Recently, I wrote on these pages that a remarkable turnaround was taking place in the President's fortunes. It's an impressive display of rising from the depths of falling popularity last fall, and it is starting to be felt in many areas, with major impacts on the future of energy.
At his lowest point, the US President was widely regarded as a lame duck, shedding influence and power, and on a down-hill slide.
This was followed by a number of embarrassments, with one of the worst coming from Russia, when it chose to provide sanctuary to Edward Snowden who revealed that the US was hacking the strategic communications of its closest allies.
More damaging, the revelation came at the worst possible time for the US , seriously discrediting its campaign to enlist allies against alleged Russian and Chinese hackers.
This was followed by another embarrassment where the US utterly failed to prevent US allies from joining the Chinese-sponsored Asian infrastructure bank. It seemed that the doomsayers were proving correct about America's decline and fall.
Since then, Obama has been on a roll, with victories in Congressional trade agreements and at the Supreme Court with decisions that removed legal and constitutional challenges to the President's health program, and gay marriage.
Following hot upon these achievements were the successful negotiations with Cuba and Iran, that went far beyond expectation, climaxing with the signing of the historic Iran nuclear agreement.
Even more surprising was the President's ability to marginalize the powerful lobbies and opponents of these agreements, including hard-liners in the US , Iran, Israel, and the Gulf Kingdoms.
Not Your Father's Sanctions
In the past, the effectiveness of sanctions was often questioned because of the difficulty of tracking compliance. The result was that targeted countries easily hid and continued banned activities. The sanctions golden rule: if you can't track them, you can't enforce them.
But current sanctions are nothing like they were in the past. The difference is that technology has lifted surveillance to unprecedented levels. What with spy satellites, drones, and sophisticated listening devices, the US now has the capacity to pierce nearly every form of communication and transaction. That is the secret weapon which enables the west to impose iron bound constraints that can level just about any economy.
Whether the participants in the recent negotiations will comply with the terms of their agreements, only the future can tell. But there's little question that none would have come to the table without the sanctions.
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