Friday, February 6, 2009

On Iran, Obama Plans Talk and Some Toughness

"On Iran, Obama Plans Talk and Some Toughness"

Helene Cooper and Mark Landler

The New York Times


"Iran Launches Satellite in a Challenge for Obama"

Nazila Fathi and William J. Broad

The New York Times

Last week on Al Arabiya President Obama stated that as Iran "unclenches" its "fists" the United States will offer its hand to the nation.  As Obama signaled for peace, Iran appeared to show its military strength. Mahmound Ahmadinejad stated, "with God's help and the desire for justice and peace…the official presence of the Islamic Republic was registered in space."  The Western world looks at these actions as a threat to global security, particularly the security of Israel.  On the other hand, nations may view the missile as a call for equality and a show of power, displayed in naming the rocket Omid, or hope.  In a world where many states are left out of the political game this may be one attempt to gain recognition.

The New York Times covered the rocket launch in two articles on Wednesday, one of which specifically addresses Obama's potential approaches to Iran. This is President Obama's first difficult foreign policy decision in regards to the Middle East. Surrounded by advisors, many of whom advocate increasing the pressure on Iran, opens a variety of directions for the new executive. How will Obama's somewhat moderate approach to foreign relations develop or alter under trying times? And, how will his decision alter the global perspective of the United States? 

The expected new advisor to Iran, Dennis B. Ross, supports pressuring Europe to enact economic sanctions.  Gary Samore believes that Obama should give benefits to Iran for following the recommendations of the UN and if Iran fails to comply then consequences will ensue.  Biden is shown to support a new direction in foreign relations, even during trying or difficult times, though his recommendations are unknown.  While the policymakers all support a tough approach, they question the appropriate timeframe.

There is a group that supports an immediate stop to the enrichment of uranium. On the other hand, some advisors argue that lending out a hand to Ahmadinejad may put him in favorable view of Iranians for the upcoming election.  Thus, the same approach or avoidance of the subject could occur for the next few months.

The potential action steps supported by Obama advisors are all very moderate.  The new president recognizes the importance of separating himself from the Bush administration. Hearing the same jargon of Bush come out of Obama's mouth could ruin his legitimacy and ability to build a new legacy with Iran.  Currently, the Western bloc is supportive of some kind of action against Iran and may be open for pushing sanctions to force talks with the United States.  Similar to the situation in Iraq, Europe was agitated by Saddam's rule and wanted a consequence.  In the case of the Iraq War, the majority of the world did not see war as legitimate or just.  Today, if Obama moved missiles into Europe a large voice of dissent would be heard around the world.  Therefore, Obama must step ahead with caution- hopefully, he will step ahead with the support of the world.

As I am writing this response to the article, I recognize that I expect the US to make the decision on how to proceed and that the rest of the world will follow that approach.  In a globalized era, I wonder if Obama will change the focus from unilateral action of the US to more multilateral programs.  We are a nation that likes to "do it alone" and with the situation in Iran that approach will prove ineffective.  In April, Obama will meet with NATO and that may be when his policies truly come to light.  By utilizing the summit to make policy, Obama is lending strength to the international government.

The image of the United States to the Muslim countries could significantly improve or dissipate by the actions of the United States.  In class this week we analyzed a bloggers mention of Obama utilizing the words of Bush, such as the "war on terror."  This indicates that the shift we expect may not be as great.  If Obama officially utilizes the phrase "war on terror" within this context, then his image abroad will alter dramatically.  How will our president respond in times of disagreement or conflict and how that will effect the global perspective of the US?

1 comment:

  1. I understand that President Obama wants to distance himself from the rhetoric of the Bush Administration, but that he also has to listen to his advisors. I also understand that he has been, and will continue to be, concerned about the reputation of the United States around the world. This aspect is actually what I wish to address. Obama’s words and actions, even though there are few actions to go on since he is so early into his presidency, lead me to wonder whether Obama and his advisors are going to base their decisions, particularly ones that deal with foreign policy and national security, on what they think is best for the United States or what the international community wants them to do.

    Being a realist myself, I think that the U.S. should always do what is best for America and her citizens, whether or not the leaders of other countries disagree. That does not mean that I think we should not communicate with foreign nations because there is always a solution that will benefit everyone. Although, the reason most of these solutions are never taken advantage of is because many times, countries refuse to compromise. If given the opportunity to make a decision that benefits multiple parties, then Obama should try to do so. Although, if the leader of a foreign nation disagrees with a solution that is advantageous to the United States just because he does not like it but cannot offer any solution that benefits all parties concerned, then Obama must make the decision in the U.S.’s interests. I am not suggesting that President Obama will not make the right decisions concerning the U.S.’s interests if pressured by the international community, but I am saying that I don’t know if he will. President Obama cannot worry about the interests of allies or enemies without first considering what is best for the United States.