President Barack Obama’s speech about recent developments in the Middle East was unimpressive. He proclaimed the U.S. supports democracy and “universal rights” but given the U.S.’s practice of torture and occupation of two countries, that proclamation is hypocritical. Obama said that the United States supports the current Arab uprisings. Yet, the U.S. was late in supporting the Egyptian uprising since the tyrant being overthrown — Hosni Mubarak — was a key U.S. ally. The U.S. supported the revolution when it was clear that Mubarak was going to leave. Obama talked about Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s violence against his own people, which justified U.S./NATO intervention. Qaddafi has a long history of repression but that did not stop the U.S. government from using Libya as a rendition destination for detainees to be tortured, which is illegal. Obama was also reluctant to support the Bahraini uprising and accused Iran of meddling in the country. However, Iran is not militarily occupying Bahrain — Saudi Arabia is, a U.S. ally. Bahrain is another key U.S. ally, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, securing American influence in the oil-rich Gulf. Hence, the reluctance. As for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama said nothing new. He lectured the Palestinians to not use terrorism, stop delegitimizing Israel and called for a de-militarized (i.e., defenseless) Palestinian state along the 1967 borders — just like Bush. Israel, on the other hand, gets continued U.S. support for its security interests but “must act boldly” to advance peace — whatever that means. The core issues of settlement expansion, right of return for Palestinian refugees and the future of Jerusalem were left unaddressed. Overall, Obama’s speech was unimpressive, hypocritical and a regurgitation of tired political platitudes.
Obama’s Middle East speech…nothing new here