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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Robert Fisk: Obama, man of peace? No, just a Nobel prize of a mistake

The Independent



The US president received an award in the faint hope that he will
succeed in the future. That's how desperate the Middle East situation
has become

Sunday, 11 October 2009

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-obama-man-of-peace-no-just-a-nobel-prize-of-a-mistake-1800928.html

His Middle East policy is collapsing. The Israelis have taunted him by
ignoring his demand for an end to settlement-building and by
continuing to build their colonies on Arab land. His special envoy is
bluntly told by the Israelis that an Arab-Israel peace will take "many
years". Now he wants the Palestinians to talk peace to Israel without
conditions. He put pressure on the Palestinian leader to throw away
the opportunity of international scrutiny of UN Judge Goldstone's
damning indictment of Israeli war crimes in Gaza while his Assistant
Secretary of State said that the Goldstone report was "seriously
flawed". After breaking his pre-election promise to call the 1915
Armenian massacres by Ottoman Turkey a genocide, he has urged the
Armenians to sign a treaty with Turkey, again "without pre-conditions".
His army is still facing an insurgency in Iraq. He cannot decide how
to win "his" war in Afghanistan. I shall not mention Iran.

And now President Barack Obama has just won the Nobel Peace
Prize. After only eight months in office. Not bad. No wonder he said
he was "humbled" when told the news. He should have felt humiliated.
But perhaps weakness becomes a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Shimon Peres
won it, too, and he never won an Israeli election. Yasser Arafat won
it. And look what happened to him. For the first time in history, the
Norwegian Nobel committee awarded its peace prize to a man who has
achieved nothing - in the faint hope that he will do something good in
the future. That's how bad things are. That's how explosive the Middle
East has become.

Isn't there anyone in the White House to remind Mr Obama that the
Israel ged a US president who asked for an end to the building of
colonies for Jews ` and Jews only ` on Arab land? Bill Clinton
demanded this ` it was written into the Oslo accords ` and the
Israelis ignored him. George W Bush demanded an end to the fighting in
Jenin nine years ago. The Israelis ignored him. Mr Obama demands a
total end to all settlement construction. "They just don't get it, do
they?" an Israeli minister ` apparently Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu ` was reported to have said when the US Secretary of State,
Hillary Clinton, reiterated her president's words. That's what Avigdor
Lieberman, Israel's crackpot foreign minister ` he's not as much a
crackpot as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but he's getting close ` said again
on Thursday. "Whoever says it's possible to reach in the coming years
a comprehensive agreement," he announced before meeting Mr Obama's
benighted and elderly envoy George Mitchell, "... simply doesn't
understand the reality."

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Across Arabia, needless to say, the Arab potentates continue to shake
with fear in their golden minarets. That great Lebanese journalist
Samir Kassir ` murdered in 2005, quite possibly by Mr Obama's
new-found Syrian chums ` put it well in one of his last essays.
"Undeterred by Egypt since Sadat's peace," he wrote, "convinced of
America's unfailing support, guaranteed moral impunity by Europe's bad
conscience, and backed by a nuclear arsenal that was acquired with the
help of Western powers, and that keeps growing without exciting any
comment from the international community, Israel can literally do
anything it wants, or is prompted to do by its leaders' fantasies of
domination."

So Israel is getting away with it as usual, abusing the distinguished
(and Jewish) head of the UN inquiry into Gaza war crimes ` which also
blamed Hamas ` while joining the Americans in further disgracing the
craven Palestinian Authority "President" Mahmoud Abbas, who is more
interested in maintaining his relations with Washington than with his
own Palestinian people. He's even gone back on his word to refuse
peace talks until Israel's colonial expansion comes to an end. In a
single devastating sentence, that usually mild Jordanian commentator
Rami Khouri noted last week that Mr Abbas is "a tragic shell of a man,
hollow, politically impotent, backed and respected by nobody". I put
"President" Abbas into quotation marks since he now has Mr
Ahmadinejad's status in the eyes of his people. Hamas is
delighted. Thanks to President Obama.

Oddly, Mr Obama is also humiliating the Armenian president, Serg
Sarkisian, by insisting that he talks to his Turkish adversaries
without conditions. In the West Bank, you have to forget the Jewish
colonies. In Armenia, you have to forget the Turkish murder of one and
a half million Armenians in 1915. Mr Obama refused to honour his
pre-election p se to recognise the 20th century's first holocaust as a
genocide. But if he can't handle the First World War, how can he
handle World War Three?

Mr Obama advertised the Afghanistan conflict as the war America had to
fight ` not that anarchic land of Mesopotamia which Mr Bush rashly
invaded. He'd forgotten that Afghanistan was another Bush war; and he
even announced that Pakistan was now America's war, too. The White
House produced its "Afpak" soundbite. And the drones came in droves
over the old Durand Line, to kill the Taliban and a host of innocent
civilians. Should Mr Obama concentrate on al-Qa'ida? Or yield to
General Stanley McChrystal's Vietnam-style demand for 40,000 more
troops? The White House shows the two of them sitting opposite each
other, Mr Obama in the smoothie suite, McChrystal in his
battledress. The rabbit and the hare.

No way are they going to win. The neocons say that "the graveyard of
empire" is a cliché. It is. But it's also true. The Afghan
government is totally corrupted; its paid warlords ` paid by Karzai
and the Americans ` ramp up the drugs trade and the fear of Afghan
civilians. But it's much bigger than this.

The Indian embassy was bombed again last week. Has Mr Obama any idea
why? Does he realise that Washington's decision to support India
against Pakistan over Kashmir ` symbolised by his appointment of
Richard Holbrooke as envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan but with no
remit to discuss divided Kashmir ` enraged Pakistan. He may want India
to balance the power of China (some hope!) but Pakistan's military
intelligence realises that the only way of persuading Mr Obama to act
fairly over Kashmir ` recognising Pakistan's claims as well as India's
` is to increase their support for the Taliban. No justice in Kashmir,
no security for US troops ` or the Indian embassy ` in Afghanistan.

Then, after stroking the Iranian pussycat at the Geneva nuclear talks,
the US president discovered that the feline was showing its claws
again at the end of last week. A Revolutionary
nei, warned that Iran would "blow up the heart" of Israel if Israel or
the US attacked the Islamic Republic. I doubt it. Blow up Israel and
you blow up "Palestine". Iranians ` who understand the West much
better than we understand them ` have another policy in the case of
the apocalypse. If the Israelis attack, they may leave Israel
alone. They have a plan, I'm told, to target instead only US troops in
Iraq and Afghanistan, and their bases in the Gulf and their warships
cruising through Hormuz. They would leave Israel alone. Americans
would then learn the price of kneeling before their Israeli masters.

For the Iranians know that the US has no stomach for a third war in
the Middle East. Which is why Mr Obama has been sending his generals
thick and fast to the defence ministry in Tel Aviv to tell the
Israelis not to strike at Iran. And why Israel's leaders ` including
Mr Netanyahu ` were blowing the peace pipe all week about the need for
international negotiations with Iran. But it raises an interesting
question. Is Mr Obama more frightened of Iran's retaliation? Or of its
nuclear capabilities? Or more terrified of Israel's possible
aggression against Iran?

But, please, no attacks on 10 December. That's when Barack Obama turns
up in Oslo to pocket his peace prize - for achievements he has not yet
achieved and for dreams that will turn into nightmares.

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Baba-Sali

Baba-Sali
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