Saturday, November 08, 2008

And Then, Of Course, There Is Iran

Yes, President Elect Obama's plate will be full when he takes office on January 20, 2009. Among the many foreign policy issues he will face involves Iran and their reported drive to develop nuclear weapons. Of course, it is still possible that the current administration will complicate matters further by instigating an attack on Iran, either directly or via a surrogate (Israel).

To offset concerns about that possibility, the last month or so rumors have been floated in the US and international press about a possible diplomatic breakthrough which would involve the US opening an "interests section" in Tehran, which would be the first step in establishing full diplomatic relations with Iran after over thirty years of a total breach in relations. Frankly, I don't buy those rumors. I think it more likely it is just one more intentional leak to the press by the Bush administration to misdirect attention.

Be that as it may, the solid victory by Barack Obama has changed the landscape in all sorts of ways, not the least of which involves the foreign policy arena. Even the President of Iran (no rational person himself) offered congratulations to the President Elect, something which would have been unthinkable even ten years ago. And his government went even further, according to this article in Iran's Islamic Republic News Agency (via Watching America).

IRNA, the official information station of the government, reported that [spokesman of the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran] Gholam Hossein El-Ham stated that “We hope that just as Mr. Barack Obama was able to regain the trust of the American people with the promise of change, he will bring the establishment of fundamental changes in the United States of America’s approach toward global issues, the respect for human rights and nations and the conclusion of oppression and aggression toward other countries, employing the blossoming international popularity of America towards reducing the increased global mistrust toward his country.”

President Elect Obama does not need to engage in a popularity contest with the rest of the world, but he does need to issue a clear signal that the policies of the last neoconish eight years were an aberration which has ended and that the US will return to its policies of multilateralism. We will talk with those with whom we have a dispute rather than bomb them into the Stone Age, and we will seek international guidance in resolving differences. Foreign policy can be muscular without being military.

If he makes that clear right from the start, and I hope he does, then the US can return to the world stage in a more reasonable position: that of a nation which respects other nations and will work towards a better world for all, this generation and the next.

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