13 November 2008
The New York Times
Oh, and let’s not forget the Taliban, which issued a statement this week urging him to “put an end to all the policies being followed by his Opposition Party, the Republicans, and pull out U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.”
There is a world of advice out there for President-Elect Obama. Within minutes of his election, the calls from foreign governments began, Obama aides said, and they have not stopped.
While the first telephone exchanges between Mr. Obama and foreign leaders were limited to pledges of future cooperation and invitations to visit, those leaders and their aides have also been contacting Obama’s advisers and their surrogates with suggestions on how an Obama administration should conduct, and change, American foreign policy.
There are also signs that some foreign governments are moving to alter the playing field even before Obama takes office. On Wednesday alone, North Korea said it would not allow international inspectors to take soil and nuclear waste samples from its main nuclear complex; Iran said it successfully tested a new long-range missile that it claimed was capable of reaching southeastern Europe; and Russia rejected an American proposal meant to assuage Russian fears over the planned missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.
The foreign efforts to sway the new team are normal during any presidential transition, but they are accelerated in this case, foreign policy experts say, because of the historic nature of Obama’s election and the significantly different course that world leaders expect him to pursue in American foreign policy.
“We have heard a lot of important ideas from our friends and allies,” said Denis McDonough, a foreign policy adviser to Obama. “We consider them closely in an effort to be a partner that listens, as the president-elect shapes his agenda to advance
But until Inauguration Day, Mr. McDonough said, the Obama team will be in a listen-only mode.
Even before the election, senior advisers to Mr. Obama — including
The Bush administration has repeatedly denied that it is seeking a government change in
Vice President-Elect Joseph Biden has said he thinks the Bush administration should explicitly assure the Iranian leadership that it would not seek a regime change, as one part of the incentives and sanctions that the
Obama, for his part, has been a little less clear.
In an interview in September he said, “I think it is important for us to send a signal that we are not hell-bent on regime change just for the sake of regime change, but expect changes in behavior, and there are both carrots and there are sticks available to them for those changes in behavior.”
European officials said that the Obama advisers have played their cards close to the chest. “They come in, they listen and they say, ‘Thank you very much,’ ” said one official of a European embassy in
The French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said over breakfast with reporters in Washington this week that he thinks “the personality of Barack Obama can make a difference” when it comes to Iran. But Mr. Kouchner also urged that Mr. Obama exercise caution, using a speech at the Brookings Institution to warn against undermining the carefully plotted, but so far unsuccessful, transatlantic effort to rein in
A senior Israeli official said that the Israeli government is in touch with Obama’s close aides, in particular Dennis B. Ross, President Clinton’s former envoy to the
As for the Taliban, it seems unlikely that Obama will be acceding to its call for American troops to be pulled out of
Still, there could be room for compromise. Along with its usual invective against the Bush administration, the Taliban called in its statement for Obama to “respect the rights of the people to independence and observe the norms of human rights.”
“In short,” the Taliban statement said, “he should set out on a policy that will have a message of peace for the war-stricken world.”