Obama's surprise visit to Iran ...

Marwan Bishara debates the merits of engaging in dialogue with Tehran.



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    Will or should Obama drop by Tehran?

    Do you think I'm stupid? You actually think that during a carefully planned 'high-stakes trip' Obama would risk it all to score a point - one that McCain, Bush and their bulldogs would most probably rip apart! You must think he's stupid!

    God forbid. A guy who, against all odds, made it to the top is anything but. Obama is a politically savvy and shrewd operator.

    So, why risk it? And with Ayatollahs no less!

    Look, Washington already understands that it must deal with Tehran to ameliorate its military standing in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Bush administration is already engaged in dialogue with the Iranian government and might even open an interest section in Tehran.

    Yeah, but Condoleezza Rice has already revealed that the Iranians are not being cooperative and that the meeting in Geneva was, in effect, a waste of time. In fact, more sanctions will probably be forthcoming.

    Well, that doesn't contradict Obama's position. He has already made the point about the need for "aggressive" diplomacy with Tehran and by aggressive he didn't mean babysitting the Ayatollahs. So why not start now? He could certainly close the foreign policy gap with McCain and even pocket the presidency if the Iranians are cooperative.

    Wrong again. Whatever Ahmadinejad does it will hurt Obama. If he embraces him, the Democratic candidate is history - he might as well not go back. And if he snubs him, then Obama will end up looking like a fool.

    You're missing the point. More Iranians, something like 57 per cent, favour talks with the US in general, and 69 per cent favour talks with the US over security in Iraq, while 71 per cent favour tourism between the two countries, according to a recent poll by worldpublicopinion.org.

    So what! Obama is running for the presidency of the US not Iran.

    I was hoping you would say that. Listen carefully - in the US, four out of five Americans or 79 per cent support direct talks between the two governments. That is more than enough to win support for Obama's daring visit.

    Maybe, but as you clearly stated, between the "two governments" and as far as I am aware, Obama is not in the government yet, even if he tries to sound like he is.

    True, but if the Iranians promise Obama they will freeze their nuclear programme or engage the US in a sincere diplomatic process that includes more helpful roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the senator and his entourage would have made their point to the American voters.

    Dream on! Besides, this guy already has a huge lead over his frail Republican opponent. He doesn't need a political stunt to win. If anything, foreign policy theatrics could only hurt him.

    Oh, what a short memory you have. Wake up and smell the coffee. So many democrats had one and two digit leads over their Republican rivals in the past, and they all ended up losing on election day. The lead Obama has must be used as a safety margin that allows him to take calculated risks.

    I disagree. Obama proved to be a marathon runner not a sprinter. That's how he beat Hillary Clinton. He won't attempt a knockout, but rather beat McCain on points.

    But at the end of the day, the presidency is going to be decided in the greater Middle East region. And Tehran is pivotal in either stabilising the security situation or inflaming it in the months to come.

    That's all the more reason why Obama should keep away, let matters take their course and leave the Bush-McCain camp to take responsibility.

    And that's anything but strategic. Obama must be proactive as Nixon was when he visited China in 1972. Not to suggest that he repeats the Reagan campaign's manoeuvre when its officials, according to press reports, reached an implicit understanding with the Ayatollahs not to release the hostages at the Iranian embassy in Tehran until after the 1980 elections to ensure Carter's failure.

    I am going to pass over the last example since it's not relevant here, unless you are suggesting that Obama or his associates conduct secret, and probably illegal, meetings with the Iranians over their policy in the next four months! As for Nixon's visit, let me remind you that he was the president and China during the Cold War is not Iran of today.

    Maybe not, but China was merely instrumental in containing the Soviet strategic challenge. As for Iran, it is the most important strategic challenge facing the US, thanks to the Bush administration's adventures in Iraq and its failures in Afghanistan.

    Regardless. The Bush administration will consider any such trip to be interference in this crucial phase of official US policy or even to be compromising US national security by appeasing the Iranians during war time. Obama claims to be traveling to the region to listen. Well, we know what Tehran has to say.

    No we don't. That's the whole point. I don't think Washington has cared to listen for some three decades now. Perhaps it's time someone does ...

    Hardly the point ...

    At least if he goes, there will be less chance of the Bush-McCain camp launching a pre-emptive strike leading perhaps to another war and putting Obama's entire campaign in jeopardy.

    If they do, we will all be in jeapordy.

    To be continued ...

    The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Al Jazeera

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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