Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix told Deutsche Welle that US President-elect Barack Obama's comes as a huge relief to the rest of the world. He said he hopes other Gulf states will help Iraq when US troops pull out.
If Obama keeps his campaing promises, there is much hope for change, Blix said
Hans Blix became well known abroad for accusing US President George W. Bush's administration of exaggerating the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in order to justify going to war against Saddam Hussein in 2003. Blix formerly worked for the Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs and also served as director of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Deutsche Welle: What does Barack Obama's win mean for world politics?
Hans Blix: I think politically speaking, the election means unbelievable relief for the world. We had to deal with almost extremist and purely militaristic politics with the Bush administration for such a long time. Bush had the habit of commanding people around rather than talking with them. Obama has already signaled that he wants to sit down with the world's state and government leaders and really negotiate. Many people have accused Obama of being naive. But I see this as a big chance, especially now for countries like Iran. Of course nobody knows if this will achieve anything.
What do you think?
Obama and Biden have a series of foreign policy issues to confront
In any case, we need to try. It's high time, since we have already lost so many years. Talking with the opponent doesn't mean giving in to the opponent. It simply means being able to better understand the opponent's position. And soon there will be elections in Iran, and that could change some things.
What about Iraq? Obama has criticized the war as the worst mistake that Bush could have made...
Obama is dead-on about that. This war was in no way justifiable. Bush had three arguments for this war. First: al-Qaida was supposedly in Iraq. But al-Qaida wan not there. Second: Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. But there weren't any there. Third: Bush wanted to bring democracy to Iraq. But this failed too. Now at the end of his term, Bush has given up and even agreed with Obama's request: American troops will be pulled out of Iraq. But McCain had even announced that he would leave troops in Iraq for 100 years.
Obama wants to "remove the troops responsibly," as he puts it. Won't Iraq slip into chaos once the last soldiers leave?
The majority of Iraq's population wants the US to pull out, even when that means leaving the country to its own devices. What is therefore important is strong cooperation with the other Gulf states. They can help to stabilize Iraq. This is the biggest hope that I have for this region.
How do you rate Russia's behavior after Obama's win?
Blix said Russia needs to be taken seriously by the USA
Russia feels humiliated by the US. That's why [Russian President Dmitry] Medvedev not only didn't congratulate Obama on his victory but also why he directed missiles at Europe. Russia wants, without a doubt, to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, through the Bush era, we've taken a step backwards in our relationship with Russia, as though the Cold War never ended. The relationship between Russia and the US was never easy, but it worsened dramatically under Bush's reign. The missile defense system damaged the relationship, and entering the NATO negotiations with Georgia and Ukraine almost destroyed it altogether. It was simply too much for Russia. I put an emphasis on strengthened talks from Obama with Russia. I hope he tries to understand the Russians' situation. Simply put, they don't feel as though they are taken seriously by the US. After the Georgia crisis, almost all countries voiced criticism against Russia, when it was the Georgians that attacked. The Russians have some reason to be offended.
Does Obama have a chance to negotiate skillfully and, above all, peacefully?
For me, the most courage that Obama shows is through the nuclear disarmament that he has called for. The Cold War is over and there is no reason in the world why we need nuclear weapons. Of course it is very utopian-like to believe that all atom bombs will be disposed of immediately. But first steps should be taken in this direction. Obama supports this very strongly. He wants to reduce missile production. I have great hope for this. And the US could save a lot of money by doing this too. The world spends 1.3 billion euros per year on military equipment. Half of this, almost 700 million euros, is funded by the US. Obama and his new government could save a fair amount of money, which they could surely better use for other projects.