The many headaches of President Obama’s foreign policy.


The building of new Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, the imbroglio in the Iranian nuclear arms talks as well as other hot spots cast a dark shadow over President Obama’s resolve to make the world a peaceful place to live.

By Emmanuel Urhiofe

President Obama relishing his Peace Award
President Obama relishing his Nobel Peace Award

These are not the best times for President Obama.

In November, the President received the Nobel Price for Peace – a price normally given to individuals who have contributed to world peace in whatever circumstances.

Among those who have received the prize are former South African president Nelson Mandela, AshBishop Desmond Tutu, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan amongst others.

The track records of these individuals have been well documented in history books. However Obama’s price was seen as well deserved from many perspectives.

Although the decision for the award was decided six months earlier, his speech in Egypt last year, in which he gave a succinct and clear perspective on how world peace can be resolved, was seen as a clincher.

Among these are the ultimately reduction or destruction of nuclear armaments, a negotiated settlement in the Middle East crisis, the granting of autonomy to the Palestinians by the creation of a Palestinian state and the prevention of Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

During the presidential campaigns, Obama said his administration would engage in ‘levels’ of discussions with the Iranian government over nuclear issues.

However, 15 months after the inception of the Obama administration, these foreign policy outlines are yet to be achieved. Obama’s foreign policy outlines are seen to be the most idealistic, designed to create peace in a world that have seen enough of wars  and rumours of wars.

The world was relived to see the back of President George W Bush who occupied the White House from 2001 to 2008, and the defeat of the Republican candidate – the mercurial Senator McCain.

End of the Bush Doctrine

The second basic factor for the bestowing of the Nobel Peace prize can be seen in the fact that the 47th President of the USA would now do away with the acerbic Bush Doctrine which appeared to have been a carry-over from the unwritten codes of former  US Presidents from Harry Truman to George W Bush.

The inauguration of President Barrack Obama therefore brought fresh vigour and new perspective to the US foreign policy initiatives and policy.

The Bush doctrine, in essence encapsulates a more robust extension of US influence, either by means of force, mega diplomacy, arm-twisting or aids, in the post 9/11.

The main points outlined in the National Security Strategy published in September 2002 included Pre-emption, Military Primacy, New Multilateralism, and the Spread of Democracy.

The document emphasized that America is now threatened less by conquering states than they are by failing ones.

It went further to state that “we are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few.

” It required “defending the United States, the American people, and our interests at home and abroad by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders.”

In its explicit terms the doctrine included the controversial policy of preventive war, which held that the United States should depose foreign regimes that represented a potential or perceived threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate.

It also requires a policy of spreading democracy around the world, especially in the Middle East, as a strategy for combating terrorism; and a willingness to pursue U.S. military interests in a unilateral way.” Critics have criticised the Bush doctrine for failing to look at other hot spots in the world while it poured unnecessary attention on Iraq.

Not only did it fail to intervene effectively in Darfur, Congo, Chad, Niger-Delta, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, it failed to check the human rights violations in most parts of the world.

More than 2 million people in Darfur continued to live in shelters while the UN and America did little to bring the war in the Congo to an end. In Nigeria, western interest in Nigeria oil was more paramount than the squalor and degeneration among the people of the Niger-Delta.

However since President Obama’s ascendancy, we have seen a more emphasis on diplomacy, multilateralism, and re-rapprochement rather than gun-boat diplomacy.

This is despite the fact that the US is presently the only super power on the planet and will continue to be so as the former

Soviet Union struggles to retain its former sphere of influence, which had continued to diminish with the break away of Georgia and former satellite states which are even attempting to join NATO.

As a super power, the US has in the past used its position as a police state, with its embedded intents of extending and consolidating its hegemony in its area of influence round the world.  9/11 changed the tempo under the Bush era and although, the world has moved beyond the cold war era of mutual suspicion and antagonism, tissues of strains and frictions are still extant, even as Obama consolidate his position.

The major hotspots in the world today are the Middle East, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Darfur. Other hot issues are terrorism, unemployment, recession, poverty and relationship between the north and southern hemispheres.

Negative signals from the Middle East

In the Middle East, signs of a quick resolve of the Middle East crisis do not seem to be feasible.

What does the American expect from the maverick Netanyahu? Benjamin is a hawk, of the right of centre Likud party whose antecedents are there for every Middle Eastern scholar to see.

President Obama may find it difficult to negotiate with such a hard-minded individual who as prime minister ten yeas ago could not cement a solid Middle-East peace.

The questions we need to ask here are: Will Benjamin Netanyahu agrees to the two-state structure for the Palestinians without conditions?

Will Lieberman, his rightist comrade and coalition partner mellow down on the citizenship proposal for Arab-Israelis who are not paying allegiance to the Israeli flag? Will Benjamin Netanyahu agree to the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Golan Height  as proposed by Obama?

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who, on  March 12, paid her first visit to the Middle East since her on assumption of office, delivered a stinging rebuke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his government’s announcement of new Jewish housing in East Jerusalem.

She called it “a deeply negative signal” for the Middle East peace process and ties with the U.S. Netanyahu used the occasion of the visit by Vice President Joe Biden to announce the plan to construct the housing settlements.

Netanyahu’s action speaks volume about a man who is not ready to sign negotiation with the Palestinians.

Any historian of the Middle East with a keen eye on the biography of Netanyahu should not be surprised by his actions. Without sounding pessimistic, I do not see any hope of a negotiated settlement in the Middle East, as long as Benjamin Netanyahu is in power.

His pronouncement, denounced by the EU, UN and Russia was made at the wrong time and at the wrong occasion. US Secretary of State said she could not understand how Netanyahu could engage in provocative statement, particularly in light of the United States’ strong commitment to Israel’s security.

She made it clear that the Israeli government needed to demonstrate not just through words but through specific actions that they are committed to this relationship and to the peace process.

This writer gives tremendous credit to George Mitchell, one of the most knowledgeable of US envoys in the past 20 years for his high wire diplomacy in the Middle East. One hopes that his trip to the region this week, to be followed up with another to Moscow next week of the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers with Hilary Clinton may end up in a positive note.

Fear of a nuclear Iran

The second sore point is that of Iran. Peace in Iran holds the peace to the Middle East.


Peace here means the suspension of the enrichment of uranium for the development of the nuclear bomb. Iran has denied that it is developing an atomic bomb; rather it says it is developing the technology for energy use.

No sooner had President Obama extended his hand of friendship to the Islamic world than the Iranian Government launched a missile into space to herald its 30-years of the revolution in Iran.

The Hope missile launch exemplify just one major fact, namely that Iran has moved a step forward to the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), which could strike the state of Israel.

The issues in these developments points to a similar event in North Korea. The world is getting less and less safe as former rogue states defy the Obamaic policy of rapprochement, discussions and consensus.

With the successful launch of the missile into space, it is now possible for Iran to separate payload in a missile and direct it into an orbit. If the present Iranian leadership remains in power in the next four years of the Obama presidency, there is bound to be a major conflict in the Middle East, with Iran as a catalyst

.  These deductions are based on the facts that America and Israel are not going to stand by as Iran run a militarised demagogic state committed to the destruction of Israel.

The stakes may be lessened if the US sends an ambassador to Syria and resumes full diplomatic relations with the state, eight years after it was suspected to have aided and abetted the assassination of Rafiki Harriri, the former Prime Minister of Lebanon.

If this happens, the US may restore some relative peace in Lebanon, which is partially controlled by Hezbollah in the south,

North and South Korea?

Hillary Clinton, also need to put vigour into the Obamaic doctrine of foreign policy trust as it relates to the conflict between North and South Korea.

North Korea has been beating the war drums for some time, to the extent it launch-test another missile in the peninsular last year.

The South Korean leader froze any aid to its northern counterpart when he assumed power in 2006.  In response Kim Jong il issued threats of reducing South Korea to ashes in case it is attacked.

To back up this threat  the former rogue state has restarted the toepolong-2 nuclear site, which was destroyed in 2006 following the six party talks negotiation involving China, Japan, USA, South Korea, North Korea and Russia.

The reclusive Kim Jung il who disappeared from the radar for almost three months last year as he reportedly recovered from a heart operation have recently resurfaced from limbo with threat to south Korea of ‘war and extinction’.

The fear was not helped with the news, last year, of the delivery of 16 f-16 fighter jets to the People Republic of South Korea by the US air force.

The jets arrived at an air base in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, to replace a departing Apache battalion, according to officials of the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC).

The derivation from these news items shows that the two states have not over come the issues over the war of 1950-3, which led to the partition of the Korean state between the communist north and capitalist south.

A new war in the peninsular may not only involved the use of nuclear power but also may throw the world into another spate of insecurity. It begs the question to state that North Korea may not hesitate to use the Long range missile to strike the United States if the state fails to receive some measure of rapprochement.

Russia’s expansion

Obama may also face his most intractable enemy yet- the hegemonious Russia which has continued to impose its old influence on its former allies.

Of immense concern is the proposed missile shield in the border between Poland and Lithuania (now discarded) and the attempt by Russia to restrict Western influence amongst its old allies in the former Soviet Union.  The closing of the US air force base in the Kyrgyzstan is a case in point.

The tiny country voted by almost 100% majority to close the US air force base. The excuse that the US has failed to pay the rent for the base was interpreted as an excuse to remove US influence in the backside of the former Soviet Union.

Russia also extended its military relations recently when Vladimir Putin and Manmohan Singh of India signed a nuclear agreement which paves the way for the building of about a dozen nuclear reactors in India, with Russian help, over the next few decades. Reports say Moscow would build up to 20 reactors at three sites in India.

The rise and rise of China

But the rise and rise of China remains a major challenge to the US as world power. China’s influence in Africa has become so endemic, that the hitherto relatively agrarian society has become a major player in the world technological, diplomatic, military and economic development.


In the light of the above, it can be concluded that President Obama faces real foreign police challenges which only his sense if idealism and his crop of seasoned diplomats and elegant US secretary of state Hilary Clinton can resolve. Failure should not be contemplated.