Tag Archives: Power

Why Obama Must Win in November

 

You’re not going to get a lot of Romney-Ryan sympathy from me – you might not get a whole lot of pragmatic analysis on everyday-life campaign issues either – but what you will get is an authentic foreign policy analysis. Now it’s not that I’m inherently left-wing, not at all, as a matter of fact I have often described myself as centre-right. But honestly? There’s something about this specific Republican Presidential candidate that scares the shit out of me. And it should scare the shit out of you too.

Now some of you, most of you I hope, will be asking that after this and this and this, who could possibly still be planning on voting Republican?

If you asked that question I am pleased to say that I agree with your sentiment, I like you – we share common values – I’d even go as far as to say you’re an intelligent individual and you will probably go far in life. But really it’s for those of you who are still planning on voting Romney-Ryan that this piece is aimed at.

Let’s set aside my personal distaste for Romney and the general value system that the American right-wing seems to have developed over the past 4 years and let’s be clear:

A vote for Romney is a vote for the demise of America’s global power as a force for good; simple.

I mean, seriously, step outside your own personal biases for a minute; what kind of Presidential candidate writes-off 47% of his electorate before he is elected? Aren’t Presidents meant to serve all Americans? If Romney doesn’t even consider the idea of at least campaigning for the vote of half of his electorate what sort of precedent does that set for his potential Presidency? What sort of precedent does this set for the rest of the world?

I think by now it’s pretty clear that the Republicans aren’t really interested in the good of the world, or even the good of the nation. They are self-interested and (generally) represent a small minority of powerful, rich Americans who are incredibly well organised and mobilise effectively every 4 years; and they are effective, you have to give them that. But what worries me is that the man they’ve thrust forth as their ideal specimen – their leader – has not got a clue, especially when it comes to foreign policy. I mean this guy honestly believes Russia ‘is without question our number 1 geopolitical foe’ – get a grip! Unfortunately for the world, and the Middle East in particular, Mitt Romney’s campaign has been, and continues to be, riddled with nonsensical foreign policy stances.

Let me clarify my point. After more than a year and a half of tumultuous revolution, the Arab world is more socially and politically accessible now than ever before. The region is crying out for someone to demonstrate a model of stable, sincere and solid political government; in return the United States give them the possibility of a President in Mitt Romney – does that make sense to you?

Allow me to elaborate further. What really and truly alarms me about the Republican candidates’ approach to the ultimate seat of power and more specifically, his approach to foreign policy is that, in a time when Palestinian voices were starting to be heard, public opinion beginning to push back against the overly-hawkish repressionist movement, and with peace seemingly closer than ever, Romney not only slams Obama for having ‘thrown…Israel under the bus’, but also brazenly implies that Palestinians don’t want peace. Further evidence of this can be seen in the choice of location for one of Romney’s absurd fundraisers: none other than Jerusalem itself – the most fought-over city in world history. This surely further cements the hawkish, anti-peace agenda which is clearly so central to the Republican campaign.

Not only is it considered distasteful for an American political candidate to hold a high-profile fundraiser abroad, as it implies a commitment to a foreign country as a means of reaching out to American interest groups, but the man actually had the nerve to more or less call Palestinians lazy for lacking economic ‘vitality’. This is, let’s remember, an occupied territory – what goes in and out of the country is controlled strictly by the Israeli government. And Romney is blaming the Palestinians for lacking vitality? Oh yeah, did I mention Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Mitt Romney actually first met in the late 1970s when they were co-workers at corporate advisory firm Boston Consulting Group? Disaster.
For all involved Romney as President would be a calamity. For America as a state, (yes, national interest still exists, even when smothered) these sorts of acts throw the more ‘politically conscious’ Arab governments offside. For Israel, there will be a rise in international condemnation of their actions not to mention that their neighbourhood may get even more hostile. Ultimately, for the world, the continued lack of peace that the American government will impose upon the Middle East will continue to hamper security and economic development around the world.

