778 WORLD, Analysis, News on Sunday 27 May 2011 .pdf

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News on Sunday, May 27 - June 2, 2011 |



Beyond Obama’s rhetoric
He is probably the best US President
in terms of oratory prowess and lectures
on human rights, the rule of law, universal values… Barack Obama’s speech on
the Middle East in the US on 19 May was
greeted with standing ovations. His
address to both Houses of Parliament in
the UK on 25 May was also met with rapturous applause. It may be difficult to go
against the elated feelings of a multitude
of people in the US Senate and Congress,
the UK House of Commons and House
of Lords and much of the world media,
mesmerised and conquered as they were
by the eloquence of the US President or,
as Baroness Hayman of the House of
Lords called it, his “poetry”. It is, however, important to look beyond the rhetoric to see the stark reality on the ground.
Jumping on the bandwagon of the
Arab Spring – the US never played any
part or acted as a catalyst in the uprisings
sweeping across the Middle East and
North Africa – Obama said: “The question before us is what role America will
play as this story unfolds. For decades,
the United States has pursued a set of core
interests in the region: countering terrorism and stopping the spread of nuclear
weapons; securing the free flow of commerce, and safe-guarding the security of
the region; standing up for Israel’s security and pursuing Arab-Israeli peace.”
Note, in particular, the last phrase in this
quote. I shall come back to it.
That the power of the US in the world
is dwindling and, more pointedly, the
people “in the region” (and elsewhere)
hardly listen to the US President these
days seem to escape him. Unabated,
Obama went on and said: “We will continue to do these things, with the firm belief
that America’s interests are not hostile to
peoples’ hopes; they are essential to
them.” Should people in the region disagree with him, he had this to say: “Not
every country will follow our particular
form of representative democracy, and

Bosnia war
criminal arrested

Ratko Mladic, wanted by UN prosecutors for war crimes during the
Bosnian civil war, has been arrested
in Serbia after a decade in hiding.
Serbian President Boris Tadic
confirmed the arrest of the former
Bosnian Serb army chief at a news
Gen Mladic is accused of a key
role in the massacre of at least 7,500
men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995.
He was the most prominent
Bosnian war crimes suspect at large
since the arrest of Radovan Karadzic
in 2008.
Nato chief Anders Fogh
Rasmussen hailed the arrest, saying
it finally offered "a chance for justice
to be done".
Gen Mladic was said by Serbian
media to have been arrested in
Vojvodina, a northern province of
Serbia, in the early hours of
Thursday morning.

there will be times when our short term
interests do not align perfectly with our
long term vision of the region.”
Was he thinking about Bahrain where
the authorities have been cracking down
on street protesters daring to dream of
democracy? Unashamedly, Obama said:
“Bahrain is a long-standing partner, and
we are committed to its security. 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.” Further on, he
added: “The government must create the
conditions for dialogue, and the opposition must participate to forge a just future
for all Bahrainis.” But elsewhere, he and
his Western allies will back the opposition, sometimes called “rebels”, as in
Libya for instance, where intense military
pressures have been stepped up to force
Gaddafi out. And yet Obama, in his
Middle East speech, acknowledged that
“we have learned from our experience in
Iraq just how costly and difficult it is to

impose regime change by force – no matter how well-intended it may be.”
When Barack Obama proclaimed in
his evangelist style that “the United States
opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region”,
millions of people in the Middle East and
North Africa could legitimately ask him
why the US did not do anything to stop
the collective punishment of the people
trapped inside Gaza or in South Lebanon
when they were bombed by Israeli fighter planes.
Whenever US Presidents talk about
the breakdown of so-called “peace negotiations” between Palestinians and
Israelis, they usually blame the
Palestinians for its demise. Obama is no
exception. He said: “Palestinians have
walked away from talks” without saying
that the Palestinians had no choice after
the Israelis carried on with the colonisation of Palestinian lands. Barack Obama
may give the impression that he is in
favour of the creation of a Palestinian

state within the 1967 borders to be achieved with “land swaps” but all his talk
about self-determination and human
dignity seem to evaporate when confronted with Benjamin Netanyahu’s intransigeance. The Israeli PM has rejected the
key demands of the Palestinians (a state
enclosed within the 1967 borders, East
Jerusalem as its capital and the return of
Palestinian refugees) and criticised the
reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas,
describing the latter as “the Palestinian
version of al-Qaeda”.
As Israeli spin doctors try to rally supporters to oppose the intention of the
Palestinians to seek UN backing in
September for the creation of a
Palestinian state, Obama echoed their
propaganda in his speech. He said that
“efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in
failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel
at the United Nations in September won’t
create an independent state. Palestinian
leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror
and rejection. And Palestinians will never
realize their independence by denying
the right of Israel to exist.” To appear
objective, he spoke about Israel too but in
more positive terms. “As for Israel, our
friendship is rooted deeply in a shared
history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable.
And we will stand against attempts to
single it out for criticism in international
forums. But precisely because of our
friendship, it is important that we tell the
truth: the status quo is unsustainable, and
Israel too must act boldly to advance a
lasting peace.”
Last Sunday, Barack Obama said that
American financial aid dedicated to the
defence of Israel had reached new heights
under his presidency. We shall see what
happens at the UN in September – if the
Palestinians get that far.

Spain stops helicopter sales to Iran

Spanish police say they have prevented the illegal sale of nine military
transport helicopters to Iran and have
detained eight people.
The operation, which took place in
Madrid and Barcelona, led to the arrests
of five Spanish businessmen and three
Iranian nationals, reports say.
As well as the Bell-212 helicopters,
police also found spare parts for export
to Venezuela, police said.
Iran is banned from buying attack
helicopters under UN sanctions.
The five Spanish businessmen are
suspected of trying to export the USmade aircraft, while the three Iranians
are accused of negotiating the purchase
of military material, the AFP news
agency reports.
As part of Operation Nam, police raided industrial sites in Madrid and
Barcelona where they found the helicopters, reports say.
The total value of the helicopters and
spares was 100m euros ($140m), they

The helicopters, which are used to
transport troops and military equipment, and spares were being prepared
for assembly and disassembly before
export to Iran and Venezuela, police
"They tried to protect the export sale,
which could have resulted in revenue
of about 100m euros, under the cover of
legal aviation repairs," the statement
Police said they found out about the
arrival in Spain of the Iranian purcha-

sers who had come to formalise the deal
which led to their operation being launched.
The Spanish companies said to be
involved are accused of ignoring export
requirements by failing to obtain
licences for the export of military material for goods that could have military
applications, police said.
Under UN sanctions adopted last
year, Iran is banned from buying heavy
weapons such as attack helicopters and

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