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Mideast Peace: Who Is Obama Trying To Please?

On Iran And Mideast Peace: Who Is Obama Trying To Please?


by Jalal Alavi

When, in a recent AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference, Barack Obama revealed some of the specifics of his revised approach in dealing with Iran and its controversial nuclear program, many John McCain supporters interpreted it as either a sign of weakness or an indication of a flawed character on his part that is out to deceive the US electorate. It goes without saying that such interpretations as the above are no more than simplistic assessments of a rather complex situation, and thus not a proper analysis of the big picture in which Obama is but one player. In other words, a proper analysis of the situation would not have so much involved Obama as it would have the skewed nature of politics in the United States , as a result of which a liberal presidential nominee like Obama was eventually forced to speak in the manner of a hawkish neoconservative.

The truth of the matter is that politics in the United States has for long been a victim of corporate greed, capitalist expansion, and proxies thereof, and that those who have vested interest in perpetuating the status quo have so grasped control of the US policymaking apparatus that even a self-proclaimed anti-lobbyist presidential nominee like Barack Obama cannot but succumb to their cynical and at times outrageous demands. Value judgments aside, consider, for example, Obama’s altered attitude toward holding direct and unconditional talks with such figures as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, or his ahistorical, though recently modified, view regarding the status of East Jerusalem put forward in the AIPAC conference he attended. Here, it is all too clear that Obama’s careful maneuvering is a result of his concern for not antagonizing such pro-Israel organizations as AIPAC.

Of course, the situation becomes even more compounded when one takes into account Obama’s presidential campaign promise of introducing meaningful change (as opposed to mere reform) into the manner in which politics is conducted in the United States. Here, such vacillating and at times biased behavior as was mentioned above can cost the Obama campaign as well as the United States - should Obama win the White House in November - quite dearly. To be sure, the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran , because of their undemocratic credentials, do not deserve to represent their nations in any legitimate discussions or negotiations of an international nature. Any sort of a decision, however, on the part of the United States for or against holding talks with such figures as Ahmadinejad should not involve the concerns or narrow interests of such proxy organizations as AIPAC, but rather the long-term interests of the US citizenry, which may or may not necessitate such talks.

As it stands, Obama’s AIPAC-friendly declaration of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel (regardless of what clarification he may have offered after the AIPAC conference) has not only bolstered extremist forces throughout the region, but also has cast serious doubt on his ability to withstand lobby pressure once in the White House. True, ever since its creation in the 1940s, Israel has had to mainly rely on the United States for its security and livelihood. From this, however, one cannot logically deduce that Israeli interests are necessarily the same as those of the United States . Consider, for example, the Bush administration’s decision to wage war against Iraq: though Saddam Hussein’s removal from power might have worked to the advantage of Israel, the same cannot be said about the United States, for whom the price of oil and Mideast stability have traditionally been of utmost strategic importance.

True, Obama did raise the issue of government vulnerability to lobby pressure from the very early on in his campaign for Democratic nomination, meaning that, as president of the United States , he would have to strive hard to sever the unhealthy link between the two. The argument put forward in this commentary suggests, however, that when it comes to such sensitive issues as US policy toward the Middle East, for example, there is no guarantee that Obama would be able to pursue a different path than that chosen by George W. Bush, who, under pressure from neoconservative circles in the United States , got engaged in a bloody campaign of Mideast domination. And this, indeed, is what Obama needs to urgently address, if transformation of politics and thus of foreign policymaking processes in the United States - a major concern of his electoral base - is what he is really after.

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Jalal Alavi is a sociologist and political commentator residing in Britain.

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