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Factors hindering Obama

BY USAMA BUTT / 15 February 2008

FOLLOWING Super Tuesday, Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton are neck to neck in the presidential nomination race for the Democrats, however the fate of both candidate will be decided in Democrats convention later this year.

But this is not the only place where Obama’s fate will be decided, since he already faces a smear campaign against him, particularly from Jewish lobby groups and Christian Zionists. Both mentioned groups will play and are playing an important role in the fate of Obama’s campaign and indeed it is the staunch but somewhat quiet opposition of these groups which may not let Obama win the presidential nomination.

For over a year, Obama has been facing a smear campaign, which many believe is related to his background, particularly his middle name “Hussien”. It is also related to the fact that his father was a Muslim and to some extent, the colour of his skin. But is his back ground the real reason for this campaign or is there more to it?

Well, the answer is the real reasons behind this campaign have very little to do with his back ground or ethnicity, but it has everything to do with his policy and approach towards the Milddle East, particularly towards Iran. Obama called for direct engagement with the Islamic republic over its nuclear programme, saying: “ We need the United States to lead rough-minded diplomacy, this includes direct engagement with Iran, similar to the meeting we conducted with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War”,  “tough minded diplomacy would include real leverage through stronger sanctions”. Obama continued, “It would mean more determined US diplomacy at the United Nations and a co-operative strategy with Gulf states who supply Iran with much of the energy resources it needs”.

These were the contents of Obama’s speech delivered at AIPAC’s (American Israel public relations committee) venue, where he also reiterated his support for Israel. Obama said, “Our job is to do more than lay out another road map” and “Our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region”. Indeed this policy is the real reason behind this smear campaign. Israel does not negotiate with “terrorists”, it has never done so with Hamas or Hezbollah, and it certainly does not intend to do so with its arch-enemy Iran that has blatantly questioned its sovereignty and existence.

One of those leaders is Danny Aylon, Israel’s ambassador to United states, who criticised Obama in his article published in “Jerusalem Post” whilst mentioning his meeting with the presidential hopeful. Aylon apparently got the impression that Obama was “not entirely forthright” regarding Israel. Of course the reason he is not “entirely forthright” regarding Israel is his engagement policies that contradicts with Israel’s foreign policy, as since Obama is encouraging negotiations with Iran, he may even encourage a similar policy towards Hamas or Hezbollah once in power.

One can not help but notice the similarities between Barrack Obama and Paul Findley, another democrat (coincidently from Illinois too) who was a senator for 22 years, only to lose his long reigned seat amidst a similar campaign launched by the same lobby groups, notably AIPAC. Findley too talked about engagement with the Palestinians (PLO to be precise) in the days when PLO was a “terrorist” organisation.

The propaganda against Obama ranges from baseless stories that he is secretly a Muslim and took his oath (of Senator) on Qur’an instead of Bible, to his attendance of a fund raising event, also attended by the late Edward Said, and his personal contacts with Louis Farrakha, the leader of the “Nation of Islam” and Zibgnew Berzinsky et al. The worry is not the baseless propaganda but the organisations behind it, notably AJC (American Jewish committee) and AIPAC (indirectly). The former is a national lobby group but the latter is particularly important. AIPAC has achieved every thing that it lobbied for, with the exception of Awacas sales to Saudi Arabia in the 1980’s.

These achievements are major in nature and include un-hindered US financial and military support to Israel, a free hand to Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, sanctioning of Israeli dictated non-engagement militant policy with Hamas and Hezbolla, etc. The power of AIPAC’s lobbying was demonstrated by John Mearshimer and Stephen Walt’s powerful article “Israel lobby” in which the authors mentioned President Bush personal clash with Ariel Sharon over his tactics of besieging PLO and sabotaging the road map he laid.

Obama’s rival Hillary Clinton, who also has a “shaky” past (her personal connections with Palestinian activists, declaration of her support for a Palestinian state in 1998 that went far beyond US official policy, her exchange of kisses with Mrs Arafat after latter gave a speech denouncing Israel, etc) knows all this very well and has tried to appease AIPAC and other Jewish lobbies to the most by giving statements like “Israel's a beacon of democracy” and “we will stand with Israel because Israel is standing up for American values” and also by completely distancing her policies from Obama on Iran, Syria and Hamas. Hillary stated, “We will support (Israel’s) efforts to send a message to Hamas, Hezbollah, to the Syrian, to Iranians, to all who seek death and domination instead of life and freedom”. In her speech at AIPAC’s venue she took on Iran, a top of significant concern to Israelis and Jewish lobbies, “A nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable, but it’s not just unacceptable to Israel and the US, it must be unacceptable to the entire world”.

Obama, therefore, faces a staunch and smear campaign from the most influential lobby of the United States and amidst this ferocity; he has so far done rather well. But his nomination is down to the delegates committee of Democrats, where AIPAC has its over-reaching influence. Obama’s fate is not in the hand of its voters, but sadly also not completely in the hands of delegates either.

Usama Butt is a research scholar based in the UK
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