Mr Obama, in response to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker’s report on Iraq to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (8 April 2008), says “…a diplomatic surge that includes Iran, because if Maliki can tolerate as normal neighbour to neighbour relations in Iran, then we should be talking to them as well; I do not believe we are going to be able to stabilise the situation without them…” Mr Obama prides himself on sound judgment, and on making correct decisions when it matters. Let us examine this.
1- Mr Obama suggests that Mr Crocker and General Petraeus should perhaps involve Iran’s Ahmadinejad more actively in sorting out Iraq’s five-year mess. I acknowledge that this mess is partly and initially due to President Bush’s miscalculations for invading Iraq, but it takes two to tango. Tehran should also be blamed equally for prolonging the sorrow the Iraqis have been experiencing. Mr Obama does not need to be reminded that Maliki and Sadr are both looking up to Tehran’s Ayatollahs to say the least. The recent fighting in Basra, though apparently between Maliki’s men and the Mehdi Army of Sadr, has produced only one winner – the Ayatollahs in Tehran. Hakim, Maliki, and Sadr would be quite happy with Tehran getting the upper hand in Iraq. These are undeniable facts. One would have expected Mr Obama to have known these when he commented, as quoted above. If we agree with General Petraeus that Tehran fuels unrest and chaos for its strategic objectives, then the first question that comes to mind is why should the Ayatollahs enter into any kind of negotiation or co-operation with a ‘president’ who is already waving a white flag? Let us go a layer deeper and remind ourselves of the US embassy hostages in Tehran which ended up in tears for the Democrats and secured 8 years of Regan’s conservatism.
2- Nevertheless, based on the assumption that Tehran (read Quds Forces – led by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – IRGC) agrees to co-operate, one wonders what incentive(s) Mr Obama could offer Tehran that Mr Bush and the Europeans have not already put on the table? Needless to remind Mr Obama that the process of negotiation includes both a series of incentives as well as some serious threats, hence Tehran’s Ayatollahs want to know what threats could follow should they reject negotiation and/or incentives?
3- Let me, momentarily, be optimistic and assume Mr Obama has something exciting up his sleeves that would be agreeable to the Ayatollahs; I fear to prophesise the day after, and wonder what guarantees does Mr Obama have that Tehran, after swallowing up Iraq, would not undermine the Israel-Palestine process of negotiation, in order to cut yet another extraordinary bite? Has Mr Obama forgotten that Hamas leaders are in constant conference calls with certain Islamic factions in Tehran? Do we need to remind ourselves that Mr Ahmadinejad aims to wipe Israel off the map?
4- Assuming Mr Obama has a solution that satisfies the power hungry Ayatollahs’ appetite, the nagging question is yet to be answered: when will Mr Obama end this flag waving, and for what price? Would he be satisfied when Tehran establishes the Islamic Empire, and is in control of the whole Middle East? What if Tehran wants more, and leans on Philippines and Sudan? How would Mr Obama rate Tehran’s thirst to become an Islamic superpower, having hegemony over the Arab States in the Middle East, and beyond?
5- Finally, what if none of the above giving ups and giving ins work, and Tehran still wants more; what if all the US troops have been pulled out of Iraq with no end to Tehran’s expansionism in sight; what if a deal in favour of Hamas is struck and Hezbollah expands its wings in Lebanon; and what if Tehran, after all these, has increased its centrifuges from 3000 to 6000 (as recently reported), to the point of no return; at this juncture what valuable cards does Mr Obama, as the new ‘US President’, have to play in order to secure the safety of people in Iran, the Middle East, and of course in the USA?
To weigh the impact of Mr Obama’s advice to General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, on the Ayatollahs, I suggest Tehran’s media are monitored. If his comments are being praised, then Mr Obama should perhaps think again.
In short, to campaign with rhetorical comments is one thing, but to deal with reality on the ground, one needs different skills.