Obama U-turn

September 17, 2009

President Obama is to scrap the European missile defence shield which is a major break with the Bush administration and a feather in the cap of Russian intransigence diplomacy. The scrapping of the defence shield is a major triumph for the tough stance the Russians adopted and will give them renewed confidence in any future military/NATO dealings. The Czechs and the poles have been left in limbo and will feel that their defence is not the same priority under President Obama as it was under the previous administration. They will also now have to deal more cautiously with a confident and aggressive Russia.

And perhaps the most important factor in this is the impact of this decision on the Iranians. What should we read into this policy reversal as far as the Iranian nuclear issue is concerned? Does this decision indicate that Washington doesn’t think Iran will in the immediate future acquire a nuclear weapon or does it mean that it is inevitable that the Iranians will acquire a nuclear weapon but that it will leave it to others at a regional level such as the Israelis to contain and deal with? If it is the latter then this is a seriously significant shift in US foreign policy.

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Clerics Challenge Ayatollah

July 6, 2009

The death of Michael Jackson knocked the situation in Iran off the main slot in the news media. At the time, the police were restoring their control after the mass demonstrations and once control was regained, we started hearing noises from the Clergy and others that the demonstrations were treasonous plots to overthrow the Government and those involved should be tried for treason. It sounded very familiar and with the foreign media being monitored and restricted in their movements we expected a firm crackdown by pro government militia and the Police.

However it is being reported that that the Clerics in the city of Qom who are regarded as the most influential of all Clerics in Iran have declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election to be illegitimate and have condemned the crackdown against those protesting. This is highly significant and is akin to a direct challenge to the authority of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and will no doubt be a huge fillip to those who are claiming the election was rigged. Whether the Clerics in Qom are able to do anything more than make a statement is debatable. I doubt if their comments will lead to a recount of the votes or a new election but their statement is significant and may ensure that the expected crackdown against those demonstrating isn’t brutal and that any future elections will be fairer and more closely monitored. It’s a small step but nevertheless very significant.