The Wall Street Journal says that many Arabs are going to have a hard time finding enough bread to eat over the coming months. Bad weather and lower-than-average crops — plus climbing fuel costs — have driven up the price of wheat by 91% in less than a year. Arabs eat a lot of bread; Tunisians, Algerians and Egyptians, for example, consume almost 3 times per capita than Americans. They account of 1/3 of all the world’s traded wheat.
He came to power by blaming his predecessor for sending troops to Iraq. The new leader promised comprehensive health care reform and to bring his country’s welfare safety net in line with Western Europe’s. But the global financial crisis came and denied him his chance of greatness. Compelled by circumstances, he began to belatedly imitate the policies of his predecessor simply in order to survive. We are of course talking about Spain’s Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Robert Burns of the Associated Press reports that the Pentagon is arming Saudi Arabia as a counterweight to Iran. The key elements are a $60 billion arms deal and the development of an elite force that will protect the Kingdom’s future nuclear sites. All this is taking place in a bizarre political environment where the Saudis and the US are at loggerheads over the “Arab Spring”. The extent of Saudi cooperation with America is also so domestically sensitive that the huge program is taking place behind an information curtain. The 35,000 man “elite force” will be trained by US personnel and overseen by Central Command.
Jennifer Rubin argues that the Palestinian Right of Return and Israel’s boundaries were the primary bargaining chips of each side in the decades-long diplomatic faceoff. To get a comprehensive settlement the Palestinians would have to give up the idea of turning Israel into an Arab state in exchange for borders of their own. In turn the Israelis would make territorial concessions only if they could be assured that the Palestinians would not be in a position to destroy it as a Jewish entity.
There was a certain asymmetry in the confrontation that often went unremarked. Israel was the world’s only Jewish state while the Palestinians were part of a larger community in the region, some would say indistinguishable from it. Israel’s existence was its all-in-all. On the other the hand, the Palestinian state was in the final analysis, optional to the Arabs in the region as a whole. Israel non-negotiably needed to live. Palestine’s nonnegotiable demand was that Israel needed to die.
The Arab reaction to the president’s Middle East speech as reported by the Christian Science Monitor is reminiscent of the responses to the failing Mubarak: they’ve seen Obama give, now they want to see him give some more. “While those involved in Arab uprisings welcomed Obama’s support, others were disappointed with his failure to apologize for US support for Middle East dictators.” Once you start giving to the crowd, you can’t stop giving.
In giving his speech the president may have done three things, none of which he quite intended. First, he has essentially denounced as evil and misguided, though in a lukewarm fashion, decades of American policy in the Middle East. Second, he has delegitimized Israel, at least within the context of its current borders. Third, he has by implication suggested that the rule of many of his allies is undemocratic and, in consequence, declared himself King of Arabia. He has assumed ultimate responsibility for the political development of the region now. He’s declared it broken. Now he owns it.
And the big winner of the Arab Spring in Washington is … the State Department. The WSJ said that President Obama’s speech would reflect a major presidential policy shift in favor of Foggy Bottom. “Mr. Obama is expected to argue Thursday that the death of Osama bin Laden, paired with the popular uprisings, signals the possibility of a new, open and democratic opportunity for a region that is largely the province of entrenched autocrats.”
The Obama White House has moved to exert greater civilian control over the military, challenging the views of the top brass in some areas, officials say. At the same time, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s State Department, together with a more assertive White House National Security Council, has taken a lead in crafting America’s response to the greatest geopolitical challenge since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“Still angry over the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistani lawmakers demanded an end to American missile strikes against Islamist militants on their soil Saturday, and warned that Pakistan may cut NATO’s supply line to Afghanistan if the attacks don’t stop,” says the AP. A fuel convoy headed for Afghanistan was recently hit by an IED, causing the loss of 5 tanker vehicles.
Hello darkness, my old friend.
I’ve come to talk to you again.
The most unfortunate headline of the day is from the Guardian’s Pierre Haski: “Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s fall is a blow for France’s Socialists”. The perils of the English language. The fall part is right. The blow part is now the subject of a criminal investigation. But this much is obviously true. Dominique Strauss-Kahn was a man sitting on top of the world. Why did he, er, blow it? In a little while he would have been President of France.
Everything was ready, even the T-shirts with the slogan: “Yes, we Kahn”. Even the hagiographic biography, with its chapters on extramarital sex leading to its happy ending: its subject’s proclamation of eternal love to his celebrity wife. But France woke up today to the news that Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the IMF and the man tipped to replace Nicolas Sarkozy next year as French president, was behind bars in New York, charged with the sexual assault of a hotel maid.
The Wall Street Journal raises an interesting question: are knuckle draggers to be held to the a higher standard than those whose sophistication is immeasurbly higher? In an article entitled the Strauss-Kahn Charges, the WSJ argues that the catastrophe that overtook Strauss-Kahn may have had its roots in the blind eye they turned toward his earlier indiscretions. They contrasted this with the the treatment shown to Paul Wolfowitz: