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By Nicola Nasser*
Indeed, US President Barak Obama has gone a long way to earn his Nobel Peace Prize, which was prospectively and in advance awarded in 2009 to the 44th president of the United States while less than eight months in office.
However, Obama’s “big prize” to make him “feel that I deserve” the Nobel Prize as he had said then will be waiting for him until he ends the ongoing Israeli war on the Palestinian people and occupation of their land, at least since 1967.
This Israeli war lies at the heart of both the wars Obama inherited as well as those he has just averted and has been all along the source of regional wars, instability and insecurity as well as the source of the deep-rooted anti-Americanism in the Middle East.
To his credit, President Obama, true to his promise to “end a decade of wars,” wound up the war on Iraq, now coordinating winding down his country’s war on Afghanistan next year and twice this year he has navigated successfully to avert and avoid dragging his country into wars on Syria and Iran.
It doesn’t matter much whether Obama has gone thus far out of principle or under the pressures of the financial crisis in his country and the emerging geopolitical realities internationally and regionally in the Middle East.
Pressures would be more likely an interpretation if one is to judge by his shift from his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call on Syrian rebels not to disarm with the aim of enforcing a regime change in Syria to the US co-sponsoring now the upcoming Geneva – 2 conference on January 22 for a political solution of the Syrian conflict.
But the “out of principle” interpretation seems more likely if one is to judge by the AP wire story about the background of the Iran deal, which revealed that Obama was conducting “secret talks” with Iran for about a year before the election last summer of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, to whose “moderation” a lot of credit was attributed for the success of negotiating the deal.
It is true that Obama’s ongoing “drone war” on Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, his “leading from behind” in the NATO-led war on Libya, his “warships diplomacy” and “sanctions war” on Syria, Iran and of late on Egypt all vindicate calls for rescinding his Nobel prize, but ending the ongoing Israeli war on the Palestinian people remains his only daring peace move that will tip the balance to his credit for good.
Except for his failure to deliver on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay detention camp on the Cuban territory, the Arab – Israeli conflict remains the most critical foreign policy area where his deeds still do not match his words.
Long before his opposition to the US-led war on Iraq in 2003, Obama came of political age in the campus anti-nuclear movement of the 1980s and was elected as an anti-war figure; at a presidential campaign debate in South Carolina in 2007 he spoke about meetings with the leaders of Iran, North Korea, and other nations hostile to his country. He was awarded the Noble Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation” and for his vision and work “for a world without nuclear weapons.”
After his new START treaty with Russia cutting down the two countries’ nuclear arsenals, disarming Syria of its chemical arsenal and restricting Iran’s nuclear program to peaceful purposes, disarming Israel of its nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction remains the litmus test which will determine the credibility of Obama’s endeavor “for a world without nuclear weapons” and will qualify him to “deserve” the Nobel Peace Prize.
After the signing of the four-page “Joint Plan of Action” interim nuclear deal between Iran and the 5-plus-1 partners in Geneva on this November 24, “He can now also say he has avoided a third war,” according to Bruce O. Riedel, a former administration official who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, quoted by The New York times last Monday.
However the “third war” has been raging bloodily and mercilessly for less than three years now in Syria, “led from behind” by his administration and either openly armed, financed and logistically supported by the US regional Qatari, Saudi and Turkish allies or proxies, it doesn’t matter which, or away from media spotlights by the US Israeli strategic ally.
Partnering with Russia to conclude the January 22 Geneva – 2 conference with a successful political solution of the Syrian conflict, by drying up the regional sources of arms and money that fuel the conflict, will be Obama’s “small prize” towards earning his Nobel prize.
But his “big prize” will remain tied to ending the sixty five-year old Israeli war on the Palestinian people.
Israel’s warmongering against Iran, Syria, Lebanese Hezbullah and Palestinian anti-Israeli occupation resistance movements besieged in the Gaza strip stands isolated in the face of a consensus by the world community on pursuing Obama’s pledge that “diplomacy would continue” because, as he said last Sunday, “we cannot close the door on diplomacy, and we cannot rule out peaceful solutions to the world’s problems.”
“The plan of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu … has been to launch a massive military assault on Iran that has no guarantee of success in ending the nuclear program but would almost certainly unleash a region-wide war.” (http://www.philly.com, Nov. 24, 2013)
Netanyahu condemned the Iran deal as an “historic mistake;” he stated that “Israel is not bound by the agreement” and has the right to “defend itself by itself” before sending his cabinet minister Naftali Bennett to Capitol Hill to rally Congress against the White House and the State Department and calling on American Jews to oppose the policies of Obama’s government. Netanyahu leaves no doubt that he is well determined to abort the Iran deal and deprive Obama from earning his Nobel Peace Prize.
* Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. [email protected]