Sunday, April 21, 2024

EDITORIAL: A diplomatic patience at its very best


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As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had made his first bold foreign policy move, by stepping away from the legacy of his late father Kim Jong-il, President Barack Obama was saying he did not rule out the possibility of America itself taking military action against Tehran.
Mr Obama in remarks made to the Atlantic Monthly, published on Friday, warned Israel that a premature attack on Iran would be counterproductive, for it would distract attention from Syria and enable Tehran to play victim.
These comments are likely to be seen as even-handed, but there is little doubt that they were aimed at Iran. Mr Obama said that both Israel and Iran knew (the latter’s) nuclear ambitions were unacceptable to him.
Again, the military option was put on the table. According to President Obama, “to achieve his aim, he had various components, including sanctions and diplomacy – and a military component”.
Though a warning to both countries “makes eminently diplomatic sense” to some, it must be noted that it was Israel that was talking about a possible military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities for a long time.
History is not on the side of the United States, as Israel has been ignoring its demands for some time. The case in point is the continuing settlement activity, and Mr Obama’s being forced to retreat from his call for a return to pre-1967 borders within 24 hours after Israel reacted angrily.
The tragedy in all this is that whether Iran is to be attacked or not will be decided by Israel, not Washington. That is how the Middle East perceives the circumstance of the United States, particularly the Muslim world.
In the case of North Korea, the nuclear pull-back is itself remarkable as the late “Dear Leader” Kim Jung-il had tenaciously dangled his country’s Damocles sword – the nuclear programme – as a perennial threat to regional states and as a bargaining chip.
Now only two months after assuming the presidency, Kim Jong-un, in exchange of food aid, has agreed to a number of significant steps. This entails suspending nuclear tests, putting a stop to long-range missile launches and more importantly the enrichment of uranium.
North Korea will also allow the re-entry of the International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear inspectors. This is a significant development in the face of sceptics’ fears of other covert motives.
It makes sense to take the opportunity to channel the government towards greater international integration with the United States and move the long-awaited denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula along, and return to the stalled six-party talks.
The diplomatic patience and role played by a less belligerent China with North Korea in minimizing strategic hostilities in the region should be signal lesson to the United States, which has had a long history of cooperation with Iran in its fight against Iraq.


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