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(Thanks soadhead.com for the image)The hope of change in Obama’s foreign policy has rather spectacularly collapsed. In Cairo Obama appeared to articulate a radical shift in the nature of politics in the Middle East:

“I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.”

But on the anniversary of his first year as President a whole spate of articles appeared on how Obama has carried on the foreign policies of the Bush era. He has been labled by some as George W. Obama.This has been regrettably true. On Palestine Obama promised change:

And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

On Iran Obama promised change:

Rather than remain trapped in the past, I’ve made it clear to Iran’s leaders and people that my country is prepared to move forward.  The question now is not what Iran is against, but rather what future it wants to build.

This is to name but two. And these two statements did not live up to what his administration has delivered.

Well respected commentators have called on his Middle East Advisor to resign due the complete lack of purpose and clarity on the Middle East peace process. The recent announcement that the US will deploy a missile shield in the Gulf shows the continued belligerent policies towards Iran.

Foreign Policy often involves a lot of movement but, much like a fountain seen from a distance, remains remarkably constant. Why is this? How is it that Obama a man so remarkably different from Bush has been unable to change the foreign policy of the US? Is it simply the nature of power? Obama cannot really move in this region in the right direction without radically altering the whole region. Is this too much to bear?

But did we not expect too much? Yes, Obama did fed that beast of expectation to delirious levels. Would it have been different if  he focused solely on a couple of particular issues instead of trying to establish a global agenda? Is that the problem with our globalised age. That the greatest idol of the modern age had to give all things to all people at all times and ended not knowing where or how to start? Creating a vacuous nothingness.

Obama is not Bush but he is not a political radical either. He is a leader that is part of the same system as Bush, a system that has a foreign policy that cannot be changed by the President alone and not without great political ramifications at home. He still remains a hope for the potential for change in the region but we know now not change itself. For change itself you have to alter the source to stop the continuous flow.

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Entering the first month of the year and already two major disasters have hit very close to home. Although I  do not know anyone that has died in either Haiti or the Ethiopian airline crash it appears many of my friends did. When disaster strikes nearby it always of course makes it more real. I just cannot image what living in Baghdad is like as yet another bomb explodes and kills 18 people. Disaster continues day in and day out. When will it stop?

Foreign policy by Britain and the US is still mired in confusion, bias and prejudice. It is plain to see that the policy towards the Middle East is fundamentally flawed yet it continues unchanged year after year, disaster after disaster. No it’s not just America’s fault but Administrations come and go; US and British foreign policy in the region stays the same. Who would support US and Britain’s foreign policy in the region at the moment, except for expansionist Zionists and the evangelical right? If you are out there please step forward, would love to hear from you. No really. I want to “get it”.

My previous pessimism regarding Obama and the Middle East strategy is only confirmed by people like Stephan Walt calling for Obama’s Mid East envoy Mitchell to resign:

If Mideast special envoy George Mitchell wants to end his career with his reputation intact, it is time for him to resign.

Walt is very clear and insightful (as usual) as to where it has all gone wrong:

Which advisors told Obama and Mitchell to proceed as they did, raising expectations sky-high in the Cairo speech, publicly insisting on a settlement freeze, and then engaging in a humiliating retreat? Did they ever ask themselves what they would do if Netanyahu dug in his heels, as anyone with a triple-digit IQ should have expected? And if Obama now realizes how badly they screwed up, why do the people who recommended this approach still have their jobs?

The objective was admirably clear from the start — “two states for two peoples” what was missing was a clear strategy for getting there and the political will to push it through.

Clear thinking…if only. Who has a clue what Obama or Brown’s foreign policy strategy is. I can only see policies that are unplanned, reactionary and weak. That will in the end lead to a tide of unplanned decisions creating a whirlpool of disaster.

In Britain at the moment the argument continues as to wether the Iraq war was legal or not. Security council resolution 1441 that passed unanimously by the security council is at the centre of the debate. Did it allow a pre-emptive strike or not? I am not a lawyer but I wonder how much does it matter if it was legal or not. What really matters is why such an obviously disasters occupation was allowed to go ahead regardless of the legal implications. Why is there not a foreign policy enquiry being carried out that analysis why Britain, and the US as well, has continually screwed up and misunderstood this region. The reason of course is that they don’t want to upset the people they support in the region that keep the oil flowing. But there is another way.

I do believe the West can have oil without creating the kind of misguided policies that are in existence today. I don’t believe in a utopia where everyone will be getting along fine after decades of conflict. But the support of the kind of brutal regimes and equally brutal capitalistic models that we would never accept in our own societies does not have to occur. Why are we not looking seriously at ways to create more sensible foreign policies towards Saudi, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and of course Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Israel-Palestine?

