Tag Archives: Obama

Re: Ukraine – is the Middle East watching Obama?

4 Mar

Absolutely.

This is the Middle East after all, and muscle flexing goes a long way. A very long way.

This is not Europe. Today, as I was reading this very interesting Washington Post op-ed by 3 former US ambassadors to Ukraine, I saw yet another great example of how the two regions are so vastly different – in terms of perceptions of strength.

The Russians have sent forces into Ukraine, and are even blocking Ukrainian ships from docking at their own port. And what advice do these gentlemen offer in their op-ed? Restraint. And they are right. In the context of that conflict, restraint is important. It also shows strength, because you are letting the other side fall into the trap of starting the war, even at the expense of seeing foreign troops enter your country.

But not here. Not in the Middle East. Another sovereign nation send forces into your territory? If you don’t react then you are seen as weak. The worst option is not responding militarily to such a move, even if it means that you are seen as the one who started the conflict. And once you are perceived as being “weak” then all sorts of things could happen. Your neighbours might start challenging you. And if you are a dictatorship, then your public could start thinking:”our tough leaders? they are not as tough as we thought”. And before you know it they may start challenging your rule domestically.

What does all this have to do with Obama?

In Europe, he may be seen as being cautious and clever by not showing his military and economic teeth in a more hostile manner, but in the Middle East, he will be seen as “weak”. As the man who blinked twice. Or worst, someone who may not be a reliable ally in case you are under attack.

George Bush did very little when Georgia was attacked by Russia in August 2008. But that didn’t impact his image in this region, because he was perceived as being strong by his allies. Why? Because of his preference for the military option, which he showed on many occasions.

Robert Gates is also against new Iran sanctions

27 Jan

There are those in the US Congress who want to impose additional sanctions against Iran.

I am against such an idea. Iran has promised to implement the Geneva nuclear deal and we see that it has already started implementing its obligations. Punishing Iran for taking positive steps will push them away from moderation in the negotiations. Why would someone want to cooperate if they are punished for it?

Imposing new sanctions now will also say to the Iranians that the P5+1 is not an honest partner. After all, according to the new deal signed between the two, the P5+1 has promised not to impose new sanctions during the interim agreement. A deal is a deal. It’s equally bad when and if the US breaks it, as it is if Iran breaks it.

Don’t get me wrong, sanctions have been very successful in changing the Iranian regime’s nuclear stance. But now that they seem to be bearing fruit, we should give an opportunity for Iran and the P5+1 to show that they are both sincere and are willing to follow their promises with action. If Iran does not deliver then it would justify tougher sanctions.

Obama is also against new sanctions being passed at this moment. He wants to give diplomacy a chance. This morning his position was supported by two senators in a New York Times op-ed.

And now former US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has joined them. Gates is a very respected man in the US Defence establishment. He is the only secretary of defence to serve under two consecutive presidents who represented opposing parties as he served under both Bush and Obama.  His words are worth listening to.

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