Robert Fisk: Could it be al-Qa'ida is missing Bush?

Share
Related Topics

President Barack Obama was received in the Middle East with the usual grovelling Saudi plea for help in taming the Israelis and an incendiary threat from Osama bin Laden that America will pay the price for his role in displacing a million Muslim refugees in Pakistan. It wasn't difficult to see why Obama warned the world not to expect too much from his attempt to "create a better dialogue" with Muslims.

Bin Laden was probably 1,300 miles to the north of Obama when the US President landed in Riyadh yesterday for his meeting with King Abdullah but, as usual, Bin Laden's words were a good deal more direct than those of the fawning Saudis. By his support for the Pakistani army's assault on the Taliban in Waziristan, Obama had "sown new seeds of hatred against America" and was "laying the foundation for long wars ahead". With his normal flourish, Bin Laden added that he "warned the American people... that they will suffer the consequences of his actions".

Could it be, perhaps, that Bin Laden is beginning to miss old George Bush and his "war on terror", that the ever smiling Barack Obama is beginning to stick in Bin Laden's craw, that the fractional improvement in US-Arab relations is beginning to be a little irksome – or that, by some awful mischance – Obama actually might tame the colonial ambitions of Israel? Ironically it was Madeleine Albright – writing with the usual pomposity but with almost bin Laden-like directness in the New York Times – who also spotted that no Obama speech, "however eloquent, can disentangle US-Muslim relations from the treacherous terrain of current events such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan..."

The Saudis, of course, wanted to talk about the Iranian – i.e. Shiite – threat to the Sunni world as well as the refusal of Bibi Netanyahu to bow to Obama's demand for an end to the Israeli colonisation of Arab land. Indeed, there are times when the Saudis speak of Iran with almost the same hatred as Bibi. They really should meet some time, although success for the 2002 Saudi peace plan – total Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border in return for full Arab recognition of Israel – would probably guarantee that just such a meeting took place.

Obama's speech writers will have tightened up the US President's Egyptian address for today once they discover whether King Abdullah is still as keen on the Saudis' own 2002 plan. It will no doubt be neatly slotted into the "better understanding" speech which we are going to have to listen to in Cairo today when Obama addresses that famous entity, the "Muslim world". The trouble is that the Shiite-Sunni void – to be played out again this weekend in the theatricals of the Lebanese elections – is almost as important for the Arabs as resolving the tragedy of the Palestinians.

And, of course, everyone wants to be seen hugging the new American President. Grinning over his cardamom tea with the king in Riyadh yesterday, poor Obama is going to have to endure the embrace of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo today where the government press – almost as fawning as the Saudis – have been proclaiming that Obama's reference to the Egyptian president as a "stalwart ally" of peace proves that Egypt has yet again won its place at the centre of the Arab world.

Yes, Obama did actually call the old dictator a "stalwart ally", much to the disgust of the opposition in Egypt, but that is what you have to do in this part of the world if you want to get invited back. Waiting for the President's speech is almost exquisitely painful because, like the Arabs, Washington's policies still appear hopelessly divided. While infuriating the Israelis – much to the Arabs' delight – Obama continues to send his men into the graveyard of empires to beat the Taliban, shrugging off any responsibility for those one million Pakistani Muslim refugees whom Bin Laden so shrewdly spotted on the horizon. The only real question, perhaps, is whether Obama has asked himself the most important question: does the "Muslim world" actually exist?

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Assistant

£30,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for a perso...

Sheridan Maine: Accounts Payable Clerk

£21,000 - £24,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you looking for a new opportunit...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Manager

£55,000 - £65,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accountant with ...

Sheridan Maine: Finance Analyst

£45,000 - £55,000 Annual: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified accountant...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: opening round in the election contest of the YouTube videos

John Rentoul
Anthony Burgess, the author of 'A Clockwork Orange' and 'Earthly Powers,' died 17 years ago  

If Anthony Burgess doesn’t merit a blue plaque, then few do

John Walsh
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor