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As a demonstration of what is perhaps Barack Obama’s greatest tightrope-walking trick in getting to the presidency, Zakaria gets Mottaki to comment on the issue of cooperating/negotiating with an Obama administration.

This diary is cross-posted at my blog.

Fareed Zakaria managed to get Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Manouchehr Mottaki to answer some real questions on camera about nukes and Israel, and CNN to air it. (They didn't even add a crawl that put "Iran" in quotes to emphasize that it's not quite a real country.) I don't entirely love Zakaria, but he's kind of a bad-ass these days.

As a demonstration of what is perhaps Barack Obama's greatest tightrope-walking trick in getting to the presidency, Zakaria in the clip above gets Mottaki to comment on the issue of cooperating/negotiating with an Obama administration.

Mottaki can barely contain the only true smile of the entire interview as he parses his own words, saying, basically, that answering affirmatively to that question has caused Obama trouble in the past (is he referring to Hamas' "endorsement?"), and he wouldn't want to cause such trouble so he won't answer.

But clearly, Iran favors the notion of Obama winning the presidency. Declining to respond in the way he did has the same sentiment as if he'd stated that, yes, his government would welcome a President Obama.

After seeing this, my inner wingnut couldn't help blurting out loud in a bad Middle-Eastern accent: "Are you kidding? US president with middle name 'Hussein'? Come on! You, FAREED, of all men, must understand! You high five me now, yes?"

Part of me can't wait until Obama visits the Middle East and Europe, just to demonstrate how far the US reputation can improve overnight. But then my mood snaps back and doubts whether such a sneak peek is really good at all for Obama, whether instead the voters will be vulnerable to right-wing nationalists' attempts back home to point to just such scenes as proof that Obama isn't American enough to be trusted.

This internal conflict of mine is no doubt in part about a lingering (if futile) idealism that world politics could enter a new golden age; but realistically, it's very much about the two main ways that the US wields its influence in the oil region as our own economic crisis matures.

Specifically, the issue is whether the Middle East remains stable long enough to make any difference in our economic fate, or whether the Saudi and/or Iranian people overthrow their regimes due to sudden lack of oil-revenue handouts. A large portion of native Saudis don't have any skills and survive thanks to redestributionist oil budgets; Iran's leadership also does not enjoy popular support. Internal struggles that turn violent could halt oil flow while bracketing out US influence at a time when we're dealing with a perfect economic storm here at home.

Obama, even if only in symbol, could have a palliative effect through soft-power influence that creates room for regional diplomacy and cooperation in putting out some of the military fires that are largely ignited by perceived US intentions for long-term occupation of Iraq — the other, hard-type of influence that seems to have been our only contribution to the region in recent times.

It's not that a sudden boost of goodwill in the Middle East towards the US government would guarantee our ability to weather our economic troubles. But it would address one very significant factor which otherwise will complicate even further a matrix of systematic failures we're facing (which may very well prove, in total, beyond our ken to repair).

Originally posted to thebonobo on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 03:43 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  "You high five me now, yes?" (19+ / 0-)

    Worth a rec for that line alone.

    i am jack's complete lack of surprise -- fight club

    by bustacap on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 03:44:51 PM PDT

    •  While I am hopeful that Obama will dramatically (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bustacap, soms, larryww, JoanMar

      change our debate in the Middle East, any thoughts of positive nature from these leaders at this point, will be used to bludgeon Obama between now in November.

      My idea of an agreeable person is a person who agrees with me. Benjamin Disraeli

      by pvmuse on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 04:07:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  So in other words, "yes, we would negotiate (6+ / 0-)
    with a President Obama."

    And I'd like to point out that Fareed is an appeaser.

  •  Obama will be Bill Clinton x 10 (7+ / 0-)

    I would almost think that Obama couldn't visit Africa for the crowds and pandemonium it would cause.

    I picture the crushing throngs when Bill Clinton went, and Clinton was pushing back people to protect those in front.

    klaatu barada nikto

    by JohnGor0 on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 03:48:31 PM PDT

  •  "Oh Fareed, who are we kidding... (8+ / 0-)

    ...we sent him here to infultrate your society and slowly but surely take over the world...he is the Tehranian Candidate you asshole.  Care to share a Rogue Nation fist-bump with me now?  HA HA HA HA HA!"

  •  So he didn't hear about... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    State Department

    ... Obama's recent speech to AIPAC?

    There is no greater threat to Israel — or to the peace and stability of the region — than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder to shoulder in our commitment to Israel's security. So while I don't want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.

