Thursday, June 04, 2009

Cairo: George Bush gets his lipstick


Let’s not forget that President Bush, and Condi Rice, also went to the Middle East and made lofty speeches about freedom and about how the U.S. was not in conflict with Islam. It was not the rhetoric that failed them; it was the disconnect between the rhetoric and the policies.(...) What he says in Cairo will make little difference to the way he’s perceived in the Arab world and beyond; he’ll be judged by what he does. Tony Karon

Speaking about a policy of pursuing a war against extremism and working towards two states for peoples on Palestinian lands is no different from the policy of his predecessor, George W Bush. Ayman Taha, Hamas spokesman in the Gaza strip - BBC

Arabs are waiting for pressure to be exerted on Israel so it can stop its violations in Gaza and the West Bank. Iraqi government spokesman - BBC

“The United States is in a weaker position now,” said Omar Amiralai, a well-known 65-year-old Syrian film maker. “They are stuck in Iraq and Afghanistan and don’t know how to get out. Bush, after the Iraq war, had some ability to pressure Sharon on Israeli settlements, but I don’t see that the United States has the ability to impose its law or desires on Israel now.” New York Times

David Seaton's News Links
What is the Obama administration's objective in the Middle East?

I ask the question because the stated objective, the Palestinian state, if it ever gets off the ground, will be nothing more than a huge concentration camp with no sovereignty over its borders or air space, with the most trusted inmates being allowed to run the day to day affairs of the prison,
keep order among the prisoners, keep their jailers well informed of the other prisoner's doings and presumably to skim the cream off the "state's" budget for their pains.

This, of course is essentially repackaged Rice/Bush.

On assessing the timing of Obama's Cairo speech, one essential thing to remember is that on Sunday Lebanon will be holding elections, which very well may be won by Iran-backed Hezbollah. Any large advance for Hezbollah will be true "game changer" in the Middle East and signal a major failure of US policy in Syria and Lebanon. The Cairo speech and the massive media coverage it will get in the region should be seen in this context and are directly connected to offsetting that.

This brings us to an essential problem that the USA has had in the Middle East for many years and which the arrival of Obama is not likely to change. The problem is that -- as Bush always maintained -- the people of the region, in fact, do thirst after democracy, but the rub is that whenever they are allowed to vote freely, they seem to vote for Islamist parties, which are hostile to the USA.

So in fact this ongoing democratic revolution which the neocons imagined would benefit the USA is, in fact benefiting Iran, whose regime, with all its faults, is infinitely more democratic than Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan or Kuwait and all the tiny oil sheikdoms, which are America's clients. Iran's policies toward Israel and the Palestinians are simply much more in tune with the feelings of the region's people. Adjusting to the inconvenience of democracy in an essentially colonial situation, is at the heart of the US's problems in the Middle East.

So, the "assalaamu alaykums", and quoting the Koran, combined with being seen to be putting some pressure on Netanyahu are basically just an exercise in playing for time; hoping to keep America's clients from being swept from power or especially the situation in Iraq from deteriorating too much, too fast, before the new administration has really found its feet

My assessment of the situation is that Obama, with his pressure on Israel to make what Ariel Sharon called, "painful concessions", and his Muslim-friendly rhetoric is trying to hang a fig-leaf on the authoritarian and unpopular American client regimes of the area: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan. Simply to buy them some time.

The danger is twofold: these regimes may be beyond salvation and the Israelis, specifically the settlers that Obama appears to want to evict are some of the most dangerous people in the world for an American president to pressure... and I don't mean politically, I mean physically. These are the spiritual descendants of Meir Kahane, Dr. Baruch Goldstein of the Abraham's Tomb massacre and Yigal Amir, Yitzak Rabin's assassin. Many of the most fanatic settlers are American citizens, men and women who can enter the United States with no restrictions whatsoever,
who can blend perfectly in any American crowd and who are very familiarized with firearms. These people are as American as apple pie... or as the person who pulled the trigger on Dr. Tiller. So I must say that I think that Barack Obama is a very brave man.

Here we have the president of the USA putting his life on the line to create, what for all extents and purposes will, at worst, be a huge Palestinian concentration camp, or at best, a Palestinian Potemkin village. DS


Mike Doyle said...

Although I voted for Obama I was never a huge Obama fan - at each turn he seemed to disappoint - but I held on to my hope.

For all the sweet rhetoric of the speech in Cairo Obama did make it clear that continued Israeli settlements in the OT is unacceptable. I don't see how he can back away from that position. But neither can I imagine how the Israelis can change their direction without having a civil war. My gut feeling is that it's too late for any real 2 state solution. I fear that Israel may look to attack.

Going back to a previous post of exactly 1 year ago - Obama dining with the late Prof Edward Said in Chicago in 1998, ( - I could never imagine how Obama could spend an evening with Prof Said and not absorb the full Palestine tragedy. But then came the abhorrent AIPAC speech. Cognitive dissonance!

There are many things that he said in Cairo that if he had said during the campaign would have immediately lost the election. Quoting from the Koran! OMG

So what do we have? I really don't know.

I think an important segment of the US ruling class realizes that Israel has now become a major liability for the US.
Mearsheimer & Walt prepared the ground.

I looked at the LTE section in our local paper today for reaction to Obama's speech. There was the usual AIPAC approved astroturf blasting Arab violence etc but there was also a ferocious letter criticizing Israel (settlements, Gaza, stealing land - the whole thing). This is new.

Stephanie said...

The depressing thing is watching all the U.S. liberals get orgasmic over Obama's "compelling" speech. I really don't understand. He's not wandering far off the Bush/Rice reservation, except for the by now unavoidable references to his Inspiring Personal Story.

I'm not the target audience for this speech, of course. Do the Arabs really buy this stuff, I wonder?

I think Obama is safe from the settlers. They're extreme but they're not dumb.

Marcy said...

"George Bush gets his lipstick"
Is that yours? 'Cause I'm thinking that pretty much sums up Obama's presidency thus far, not just Cairo.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Mine, all mine, cute, wahr?