On the other hand we have Barak Obama – a man who has quite adamantly shown that he is not as typically pro-Israeli as previous White House occupants. For all intents and purposes he seems determined to try and counterbalance the immense power emanating out of centres such as Washington, New York and Los Angeles. The President seems willing to give Palestinians and, quite frankly the rest of the world, a fair go.
Despite these seemingly good intentions, under Barack Obama the US has still vetoed UN Security Council resolutions and blocked the road towards Palestinian statehood. On a regional level it has continued play the role of the worlds bully. Drone and special forces attacks continue to violate the sovereignty of greater Middle Eastern regimes. The President has still had to rely on, and be influenced by, the great clout held by lobby groups, special interests and the mega-rich – maybe to a lesser extent than his political opponent, but it was still there.

I’m going to be honest with you – I was extremely hopeful that 4 years under Barack Obama would bring a change that the world so desperately needed in the desperate times of 2008. I was disappointed at the outcome. However, as the plucky optimist I am, I cling to the hope that another term in the White House for Obama is just the right diagnosis for our current illness.
Those among us who strive for stability and prosperity should bear in mind that, should President Obama be re-elected for a second term in office, he will be released from the increasingly nasty and sticky constraints of fundraising, schmoozing and playing generally the ‘politics game’, free to actually do his job.

Barack Obama’s current ‘shackles’ include foreign policy lobby groups such as The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) who are, as you’d expect, unashamedly pro-Israeli. The liberation from these political shackles will hopefully encourage Obama to enact real change in the Middle East and in particular in the Israel-Iran-Palestine love/hate triangle. It seems to me that Barack Hussein Obama is a fundamentally good man, not a God, a man who makes mistakes and faces adversity, but perhaps most importantly; a man who fundamentally knows right from wrong. That being so, I am of the belief that a man with the drive and ambition of Barak Obama would not want to leave the most powerful seat in office without leaving his stamp for good on the world.
Let’s trust him.

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The West & The Middle East for Dummies: A complicated relationship of power

 

Although other regions of the world do face issues of poor governance, violence, economic disparity and instability, none of these regions are as pivotal to the maintenance of the West’s global hegemony as the Middle East. Despite initially appearing broad and sweeping, this statement is supported by a multitude of historical, political and economic factors which combine to affirm that engagement with the Middle East is indeed vital to the preservation of Western global dominance.

In modern history the role of the West in the Middle East has been fundamental in forming an understanding of the interactions between the two cultures. Perhaps this is best exemplified by what is known as the Asia Minor Agreement. This agreement effectively carved up the post-Ottoman Middle East into British and French spheres of influence; a development which certainly played an obtrusive role in shaping the geopolitical dynamics of the present-day Middle East. To this extent it endures the test of reason that the West continues to act in an overbearing and interfering manner towards the Middle Eastern region, perhaps sensing it holds a duty – but more likely an intrinsic interest – in continuing to shape the region’s future as it so brazenly did in the early twentieth century.

In terms of politics the two most prominent and hotly-debated issues involving both the West and the Middle East are that of the Israel-Palestine discord and the rise of extremist Islamic groups. The Israel-Palestine issue has been at the heart of political tensions between the West and most Middle Eastern states for more than 60 years and continues to play a vital role in the diplomatic relations between the two. In many ways Israel is itself considered a Western state and as such Western support for the country is almost unquestioned. Simply put, to maintain its hegemony the West must support Israel – a Western state in an Eastern region – to do otherwise would be ludicrous and counterproductive. In addition to this ideological battleground the continued existence of an Israeli state serves a far more pragmatic purpose – to champion and maintain American power in the region through both hard and soft power engagement of its Middle Eastern neighbours. Likewise, the relatively recent rise of anti-Western extremist Islamic groups in the Middle East and surrounds has added to Western political engagement and prioritisation of the region. As a result of the rise of such extremist groups the collective Middle East has attained the label of the most anti-Western region in the world. This has resulted in the West taking steps to focus its attention on the region in order to deal with the challenge Islamic fundamentalists have so bluntly and blatantly posed to the dominance of the West.

