A Few Notes on Obama’s State of the Union Address

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour

This article is an extraction of the text of the main article which was exclusively written for IR Diplomacy

1. US President Barack Obama apparently believes that the economic situation in the United States is still the greatest challenge facing his country and, therefore, all other phenomena are viewed from an economic standpoint. Although, in his recent State of the Union address before the US Congress, Obama tried to defend the economic track records of his administration, a natural conclusion that could be derived from his address is that the United States is still grappling with a host of economic and social issues both inside and outside its borders. Perhaps, in few junctures of its contemporary history, has the United States been facing so many major challenges, especially with regard to the employment rate and creation of new jobs. Of course, Obama and his economic team managed to get the United States out of the great financial crisis that started to plague the country in 2008. And by doing so, they managed to, more or less, resuscitate the US economy. However, as proven by the State of the Union address, the United States is still facing major economic challenges.

2. During his address, Obama put special emphasis on the national unity and social solidarity among the Americans as well as the public participation. However, at the same time, his address clearly touched upon the political gaps that currently exist in Washington between the members of the US Congress and the Administration. One may even claim that he made important innuendos to disillusionment of the American people and their distrust in the political elite. His address clearly attested to the continuation of a wide gap between the American Executive and Legislature.

3. There were few references to the US foreign policy in Obama’s address. Perhaps this part of his address was smaller when compared to the previous State of the Union addresses made by former US presidents. This issue may clearly mark a new trend in the US foreign policy. According to this new trend, Washington is trying to maintain the global leadership of the United States without increasing the accompanying cost. At least, in comparison with the previous presidents’ addresses, this seems to be the case.

4. The Middle East did not receive the attention that former US presidents usually paid to it in their State of the Union addresses. Of course, this does not mean that Obama did not talk about the issues of the Middle East. However, both in terms of quantity and quality, less attention was paid to the Middle East compared to the past. A major point was the minimal reference made by Obama to the greatest and the most important issues in the Middle East and the US foreign policy in this region; that is, the issue of Palestine. Of special importance was his short, but very significant reference to Asia-Pacific region, and the point that the United States “will continue to focus on the Asia-Pacific.”

5. The method used to get the nuclear negotiations with Iran under way was also mentioned in his address as a major achievement for the United States foreign policy. When comparing a military solution for Iran's nuclear energy program to a diplomatic one, Obama argued that diplomacy must be given a chance to succeed in order for the United States to be able to manage strategic challenges that it is currently facing both in the Middle East region and at a global level. In fact, his remarks not only targeted the United States foreign policy, but were also aimed at the situation inside the United States. Let’s not forget that there is a very radical and militarist group within the political establishment of the United States whose main goal is to give a more militaristic and radical aspect to the foreign policy of the United States. In an address to a group of Congress members who were pushing for the adoption and imposition of more sanctions against Iran even when the nuclear talks were going on in the Swiss city of Geneva, Obama urged them in early January 2014 to clearly say that they were seeking war. In view of all the factors that are now in work, including the economic situation inside the United States as well as the perilous regional situation with which Washington is facing, it seems that Obama is actually trying to get his diplomatic legacy registered in the history of diplomacy. Will he actually succeed in this regard considering that the United States is currently facing numerous domestic and foreign challenges?

*Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour is the former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative for the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations in Geneva. Prior to taking up this post, he was the Director of the Institute for Political and International Studies, the research branch of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. Seyed Sajjadpour received his Ph.D. in political science from George Washington University and was a post–doctoral fellow at Harvard. He has taught at the College of International Relations of Tehran University, as well as at Azad University and Iran’s National Defense University.

Key Words: Obama, State of the Union Address, US Economic Situation, National Unity and Social Solidarity, US Foreign Policy, Middle East, Iran, Iran's Nuclear Energy Program, Sajjadpour

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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