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Thread: Obamaspeak on Iran shakes up Middle East politics

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    Member NazamKhan's Avatar
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    Obamaspeak on Iran shakes up Middle East politics

    President Barack Obama’s remarks Saturday on the US’ ties with Iran on the historic occasion of the so-called ‘Implementation Day’, are candid and forward-looking and sets the perfect tone for moving on with the formidable task of rebuilding the tumultuous relationship in the period ahead.

    It is a poignant moment, for sure. The International Atomic Energy Agency had just declared in Vienna that Iran has fulfilled its obligations under the July deal to limit its nuclear activities, which, in turn, automatically lifted the nuclear-related sanctions imposed by the United Nations, European Union and the United States.

    In a dramatic reversal, what used to be one of the closest regional alliances that the US had enjoyed in Cold War history before becoming one of the most tempestuous adversarial relationships in modern American diplomatic history, is now all set to enter a new era of constructive engagement. Such cycles of the wheel of fortune are hard to come by in geopolitics — perhaps, the only comparable relationship is the one between Russia and China through the past six decades of ups and downs.

    After the searing experiences of the past three decades and a half, both US and Iran are in a chastened mood and willing to engage. Obama chose to make his remarks from the Cabinet Room. He had a choice – put on a windbreaker, climb the deck of an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf, and declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ in forcing Iran to blink on its nuclear program.

    But then, that would have been a dishonest claim to make, since first, Iran was never really pursuing a nuclear weapon program as such, and second, the US’ decision to engage Iran in negotiations was largely prompted by the realization that a ‘military option’ no longer existed in reality.

    Having said that, Obama has scored big in ensuring that as a nuclear threshold power (like Japan or South Korea), Iran will now need much longer time to make a bomb and that Tehran will have to think many times over before cheating on the July deal.

    No small gain, indeed, since perceptions matter in geopolitics and, in particular, in a deeply troubled relationship such as the US-Iranian one, riddled with mutual suspicions regarding each other’s evil intentions. The nuclear deal signed in July has created a basis to begin work on a new mode of relationship.

    Obama truly deserves a Nobel now to have pushed the Iran deal through with almost superhuman grit against the sort of odds that would unnerve any street-smart American politician who ever heard about the Israeli Lobby. At the ‘operative’ level, Obama’s finely crafted remarks make the following points:

    Continued estrangement with Iran “did not advance American interests”, which prompted him to directly engage with the Iranian government;

    US-Iran ties will continue to be saddled with differences, including some important differences such as Tehran’s policies toward Israel and the GCC states, Syria, Yemen and so on;

    But the US will seize the “unique” window of opportunity available today to work on these issues.
    The US is willing to engage with Iran “to advance our mutual interests”.

    There is scope for optimism as most recent breakthroughs testify – release of Marines and prisoners, etc.;

    Iranian leadership is proving to be responsive;

    High-level one-to-one political engagement is a reality;

    The US is intensely conscious of the need to engage Iran’s youth, which is open to western influence.

    Obama was notably reticent. He wasn’t boastful that he made Iran submit to the US diktat. He eschewed any direct criticism of Iranian policies – and, most certainly, didn’t claim ‘exceptionalism’ for the US or flaunt the ‘regime change agenda’. Rather, he conceded that the US engages an Iran with warts and all, and is prepared to “advance our mutual interests” – ie., conceding an equal relationship.

    In the historic 2009 speech at Cairo University Obama came close to apologizing for the CIA plot to overthrow the elected government of Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953. Looking back, that was the point, perhaps, when the Iranians sat back and began regarding him with respect. No doubt, Obama enjoys a degree of credibility with Tehran today – Iranian rhetoric notwithstanding – that no American president had enjoyed in several decades of difficult history.

    Obama has a deeply reflective mind. And his erudite mind knows Iran, empathizes with its sense of nationalism and understands its proud history – and, most important, he could instinctively comprehend where exactly the US policies floundered in dealing with such a sophisticated people.

    How does his calculus for the period ahead look?

    Obama is confident that the US-Iran engagement is going to be an enduring legacy of his presidency. What gives him this confidence is that:

    Iran’s integration with the international community is set to become irreversible and through the coming one-year period it will have gained much in traction;

    It is virtually impossible to drum up an international consensus all over again to ‘contain’ Iran on the incredible scale that Obama succeeded in building, no matter who occupies the White House next year;

    The US cannot stand aloof and sacrifice a potentially lucrative relationship when others, especially European countries, China, Russia, Japan, India, etc. coast ahead;

    Iran too is keen on a pragmatic relationship with the US and a level playing field will become available for the US business and industry;

    Iran too is on the cusp of change and the present leadership can be trusted to adopt a new course that presents a vastly different profile of ‘New Iran’ — a responsible regional power that is eager to contribute to regional security and stability.

    Finally, do not overlook that through all this, a terrible beauty is also born, almost unnoticed, regarding the US’ overall regional strategies in the Middle East in the period ahead. Obama in his remarks repeatedly put the accent on the US’ national interests. However, what he didn’t say is at once obvious, too: US will not be held prisoner by its regional allies if its interests cross their path.

    Put differently, countries such as Saudi Arabia need to come to terms with the deepening of the US-Iran engagement that can be expected though the coming months. The transcript of Obama’s remarks is here.

    By M K Bhadrakumar – January 18, 2016
    The Following User Says Thank You to NazamKhan For This Useful Post: greencold

  2. #2
    Member greencold's Avatar
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    Dec 2013
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    Re: Obamaspeak on Iran shakes up Middle East politics

    Wouldnt trust Americans they still have an agenda that Israel will push through AIPAC. Look at the further sanctions soon as these were lifted

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