The Obama Doctrine – An opportunity in America’s foreign relations

President Obama addresses students on his visit to Israel

President Obama addresses students on his visit to Israel

Obama’s doctrine is now clear; the breakthrough in the Iranian nuclear talks clearly show the Obama government has shifted toward engagement and diplomacy within foreign policy. However, this movement from the long standing default position of interventionist foreign policy which so characterised Obama’s predecessors, has caused condemnation from much of the Republican Party and Israel.

George Bush famously named Iran as one leg of an axis of evil in 2002 which coincided when the country’s nuclear programme becoming public in the same year. Since then the United States, E.U and U.N have all sort to apply pressure on the ‘rogue’ state through sanction that banned nuclear technology, heavy weaponry and prevented the sale of Iranian crude oil. With Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power whose bombastic style and ultra conservative views, made any agreements highly unlikely. But with the election of Hassan Rouhani which started the first dialogue between the U.S and Iranian heads of state in 30 years has buoyed the optimism in the two camps on agreeing to nuclear deals. This came to fruition recently when the G5+1 nuclear states agreed to lift U.N sanctions if Iran agrees to dramatically slash it stockpiles of enriched uranium that could be used in nuclear weaponry.

Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu

This agreement has come under fire from both Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Republican Party who believes the deal is still far too lenient on Iran. Both have suggested the agreements still allow Iran to have the infrastructure in place to build nuclear weapons and the sanction relief which will bring billions of dollars into the country, will provide the funding for pumping their terror machine worldwide.

Although Israel’s hesitancy can be understood as they are far more likely to suffer if this experimental American foreign policy fails. However this is an opportunity that shouldn’t be overlooked by the parties who have sought to kill this deal. The age where American military power could defeat its opposition is disappearing, the American public has lost heart for their military men and women fighting wars in far flung places for little obvious reasons, so engagement with these states has become more necessary.

Engagement if successful is beneficial for both states, Iran would benefit from sanction relief; America believes they can turn a hostile government at the moment into a reasoned one, with the right incentives. This would allow the U.S to have a line of communication with one of the largest states in an increasingly uncertain region and position itself against the perceived greater threat in the region, ISIS.

Whatever the agreement on the amount of enriched uranium Iran can keep or the number of centrifuges that remain operational, keeping Tehran to hold up their end of the agreement is key to the success of these negotiations.   The agreed upon framework has provided stringent inspections and greater transparency with the Iranian nuclear programme, this provides far more information on Iran’s nuclear threat than was ever present when there was no communication between the western world and Iran.

Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton

Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton

What is there to loose from the deal? It reduces dramatically the nuclear capabilities and weapons of Iran, which sanctions failed to do as they acquired an arsenal and nuclear stock piles from under the counter sources. There is greater transparency and knowledge of their capabilities and there is communication with Tehran in an increasingly more uncertain region. If this agreement fails, America and importantly Israel can revert back to sanctions and they both have the military might to prevent the worst of situations from occurring. It appears there’s far more to gain than loose from the recent talks.

This philosophy of what’s there to loose from greater accommodation of previously chastised states has seemed to summarise America’s and Obama’s recent foreign policy decisions. This week we have seen Obama hold the first formal talks with Cuba in half a century and similarly the president has looked to turn the page with Burma. It’s no coincidence that this more open foreign policy has been fuelled by America desire to reduce their military spending and feasibly could be a safer and cheaper way of the United States conducting their foreign policy. If so this is the opportunity to shape their foreign policy for decades to come and engage with the states they disagree with rather than use their considerable force, but it remains to be seen if the United States congress will break with their interventionist past , agree to the Iranian framework and realise the opportunity that lays before them.

By Alex Norwood, Junior Writer for Daily Political View.


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