(/sites/default/files/uploads/2015/05/President_Obama_Statement_on_Burma_6358226033.jpg)President Obama has put American credibility and authority in question in the international arena. His red lines are being repeatedly crossed without any serious action taken on his part, or without any action to fulfill the promises previously made.
No only do global powers, such as Russia and China, not believe in Obama or US red lines anymore, weaker countries such as Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran are also ignoring the US, making a mockery of the red lines, and crossing them without any fear or concern that the US might take serious actions.
Red lines have been the cornerstone for efficient foreign policy, promoting moral values, and establishing security.
One of Obama’s red lines was articulated in a letter in 2012 to Iranian leaders with regards to the Strait of Hormuz. When Iranian leaders continued to threaten to shut the Strait of Hormuz and disrupt the global economy, Obama warned the Iranian leaders that he would take serious action and that the consequences might be a military response.
But, recently Iranian leaders have overstepped his “red line” concerning the Strait of Hormuz, which is a crucial strategic point in the world for international trade, fuels the global economy and is a gateway for the Gulf to the rest of the world.
Iran’s increasing belligerence is strategically and economically worrisome as the Strait connects significant ports of key oil-exporting nations such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirate, Oman, Iraq, and Kuwait, and according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the Strait of Hormuz is “the world’s most important oil transit chokepoint.”
Ignoring the basic legal agreements of international maritime law, Iran seized the Maersk ship by ordering it to sail into Iranian waters and the Shahid Bahonar Port. Twenty-four members of the crew were detained. Nevertheless, Iranian leaders justify the seizure because it complies with laws of the Islamic Republic. What about the international regulations?
Iranian leaders totally ignored Obama’s red line. “Iran has total control over the strategic waterway … Closing the Strait of Hormuz is very easy for Iranian naval forces,” said Admiral Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s naval commander, on Iranian TV.
Iran’s seizure of the ship was likely to be a response to the convoy of Iranian cargo ships – with advanced weaponry for Houthi rebels – that were turned away, as Iran was crossing another red line. The Islamic Republic violated U.N. Security Council resolutions by attempting to provide weapons to the Shiite Yemeni group, the Houthis. Nevertheless, the Obama administration will continue to turn a blind eye on the latest developments and go ahead with its goal of reaching a final nuclear deal.
Obama’s weak leadership empowered the Iranian leaders to such an extent that they currently fly to US soil and hypocritically argue that the Islamic Republic is a peaceful and humanitarian government.
In the wake of all these activities and interference from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Reza Zarif, pointed out recently in an American interview in the 90-minute public forum that “the regional security mechanism should be based on … noninterference in the internal affairs of other states.”
The hypocrisy is clear. Should we believe in what the shrewd foreign minister and the moderate camp are articulating to the world? Or should we believe the actions of the IRGC and Quds forces in the Strait of Hormuz, in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, etc.?
On the Charlie Rose talk show, the foreign minister also claimed that “We [Iranian leaders] do not jail people for their opinions.”
I believe the most articulate response to this was delivered by Nasrin Sotoudeh, the well-known international human rights activist and lawyer, who said to the Guardian,
I didn’t expect these remarks from Mr Zarif. There are plenty of prisoners of conscience behind bars in Iran held solely because of their opinions, including journalists, lawyers, student and labour activists, political prisoners and many people who are in jail for their beliefs, such as Baha’is, Christians, many of whom I personally met while I was in prison.
But the question is: How will President Obama act as his red lines are being crossed? He is likely to interpret the seizure of US navy ships or other activities of the IRGC in the region as insignificant or minor misunderstandings. He will persist in making the argument that it is because of these incidents that we need to push for a nuclear deal with Iran.
He will continue to contend that incidents such as these show that there is a need to empower the moderates in Iran against the hardliners. But he will not address his red lines.
In conclusion, American red lines used to matter on the global stage until the presidency of Obama. Red lines are not empty statements and words. They have been crucial pillars in American foreign policy and values. They matter for global security and for the credibility of global powers. If red lines are crossed, actions should be followed. President Obama should either follow up on his words, or halt from issuing empty red lines that has undermined US authority, credibility and values.
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