Friday, September 20, 2013

Will Diplomacy Really Save the Middle East?

Two weeks ago, President Obama was carefully weighing his options for a U.S. response to allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on civilians – options that included a unilateral military strike. In a world where these days, many countries choose to impress influence on others militarily, a military strike was certainly not out of the realm of realistic and understandable possibilities. However, the past week has demonstrated that countries can still work together, and get things done, without military force. Between the Syrian chemical weapons deal and the latest developments in Iran, President Obama has averted the political mess of a military strike and has new hope for peaceful negotiations in the Middle East.

I will be the first to admit that at the news of Russia’s diplomatic proposal for Syria to surrender their chemical weapons, I was extremely skeptical. The feasibility of actually destroying the weapons seemed not to have been considered, and Russia’s track record with cooperation did not reinforce any confidence in their ability to execute the plan successfully. And while I still have my reservations, things have moved forward as they were supposed to. Syria is documenting their chemical stockpiles, and once this assessment has been made, the next steps will be securing and eventually destroying them.

Meanwhile in Iran, the recently elected Prime Minister Hassan Rouhani has seemed more open to nuclear negotiations with the United States than his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, ever was. After years upon years of crippling sanctions imposed upon Iran not only by the U.S. but much of the Western world, perhaps this has simply been a long time coming. However, as my colleague Vicky pointed out, Prime Minister Rouhani and President Obama are the most politically aligned counterparts in the Iran-U.S. relationship in at least 20 years. Political incompatibility cannot foster cooperation, and it’s important to keep this in mind as Iran and the U.S. move forward in hopefully assuaging our nuclear fears once and for all while preserving Iran’s dignity and allowing nuclear energy creation in some capacity.

Diplomacy hinges on trust, though – something that the U.S. more or less lacks entirely when it comes to Syria and Iran. There is certainly reason to remain leery of these processes as they continue to unfold over the next several weeks and months. However, for the time being, this is a victory for Obama and a monumental indication to the rest of the world that diplomacy is not obsolete.

No comments:

Post a Comment