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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Europe Fears Obama Will Rupture Ties With European Allies Over Iran

European officials are saying they fear that Obama could potentially rupture U.S. relations with key European allies.

The issue: Iran.

Barack Obam's original campaign pledge that he would speak to Iranian leaders without preconditions (a pledge in which he now separates preconditions with simple "conditions" that would have to met before he would meet with Iranian leaders), has Europe worried that an Obama presidency would "undercut" the four existing UN Security Council resolutions that have already been passed against Iran, which demand that Iran stop enriching uranium, each time highlighting the offer of financial and diplomatic incentives from a European-led coalition if Tehran suspends enrichment, a route to producing fuel for nuclear weapons.

European officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they are wary of giving up a demand that has been so enshrined in U.N. resolutions, particularly without any corresponding concessions by Iran. Although European officials are eager to welcome a U.S. president promising renewed diplomacy and multilateralism after years of tensions with the Bush administration, they feel strongly about continuing on the current path.

According to Fran├žois Heisbourg who is a Paris-based military analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, "Dropping a unanimous Security Council condition would simply be interpreted by Iran and America's allies as unconditional surrender, and America's friends would view this as confirmation of America's basic unreliability. A hell of a way to start a presidential term."

European officials do like one of Barack Obama's ideas which would be that a U.S. official accompany Javier Solana, who is the European Foreign Policy Chief, to meetings with Iranian representatives.

Still, even the Europe expert at the Brookings Institution who has advised the Obama campaign, Philip H. Gordon, admits that the European officials "are uncomfortable with giving up the precondition of uranium enrichment right now."

Gordon makes it clear that his opinion in this regard is not speaking for the Obama campaign when he says that.

European officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be seen as interfering with U.S. politics, said the demand that Iran first suspend its uranium enrichment is a European concept, not something forced on them by the Bush administration. Three European countries -- Britain, France and Germany -- persuaded Tehran to suspend its enrichment activities in 2003 while the two sides negotiated, until Iran declared in 2006 that the talks were fruitless and restarted their nuclear program.

A Middle East envoy in the Clinton administration who advises the Obama campaign also admits to hearing about the European concerns but maintains that Obama's plans would give "stronger carrots and stronger sticks" and he says, "This will give us leverage with those who are convinced Iran should be stopped but have not provided tough economic sanctions. This will give us leverage with those who are convinced Iran should be stopped but have not provided tough economic sanctions."

John McCain, on the other hand, has complimented the European efforts, saying that they "deserves praise for its great efforts to present a positive endgame: an Iran with far-reaching economic incentives, external support for a civilian nuclear energy program and integration into the international community."

The McCain campaign's national security director, Randy Scheunemann, points out, "Obama criticizes a multilateral process and disparages the European contribution. What he is proposing is unilateral cowboy summitry." He continues to say that McCain "agrees we need to have basic benchmarks, such as suspension, before you go further. And he has called for a significant increase in sanctions, through the U.N. if possible or through like-minded allies if necessary."

The United states, Russia and China did not join Britain, France and Germany, in their ongoing European efforts to stop Iran from its uranium enrichment until 2006, it was a European led effort, and the European officials are worrying that if Obama's public statements about Iran and his intentions are true, it could very well have the potential to "rupture U.S. relations with key European allies early in a potential Obama administration."