The Obama speech: Why did he bother?

The Big Speech was rather a non-event from the perspective of most people in the region, I reckon. Obama and his administration were behind the curve when the uprisings broke out. The uprisings were troubling for them because 1. (like the Iranian Revolution in 1979) they didn’t see it coming 2. the uprisings were an entirely local affair, trumping the assumption for years that democracy would only come from outside via war (like Iraq) or US pressure (post-Iraq war Bush years until Hamas won Palestinian elections) 3. as such, the uprisings have been outside US control and have the potential produce outcomes that challenge US policy in the region. That policy is pretty straightforward in its general outlines: make the Arabs and Iran accept Israel and peace with Israel on Israeli terms, challenge Iran and other forces opposed to the terms of the Pax Americana, and ensure that oil fields in Iraq and the Gulf stay in friendly hands. Continue reading The Obama speech: Why did he bother?

Egypt PM’s trip to Gulf

Abdelbari Atwan, the editor of al-Quds al-Arabi, says the Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was looking for investments not direct aid handouts during his Gulf tour last week. But while he was received in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, the door was slammed in his face when it came to the UAE: “He was told politely that officials were busy with prior engagements, which in diplomatic and undiplomatic parlance means a veiled rejection”.  (Of course, I liked this reference:اندرو هاموند، مراسل وكالة أنباء ‘رويترز’ في منطقة الخليج أماط اللثام عن الموقف الخليجي من ثورة مصر في تقرير إخباري بثته وكالته يوم أمس الأول ونقل فيه شعور أحد مساعدي الشيخ محمد بن زايد ولي عهد أبوظبي، والرجل الأقوى فيها بخيبة الأمل لسقوط نظام الرئيس حسني مبارك، وقوله، أي المسؤول الاماراتي نفسه ‘كيف يفعلون هذا به.. كان الأب الروحي للشرق الأوسط.. كان رجلا حكيما قاد المنطقة دوما.. نعم الشعب يريد الديمقراطية ولكن ليس بهذه الطريقة.. هذا أمر مهين’.) Yup, anger over Egypt’s attempt to have an independent foreign policy is visceral and the Gulf countries have proven incapable of preventing the prosecution of Mubarak, his family and the gang of hangers-on who steadily ruined Egypt over three sad decades. Atwan thinks that, one, Sharaf didn’t go “begging” and, two, he didn’t appear to get anything anyway. Since the old/new colonial powers often come looking to cash in chips for services rendered – remember the investments British PM Gordon Brown got out of Qatar in 2008 – Atwan asks فلماذا لا يفعل رئيس وزراء مصر، الشقيقة الكبرى، الشيء نفسه؟ – Why shouldn’t Egypt do the same? The Gulf countries are not so united on Iran and other issues as the image they present through the GCC suggests. Qatar and Oman maintain their own independent ties with Iran. Mubarak made Egypt-Gulf relations a one-way street but even if the Gulf has the resources, now the fact is it’s Saudi Arabia et al. who are worried about Egypt, not the other way round. Saudi Arabia’s cordon sanitaire in Arab media is, for a start, under threat now that Egypt has broken the shackles of Mubarak rule. And even if Al-Jazeera/Qatar is helping Saudi Arabia circle the wagons by ignoring the repression in Bahrain, it doesn’t share the distaste for the new Egypt that it would like to think its gung-ho coverage helped create.

Analysis: Gulf Arab rulers tense over Egypt’s policy shifts

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Wed Apr 27, 2011 10:04am EDT

(Reuters) – At a recent conference in Abu Dhabi, a confidant of the emirate’s crown prince vented his frustration over the downfall of a major ally who Gulf Arab rulers once thought was as entrenched in power as they are.

“How could someone do this to him? He was the spiritual father of the Middle East. He was a wise man who always led the region,” the aide told Reuters. “We didn’t want to see him out this way. Yes, people want democracy but not in this manner. It’s humiliating!” Continue reading Analysis: Gulf Arab rulers tense over Egypt’s policy shifts

Gulf media find their red line in uprisings: Bahrain

By Andrew Hammond

DUBAI | Thu Apr 14, 2011 4:41am EDT

(Reuters) – Pan-Arab broadcasters who played a key role reporting Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt are helping dynastic rulers police the gates of the Gulf to stop the revolts from spreading on their patch, analysts say.

Qatar-based Al Jazeera, the leading Arabic language network, was pivotal in keeping up momentum during protests that toppled Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, both entrenched rulers who were no friends of Qatar’s ruling Al Thani dynasty. Continue reading Gulf media find their red line in uprisings: Bahrain