Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Grand Conspiracy Theory, or Reality 1, Obama 0

Let's take a look at some of Barack Obama's major diplomatic moves in the Middle East. Primarily, these are:
  • A state visit to Turkey;

  • maintaining American troops in Iraq for the next 18 months;

  • a diplomatic charm offensive towards Iran

  • sending more troops to Afghanistan to stabilize both that country and, by implication, Pakistan

So what do Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan have in common? The answer is the Baghdad Pact. A solid chain of pro-American regimes from Turkey to Pakistan to contain Russia's south to south-western expansion is an ancient Cold War dream of the West. It also implies that Obama is retreating to the "plan B" after the United States found itself able to do little to protect Georgia from Russian adventuring last year.

The first problem with Obama's plan is that both Russia and Iran have serious interests in defying it. From Russia's point of view, this should be obvious. Iran breaks the wall of containment on Russia's southern flank; has tons of natural gas and oil; is a major player if not quite regional hegemon in the Middle East; and is a market for Russian technology (military or non-military, conventional or non-conventional). Iran benefits from Russian markets, money, and technology as well as seeing its interests defended with a permanent veto on the United Nations Security Council.

The second problem with Obama's plan is that Obama is the guy in charge of carrying it out. To date, Obama's approach towards disrupting the Russian-Iranian diplomatic alliance has been to appease it with goodwill statements and diplomatic concessions -- exactly the kind of behavior that strengthens alliances instead of weakening them!


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