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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

'Obama has shown himself to be weak in his dealings with the MIddle East' says....

... would you believe Robert Fisk?
While Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu played out their farce in Washington – Obama grovelling as usual – the Arabs got on with the serious business of changing their world, demonstrating and fighting and dying for freedoms they have never possessed. Obama waffled on about change in the Middle East – and about America's new role in the region. It was pathetic. "What is this 'role' thing?" an Egyptian friend asked me at the weekend. "Do they still believe we care about what they think?"

And it is true. Obama's failure to support the Arab revolutions until they were all but over lost the US most of its surviving credit in the region. Obama was silent on the overthrow of Ben Ali, only joined in the chorus of contempt for Mubarak two days before his flight, condemned the Syrian regime – which has killed more of its people than any other dynasty in this Arab "spring", save for the frightful Gaddafi – but makes it clear that he would be happy to see Assad survive, waves his puny fist at puny Bahrain's cruelty and remains absolutely, stunningly silent over Saudi Arabia. And he goes on his knees before Israel. Is it any wonder, then, that Arabs are turning their backs on America, not out of fury or anger, nor with threats or violence, but with contempt? It is the Arabs and their fellow Muslims of the Middle East who are themselves now making the decisions.
I wouldn't say he went on his knees before Israel. I would say he was outclassed by a real statesman. But it's true that Obama's Middle East policy is incoherent and that's because he refuses to lead like an American President should.
Amid all these vast and epic events – Yemen itself may yet prove to be the biggest bloodbath of all, while the number of Syria's "martyrs" have now exceeded the victims of Mubarak's death squads five months ago – is it any surprise that the frolics of Messrs Netanyahu and Obama appear so irrelevant? Indeed, Obama's policy towards the Middle East – whatever it is – sometimes appears so muddled that it is scarcely worthy of study. He supports, of course, democracy – then admits that this may conflict with America's interests. In that wonderful democracy called Saudi Arabia, the US is now pushing ahead with a £40 billion arms deal and helping the Saudis to develop a new "elite" force to protect the kingdom's oil and future nuclear sites. Hence Obama's fear of upsetting Saudi Arabia, two of whose three leading brothers are now so incapacitated that they can no longer make sane decisions – unfortunately, one of these two happens to be King Abdullah – and his willingness to allow the Assad family's atrocity-prone regime to survive. Of course, the Israelis would far prefer the "stability" of the Syrian dictatorship to continue; better the dark caliphate you know than the hateful Islamists who might emerge from the ruins. But is this argument really good enough for Obama to support when the people of Syria are dying in the streets for the kind of democracy that the US president says he wants to see in the region?
I don't believe that Obama's policies are being driven by support for Israel. But I do believe that he is spending far too much time on the 'Palestinians' (whose support he believes to be a sufficient for an entire foreign policy, let alone for the Middle East) in light of other events in the region. I also don't believe that the Israeli government is so enamored of Bashar al-Assad.

But isn't Fiskie the guy who thinks that supporting the 'Palestinians' is the most urgent item on the agenda? After all, the rest of his column is all about the 'Palestinians' and denigrating Israel.

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At 3:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fisk is that guy. Somewheres back in the Lebanese civil wars he got a jones on for the Jooz.


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