By Pepe Escobar
Facts on the ground will decide whether the United States really “values the dignity of the street vendor in Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator”.
So let’s start with a fact. For US President Barack Obama, Saudi Arabia is not in the Middle East. Maybe the House of Saud has relocated the deserts and the oil to Oceania without telling anyone. In his major speech on Thursday from where the opening quote comes, and where, according to the Reuters gospel, he would “lay out a new US strategy toward a skeptical Arab world”, the skeptical Arabs, and the whole world for that matter, never heard these fateful two words, “Saudi” and “Arabia”. Even India, Indonesia and Brazil were mentioned.
That goes a long way to explain how the US, once again according to the Reuters gospel, plans to “shape the outcome of popular uprisings”; by not even naming the Middle Eastern power behind the ongoing counter-revolution against the great 2011 Arab revolt.
Obama tried to shape what Clintonites define as “ambitious realism”. It was more like ambitious fiction. By insisting on America’s set of “principles” and not so subtly trying once again to monopolize the moral high ground – issuing dispensations on regime change from Muammar Gaddafi (already gone) to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad (reform or go), Obama tried to rewrite history by inscribing Washington at the heart of the Arab-wide push for democracy. It may fool Americans. It didn’t fool the Arab street.
It took three long months for Obama to finally deal with the al-Khalifa dynasty in Bahrain – without ever mentioning their masters Saudi Arabia. He let the Bahraini rulers off the hook with a State Department-issued velvet glove, at the same time deviating into a Riyadh/Tel Aviv-approved script blaming the evil of all evils Iran; “We recognize that Iran has tried to take advantage of the turmoil there, and that the Bahraini government has a legitimate interest in the rule of law. Nevertheless, we have insisted publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain’s citizens, and will not make legitimate calls for reform go away.”
It’s much more Orwellian than mere “brute force”; it’s the University of Bahrain, for instance, forcing students to sign a pledge of allegiance to the government, promising not to defy the monarchy; otherwise they’ll be expelled.
So to make a story short, here’s a concise New Middle East Obama policy. We support “our” bastards (dictators) who are sophisticated enough to beat, arrest and kill their own people in the low hundreds (Bahrain). We get slightly annoyed by “our” war on terror collaborators who crudely beat, arrest and kill their own people also in the low hundreds (Yemen). We’re strongly inclined to ditch our support for unreliable, Iran-aligned dictators who beat, arrest and kill their own people in the high hundreds (Syria).
We unleash war – via the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a weaponized arm of the United Nations – over unreliable oil-wealthy dictators who beat, arrest and kill their own people in alleged thousands (Libya). And we remain absolute mute about “our” monarchical bastards who pre-empt the possibility of democratic protests (Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia) or invade their neighbors to smash ongoing peaceful protests (Saudi Arabia).
‘Final solution’ or bust
On the absolutely central issue for the Arab word, Obama seemed to demonstrate sound judgment by supporting a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine, based on the 1967 borders, “with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine”. There’s the initial rub to end all rubs; no Israeli government will ever accept this – provided, as Obama hinted, it decides what percentage it wants to keep from those stolen lands.
Israel never defined its own borders. Since – and even before – 1948 Zionists dream of an Eretz Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates rivers. As the Euphrates was, and now more than ever is not in the market, Zionists settled for the whole, former Palestine mandate. That’s the (invisible) meaning of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting Palestinians must recognize Israel as “the Jewish state”.
If they did, 1.5 million Palestinians – already infra-citizens in Israel – would be instantly denationalized and expelled en masse to the Palestinian Bantustan configured as the “final solution” to the Zionist “demographic problem”.
Obama’s set of conditions for the Palestinians sounded like a press release from Tel Aviv; against the reunion between Hamas and Fatah, against the planned Palestinian bid for statehood during the UN General Assembly in September. Nothing on sprawling, already existing settlements in the West Bank, just a call for Israel to cease “settlement activity” (what’s that? A cousin of “kinetic military activity”?) No wonder Israeli media is spinning all this as a Netanyahu victory.
And when Obama stressed that “endless delay” won’t “make the problem go away” he totally missed the point; it’s by employing “endless delay” tactics that every Israeli government has kept settlement-building on overdrive and totally encircled East Jerusalem, while relentlessly applying a “divide and rule” strategy (pitting Fatah against Hamas) to crush Palestinian morale.
No flowery rhetoric can conceal that this is all about – what else – “protecting” Israel (mentioned 28 times in the speech). Further factual confirmation this weekend, when Obama addresses the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee bash, and next Monday, when Netanyahu addresses that Tel Aviv talk shop known as the US Congress.
For the moment, the Arab street says he totally blew it. And a furious Israel said no, no, no to any concession.
Blame the Shi’ite crescent
How could Obama’s dodgy rhetoric possibly jeopardize the oil-for-security US/Saudi pact with the devil? (Which side the devil is on is open to debate). Especially when the House of Saud – and US weapons manufacturers – are smacking their lips about a monster $60 billion deal involving dozens of F-15 jet fighters which will prevail against “existential threat” Iran (oops, wasn’t that an Israeli excuse? Well, they’re one and the same anyway).
How could Obama’s leadership possibly admit live, to the whole world, that a US-Saudi-Israeli counter-revolution has been on since late February to smash the great 2011 Arab revolt – as Asia Times Online has been reporting?
How could Obama possibly admit that the weapon of choice of the counter-revolution is the anti-Shi’ite card – against Persian Shi’ites in Iran as well as Arab Shi’ites in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman and Syria; and that makes it, in a tragic but predictable sense, an al-Qaeda strategy at heart?
How could Obama possibly admit that Abdullah II, the Playstation King of Jordan, invented the idea of the “Shi’ite crescent” way back in 2004, and now it’s been dusted off, hopefully with more success?
How could Obama possibly admit that Washington’s demented obsession with Iran – with Tel Aviv adding fuel to the fire non-stop – is now being graphically exposed as an US/Saudi/Israeli sectarian prejudice against Shi’ism? (Quite a feat for Shi’ites to be simultaneously discriminated against by a Christian/Jewish/Wahhabi Muslim “coalition of the willing”).
How could Obama possibly admit, as professor of Arab politics at Columbia Joseph Massad has been one of a few to point out, that “the US-supported repression in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, and in the United Arab Emirates goes hand in hand with the Euro-American-Qatari intervention in Libya to safeguard the oil wells for Western companies once a new government is in place”?
And how could Obama possibly admit that the defining struggle of these times is the great 2011 Arab revolt against the US/Saudi/Israeli counter-revolution?
The chattering classes in Washington dubbed Obama’s speech “Cairo II”, a reset of his original 2009 Cairo speech “selling” democracy to the Arab world. They’ve bought it – wholesale.
Cairo itself has much more to say about it than Obama’s rhetorical change we can believe in. Watch out if Cairo and the rest of Egypt elect a truly sovereign, truly independent government. Only then the real Arab revolution will start. We’re all Egyptians now.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).