"While dictators rage and statesmen talk, all Europe dances — to The Lambeth Walk."

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Obama & Roxana Saberi

It was announced earlier this week that at least 70% of Americans are happy with the direction in which Obama is taking America.

Rarely, far more people think that the country is heading in the right direction than not.

I must say this surprises me greatly, because I can't really see that Obama is headed in the right direction at all, particularly when it comes to foreign policy.

The tip of this iceberg is the case of US journalist Roxana Saberi, arrested in Iran in January - allegedly for buying a bottle of wine.

Miss Saberi, who is of Iranian and Japanese parentage, was then accused of working as a journalist without a valid press card. Finally, on 8th April 2009, the charges against her were upgraded to a full blown accusation that she was an American spy.

Between January and March, Miss Saberi was only able to contact her family twice, and confirmed that she was being held in Tehran's Evin Prison. She claimed that she was not being physically harmed.

On 20th of April she was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 8 years in prison.

It is understood that Iranian President Ahmadinejad personally told the prosecutor that Saberi should be permitted a proper defence.

However, it has now been announced that Miss Saberi is on hunger strike, and has been so for five days.

The BBC refers to this as a 'strange case'. Former colleagues of Miss Saberi describe her as careful, and insist she was aware of the dangers of operating as a Western journalist in a repressive state and would not have taken unnecessary risks.

So what exactly is going on?

In my humble opinion, Miss Saberi is a pawn in the game between Obama and Ahmadinejad. Admittedly, she was arrested before Obama's Newroz message overture to the Iranian regime, but the charges have been slowly escalating, and now obviously she is in prison and possibly in grave danger.

Her father and Western observers claim that the trial was a sham which lasted only a few minutes.

This is quite clearly a test of Obama's mettle. Some disagree; they claim it is the easiest way for Iranian hardliners to shoot down Obama's peace and reconciliation hopes in flames, by forcing his hand.

There's probably some partial truth in this. However, what I see is a very inexperienced US President increasingly floundering and being played by his friends and his enemies alike when it comes to the world stage.

The world is curious; how far can this man, who talks peace and has no real foreign policy experience, be pushed?

How far will he go to preserve the fantasy of an America loved equally by all the peoples of the world?

My fear is that he will actually go quite far. Then, like Bush, when he feels forced up against the wall, he may well lash out and regret it. Unlike Bush, he seems to believe that every other leader on earth is also a naive optimist who just wants to play nice.

That is a hallmark of inexperience.

As 'The Frozen North' has it:

At least Obama has finally spoken up about Saberi’s case. He says that “we are going to be in contact” with Iran via the Swiss, and that it is “appropriate” that Saberi is released. (Tough talk, eh?) It’s not clear why Saberi being released should be seen as ”a coup” for Obama. If Saberi is innocent, and Iran is playing political games here, then forcing an American president to go on bended knee to them, via the Swiss, would be something of “a coup” for Iran, not for America.

Exactly. The problem with negotiating with regimes such as Iran's is that there is very little common ground, which is absolutely necessary for meaningful dialogue, promises and compromise.

If one side wants peace and the other simply sees peace as a stop on the road to more concessions and ultimate victory - well, we have the Israeli-Arab conflict. This is the elephant in the room when it comes to modern negotiations, but that doesn't mean it's untrue.

I am fairly confident that if Ahmadinejad thought of Obama as a man who says what he means and means what he says, then Miss Saberi would be back at home.

These are dangerous times - can the civilised world afford Obama's learning curve?

As Miss Saberi turns 32 in Iranian custody today, I would suggest not.

Hat tip: The Frozen North.


Nick said...

Well written post, as always. Thanks for the mention.

Dr.D said...

I'm sure it is not news to you to hear that Zero is an idiot. He has no sense of the real world, but lives entirely in a fantasy in his own mind. He thinks nothing of disgracing the whole of America if it feeds his narcissism.

All that said, I have very little sympathy for any western journalist who goes into a place like iran, and even less when it is a woman. This is simply looking for trouble, and they are virtually guaranteed of finding it. I do not think the rest of us should be obligated to come to the aid of those who put themselves in harms way in this manner. I for one am more than willing to forego any knowledge of what is going on in Tehran. (I will leave that to the CIA, if they are still in business after Zero destroys their morale.)

MK said...

Obama's popularity is largely thanks to the media, he's their boy and they have a vested interest in ensuring he remains popular. So this doesn't surprise me in the least, i'd say that his popularity will only start to wane towards the end of his first term and maybe even into the second term when there isn't much point helping him anymore. The masses are going to have to learn the hard way about hussein, from their own experiences, they won't get the truth from the media, that's for sure.

WAKE UP said...

1) If Obama is such a hot shit conciliatory negotiator, put on a plane to Iran.

2) Dr D is right - the only possible attitude to places like Iran is ring-fencing, attrition and not conceding an inch (while maintaining eternal vigilance).

WAKE UP said...

Typo: put HIM on a plane...of course.