Barack Obama promised change both at home and in the way America deals with others abroad. And the disappointment is not only being felt at home. An international pattern of actions is suggesting that other key players may be showing the first effects of disappointment and the first signs of giving up on Obama’s ability to seriously change America’s foreign policy or the way she treats other nations.
Among his foreign policy changes, Obama promised new approaches to the way America dealt with conflict in the Middle East, the way America approaches the nuclear standoff in Iran and the way America relates with Latin America.
The first effects of disappointment came out of the Middle East. As high hopes deflated into disappointment with a foreign policy that seemed unchanged in anything but rhetoric, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas stepped down and announced that he would not seek re-election in the upcoming elections. According to a report in the Israeli paper Haaretz, Abbas told Obama that his resignation was due, in part, to his disappointment in Obama’s administration.
The second sign of despair came out of Iran. With uranium sufficiently enriched to produce isotopes to treat cancer running out, Iran turned, legally, to the International Atomic Energy Association for help purchasing more under their supervision. When the U.S. and her allies blocked the purchase, Iran instead agreed in principal to a deal that would see her send her low enriched uranium out of the country to be further enriched and sent back for use in Iran’s medical facilities. But when it became clear that the U.S. was not offering the deal in good faith, but was instead trying to trick Iran into emptying herself of any enriched uranium, even the low enriched uranium used for energy, while she waited the year or more for the medical enriched uranium to return, Iran gave up and announced that she would begin enriching her own uranium sufficiently to keep her medical reactors up. The decision to enrich seems to reflect a despair and disappointment with regard to the hope that Obama was seriously moving to the new road of encounter and negotiation.
The third signal of disappointment came recently out of Latin America. Undoubtedly motivated at least in part by what Mark Weisbrot calls Obama’s “continuation of former President Bush’s policies in the region” and especially by the Obama administration’s handling of the military coup in Honduras, thirty-two Latin American and Caribbean nations have established a new organization that does not include the United States or Canada. The new organization, according to a report in Latin America’s Mercopress, is seen as an alternative to the existing Organization of American States, and it allows Latin America to adopt positions that the U.S. would have prevented in that organization. The U.S. and Canada, for example, stopped the OAS from taking the stronger stand against the Honduran coup that the Latin American countries were demanding, according to Weisbrot, while the new organization has sided with Argentina over the U.K. in the recent reincarnation of the Falkland Island crisis and come out against the U.S. embargo of Cuba, who is included in the new organization. This Latin turning within and away from America suggests a despairing of Obama’s promise to deal with Latin America in a new way.
And connecting the first effects of disappointment in Latin America with those of Iran, regional South American power Brazil has refused America’s solicitations to join in on new sanctions against Iran. President Lula da Silva has instead, ironically, called for establishing negotiations: one more indication of a disillusioned Latin America confidently and independently turning in, and away from America.