Falklands: Obama under fire for failing Britain

Feb 26, 2010
Tim Edwards

The US president faces criticism for ‘kissing’ Latin American enemies and ‘kicking’ his ally Britain

US President Barack Obama has come under fire on both sides of the Atlantic for failing to support Britain in its dispute with Argentina over drilling for oil off the Falkland Islands - and reports suggest that the US is taking revenge on Britain for releasing CIA files on former Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed.

So far the criticism has come mainly from the right, but accusations that Obama has deserted its biggest ally in favour of an Argentinian president backed by such anti-American leaders as Hugo Chavez could well strike a chord with those of a less conservative bent if the row rumbles on.

The news that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to meet the Argentinian president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner at a summit in Uruguay on Monday has merely rubbed salt into the wounds - and led British officials to let it be known, via the Times of London, that US support for negotiations would not be welcomed. It is "up to the islanders whether they want mediation or not" an official said.

Despite this, La Nacion, an Argentinian newspaper, perhaps hopefully, claims a US State Department source as saying Clinton is "prepared to mediate" in the row.

Officially, the US has said the Falklands are strictly an issue for Argentina and Britain. The State Department told the Times: "We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality."

But Alan Mendoza, the director of London-based think-tank the Henry Jackson society, told the Daily Mail he thought this neutrality has a lot to do with a court ruling two weeks ago that forced the British government to release CIA files on Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee. Mendoza sees this as a poor excuse for deserting Britain, however: "The Obama administration's decision to ignore the democratic rights of the Falkland islanders is disgraceful," he says.

A leader in the usually pro-US Daily Mail goes so far as to question the so-called 'special relationship'. "This deeply regrettable response leaves us with the question; what is the purpose of a special relationship that seems to involve British sacrifice on one side and American indifference on the other?"

Across the Atlantic, the Heritage foundation, a conservative think tank said: "Even by the relentlessly poor standards of the Obama administration, whose doctrine unfailingly appears to be 'kiss your enemies and kick your allies', this is a new low."

Redstate.com, one of the most popular right-wing American blogs, said Obama "chose to side with a corrupt, agressive Argentine government that is backed by Hugo Chavez and is threatening a blockade of British territory. This is how Obama repays Britain for continuing to support our special relationship and providing thousands of British soldiers in... Iraq and Afghanistan."

The truth is that Clinton's tour of Latin American countries – which voted this week at a summit in Mexico to found a new union excluding the US – was going to be difficult enough without Obama giving a message of support to Britain in the meantime.

Any such vote of confidence will have to wait until Clinton is safely home.

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