “I believe that missile defense is the metaphor for the opportunity of getting things right [in the U.S.-Russia relationship].”

Myanmar Frees Prominent Political Prisoners (Seth Mydans, New York Times)

In its most significant prisoner release to date, Myanmar on Friday freed a number of prominent political activists in a step toward meeting the demands of Western nations as they move toward more cooperative relations with the country’s new military-backed civilian government, according to news reports.  The releases were part of a presidential pardon for 651 detainees and included Min Ko Naing, a student leader from the 1988 pro-democracy uprising who served two long terms in prison.

Why Taiwan’s Future Matters (Su Chi, New York Times)

Long locked in indignant isolation but enormously proud of their democratic achievements, Taiwan’s people must now accept that democracy endows them with greater responsibility for regional stability…If either side or the United States mishandles the relationship by attempting a diplomatic or even military shortcut, it could spell disaster for all parties. But if China and Taiwan establish a sufficient degree of mutual trust, Taiwan can remain an indispensable ally for the United States and a model for China’s future.