July 22, 2011 By

Iran and Snowden: Obama Tries but Fails to Whitewash

3_1Barack Obama has been in news of late. Time carried him, along with Tim Cook and Malala Yusuf Sai, in its cover, which means he mattered in the year 2013. Amidst raging controversies on the feasibility of his reform moves to save the US economy, there is much talk on him in the western press which at times is nothing better than a photo op or a PR journalism.

New Yorker magazine editor David Remnick interviewed him for a 170000 word profile. The rendezvous with the president of the world’s most powerful nation took place in the Oval Office and on Air Force One late last year and earlier this month. Obama’s remarks about certain areas apparently seem to be absurd.

One of the interesting highlights in the interview to Remnick is Obama’s intention to find a solution to the centuries-long sunni-shia conflicts. He hopes to improve the relationship between the US and Iran by trying to end the theological dispute thereby improving the Muslim community the world over including Iran. He said that it could bring a new stability to the country adding that the US could make Iran act sensibly by refraining from funding terrorist organizations, not trying to stir up sectarian discontent in other countries, and not developing a nuclear weapon.

The Sunni Shia conflicts have been prevailing in the Islamic community since the Prophet Mohammad’s death dating back to seventh century. The disputes originated between the Sunni, the traditionalist branch of Islam who were the followers of Abu Bakr Siddiq, one of Mohammad’s closest companions and the followers of Ali, his son-in-law regarding the leadership of the Muslim community after Mohammad’s death. The quarrel between the two groups has been going on for almost one thousand four hundred years gradually resulting in a lot of differences between the two sects in their religious laws and theology. In fact, colonial powers before globalization and the multinational power post globalization has benefitted and is continuing to benefit from the dispute, as it was a handy situation for them to realize their balkanization dreams in the Muslim region.  It is foolish to think that one could end these discords that have been existing from time immemorial.

The relations between US and Iran have not been good for over thirty years with tension, violence and finally taciturnity epitomizing the strained relations between the two countries. No American president has spoken with any leader of Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. Masses under the stupendous leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini had toppled US’s puppet government in Iran under Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. During the period of prolonged revolution the country witnessed the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran by “Students of Imam’s Line” led by Ahmadinejad. Failing in its desperate attempts to stupefy Iran by bringing it under control, the US was forced to take a step back and both the nations have been cold to each other ever since. But the long silence broke when President Obama spoke with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani on September 27, 2013, by telephone. The move was a breakthrough in the US-Iran relations and was big news received with great anticipation coated with deep cynicism. In the wake of this relation Iran stuck to its commitment of suspending the landmark nuclear deal with the world powers. The international community had long been suspicious about Iran’s nuclear program fearing that it would be used for building weapons. But it has continuously elucidated that the programs were for peaceful purposes like generating electricity and conducting medical research. In return the world powers are supposed to cut down the sanctions on the country’s economy.  The temporary six month agreement which came into effect on January 22, Wednesday, is supposed to pave way for further negotiations to achieve a permanent deal.

Meanwhile Obama has been lobbying the lawmakers not to enforce additional sanctions against Iran, which according to him “could derail the whole agreement and cause the Iranians to resist further dialogue.” Obama would be wanting to stop Iran’s nuclear programs permanently mainly due to two reasons. It may be due to the fear that Iran might use their nuclear missiles in Israel when provoked and the other being the fact that as long as Iran has the store of nuclear power, it’s a threat to the US and an impediment in its plan to achieve the position of supreme world power. To be summarized, Obama would not be able to ease the relations between the two countries under the guise of ending the sunni-shia conflicts.

When asked about Syria, the President of the United States claims that he has made right decisions on Syria, but confessed that he is “haunted by what’s happened” there. Syria peace conference commencing in Geneva aims to end the three year old clashes, between the Bashar Hafez al-Assad, the President of Syria and the opposition, which resulted in the death of more than 130,000 people. United Nations sponsors the international conference which commenced on January 22 and Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, had urged Iran to take part; Iran had not been invited. The Syrian opposition leaders had threatened to back out from the peace conference, if Ban Ki- moon invited Iran, it being a close ally of Assad. Syria is run by Assad’s Shi’ite government whose subjects are Sunnis in majority. Iran being a Shi’ite country would support Assad’s government neglecting and further repressing the Sunni majority subjects in Syria. The US wanted Iran to participate in the peace talks involving Syrian government and its opposition in the presence of UN so as to appear apprehensive about the crisis. When the effort remained futile, United States reacted sharply insisting Ban to cancel the invitation duping the Syrian government into believing that they cared!! Iran readily accepted and stayed out. With these diplomatic and shrewd efforts, the US is trying to enact the role of an appeaser who in reality is looking for new ways to get access to Syria.

In the interview, Mr. President said that “It is very difficult to imagine a scenario in which our involvement in Syria would have led to a better outcome, short of us being willing to undertake an effort in size and scope similar to what we did in Iraq”. After the September 11 attacks in 2001, the US was literally shocked and was in a vulnerable position accusing Iraq of manufacturing and accumulating destructive weapons, an accusation which was later proved wrong,.  With no other option left with George Bush, the then US President, the US struck back with twice the vehemence in which it invaded Iraq and literally wiped out the country from the face of the earth.  In his 2002 statement in Chicago, Obama had called it a “dumb war”. Even though the war spoiled the image of the United States isolating the country from the rest of the world, it instigated Obama’s victory to Presidency. With all attempts going in vain one has yet to see what the most powerful nation of the world is up to.

Snowden Effect

When asked about the chances of clemency for Edward Snowden, the Whistle blower, Obama said that “I do not have a yes/no answer on clemency for Edward Snowden. This is an active case, where charges have been brought.” He said that he does not consider the revelations by the former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, and National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden as comparable to the Pentagon Papers or other leaks vindicated by history. Snowden had disclosed top secret NSA documents to the media which revealed the operational details of a global mass surveillance network, code named “Echelon” run by the NSA and other members of the Five Eyes alliance(United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), along with numerous commercial and international partners. These surveillance programs were employed to assess the foreign policy and economic stability of other countries, and to gather “commercial secrets”. According to Snowden, his intention of leaking the documents was “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them”. Snowden’s revelations were called the most significant leaks in the US history by Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg.
In a letter to the Brazilian government, in December 2013, Snowden wrote that “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power”. According to White House panel member NSA never stopped any terrorist attacks. In an interview published on August 12, 2013, former NSA Director Michael Hayden admitted that “We (the NSA) steal secrets. We’re number one in it” adding that “We steal stuff to make you safe, not to make you rich”. NSA collects phone records, email logs (Gmail, Facebook, Hotmail and Yahoo including chat messages) of millions of Americans and tracks locations of mobile phones collecting more than five billion records of phone locations on a daily basis. According to Snowden’s reports, NSA has set up task forces assigned to several smartphone manufacturers and operating systems, including Apple Inc.’s iPhone and iOS operating system, as well as Google’s Android mobile operating system. Its MUSCULAR surveillance program uses unorthodox hacking methods to infiltrate Yahoo! and Google data centres around the world.

Seven months after the NSA leaks Snowden declared his mission accomplished citing the international discussions triggered by his revelations. He is charged with espionage and theft of government property by the American authorities with the many calling for his clemency and several others wanting him imprisoned. Despite claiming to be world’s supreme power and still craving to reign at the top, Obama and his people adopt despicable tactics which fail midway. One thing is for sure; US will want to cover up what Snowden has revealed. They will have to do something to save their face.

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