Economically, the Middle East as a region is indisputably the most important player in the hydrocarbon supply chain. What bestows this oil and gas-supplying region with so much of its power is the control it wields over the global supply of hydrocarbons, a resource which is one of the central and fundamental aspects of any modern economy – from personal transportation to electricity generation, globalised trade to heavy industry, hydrocarbons oil the gears of economic activity in the twenty-first century. Global trade itself is also at the mercy of regional stability in the form of the Suez Canal – a man-made waterway in Egypt connecting the economic powerhouses of Europe and Asia. Should the Canal be shut down global trade would be thrown into turmoil, prices of goods on shelves around the world would sky-rocket and the economies of Europe and Asia in particular would be sent spiralling out of control. The ramifications of a worst-case scenario in both hydrocarbon and trade for a culture which was founded on, and continues to draw its power from industrialisation, capitalism and globalisation need no further explanation. It is for this reason and all those listed above that the West chooses to focus so much of its time and energy on the Middle East – a region racked by of poor governance, violence, economic disparity and instability.

Complex Relationships to Determine the Future of the Gulf

 

The Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar and organizing its biggest-ever minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf, as preparations accelerate for a possible flare-up with Iran…

The Middle East of today is abuzz with a frenzy of political brinkmanship, zero-sum games and delicate strategic manoeuvrers, the likes of which the region has seldom seen before – a hefty statement, but one with basis nonetheless. Elections have been held (somewhat successfully I might add) in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt; more gentle and subdued renditions of political reform have been called for in states such as Jordan, Algeria and Morocco. Yet despite this significant progressive movement in one of the most politically stagnant regions of the world, there remain regimes determined to “ignore” calls for reform through force, coercion and bloodshed. Such a regime in Syria has caused the deaths of many thousands of people and is responsible for the countless bloodcurdling images plastered across our 24/7 news channels. The Iranian regime on the other hand seems to be getting its thrills from its nuclear program. Whether the program is strictly civilian in nature or has a more sinister goal is yet to be proved beyond any doubt; however what is certain is that the Iranian’s are not allowing themselves to be bullied by the West. A comprehensive list of sanctions and embargos have been imposed by the USA, European Union and the United Nations which have had a somewhat crippling effect on the Iranian economy at large but seem to have had little effect on the attitude of the most powerful men in Tehran; instead these men threaten to shut the Strait of Hormuz. This political brinkmanship has created a point of conflict between the pro-US Israel, who see a nuclear-armed Iran as an immediate threat to its existence, and the more “independent minded” Iranians, who claim the right to a peaceful nuclear program and emphatically deny nuclear weapon aims. The potential for this situation to go from simmering to explosive is extremely alarming for all involved in the region, thus the US has decided to take a more proactive approach through an increased military presence in the Gulf, most recently as mentioned above, through the construction of a missile-defense radar station in the Gulf Emirate of Qatar. Additional complications are uncovered when one explores the conjoined interests of Iran and Syria on one side and the US and Qatar on the other. All-in-all, as ever, the Middle East and its players have concocted a stunningly complicated and perplexing situation whose outcome could have extremely serious geopolitical implications not only for the immediate region, but for the rest of the world.

Iranian-Israeli hostilities have been a near constant issue plaguing the region since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. On this point it must be pointed out that the USA have been accusing the Iranians of constructing a nuclear weapon since the 1980s – before I was even born! Thus the latest accusations and escalation of the situation must be taken with a sizeable grain of salt. Nonetheless Iranian-Israeli antagonism has been the source of much angst in the region and around the world resulting in the international community imposing extremely restrictive sanctions on the Iranian regime in response to what is perceived to be a nuclear weapons program within the state. The problem here is that, as far as I have read, no weapons program has been found, proved-to-exist or otherwise, and thus the Iranian people are being punished for, as yet, an unconfirmed offence. The logic of this is indisputably twisted yet is allowed to take place in the full view of all due to the imperfect international system. This is not to dismiss the deep suspicions of many that the Iranians are building a nuclear weapons program, but since when did suspicion prove to be evidence for punishment?

