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He can get on with Iran now

October 9, 2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

I was as surprised by the announcement of Obama as the winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize as anyone else. There were names being floated like Tony Blair, Nicholas Sarkozy and Bill Clinton among others. I do not know what these gentlemen have contributed to world peace. Obama has changed the course of action in world diplomacy. From the days of George Bush when the UN was bypassed before embarking on the invasion of Iraq, Obama’s approach was a refreshing departure. He talked to the Russians about reducing nuclear weapons. The man is sincere. This prize has given him a much needed shot in the arm. I too, like many people believe that the award has come way too soon. It is about his intention rather than any concrete achievement that he has been given the peace prize. Then, I guess there was a lack of competition.  That is not to say that the guy did not deserve it. And this prize also does not mean that his presidency has been a success. There is a long way to go and it is going to be a tough road ahead. One thing that this prize may well do will be that the health care bill might get passed and that would be a big relief for Barack Obama. The health care bill has become a question of his prestige and this increased stature on the world stage may help him in domestic issues. The guy will get back his swagger and that will be good for America. A president who is unsure of himself is a big liability. Obama will get a shot of confidence with this Nobel Peace Prize and that may be good not only for America but for the world at large.

I hope he is not taking this citation too seriously. The ground reality is such that he may need to make some hard choices and those may not gel with his newly found ‘ambassador of peace’ image endorsed by the Nobel Peace Prize that he has just received. Iran is a serious issue and slogans and diplomacy can achieve only so much. There are times when one has to go to war to ensure peace. Barack Obama, I hope has the wisdom and the fortitude to take hard decisions, Bismarckian decisions.

I am not a proponent of war. War is the last resort. But one cannot shy away from a situation hoping it will solve by itself. It will not. I thought Obama was moving towards taking a tough position vis-à-vis Iran. The way he backed down from the East European Missile Defense Shield to placate the Russians was a tactical move to veer them away from Tehran. It is well known that Russian scientists are working on Iranian nuclear installations. His decision not to meet the Dalai Lama was again an attempt to assuage the concerns of the Chinese. These moves and the leaks about the nuclear plant in Qom and his strong exception to the Iranian ‘deception’ seconded both Britain and France was a hawkish stand on a sensitive issue. It is clear that Iran is hell bent on going nuclear.  The other bad news is that they have test fired a missile with a 2,500 km range. This is a serious development. It is a fact is that Iranians do not have indigenous technology to get the fissile technology or the missile technology. Russians are helping them as are the Chinese. The A.Q. Khan network had been active in giving blue prints of nuclear technology to Tehran.

Obama needed to take a tough stand, both for the audience at home and for the security concerns of the Middle East. I thought that the man was moving in this direction decisively and without any apologies.  This is the right time too, to be able to do something about Iran. The Americans are stationed both on the east and the west of Iran. Americans have bases in Turkey in the north. It is also true that they are withdrawing from Iraq. The good thing for them is that they have given the internal security responsibilities to the Iraqi forces, so they have a free hand. There are still some 120,000 American troops stationed in Iraq. The American forces in Afghanistan may not be able to enter Iran from the east because of the inhospitable desert, but they could enter in the south east of Iran. This is not to occupy the country but to dismantle their illegal nuclear installations and manage a regime change to one that is more open and democratic, away from the Islamic clergy that is ruling this critical country since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The British may have gone but that does not mean they are not ready to contribute in a war that is imperative for world peace. I am sure that Obama will get the approval of the UN before he takes any punitive action against Tehran. That is the right way to go about it and it is essential to maintain world order. Yet, it is equally important to stop nuclear weapons proliferation. Ahmedinijad’s assertion that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, impresses no one. If Tehran manages to detonate even a small nuclear device that would be a huge step backward for the region. The aim will be to dismantle all the nuclear installations and missile silos with the least of collateral damage on either side. Obama has the task cut out for him. I would have loved to talk about the Israel-Palestinian issue but it has been entangled so completely that it would be too ambitious for any president to give any guarantee about a successful solution. However, it is good that Obama has been addressing the Palestinian issue right at the beginning of his presidency. This will require quite a resolve and taking the problem head on.

If Obama shirks away from taking these hard decisions, he would have failed his people and the world at large. Being the president of the most powerful nation in the world comes with a huge responsibility and that is much more important than a citation from a prestigious institution such as the Nobel Prize.

Update 14.10.2009: ‘The Senate Finance Committee passed a long-awaited $829 billion health care bill Tuesday by a 14-9 vote. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was the lone committee member to cross party lines, breaking with other Republicans to vote for the measure. All of the committee’s Democrats supported the bill. The vote represents a pivotal step forward in the contentious health care debate. The Finance Committee is the last of five congressional panels to consider health care legislation before debate begins in the full House and Senate.’ Source: CNN.

The Nobel Peace Prize may have had something to do with the passage of the bill. The bill is still facing stiff resistance. The country is divided on this issue as it is on some other like the gay marriage and others. Obama has declared that he will give the money received with the Peace Prize to charity.

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