Attention from all corners of the world is focused on Barack Obama, who was inaugurated as the first African- American president of the United States. As the sole superpower since the Cold War ended in 1989, America has often irritated other countries for choosing to pursue the path of a unilateralist as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland.

It is my strong hope that under the new U.S. administration, with Obama at its helm, the U.S. will regain humility and work toward promoting multilateralism in international politics.

Problems originating with subprime loans triggered an economic recession in the U.S. that spread throughout the world to create what is regarded as the worst economic crisis in a century. Cooperation among nations is essential for overcoming this crisis, and for that reason, it is far more desirable to have a peace-oriented president in the White House than one like George W. Bush, who was reckless in decisions related to the use of military force. A great deal of hope, therefore, is placed on President Obama, whose slogan is “change.”

The first thing I hope the new American administration will undertake is easing tensions with Iran, because strained bilateral ties have been the biggest factor in Middle East uneasiness.

At a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified that she would not hesitate to set up direct diplomatic talks with Tehran to prevent Iran from possessing nuclear weapons. Yet, she did not rule out military intervention as the last resort. From the Iranian standpoint, this must appear tantamount to a diplomacy of intimidation.

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Iran were severed in 1979 when the American Embassy in Tehran was occupied by Iranians. The initial step that needs to be taken is to normalize relations and clear the way for resuming dialogue. Washington may expect Tehran to make the first conciliatory move, but the Iranians hold a completely opposite view based on historical events.

In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower covertly used the Central Intelligence Agency to overthrow the Iranian government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeg, which had confronted the British government over the proposed nationalization of Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. In other words, the U.S. played a major role in toppling the democratically elected government and restoring a pro-Anglo-Saxon regime under the Shah. During the 1980s, Washington helped Iraq invade Iran by supplying arms to Baghdad, and connived in Iraq’s use of poison gases.

In her speech before the American Iranian Council in 2000, Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, admitted that the American policy toward Iran had been shortsighted.

Washington’s anti-Iranian policy is said to reflect the position taken by Israel. It is an open secret that Israel possesses nuclear weapons, although its government neither confirms nor denies the allegation. Iran is much displeased with the double standards of American diplomacy in which Washington gives tacit approval to Israel’s opaqueness concerning nuclear arms on the one hand while taking a tough stand against the suspected nuclear development plans of Tehran on the other. It is incumbent upon the U.S. government to follow a more balanced course of action if it is serious about seeking peace in the Middle East.

American policy toward Cuba speaks more eloquently than anything else about the way the U.S. has deviated from international common sense. For half a century, Washington has been hostile to the socialist regime in Cuba and imposed economic sanctions. It has become almost an annual affair for the U.N. General Assembly to adopt a resolution by an overwhelming majority condemning the American economic sanctions against Cuba. But Washington has adamantly refused to take heed.

When Cuba gained independence from Spain at the end of the Spanish-American War in 1902, the U.S. obtained the permanent lease of Guantanamo Bay and the right to establish a military base there. After 9/11, the U.S. took a number of terrorist suspects captured in Afghanistan to Guantanamo and tortured them, in a gesture of derision against Cuba. I cannot understand why the U.S., despite having restored diplomatic relations with former enemies like China and Vietnam, continues to take a hostile attitude toward the socialist nation of Cuba.

In recent years, leftist regimes have developed in one Latin American country after another, leaving Columbia as about the only pro-American nation in the region. This tendency is not unrelated to the wrongheaded policy that Washington has pursued against Cuba.

Immediately after his inauguration, Obama signed an executive ordering the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, which represents a carry-over of U.S. imperialist policies. He should go a step further by returning Guantanamo to Cuba and ending the sanctions against Havana without delay.

Last, I ask that the new U.S. government under Obama rectify its military policies. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute announced in 2008 that the U.S. had a bigger defense budget than any other country in 2007, with its military spending accounting for 41 percent of the world’s total. It is also the biggest supplier of weapons, with sales to other countries accounting for 31 percent of the global arms trade. If the strongest military power in the world took the initiative for disarmament, the whole world would become much more peaceful.

The reality is the opposite, though, as exemplified by U.S. opposition to the so-called Ottawa Treaty prohibiting the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of antipersonnel mines as well as the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Also, the Bush administration rejected the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Washington has disappointed the world by opposing the creation of the International Criminal Court aimed at bringing war criminals to justice and preventing war.

According to the 2008 Global Peace Index released by the Economist Intelligence Unit of Britain, Japan ranked fifth among the 140 countries and regions surveyed, while the United States placed 97th — the lowest among the industrialized nations. These and other data suggest that the U.S. under Bush was a belligerent country.

For the U.S. to regain global trust, I sincerely hope that the Obama administration will lose no time in ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and take the initiative in promoting disarmament.

Kiroku Hanai is a journalist and former editorial writer for Tokyo Shimbun.

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