Robert Fisk: Most Arabs know this speech will make little difference

I suspect that what the Arab world wants to hear is that Obama will take his soldiers out of Muslim lands

Share
Related Topics

More and more, it looks like the same old melody that Bush's lads used to sing. We're not against the Muslim world. In fact, we are positively for it. We want you to have democracy, up to a point. We love Arab "moderates" and we want to reach out to you and be your friends. Sorry about Iraq. And sorry – again, up to a point – about Afghanistan and we do hope that you understand why we've got to have a little "surge" in Helmand among all those Muslim villages with their paper-thin walls. And yes, we've made mistakes.

Everyone in the world, or so it seems, is waiting to see if this is what Barack Obama sings. I'm not sure, though, that the Arabs are waiting with such enthusiasm as the rest of the world.

I haven't met an Arab in Egypt – or an Arab in Lebanon, for that matter – who really thinks that Obama's "outreach" lecture in Cairo on Thursday is going to make much difference.

They watched him dictate to Bibi Netanyahu – no more settlements, two-state solution – and they saw Bibi contemptuously announce, on the day that Mahmoud Abbas, the most colourless leader in the Arab world, went to the White House, that Israel's colonial project in the West Bank would continue unhindered. So that's that, then.

And please note that Obama has chosen Egypt for his latest address to the Muslims, a country run by an ageing potentate – Hosni Mubarak is 80 – who uses his secret police like a private army to imprison human rights workers, opposition politicians, anyone in fact who challenges the great man's rule. At this point, we won't mention torture. Be sure that this little point is unlikely to get much play in the Obama sermon, just as he surely will not be discussing Saudi Arabia's orgy of head-chopping when he chats to King Abdullah on Wednesday.

So what's new, folks? Arabs, I find, have a very shrewd conception of what goes on in Washington – the lobbying, the power politics, the dressing up of false friendship in Rooseveltian language – even if ordinary Americans do not. They are aware that the "new" America of Obama looks suspiciously like the old one of Bush and his lads and ladies. First, Obama addresses Muslims on Al-Arabiya television. Then he addresses Muslims in Istanbul. Now he wants to address Muslims all over again in Cairo.

I suppose Obama could say: "I promise I will not make any decision until I first consult with you and the Jewish side" along with more promises about being a friend of the Arabs. Only that's exactly what Franklin Roosevelt told King Abdul Aziz on the deck of USS Quincy in 1945, so the Arabs have heard that one before. I guess we'll hear about terrorism being as much a danger to Arabs as to Israel – another dull Bush theme – and, Obama being a new President, we might also have a "we shall not let you down" theme.

But for what? I suspect that what the Arab world wants to hear – not their leaders, of course, all of whom would like to have a spanking new US air base on their property – is that Obama will take all his soldiers out of Muslim lands and leave them alone (American aid, doctors, teachers, etc, excepted). But for obvious reasons, Obama can't say that.

He can, and will, surely, try his global-Arab line; that every Arab nation will be involved in the new Middle East peace, a resurrection of the remarkably sane Saudi offer of full Arab recognition of Israel in return for an Israeli return to the 1967 borders in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolution 242. Obama will be clearing this with King Abdullah on Wednesday, no doubt. And everyone will nod sagely and the newspapers of the Arab dictatorships will solemnly tip their hats to the guy and the New York Times will clap vigorously.

And the Israeli government will treat it all with the same amused contempt as Netanyahu treated Obama's demand to stop building Jewish colonies on Arab land and, back home in Washington, Congress will fulminate and maybe Obama will realise, just like the Arab potentates have realised, that beautiful rhetoric and paradise-promises never, ever, win against reality.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher

£110 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently seeking a ...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

Year 5/6 Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: The successful applicant w...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The daily catch-up: Joe on Vlad, the banks of the Jordan and Blair's radicalism

John Rentoul
 

Believe me, I said, there’s nothing rural about this urban borough’s attempt at a country fair

John Walsh
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor