The President of Words

See update below.

Earlier this month, in an angry, even aggressive, response to Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s furious speech at the United Nations Nuclear Non-Proliferation (NPT) review conference in New York, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rebutted his tirades and stated that,

“Ultimately we will all be judged not for our words but for our actions, and we will all be measured not by how assertively we claim our rights but by how faithfully we uphold our responsibilities [1].”

When reading this, one has to think about President Obama who is a master of great speeches and nice words. Already during his campaign, Senator Obama got overwhelming support when delivering a speech in Berlin, a relief, both intellectually and visionary, after the disastrous years of the Bush administration. It was before he even became the pretty much controversial candidate of the Democratic Party. Then he won the 2008 election and went on to give great speeches in Prague and, most importantly, Cairo, when he reached out hands to the Muslim world and even quoted from the Holy Qur’an several times. He then got the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his, well … nice words [2].

Obama also addressed Iran, America’s arch-enemy [3]. In both of his Nowruz messages so far (God forbid that there will be a third one) he quoted from Persian poet Sa’adi’s work,

“The children of Adam are limbs of each other,

Having been created of one essence,”

obviously without any deeper understanding of the circumstances under which Sa’adi’s story had been told, some 750 years ago. I have mentioned that previously [4]. At least, he fortunately seems to believe in such trivialities.

That Obama is not honest became quite clear at the very beginning of the new crisis about Iran’s nuclear program when he publicly revealed the new enrichment site under construction near Qom on the occasion of the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh. Be it because Tehran got to know that the site had been disclosed meanwhile or that Iran, as pretended, rather lived up to its obligations under the NPT; fact is that Iran had informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the new enrichment site at Fordow the week before Obama’s trumpeting. Whether it was unduly late or on time under the NPT is still a matter of dispute.

The new UN Security Council sanctions against Iran, which seem to be underway, and the Obama administration’s efforts in getting permanent powers as China and Russia on board must be scrutinized very carefully. In particular, whom do they actually serve?

When the Iranians met in Geneva in October last year for the first time an American delegation in order to discuss nuclear issues, Iran’s Ambassador to the IAEA Ali-Asghar Soltaniyeh’s letter to the Agency of June 2, 2009 (days before the presidential election), in which Iran had asked for fuel for the research reactor in Tehran which produces medical isotopes for diagnosis and treatment of cancer patients, was immediately mentioned. Under the NPT to which Iran is a signatory since 1968, the IAEA has to provide the country with the respective uranium which has been enriched to just below 20%. That was when the so-called swap deal, mainly brokered by former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, emerged: Iran would ship about 1200 kg of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia where it is further enriched; and France would deliver the respective fuel rods for the TRR later-on. The Iranian delegation and, as far as we know, even in particular president Ahmadinejad welcomed the deal since the Americans seemed to indirectly acknowledge the country’s right to enrich. And the Western powers could have managed to get, for the time being, most of Iran’s LEU out of the country; a classical win-win solution.

But there was an outcry in the country, in particular of defeated presidential candidate and former prime minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi and speaker of the parliament and former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, who vehemently opposed the deal. The discussions showed once again that Iran is not a classic dictatorship but has a pluralistic society with sometimes diverging power structures. While Iran kept a possible solution for the deal on the table, the Obama administration seemed to interpret Iran’s expressed need for further negotiations as oriental bargaining in the bazaar. Take it or leave it, was the message.

That Iran was mentioned, together with North Korea, as possible target for an American attack with nuclear weapons according to the Obama Administration’s new Nuclear Posture Review might in fact be compared with Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ first State of the Union address of 2002.

What happened last week can only be regarded as disingenuous. Efforts of Brazil and Turkey to revive the status quo ante were first more or less ridiculed by Clinton who had phoned Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoğlu before he travelled to Tehran only to express her doubt whether Turkey and Brazil could succeed in brokering the deal. When it amazingly happened, she made angrily sure that sanctions will be inevitable anyway. As to what we know, Obama tacitly endorsed both sides.

The crux might in fact be Iran’s immediate announcement, after the deal that it won’t give up enriching uranium even up to 20%. But who could hold it against it after all? One has to state that this time Obama’s obstinacy has led to the situation that half a year of further diplomatic impasse has led to more, much more, LEU in Iran which has now started to enrich even further; new good reasons for the Iranians for being highly distrustful of Western concessions; no fuel rods for the TRR, etc. pp: a diplomatic disaster. Obama could have said, “Pressure works! Iran blinked on the eve of new U.N. sanctions” as Roger Cohen wrote in his op-ed in the New York Times yesterday, but he rather pole axed Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and all of us who are craving for a win-win solution in the end.