    The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

    Sure, he talks about diplomacy, but he also talks about all options being on the table in the same speech.

    Yeah, I'll bet Iran loved that speech.

    •  I think some people think diplomacy means (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Poika, Vicky, mselite, soms, larryww

      we all join up hands and sing Kumbaya.  But diplomacy has to be backed up with something, and it ain't lolipops and rainbows.  

      Doesn't mean you actually use those "options" which remain on the table; it means you have them available in the unfortunate event that diplomacy fails.

      Now I would say that the greatest threat to stability in that region is probably the us, followed by the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  

      But at the same time, you don't go into diplomatic talks saying that nothing the other side could do would result in some form of action.

  •  Zakaria, for the first four weeks, I got to say (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    has shown how good he can be when he doesn't let his ego get into the way. Then, I'm talking about a television pundit, letting his ego get in the way? That like Geritol not calling for Johny Mac (and I don't mean McEnroe here).

    In response to the GOPG (Because the last G means ganasters)trying to do the same "Look, he's Iran pandering again and all that other bull....", let them try to. They will look silly for trying the scary hypocritical move again.

  •  Fareed Zakaria is only slighly less stupid... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    houyhnhnm, soms

    than the other pundits. Coming from India may give him a slightly less American-centric world view than the other gasbags, but please remember that he was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq. His enthusiasm only began to curdle as the occupation devolved into fiasco within a few months. Since then, like George Packer, he has attempted to make amends for his initial cheerleading by vigorously criticizing the conduct of the war, though not its rationale.

    •  That's an oversimplification of Zakaria on Iraq. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Terra Mystica, dansmith17, Loli, thebonobo

      It may find a receptive audience with folks here that didn't follow Zakaria's journalism in 2003, but it's inaccurate to say he was a "cheerleader" for the Bush plan or that he was "an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush's disastrous invasion of Iraq".

      Actually, Zakaria supported a much different looking engagement. Wikipedia summarizes it fairly:

      While Zakaria initially supported using military force against Iraq, he argued for a United Nations-sanctioned operation and occupation with a much larger force (approximately 400,000 troops). He also called for a Bosnia- or Kosovo-style occupation that was international, rather than American, in nature. He wrote a Newsweek cover-essay the week the Iraq war began entitled "The Arrogant Empire", which detailed the failures of the Bush foreign policy in the run-up to the war.

      He was an early and aggressive critic of the occupation, arguing against the disbanding of the Iraqi army and bureaucracy, which the administration accomplished under the guise of "de-Baathification". He predicted that accelerating the build-up of the Iraqi military would create a Shia and Kurdish army that would exacerbate the sectarian tensions in the country. Four months into the occupation, his columns bore such titles as "Iraq Policy Is Broken," and in September 2003 he wrote a cover story for Newsweek entitled "So What's Plan B?" In February of 2005, the week before Iraq's elections, he wrote, "no matter how the voting turns out, the prospects for genuine democracy in Iraq are increasingly grim." In his October 2006 Newsweek cover essay, Zakaria called for a reduction in American troops in Iraq to 60,000 by the end of 2007.

      There's no question he ultimately supported military engagement, but it's disingenuous to say that his stance was one of political convenience, or that he walked in arm in arm with Bush. I think his strategic conclusion (to invade Iraq at all) was wrong in 2003, if his tactical conclusions were correct, but he was nonetheless an independent voice at that time, much as he is now, and he criticized the execution of the war from its first week. To say "his enthusiasm only began to curdle as the occupation devolved into fiasco within a few months" is just factually incorrect. You don't write a cover story the first week of the war titled "The Arrogant Empire" if you're out to massage the chief executive's jock.

      'Fie upon the Congress' - Sen Bob Byrd

      by Maxwell on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 04:26:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Zakaria on Reagan and Appeasement (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

  •  The price of oil would likely come down some, (0+ / 0-)

    IF Obama is elected, and

    IF neither Bush/Cheney or Olmert attacks Iran between the election and the Inauguration, and

    IF Obama can actually help ease the tensions between the Israeli government and the Iranian government.

    Entirely possible.  And I think that, yes, the Iranian government would negotiate in good faith with an Obama Administration.

    OTOH, if McCain wins the election, we're fucked six ways to Sunday.

    Some folks prefer a map and finding their own route. Others need someone to tell them where to go.

    by sxwarren on Mon Jul 07, 2008 at 05:00:33 PM PDT

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