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Saturday, November 15, 2008

M K Bhadrakumar, "Afghanistan abyss awaits Obama," Asia Times, November 15, 2008.

  Let a new president emerge out of the complex deal-making that is part of the Afghan way of life. It is a difficult decision for Obama to take, but it needs to be taken. It will signify the beginning of a US "withdrawal".

The struggle for influencing Barack Obama's foreign policy agenda has begun in right earnest. The maneuvering by influential establishment figures - including Congressional voices, Obama advisors and even military officials - who are projecting incumbent Robert Gates as secretary of defense in the incoming administration highlights the pressures working on the president-elect.

The focus is on the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in promoting the basic George W Bush policies promoted since the 1990s by nationalist and neo-conservative Republicans. These are policies animated by long-term ambitions for US economic and military hegemony.

A Gates appointment will signal that Obama may turn his back on his campaign pledge to withdraw US troops from Iraq in 16 months. Gates, of course, disfavors any set timeline or timetable for a withdrawal plan.

[In an earlier article, Bhadrakumar considers the possibility that the India-US deal on civilian nuclear cooperation might unravel under Obama. A return to diplomacy would necessarily have consequences for non-proliferation, which was the main casualty of that arrangement. Critics of the deal proposed that it should be conditional upon India's signing the CTBT and the FMCT. Absolute rejection of those treaties was a core agreement of the Singh and Bush Administrations. Bush's approach to nonproliferation relied on coercion, deterrence and high-seas interdiction at the expense of the relatively successful treaty- and inspection-based diplomacy. The treaties wouldn't scupper the deal. However, requiring India to sign them would eliminate the bizarre privileged status the deal currently confers as a "responsible" proliferator and "legitimate" nuclear weapons state, but without the disarmament responsibilities that other nuclear weapons states have under the NPT. -jlt]

Meanwhile, a potentially debilitating discord is appearing on the horizon. Obama supported the nuclear deal with India, which was recently ratified by the US Congress. But now it transpires, following 'leaks' from Washington, that as early as September 23, Obama had written to Manmohan that his administration would regard the deal with India as a 'central element' of the US's nuclear weapons policy.

"He put on record that his administration would press for the US's ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) 'at the earliest practical day'. Furthermore, he said his administration would 'launch a major diplomatic initiative' to ensure that CTBT came into force. Obama added he would also pursue negotiations on a 'verifiable, multilateral treaty' to end production of fissile material for nuclear weapons.

"Both with regard to the CTBT as well as an immediate moratorium on the production of fissile material, he wrote, 'I very much hope and expect India will cooperate closely with the United States in these multilateral efforts'. Curiously, the Manmohan government kept the letter under wraps until it became public knowledge last week. It was apprehensive that the letter challenges the official contention that the deal accords recognition to India as a nuclear weapons state.

"The letter touches a raw nerve. There is apprehension that Obama's thinking will be integrated into new US disarmament proposals that draw India into the global nuclear order through the CTBT and the fissile material production ban and impose on India a more stringent accounting of its nuclear material.

Read the Afghanistan article here => and the other one here =>
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