Will Obama’s diplomacy succeed?


Pramod Raj Sedhain.


Despite the increasingly internal uneasy standoff and international chaotic situation, U.S. President Barack Obama extended a pragmatic diplomatic approach with the former arch enemies – Iran & Cuba. Diplomatic engagement with Iran and Cuba has been the biggest display of his administration diplomacy in the six years of office.  Such move would, most significantly shift America’s foreign policy towards its former foes. Obama’s soft line had faced increasing domestic pressure for his undeceive stand on Yemen conflict, Syria’s civil war, Ukraine’s crisis or even to  China’s growing influence.

Obama’s open-hand diplomacy is sure to avoid the widening conflict and military engagement gaining international support. However, the engagements in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Libyan situation showed a difficult diplomatic thump strategy. If Obama’s diplomatic engagement with Iran and Cuba fails, it would be the most risky step. However, his success this time would be the biggest opportunity and achievement of his presidency. Many hope that Obama’s new policy would not fail like his openness to talks on North Korean nuclear program and initiation of sustainable peace agreement between Israelis and the Palestinians. Any probability of failure in his diplomatic dynamics with Iran and Cuba will prove to be one of the biggest gamble for him that might even damage his political carrier.

Obama broke former U.S Presidents and Washington’s hard-line policy by starting a new era to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba. Changing the policy of more than five decades, President Obama held face-to-face talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro in Panama City during the historic 35-nation Summit of the Americas unprecedented meeting between United States and Cuba.

The Communists gained power from the 1959 revolution that immediately fuelled hostile relation with the U.S. The U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and placed an official embargo against the country in 1962. Obama announced to normalize relations with Cuba on December 17, 2014. Since then, negotiators from both sides held intensive discussions over their future move and potential areas of cooperation.

Obama’s another key priority is to end uneasy relations with its arch enemy Iran that would pave thew way for an easy settlement of Iran’s nuclear program. Major world powers and Iran (P5+1) have been preparing for final stages of agreement. After marathon talks among the six major powers earlier in April, an interim nuclear deal with Iran has been achieved. Complex intensive negotiations are still going on for a comprehensive deal with Tehran in exchange for phased sanction relief.  Iran wants final agreement result with an immediate end to all sanctions. However, the U.S. wants it to happen gradually.

Obama directly spoke over telephone with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to icebreak since the Iran Revolution of 1979 overthrew pro-US monarchs regime. The September 2013 historic 15-minutes constructive phone talks started the optimism for both sides to settle their problems through diplomatic path rather than war. Obama’s move to normalize Washington’s relations with Tehran is a major U.S. diplomatic reapproachment since President Richard Nixon’s China visit in 1972 & had established diplomatic relations.

Establishment of Washington’s diplomatic ties with Tehrain would help for a stable Middle East to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Currently, both the sides have backed rival power factor throughout the Middle East & several proxy battles taking places. Obama has very few options if such initiations fail. Military action over Iran’s nuclear facility will certainly be the start of a costly and bloody war. Tough new sanctions might be the option but it would not be easy because of obstacles to implement because of China’s rising economic might and western cold war era frozen relations with Russia. In Cuba, Russia and China will take chance for U.S. Hemisphere.

Obama faces huge challenge during his presidency in case his negotiation strategy fails. This will certainly have a long term impact on U.S. foreign policy. What John F. Kennedy said, “Domestic policy can only defeat us; foreign policy can kill us.” Despite obstacles, Obama administration is fully concentrated to achieve the result. Diplomatic settlement with Iran and Cuba will certainly bring new foreign policy. It will not only bring about fame to Obama, but will equally pave the future course of U.S. diplomacy.


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