Obama and the Middle East

BERLIN – With the successful enactment of his health reform, Barack Obama has achieved his biggest domestic success so far – which, surprisingly, had greater consequences abroad than at home. The US President, whose hands had been tied in recent months by domestic concerns, and whose political power had been progressively eroded, has suddenly returned to the world stage.

Against this backdrop, the signing of a new treaty with Russia on nuclear-arms reduction, the global nuclear-disarmament initiative at the Washington conference, and an emerging new unity with Russia and China concerning further sanctions on Iran demonstrate the recovery of Obama’s freedom of action and operational competence.

In the process, America’s new foreign-policy priorities and objectives are becoming increasingly clear. At their core lie Iran and its nuclear program. To be sure, worldwide nuclear disarmament is in itself a central issue for the Obama administration and, likewise, US relations with China and Russia influence many of America’s other key interests. But when you look at the big picture, it becomes apparent that US foreign policy is seeking to isolate Iran internationally by means of diplomacy.

The various initiatives for nuclear disarmament are intended to build a new consensus on renunciation of nuclear weapons, which in turn would isolate and pressure Iran on its nuclear program. Cooperation with China and Russia serves, among other things, that same purpose. And Obama considers progress in the Middle East peace process essential to separating Iran from the “Arab street,” thereby changing the region’s balance of power for the better.