Obama’s New Middle East

How President Obama would address, in his speech on recent developments in the Middle East, the three key players, which have not participated in any constructive way in what is called the Arab Uprising, was in fact quite interesting.

First Iran. Well, the current power struggle between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his rapidly shrinking support gang on one side and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and most of the clergy on the other, which escalated after the Guardian Council’s disapproval of Ahmadinejad’s aspirations toward caretaker Minister of Oil, apparently does not deserve much attention any more. Well, Obama, for instance in his historic speech in Cairo only one week before Iran’s contested presidential election of June 12, 2009, which ended in the almost complete silencing of any opposition group, had offered dialogue with Iran,

“I recognize it will be hard to overcome decades of mistrust, but we will proceed with courage, rectitude, and resolve. There will be many issues to discuss between our two countries, and we are willing to move forward without preconditions on the basis of mutual respect.”

These times are definitely over. What he had said in Cairo, well, it had in general not been meant so seriously, I am afraid. It has not really been taken into consideration by the U.S. Administration that the people in Tunis, Cairo, Benghazi, Bahrain, Sana’a, to name but a few of the uprisings, would finally, in 2011, take him at his nice words. What Obama has now to say on Iran (and its strongest ally Syria) is the following:

“Thus far Syria has followed its Iranian ally, seeking assistance from Tehran in the tactics of suppression. This speaks to the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, which says it stand for the rights of protesters abroad, yet suppresses its people at home. Let us remember that the first peaceful protests were in the streets of Tehran, where the government brutalized women and men, and threw innocent people into jail. We still hear the chants echo from the rooftops of Tehran. The image of a young woman dying in the streets is still seared in our memory. And we will continue to insist that the Iranian people deserve their universal rights, and a government that does not smother their aspirations.

Our opposition to Iran’s intolerance – as well as its illicit nuclear program, and its sponsorship of terror – is well known. But if America is to be credible, we must acknowledge that our friends in the region have not all reacted to the demands for change consistent with the principles that I have outlined today.”

Well, illicit or not; sponsoring or not. Talking about Iran’s hypocrisy might indeed be somewhat frivolous. Isn’t it hypocritical, too, when Obama had claimed, only minutes earlier, “As we did in the Gulf War, we will not tolerate aggression across borders, and we will keep our commitments to friends and partners,” given the fact of two more or less failed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with hundreds of thousands civilian casualties and current bombardments in Libya, Pakistan, the Yemen, and elsewhere; and America’s and the World’s ultimate foe’s assassination on foreign territory?

Obama also claims that “Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil in [predominantly Shi’ite] Bahrain,” for which there is actually not a shred of evidence either. But his surprising condemnation of Bahrain’s government which, with the help of troops sent by several Arab dictators, brutally cracked down Shi’ite protests in Manama’s Pearl Square leads us in fact to Saudi Arabia. Remarkably, Obama does not mention that Kingdom with word in his speech on Moments of Opportunity. Bahrain, vis-à-vis Iran and home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is too important an ally to fall to America’s arch foe in the region. So, Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s violent intervention early in March, only hours after Minister of Defense Robert Gates had left the island after talks with its Sunni leader King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa seeking a solution for the ongoing protests there, must be regarded as, in principle, highly welcome. That particular solution might have even been hatched in the talks between Al Khalifa and Gates.

Does his mentioning of women’s rights address in particular Saudi Arabia?

“What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women. History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered. And that’s why we will continue to insist that universal rights apply to women as well as men – by focusing assistance on child and maternal health; by helping women to teach, or start a business; by standing up for the right of women to have their voices heard, and to run for office. The region will never reach its full potential when more than half of its population is prevented from achieving their full potential.” (Emphasis added.)

Probably; women are not even supposed to drive a car in the Salafi kingdom. Whether history has shown “that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered” may not apply to the recent past, think for instance of Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Maggie Thatcher, Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton; or Germany’s Angela Merkel who travelled in 2002 to Washington in order to denounce former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s denial of German “adventures” in Iraq.

The third key player addressed was Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s outcry, who was probably already on his way to Washington, was apparently desired when Obama mentioned a two-state solution of the 63-yr Israel/Palestine problem within the boundaries of 1967. Honestly, how should that be accomplished else? Netanyahu’s ranting and, well, desperate contribution in the press conference which followed bilateral talks between him and the American President after his speech indicate that here Obama may have made an impact. When Netanyahu stresses that,

“The third reality [after 1967 boundaries would be unacceptable for Israel; and negotiations with Palestinian radical-Islamic Hamas, which questions Israel’s right to exist, cannot be done] is that the Palestinian refugee problem will have to be resolved in the context of a Palestinian state, but certainly not in the borders of Israel.

The Arab attack in 1948 on Israel resulted in two refugee problems – Palestinian refugee problem and Jewish refugees, roughly the same number, who were expelled from Arab lands.  Now, tiny Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees, but the vast Arab world refused to absorb the Palestinian refugees.  Now, 63 years later, the Palestinians come to us and they say to Israel, accept the grandchildren, really, and the great grandchildren of these refugees, thereby wiping out Israel’s future as a Jewish state,”

he actually uses certain disingenuous language of his arch foe, Iranian President Ahmadinejad. As a brief reminder, tiny Israel possesses nuclear weapons. As a matter of fact, Israel has, by enforcing its illicit settlement policy in the West Bank, rather wiped out Palestine, probably once and forever.

In view of Obama’s apparent intention of pushing the Middle East peace process without further paying attention to attempts of further delay by the old warhorse, Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress next Tuesday might be a war declaration.

Last modified May 21, 2011.

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