As this new Iran crisis shows, this in all likelihood one-term president (as before Jimmy Carter, another Nobel Peace Laureate) obviously wants to be all at the same time, black and white, Muslim-apprehender and non-Muslim, dove and hawk, Gospel preacher and commander-in-chief. That’s the way he came into office. But that’s the reason for his soon departure, too, I suppose.



[1] Ms Clinton may be ‘the barking dog which doesn’t bite.’ She is in fact well-known for her highly aggressive remarks on Iran which she once wanted to ‘obliterate’ (during her own, unsuccessful campaign) and for which she now unavailingly desires ‘crippling’ sanctions to be imposed by the UN Security Council.

[2] His speech in Oslo was different. Obama, the Commander-in-Chief emerged. He criticized both Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as inadequately appreciating the dangers of the world, and former president George W. Bush as to quick to set aside fundamental American values in pursuit of security. He didn’t have time for the dinner with the King. The Royals were not amused.

[3] This is of course a mutually hostile relationship. Roger Cohen writes in a New York Times op-ed yesterday, quoting former U.S. hostage in Tehran John Limbert, “Americans see Iranians as “devious, mendacious, fanatical, violent and incomprehensible,” while Iranians consider Americans as “bellingerent, sanctimonious, Godless and immortal, materialistic, calculating,” not to mention bullying and exploiting. That’s Ground Zero in the most traumatized relationship on earth and the most tantalizing. Tantalizing because Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice.”

[4] It is a parable on the manners of kings (or tyrants). Sa’adi narrates:

“I was constantly engaged in prayer, at the head of the prophet Yahia’s tomb in the cathedral mosque of Damascus, when one of the Arab kings, notorious for his injustice, happened to arrive on a pilgrimage to it, who offered his supplications and asked for compliance with his need.

“The dervish and the plutocrat are slaves on the floor of the threshold

And those who are the wealthiest are the most needy.”

Then he said to me: “Dervishes being zealous and veracious in their dealings, unite thy mind to mine, for I am apprehensive of a powerful enemy.” I replied: “Have mercy upon thy feeble subject that thou mayest not be injured by a strong foe.”

“With a powerful arm and the strength of the wrist

To break the five fingers of a poor man is sin.

Let him be afraid who spares not the fallen

Because if he falls no one will take hold of his hand.

Whoever sows bad seed and expects good fruit

Has cudgeled his brains from nought and begotten vain imaginations.

Extract the cotton from thy ears and administer justice to thy people

And if thou failest to do so, there is a day of retribution.

The sons of Adam are limbs of each other

Having been created of one essence.

When the calamity of time afflicts one limb

The other limbs cannot remain at rest.

If you have no sympathy for the troubles of others

Thou art not worthy to be called by the name of a man.””


Update May 23, 2010. Obama’s speech yesterday, addressing about 1000 cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is another example of the President’s wishful thinking and delusion. While G.W. Bush’s ‘Mission accomplished’ address on May 1, 2003 aboard USS Abraham Lincoln may be considered symptomatic hubris of a man in tremendous power who had never understood means and meanings of his ‘war on terror’, Obama’s superior intellect should have prevented him from talking about victory in Iraq after a hundred thousand civilians reported death and millions displaced. Has there been democracy installed? More than two months after it’s election the country has not formed a government. According to Obama,

“[T]his is what success looks like: an Iraq that provides no haven to terrorists; a democratic Iraq that is sovereign and stable and self-reliant.”  

Much of his speech was about Afghanistan and a perceived terrorist threat on the American soil by Al Qaeda, with reference to the recent failed New York car bombing attempt, strangely regarded as ‘success’, since “these failed attacks show that pressure on networks like al Qaeda is forcing them to rely on terrorists with less time and space to train.”

“America does not fight for the sake of fighting. We abhor war. As one who has never experienced the field of battle – and I say that with humility, knowing, as General MacArthur said, “the soldier above all others prays for peace” – we fight because we must. We fight to keep our families and communities safe. We fight for the security of our allies and partners, because America believes that we will be safer when our friends are safer; that we will be stronger when the world is more just.” (Emphasis added.)

This entry was posted in Brazil, France, Geneva talks, IAEA, Iran, LEU, P5+1, Tehran Research Reactor, Turkey, USA and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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