Friday, January 30, 2009
Iran and Obama: What Would Lincoln Do?
In the first few weeks of his presidency, Barack Obama has been, true to his word, an active president.
He produced a “stimulus package” that represents a massive intrusion of the federal government into the private market place, an extension of a program hastily developed during the last frenetic days of the Bush administration. He has taken steps to keep his campaign promise to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, though it is still undecided what do with “detainees” such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attack on New York. The President has sent former diplomatic wunderkind George Mitchell to the Middle East to broker a peace between warring factions in Israel. And he has shown that his Middle East policy prescriptions during the campaign were serious by opening an entente with the Arab World.
Iran, very much a part of that world, promises to be his stone of stumbling.
The US-based International Institute for Strategic Studies on Wednesday concluded in a report that Iran will have a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium to make an atomic bomb in a matter of months. In view of Iran’s repeated threats to obliterate Israel, this does not seem to allow much time for Mitchell to work his Middle East diplomatic magic.
But time is not the only enemy of peace in the Middle East. In addition to being the principal sponsor of the global jihad -- Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are all instruments of Iran’s will to dominate the area – Iran has called for the destruction of both Israel and the United States. Having incited terrorists trained on its own soil to overthrow governments in Egypt and Jordan, it is the single greatest source of instability in the Middle East. Iran is also busily working in South and Central America, with a recent assist from the former Soviet Union, to destabilize the Americas.
And then there is Iran’s obduracy to contend with.
While President Obama has foresworn preconditions for direct talks with Iran, Mahmoud Amadinijad, invited multiple times to speak at the United Nations, apparently without conditions, has laid down, shortly after President Obama’s interview with al-Arabiya pan-Arabic television network, his conditions for talks with the United States.
He has demanded that the United States must empty the Middle East of its military forces or, as he put it, "keep its interventions within its own country's borders." The United States must end its support for Israel and withdraw its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan or, in his words, "In the sensitive Middle East region... the expectation is that the unjust actions [by the United States] of the past 60 years [during which Israel was established] will give way to a policy encouraging the full rights of all nations, especially the oppressed nations of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan."
This week, Amadinijad sharpened conditions made earlier in the state controlled media. Iran, Amadinijad said at a political rally, will engage Washington only if two conditions are met. First, the United States must abandon its alliance with Israel or, as he plainly put it, “"stop supporting the Zionists, outlaws and criminals.” The second condition, laid down in November in the state run media and repeated on Wednesday by Aliakbar Javanfekr, Amadinijad’s advisor, is that Iran should be allowed to pursue its nuclear activities.
Given the time frame involved for diplomacy to take root in this uninviting ground and bearing in mind that in a month or more, according to some calculations, Iran will have in its hands a nuclear weapon it may then diplomatically use to exact concessions from its diplomatic opponents in the United States and in nascent democracies in the Middle East, is it possible to speculate what Thomas Jefferson, who showed a mailed fist to the Barbary Pirates, James Monroe, the architect of the Monroe Doctrine, which forbade foreign meddling in the Americas, Abraham Lincoln, who violate the constitution numerous times to win a war, or Harry Truman, under whose administration the state of Israel was created, would have done under similar circumstances?
Update: Amadinajad says nyet.