To try and untangle the Iranian quagmire one must look not only at the situation in the Gulf but at the international system as a whole. It is clear that, for reasons I will not go into, the USA and Israel have a ‘special relationship’. Thus, put at its simplest, the US are willing to do the bidding of Israel at international organisations such as the UN while wielding their unparalleled influence to pressure other similarly powerful states to adopt similar dim views on the situation in the Persian Gulf. This contention, combined with the economical reasoning that a serious nuclear standoff in the Gulf would cause world oil prices to skyrocket, leaving an already frail global economy in a much worse condition, has undoubtedly motivated the West to act harshly on suspicions about Iranian nuclear policy. In return the Iranian regime has lashed out with threats of its own: shutting the Strait of Hormuz and letting loose their significant proxy forces on the region are just some of many such threats. As a result, the US has been pushed into proactive action, cementing its already significant strategic position in the region to deter an Iranian outburst. The latest news of the US Navy shooting dead an Indian fisherman off the coast of the UAE is a mere signal of the increased prominence of US forces in the Gulf and constitutes a symptom of the rise in tensions in the region.

The big news story coming out of the Middle East at the moment is that of the Syrian Civil War. In typical Middle Eastern style, this conflict convolutedly ties in with issues involving Iran, in particularly the decision from the US to station a missile-defense radar station in Qatar. Since the 1979 revolution Iran and Syria have cultivated ever closer strategic ties. This relationship has been fostered by similar feelings of animosity towards Saddam Hussein, the USA and Israel. Today the two have a relationship which makes Syria Iran’s closest key strategic ally – and thus an ally Iran cannot afford to lose at such a pivotal and fragile moment in regional politics. Thus Iran has been proactively arming and aiding the Assad government through any means it can to keep the regime in power and therefore retain its closest and most important ally; in this Iranian national interest goals are clear. On the other side of the scale Qatar (along with Saudi Arabia) has called for, been accused of, and for all intents and purposes has been, arming the Syrian opposition – in direct contradiction to the national interest and thus the wishes of their large northern neighbour. Arguably, this leaves Qatar vulnerable to the wrath of the Iranian regime, which despite having once cordial relations with the extremely wealthy Emirate, will surely look on their involvement in Syria with some disdain. In addition to this, the lifeblood of the Qatari economy – its LNG production capacity – is not only extremely vulnerable to Iranian attack, but is actually shared with Iran through the North Pars Gas Field. Therefore the Americans – who already operate a significant military base in Qatar – are capitalising on this vulnerability by assuring the Qatari’s of their physical and economic safety from their northern neighbour while simultaneously shoring up their strategic military position in the region through a new missile-defense radar station. Such a station will undoubtedly prove useful to their staunch Israeli allies should Iran ever decide to strike – nuclear or not – against the Jewish state. It seems the ball is now, temporarily at least, in the Iranian’s court, their forthcoming decision could be one which determined the course of the future of the Gulf region.

The complexity of the relationships between the aforementioned key players of the Middle East cannot be understated, and thus the above discussion is merely a scratching of the surface in its simplest form. It is this interconnectedness that makes Middle Eastern geopolitical relations so charming and captivating despite its often serious implications. In spite of my recognition that predicting the future in such a volatile environment is a fool’s game, perhaps I can leave you with a scenario which seems, to me at least, to be either the most likely or at least realistically the most desirable:

The collapse of the Assad-regime is almost unavoidable, what the regime will be replaced by is impossible to predict. This being said, due to the large Sunni Muslim population in Syria it is more than likely that the new Syrian administration will likely consist of a large Sunni segment which understandably will not be as amicable with Iran as was the Assad regime. In Iran the current stagnated situation may continue for some time, however with the departure of their Syrian allies life may begin to get a whole lot tougher. In addition to the lack of allies, the continued imposition of economic sanctions and embargos will serve to slowly erode the notably patriotic spirit of the Iranian people who may, at some point revolt in a similar fashion to the 2009 election protests. Whether such a popular revolt serves to topple the current Iranian regime or whether a similar end-game to that of 2009 plays out is beyond the bounds of sensible conjecture. However one thing can be ascertained, just like the situations in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia the future truly is in the hands of the Iranian people.