Obama’s New Year Diplomacy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sahab Fatemi

US President Barack Obama sent a different message addressed to the nation and officials of the Islamic Iran on the occasion of the New Year (Nowruz). In his video message, Obama congratulated the New Year and called for resolving disputes between Iran and the US and an “honest” engagement with Tehran. He said, “We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect. So on the occasion of your New Year, I want you, the people and leaders of Iran, to understand the future that we seek. It's a future with renewed exchanges among our people, and greater opportunities for partnership and commerce. It's a future where the old divisions are overcome, where you and all of your neighbors and the wider world can live in greater security and greater peace.”

Of course, based on the foreign policy recognized and drawn by the Democrat camp, Obama implicitly repeated Washington’s charges regarding Iran’s alleged support for terrorism and its having a nuclear weapon’s program implicitly.

“The United States wants the Islamic Republic of Iran to take its rightful place in the community of nations. You have that right -- but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization. And the measure of that greatness is not the capacity to destroy, it is your demonstrated ability to build and create.”

The fact is that the New Year message of Obama is repetition of the dual policy of the United States during the presidency of George W. Bush Jr.

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei in an explicit and resolute reaction to Obama’s New Year message said change is possible only in action. In this way, he foiled all he propaganda and media efforts of the West in magnifying the New Year message of Obama to the Iranians.

The European Union and Western countries tried to display this message as a symbol of change in the foreign policy of the United States towards Tehran by showing an unusual welcome to Obama’s message but failed in this respect.

The fact is that Obama was not the source of change in the US foreign policy but he, himself, is a part of this change. This is a fact that should be born in mind when analyzing bilateral Tehran-Washington relations.

On this basis, Obama is obliged to pay the price for the excessive confidence of the American people towards himself and the Democratic Party through changes all of which necessarily would not be his wish. One of them is establishing direct contacts with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Former US presidents from Jimmy Carter to Bush Jr have all sustained numerous defeats in cultural, economic and military confrontations with the Islamic Republic and thus the American people do not wish Obama to face the fate of his predecessors.

Obama and his entourage have not analyzed the term ‘change’ in their foreign policy yet. Therefore, as long as the bases of this change and its instances and applicability are not drawn up objectively, one cannot have the least trust in change in the literature of the US officials, even if these people were among the most prominent and distinguished members of the Democratic Party. The new US president used the key word “change” in his election campaigns several times. By taking advantage of the peculiarities of this appealing term and by understanding the wish of the American people for “transition from the US of the Bush Jr era”, Obama managed to defeat his Republican rival, John McCain by 200 electoral cards and take the helm of power in executive equilibriums as the first black president in America. Of course, presence of people such as Joseph R. Biden, former senator from Delaware, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s hawkish national security advisor, played an important role in Obama’s final victory.

Within the framework of an optimistic attitude which is colored by nationalistic idealism, the American people consider presence in the foreign policy team of Obama of Biden and Brzezinski as a sign of change in macro and medium strategies of their foreign policy. However, presence of Hillary Clinton and Bill Ross besides Brzezinski and Biden has made the complex puzzle of Democrat’s foreign policy more complicated.

Indeed, how can Obama bring about major changes in the US foreign policy by multiplying his foreign policy team and receiving direct influence from the political strategy of Bill Clinton?

We should not forget Obama’s senior advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, has stressed that the macro foreign policy of the United States would not change during the presidency of young Obama. Confronting Islam and the Islamic Revolution of Iran are defined among the macro objectives of the US foreign policy and this increases the existing doubts about Obama’s New Year message.

On the other hand, the individuals who are claiming to create change in the US foreign policy, have no proof in their political and party records of being able to create this change.

We should not forget “inter-party disorder” has been the Achilles heel of the Democrats during the recent three decades. Anyway the dimension of the Democratic Party ranges from Jimmy Carter to Joseph Lieberman and this will deprive the doves of the possibility of inter-party understanding.

The pluralism of Democrat’s viewpoints in the foreign policy arena and presence of four different leanings called Berezniki, Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden and Dennis Ross in the foreign policy team of Obama is the objective manifestation of this disorder.

If we add up the shortage of a doctrine determining the US foreign policy at present, the incompetence of Obama and Democrats in bringing about their claimed change would become more obvious.

At present, Obama is somewhere between the “existing doctrine” and the “desirable doctrine”. This limbo is the worst condition that a political structure struggles against.

Obama’s power of choice is very limited with respect to the existing doctrines. This restriction is caused by the hard and critical conditions facing the US. Eventually, the multiplicity of the existing attitudes and tastes in the foreign policy of the White House and the Democratic Party not only is not the point of strength of the party but serves as the Achilles heel of the Doves in confronting grave and chronic crises. For instance, at present the differences among Obama, Hillary Clinton, Biden and Brzezinski on codifying the new US strategy in Afghanistan is thoroughly perceivable. Indeed, how is it possible to bring together Brzezinski’s warning on repetition of Soviet errors with Obama’s insistence on long-term concentration on the Indian subcontinent. On the other hand, can the difference between Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden on settlement of US missile defense system in East Europe be concealed?

In the end, Obama’s New Year message was not the symbol of change in the US foreign policy towards Iran and merely had publicity and ceremonial dimensions. Therefore, this publicity message should not be dealt with politically and strategically.


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