Obama’s chance to earn his Nobel prize

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has offered President Obama a chance to end the 34-year U.S. cold war with Iran, turn the United States away from perpetual warfare and retroactively justify his Nobel Peace Prize.

obama-at-un-2013

President Barack Obama

He has an opportunity to do what President Richard Nixon did when he established diplomatic relations with Communist China, and what President Ronald Reagan did when he negotiated an end to the U.S.-Soviet cold war.   Even though the initiatives came from Zhou Enlai (Chou En-Lai) and Mikhail Gorbachev, there would be been no peacemaking but for Nixon and Reagan.

Barack Obama’s path to peace will be more difficult than either of theirs.  For one thing, he is a Democrat, and most Democratic leaders think they have to be belligerent to disprove Republican charges that they are weak.  For another, he has to overcome a military-industrial and foreign policy establishment that is committed to war, and lobbyists for Israel and Saudi Arabia, based respectively on their strong ethnic ties and strong financial ties to the United States.

The stumbling block is Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.  The Iranian government says it is using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, including medical research, which it is legally entitled to do.  The Ayatollah Khamenei says that nuclear weapons are immoral and contrary to Islam; I don’t think a religious leader would say such a thing unless he meant it, because, unlike with politicians, people take the statements of clerics seriously, and he would be completely discredited if he was shown to be lying.

President Hassan Rouhani

President Hassan Rouhani

Some analysts think that Iranian leaders don’t want nuclear weapons, but they want the capability to develop nuclear weapons at some time in the future if the situation warrants.  This desire seems reasonable to me.  Iran is surrounded by countries with nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Israel.  Naturally an responsible Iranian leader would want some deterrent against attack.

I think adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty would provide a basis for peace.  This asks countries that do not possess nuclear weapons to refrain from acquiring them, and promises them in return that they will receive help in developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes and that the countries with nuclear weapons will take steps to get rid of them.

LINKS

Rouhani surfs the WAVE by Pete Escobar in Asia Times.  He discusses the significance of President Rouhani’s initiative for a World Against Violence and Extremism, and President Obama’s response.  Escobar’s columns are always worth reading; I link to them on my Blogs I Like page.

For U.S.-Iran, it’s all in the timing by Iranian scholar Triti Parsi for Reuters.  She points out that both Obama and Rouhani both must contend with war hawks at home, and that the window of opportunity for peacemaking may be small.

Is Iran Ready to Do a Deal with Obama over Its Nuclear Program? by Juan Cole, a professor of Middle East history.   He does a good analysis of just what Iran is doing with nuclear enrichment.

U.S., Iran Trade Cautious Overtures at U.N. by Jasmin Ramsey at Inter Press Service.  This is a report on the current status of the negotiations.

§§§

There are no inherent conflicts of interest between the United States and Iran.  Americans felt humiliated when Iranian radicals took over the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979 and held American diplomats and embassy staff hostage.   The Iranian government is allied to Syria and to Hamas and Hezbollah, the anti-Israel terrorists.   Israeli leaders think Iran is plotting to develop nuclear weapons to use against Israel, and Saudi Arabian leaders see Iran as a rival for control of Persian Gulf oil.   But all these concerns are either in the past, or negotiable.

Iranians have much more reason for bad feeling about the United States than vice versa.   The Central Intelligence Agency engineered the overthrow of the Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953 and established the 26-year dictatorship of the Shah.  In 1980, the U.S. provided military aid to Saddam Hussein, the ruler of Iraq, in his invasions of Iran and helped shield him from international sanctions for using poison gas.

After 2001, Iran, whose Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenie is a Shiite Muslim cleric, offered help to the U.S. government in fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda, which are extremist Sunnis.  Despite Iran’s help in pacifying Afghanistan, President George W. Bush in 2003 lumped Iran together with Iraq and North Korea as an “axis of evil.”

During the past few years, the United States, responding to Israel’s fears that Iran may develop nuclear weapons, has wage economic warfare and cyber warfare against Iran, while Iranian nuclear scientists have been murdered by persons unknown.

I can imagine how Americans would respond if the United States was subject to a five-year Iranian-led OPEC oil embargo, paralyzing cyber attacks against the U.S. Department of Energy and assassinations of scientists working on Pentagon research contracts.  We would regard this as just cause for war.

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