Thursday 27 September 2012

The Arab Spring at the UN General Assembly

Clockwise, Obama, Morsi, Hollande & Ahmadinejad
Obama trots, Ahmadinejad takes leave, Morsi tries

By Zuhair Qusaibati, writing today for pan-Arab al-Hayat

The Arab Spring at the UN General Assembly for a second year…
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses world leaders like reading an election statement before jogging back to his campaign.
For President Mohamed Morsi, a star on U.S. screens for a few days, the UN General Assembly is an occasion to reassure the world, especially Americans, that Egypt’s Muslim Brothers are not the siblings of either Somalia’s ash-Shabab, who are threatening to kill all elected members of parliament, or of the Jihadists described in a New York subway advertisement as “savages” who cannot be compared to “civilized man.”
The trip by Morsi to New York being his first foray into public relations with world leaders, and the rush by Obama to return to his reelection campaign, salted away the embarrassment of a first meeting between the superpower leader and the head of an Arab heavyweight country that is neither an enemy nor an ally of the United States.
In his first appearance on the global stage, the Egyptian president insisted on notifying Americans that he was no more a Muslim Brotherhood leader but the head of a non-sectarian and non-military state.
Morsi did not miss the opportunity of responding to Obama’s message complaining of protests around the American Embassy in Cairo by reminding the Democratic Administration that Egypt would no more rubber-stamp U.S. foreign policy.
The second star -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- is not running to another term in office after his brouhaha at home killed all his chances. He thus had no qualms about ignoring the advice of his host, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who seemingly reminded him that the General Assembly is not Tehran University and that bombastic slogans gain no currency in an audience of over 100 world statesmen.
While Morsi justifiably took his chances with the Americans to at least decouple the question of U.S. economic aid from Egypt’s pursuit of its traditional Arab policies, Ahmadinejad’s eclipse was evident. Only Israel exploited his rhetoric (“the destruction of Israel”) to blackmail the Obama Administration.
Obama did not ignore Iran’s nuclear ambitions despite weeklong protests around U.S. embassies over the anti-Islam film. He did not dwell much on the film controversy, which was on everyone’s mind at the General Assembly.
But Obama called on addressing the fallouts of the film controversy on relations between the West and the Arab world. He did so circuitously, putting the onus of finding a remedy on the region, in spite of his salute to the Arab Spring.
In fact, the superpower leader pledged the Arab Spring nothing – not even easing its passageway on the Syria track.
Likewise, his undertaking to abort Iran’s nuclear bomb ambitions echoed his attempts to win the U.S. Jewish vote after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ran out of efforts to drive a wedge between the Democratic Administration and American Jewish voters.
Obama hurried back to his reelection campaign after making creation of an “independent Palestine” conditional on recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and Israel agreeing to an independent Palestine. Can anyone think of a more generous promise to win hearts in the Jewish lobby that succeeded in erasing all traces of Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo?
For his part, French President Francois Hollande, who stood out in expressing his sympathy with Syrians in their slaughterhouse, is aware – like all other Western leaders – that his tears won’t save a child or a woman in Aleppo, Homs, Hama and Damascus so long as Vladimir Putin is able to raise his finger for a UN Security Council veto that would leave Syrians to their fate.
Even in the UN General Assembly, Palestine seemed lukewarm and beleaguered Syria looked destined for a long agony.
Since its inception, the United Nations was never the ideal place for agreements or for keeping world peace, despite all the noble and fair phraseology in the UN Charter.
If justice were an earthly human goal endorsed by democracies, the chase for democracy should start in the Security Council, where veto tyranny rules.  
One finger raised in the Security Council can perpetuate massacres, whether the veto expresses a veiled convergence of interests absolving other members of the big powers’ club from protecting civilians or maintaining a measure that is out of date 60 years after the demise of the League of Nations.
Westerners urging democratic reform in the stumbling Orient would do better to fix the rudder steering world affairs.
Even in the UN General Assembly, Palestine seems lukewarm and Syria looks like following suit. Children crying over other children corpses are mere images.