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Iran and Obama's Intentions - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If prior to leaving office former US President George W. Bush had announced the withdrawal of US troops [from Iraq] with the same enthusiasm shown by his successor Barack Obama, then one party that would have taken to the streets declaring victory is Iran. Iran would have announced that it has taught America a lesson that will ensure that it will not use force again. But since the call for US withdrawal has come from Obama, the accepted analysis is that this represents a change in Washington policies with a return to traditional diplomacy away from the pre-emptive strikes that were the Bush-era approach.

On this preface, we can say that Obama’s outstretched hand towards dialogue with Iran is equivalent to an iron fist in a velvet glove; this has allowed Obama to shrewdly confuse Tehran, and take the initiative.

In Washington there has been an idea circulating for the last two years which calls for a speedy withdrawal from Iraq, due to the high financial cost [of the war], and the importance of devoting forces to Afghanistan. But before any of this; the importance of dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

US withdrawal from Iraq will return Washington’s power as a mediator, an ally, and even an enemy; in this case I am talking about hostility with Iran. For the suggestion is that Washington cannot engage with Iran when as a result of its presence in Iraq it is open [to attacks] from the rear.

And so today Obama is attempting to iron out the remnants of former President George Bush’s [policies], in particular the hotbeds of conflict, and the political disputes which began in the Middle East and spread into Europe. However more importantly than all of this is [resolving] the internal situation [in the USA].

However this does not include accepting a nuclear Iran. Even if Obama showed a willingness to accept the Iranian nuclear program on the grounds that this could lead Iran in a more rational direction after the Mullahs have satisfied their pride; America would encounter a different reality [and not accept this].

Washington is not important in the rejection or acceptance of Iranian possession of nuclear weapons, but it is Israel who views this as a danger [to its existence]. It is true that Iran might not use its weapons against Tel Aviv, but [merely possessing these weapons] will enhance its strength in intimidating Israel.

This is something that Arab states are well aware of for it is they who will be the true victims of Iranian ambition. Iran is not interested in confronting Israel rather Iran [merely] wants to contain Tel Aviv as if it were playing a game of chess. Iranian expansion in the region comes at the expense of Arab states, and [results in] Iran setting fire to our countries.

Therefore allowing Iran to gain power and influence and in other words kill two birds with one stone by; supporting the propagation of the principles of the [Iranian] revolution which have truly begun to infiltrate our region, while also imposing itself on Israel as a power, which will force Israel to back down and not clash with the Iranians.

From here we can read the direction of Obama, for it seems that the US President is not betting on Iran accepting his out-stretched hand as this would mean the end of the Iranian dream of possessing nuclear weapons and gaining influence thereby. Rather Obama is betting that Iran will reject this. When they do he will acquire international support against Iran.

Prior to this Obama was able, with the help of his [inauguration] speech, to shrewdly confuse Tehran, and reduce the Iranian escalation in Iraq, which supports Obama’s idea of pulling out of Baghdad.

Until now it seems that Obama has been given the time and space he needs to organize his policies in Washington, internally and externally, and the proof of this can be seen in the magnitude of the apparent confusion regarding the Iranian response to Obama’s outstretched hand.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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