Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Obama’s Foreign Policy at End Game

President Obama
The Obama administration is at risk of losing control of its foreign policy. In three critical areas – Iran, ISIS and Ukraine – the next thirty days will decide if the administration’s approach of restraint and diplomacy will be sustained or if critics, who generally are advancing more aggressive strategies, dominate.

Iran. Negotiation with Iran concerning their nuclear program is scheduled to reach a deadline on March 31 (formal date July 1, 2015) on political issues. After two extensions, it is unlikely there can be another. In fact, President Obama said at this recent press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that time is up and Iran must show it’s ready to make a decision.

Opponents of the negotiations are active, vocal and have bipartisan membership. The highly controversial Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on March 3 to a joint session of Congress is part of the opponents’ strategy. In general, they don’t trust either Iran or the administration to either dismantle the Iranian program for the most conservative pro-Israeli interests to even sufficiently restrain it for moderates.

Ukraine. The fragile Minsk (2-12-15) cease fire and Russia’s continued supplying Ukraine separatists has created a direct challenge to the Obama administration’s policy of diplomacy and sanctions. The pressure for a more aggressive policy (weapons for Kiev government) from Democratic and Republican foreign policy leaders will be empowered if the current policy collapses as appears likely.

Europe and especially the great powers of Germany, France and Great Britain appear unwilling to be more assertive vis-à-vis Russia.

ISIS. President Obama’s resolution for limited war-making power against the Islamic State is now being debated by a very polarized Congress. The effectiveness of the current strategy against ISIS is a factor in a debate that sees Democrats arguing the scope of authorization is excessive and Republicans somewhat contradictory arguing for more authority given their disdain for the administration’s competence.

Although the President argues the resolution is mostly for a show of unity and resolve and that he already has sufficient authority, a loss will be interpreted, both here and abroad, as a rejection of the administration’s strategy. It would be another blow to its already embattled foreign policy and low level of credibility.

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