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).