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.


US Blackmail?

February 5, 2009

I’m finding it very difficult to believe that the US would threaten to stop sharing intelligence with the UK if details of Binyam Mohamed having allegedly been tortured are made public. The Foreign Secretary must clarify whether he informed the Judges in the Binyam Mohamed case that they should refrain from disclosing any facts relating to the alleged torture, and if true who from the US government communicated this threat to him.

Any form of torture should be unreservedly condemned. We cannot have any moral authority and lecture others on convictions obtained after torture has been used let alone indefinite detention without trial based on evidence obtained under torture. If what has been alleged is true, the Foreign Secretary should firmly stand up to the Americans and dismiss any interference in the administration of justice in the UK courts. He should remind them of what President Obama said in his inauguration speech:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.’

Anyone from the UK involved in any torture should be prosecuted and brought to justice as should those in the US. After all, if members of the armed forces are held to account for irresponsible and abusive conduct, members of the intelligence services should not be allowed to do as they please under the pretext of gathering intelligence in the war on terror.


Obama’s Historic Moment

January 20, 2009

Barack Obama will be sworn in as America’s 44th president later today. He is the first African-American to become President and expectations of him are monstrously high not just in America but around the world which is reflected in the astonishing fact that 2 million people are expected in Washington and millions more will watch the inauguration ceremony around the world. Not since the release of Nelson Mandela has there been such expectations placed on a politician and managing these will be Obama’s first challenge.  And after today’s pomp and pageantry, Obama will have to deal with a bulging domestic and international in tray with the US economy, Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East and Iran needing urgent attention.

Today also marks the end of the Bush Presidency which to say the least has been tumultuous. He leaves the US economy in a mess and also leaves several outstanding foreign policy issues that have defined his presidency including his ‘war on terror.’ Leaving the merits or otherwise of Bush’s foreign policy to one side, Obama has a great deal of work to do to ensure the US is viewed in a positive light around the world after Bush’s unmitigated PR disaster during his eight years in charge. If Obama succeeds in dealing with this one goal, he’ll have done remarkable well.