Saturday, December 8, 2018


Getting to legitimate procedures for voting among the options
by Ira Straus
Chair, Center for War-Peace Studies

In the 1990s, as Executive Director of The Democracy International, Dr. Straus gave close attention to consequences of independence referenda in post-Communist countries including Bosnia.

Referendum theory indicates there should be a second referendum on the several options. Modern representative democratic theory, and the British constitutional tradition, indicates that Parliament should deliberate on all options and set up its own procedures for choosing among them.

Either way, all options need to be considered. This immediately raises basic questions: How to winnow down the options for a process of voting? In what order to vote among them?

In the present case, the options are getting winnowed down to three: the PM’s Brexit Deal, No Brexit, or a No-Deal Brexit. The procedure is probably coming down to a Parliamentary vote on the PM’s Brexit, followed, if her deal is rejected, by a popular vote on the remaining two options...


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Read our Chair of the Board Ira Straus's article about why the U.S. benefits from NATO, a cornerstone of transnational organizations and global security: NATO: The Greatest Bargain America Ever Got (

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Trump should use the Iran deal's provision for making sanctions “snap back”

by Ira Straus 

 The Trump Administration wants to hit Iran as hard as it can with sanctions. However, it has neglected to use the provisions of the Iran deal itself for doing this. In stating that it is withdrawing from the deal, it seems to be giving away for free its standing to invoke these provisions in the future. This is troubling, and self-defeating.

 Thanks to the pressures that skeptics had placed on the Obama Administration during the negotiations for the deal, a provision was included for sanctions to “snap back” if any major party to the deal insisted on declaring Iran in non-compliance. All other parties to the deal, and indeed the entire global community, would then be legally obligated to join in reimposing sanctions.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

What is the “snap back”?

The extent to which it solves the problem of the Iran deal; its merit as a precedent for better management of sanctions

by Ira Straus

(First Publish in 2015)

The Obama Administration stated many times, in the course of negotiating the Iran deal, that sanctions would "snap back" if Iran cheats. It did not however specify how this would happen.

A lot of people were skeptical that this could ever happen. They pointed out that it had been hard to get the necessary countries to agree on sanctions in the first place. It took years. Some of these countries have made it clear that they want to be rid of the sanctions and would not agree to reimpose them, were they ever lifted. These countries have a veto on the UN Security Council (SC). So if the sanctions are lifted now, they will in fact never be reimposed. Moreover: once sanctions are lifted, economic links will be developed rapidly, economic interests will become attached to these links, further preventing governments from agreeing to reimpose sanctions. So how could sanctions ever simply “snap back”?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

How we could still strike a deal with Russia and the UN Security Council to stabilize Syria:

Hold Referenda for Secession, and assure Russia a Warm Water Port 

by Lucy Law Webster 

There are common interests shared by Russia and the USA. One of these would be to stop the war in Syria, in return for assuring Putin and Russia its use of the warm water port that it has on Syria’s Mediterranean coast. This coast is fortunately in the part of Syria where Syrian President Assad is respected.

 Much of the rest of Syria is the home of people who want to change their government. The Kurds want a Kurdish homeland. Other groups, emerging from the Arab Spring, are working and fighting for a regime that would not be subject to President Assad; and, some of them, for a democracy. The UN should be instructed by the Security Council to organize referenda in the parts of Syria where the rule of President Assad has been resisted. There is or has been a small unit within the UN Department of Political Affairs that has the skills to do this. Once these steps are taken, the residual sympathy for ISIS among the Sunni majority in Syria will dissipate, making it easier to defeat all residual ISIS forces, and enabling the securing of the area against ISIS permanently.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem for the Palestinian Authority

How to turn the lemon into lemonade
by Ira Straus
The decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem is not the first time countries have pre-empted the negotiations for peace. It follows in the footsteps of many another country undermining the peace process in the opposite direction. It could claim to be a corrective step as well as a simple recognition of reality.
However, if so, it needs to correct itself also. The way to do this is to announce a U.S. consulate explicitly assigned to the Palestianians.
This can be done easily enough, by upgrading the U.S. Consulate-General that is already in Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Separate Yet United, A Dialogue

by Andreas B. Olsson

A core goal of federalism is to unite and not divide. Therefore, it would seem that a good federalist should be against secession. But federalism is also about subsidiarity and limited Lockean government. Greater unity is not the only decisive factor in whether to be for or against secession. If a local population has been wronged – and their right to decide matters that affect only them overridden egregiously and repeatedly – then a federalist ought to support secession. On the other hand, like most theories of good governance federalism has as its end goal peace – not peace at any cost but peace nonetheless. So if secession risks plunging a relatively productive and prosperous region into destructive conflict, then a federalist ought to take this as a negative in their considerations on whether to lend support.

In light of these multiple considerations, should we support current global trends towards secession? I would argue that each secessionist cause would need to be considered somewhat sui generis. With other words, there is no one simple answer to all cases. Kurdistan is not Scotland and, though closer in case, Scotland is not Catalonia. What they all do share, however, is that they are all part of a nation state. They are not seceding from what is clearly a union of separate semi-independent states but from a singular nationalist entity.