The Arab spring was present at the United Nations once again, while President Obama addressed the leaders of the world as though delivering an electoral statement and ‘sprinting’ back to his campaign.
President Mohammed Mursi, who was a television star in America for days, used the opportunity of the United Nations General Assembly session to reassure the world, and especially America, that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is neither related to the [radical Islamist] Shabab Group in Somalia - which is threatening to liquidate all the elected deputies - nor to the Jihadists who were depicted on a poster in the New York subway as being savages, who could not be compared to “civilized Israel.”
While Mursi’s trip to New York was a preliminary public relations rehearsal with dozens of presidents, American President Barack Obama was preoccupied with his electoral campaign and left the United Nations headquarters right after his address. This spared both men the embarrassment of a meeting between the head of the greatest power in the world and the president of a regional Arab power, which is “neither an ally nor an enemy” for the United States.
During this first international appearance by the Egyptian president, he insisted on letting the Americans know he was no longer an MB member, rather the head of a state that is neither religious nor military. Moreover, he did not miss the opportunity to respond to Obama’s “message,” in which he expressed his discontent towards the demonstrations in front of America’s embassy in Cairo, to remind the Democratic administration that Egypt was no longer “subordinate” to the United States’ foreign policy.
The second “star” for his part, i.e. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is not rushing into a new presidential term, after his practices on the domestic arena eliminated all his chances. Hence, he disregarded the advice of the house “owner,” United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who seemed to be reminding him that the General Assembly was not Tehran University and that the tendency to issue pompous slogans was not a recognized currency in the presence of more than one hundred world leaders.
While Mursi was able to try his luck with the Americans – especially in separating economic aid to Egypt from the adoption of the traditional course at the level of Arab policies – Ahmadinejad’s fading stardom failed to seize anyone’s attention, except that of Israel which is using his slogans (wiping Israel off the map, eradicating it) to blackmail the Obama’s administration.
On the other hand, the American president did not disregard the Iranian nuclear weapons issue, despite the week of anger that besieged the United States’ embassies against the backdrop of the offensive anti-Islam film, which was the most prominent topic tackled during the General Assembly session. Obama quickly turned that page without any guarantees that similar films will not be produced, although he called for the handling of the tensions between the West and the Arab world. This vague call placed the responsibility of handling the situation on the region itself, regardless of the “magical” effect of Obama’s salute to the Arab spring.
In reality, the head of the superpower did not promise anything to this spring, not even on the Syrian level. Even his pledge to prevent the Iranian nuclear bomb was yet another attempt to earn the votes of American Jews, after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deployed all possible efforts to create a rift between the Democratic administration and Jewish voters in the United States.
Obama rushed to return to his electoral campaign, linking the establishment of an “independent Palestine” to Israel’s recognition as a Jewish state and Israel’s acceptance of that independence. Is there a more generous promise to woo the Jewish lobby which succeeded in erasing any mark of Obama’s speech in Cairo at the beginning of his term?
As for French President Francois Hollande, who clearly expressed his sympathy towards the Syrians beleaguered by killings and massacres, he is aware – just like all the other Western leaders – that his tears will not save a child or woman in Aleppo, Homs, Hama or Damascus, as long as the leader of Kremlin Vladimir Putin can use the veto at the Security Council, while insisting on letting the Syrians handle their crises with their own hands.
Even at the General Assembly, the Palestinian issue seemed cold and the devastated Syria seemed to be heading towards a lengthy predicament.
Ever since its establishment, the United Nations has never been the best place to reach settlements or uphold world peace, despite all that is just and moral in the international organization’s charter. Indeed, if justice is a human value defended by democracies, one should seek the democracy of the Security Council that is accused of enshrining the dictatorial veto right.
One finger at the Council is enough to extend the duration of the massacres. And whether this veto marks the underlying convergence of interests to spare others in the big players’ club from facing the facts and protecting the civilians, or a formula that has expired six decades after the establishment of the League of Nations, those in the West calling for democratic reform in the troubled East should start with the entity managing the world’s affairs.
Even at the General Assembly, the Palestinian issue has become cold and Syria is following in its footsteps. As to the crying of children over the corpses of other children, they are mere pictures.
(The writer is a Lebanese columnist. This article was first published in the London-based al-Hayat newspaper on Sept. 27, 2011.)