Thursday, February 4, 2010

Two EU Leaders: Complaints about Obama; Fought Against the West Having Nuclear Weapons; Now Indifferent to Iran Having Them

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By Barry Rubin

Remarkable statements have just been made by Europe's two highest leaders which reveal a lot about what's really going on right now.

First, EU Council President Miguel Angel Moratinos, who is also Spain's foreign minister, showed that while President Barack Obama and his many American supporters think that by bending over backward he has done a great job making Europe happy with the United States again that hasn't happened. “Europe needs to show Washington it exists, and not fear being marginalized on the world stage,” Moratinos complained.

Europe today is always on the defensive, he continued, but should stop fearing the United States, and China, too, for that matter. He was angry because Obama said he would not attend a U.S.-EU summit in May. 

Meanwhile, the EU's own foreign minister provides another example of lack of cooperation with Washington and, if one knows the background, a sign of how ridiculous much Western policy on the Middle East is. Consider this bland item:

“EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton has cautioned against any hasty European move to slap new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, while announcing she is assuming the role of international intermediary on the issue.

“In an interview with AFP Ashton distanced herself from the position of some EU nations, such as France, which are pushing for extra sanctions to be imposed on Tehran....`We're not moving quickly on anything....’"

Now if you don’t know the background this story is serious in its own right. The EU is in no hurry to put sanctions on Iran; the U.S. government is in no hurry to put sanctions on Iran. But Iran is in a hurry to get nuclear weapons.

That’s bad enough. But there’s another dimension. For many years, Ashton was a leader of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. During the height of the Cold War she advocated Western unilateral disarmament in the face of the Soviet threat. From her standpoint, the United States and United Kingdom couldn’t get rid of nuclear weapons fast enough. Ashton wanted to ban the bomb when it came to the United States or Great Britain, Iran is apparently more trustworthy.

Now she favors real caution when it comes to the radical, aggressive Islamist dictatorship in Iran getting nuclear weapons. No hurry here; let’s not exaggerate the threat, she says.

In each case, she has favored energetic activism against Western power to weaken it, coupled with giving every benefit to its enemies.

I don’t want to imply she is saying she opposes sanctions forever. The United States is also ready to go to the UN for a resolution. But she does want to go real slow and is very unenthusiastic about doing anything, sounding  like the Russians and Chinese.

In contrast, the British, French, German, and Italian governments seem more willing to move faster and do more than does Obama. But since the U.S. government wants to have the entire EU on board for the sanctions, her stance creates problems as  it means almost any small European country can sabotage the process.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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