Instead the Chilcot inquiry is chugging along, deepening everyones pessimism about the democratic system and foreign policy. There are few sane Kantians left now.

There are some great websites that are painstakingly following the events of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq invasion. And there are even people out there supporting Tony Blair who is due to give his testament soon. This blog that is passionatley for Blair and his invasion makes your stomach turn, here are some wonderful quotes from the blog to get your blood boiling:

THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS NO REASON TO DECRY THE INVASION

The last one makes me want to hit my head on my desk several times. Instead I think of Ghandi and breath:

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Bin Laden is back with a new tape. Surprised?

So are commentators calling for an invasion of Iran, worryingly by people who should know better. Surprised?

Everyone is predicting a Hezbollah-Israeli war, which will be the war to end all wars. Surprised?

If there was a firm US policy that matches action with words and is more responsive to the justifiable grievances of the region, I personally believe that Bin Laden would be reduced, Hezbollah-Israel tension would be reduced and those calling for war would be marginalised. Instead all three remain on the front line.

After declaring Mitchell Mid East Peace envoy was Missing In Action he turns up at my door….well Beirut.

Watching Mitchell talk about the peace process is almost as painful when members of the Bush administration used to come to town (I say almost). Of course you don’t feel the vile hatred that a member of the Bush corporation would bring up deep inside of you. Instead I think of the buzz that Mitchell created and to see it all dissolve to the sorry state that the peace process is today. When Mitchell talks the emptiness of what he says it is deeply depressing, we are back to where we started. Although, thinking about it we never actually went anywhere. The same old chasm has appeared between political rhetoric and actions on the ground. Stuck, fed up, frustrated, angered, feeling duped, lied to….  There must be a plan of action? But where the hell is it!!?

As Khoury states in a great editorial:

We still have no idea of how Obama hopes to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in particular, because he has not articulated the US view on core issues like refugees, the ultimate status of the settlements, and Jerusalem.

Obama is allowing a moral vacuum to appear. Of course Israel is a difficult customer if you are a US President. The Israel lobby is not after all pissing around like most Arab regimes. Israel knows who its Daddy is but more importantly knows that it is Mum (i.e. the lobby groups and media) that is the neck that turns Daddy’s head. Khoury meanwhile articulates devistatingly what Arab activism is going on to change this:

The total absence of serious Arab diplomacy or initiatives is one of the profound shortcomings of our contemporary Arab political system, in which regimes are largely immobilized on the international scene because of their near total preoccupation with maintaining power at home.

When George Mitchell was appointed Middle East envoy by Obama there was a lot of rice and flower throwing by those who felt finally the US has a envoy that can shift the deadlock between Israelis-Palestinians. Mitchell it was said did wonders in Northern Ireland, he is the best of the best, he can really get the Israelis to stop settlement building and create a Palestinian state. It definitely did have  those on the Israeli side worried claiming that a “fair” diplomat like Mitchell was not what the Israelis expect of a US Mid East envoy.

When Mitchell/Obama got going they looked like they were really going to do something about Israeli settlements and their “natural growth”. The ending was not however, something out of Walt Disney…it was instead closer to the grimy reality that goes on in making many of these enduring spectacles.

Since the bump of the US and Israel over the settlement it looks like Clinton and Dennis Ross are calling the shots on Middle East policy that is slowly returning back to the status quo. Clinton and Ross are taking over policy so much so that there are rumours, that should be treated with more than a health inspectors recommendation of salt, that Mitchell may resign.

However, even if he did who would notice now? I mean where has the man gone….where have the loft days of hope that was created by Obama’s Cairo speech? The heady days of change in 09 seem far away now and Mitchell is certainly not attracting the attention (adulation/nervousness) he once did.

But now there are the rumblings that Mitchell is trying to re-start peace negotiations. Mitchell went to France and is again starting to talk tough to Israel saying that the US could withdraw loan guarantees. But now there is not even a hint of seriousness in the Israeli response. The Israeli Finance Minister responded with a big….shrug:

“We don’t need to use these guarantees…We are doing just fine. But several months ago we agreed with the American treasury on guarantees for 2010 and 2011, and there were no conditions.”

Something tells me the Old George will soon go Missing In Action again….as will any serious change in Middle East policy by the US and stagnation will be the flavour of the year. The Israelis have won there battle against any change in the direction of US policy…but they did’nt really even have to fight.