Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Signposts in the Middle East, January 18, 2011

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By Barry Rubin

1. Undeterred by international pressures and internal opposition, the Iranian government is cutting subsidies to essential goods that have cost a lot and eaten up capital that might have been used for investment and development.

Remarks: So President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to be in control and not intimidated by sanctions or events in Tunisia. Actually, perhaps the West might learn something from his economic program.

.2. The Obama administration is said to be doing a great job of pressuring Iran on its nuclear program. The Los Angeles Times tells us: "The measures are showing results — and for that, the administration deserves some credit."

Remarks: Actually they aren't showing "results" just by costing Iran money and making part of the leadership nervous. To be showing results they'd have to be deterring or preventing it from advancing on the nuclear program! See also Item 1, above.

3. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urges Palestinians and Israelis to seize the opportunity of Barack Obama's presidency to make peace. She also accused Iran of not really caring about the Palestinians despite its criticism of Israeli policy.

Remarks: When American policymakers understand that none of the Arab states care about the Palestinians, too, that will be real progress. Also what does it tell us that the Palestinians are the real  potential beneficiary of having Obama as president but are the ones sabotaging negotiations. And finally, here we see one more example of begging the two sides to do the United States a favor--and Obama a political benefit, of course, by making peace. 
4. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit warns the West to stay out of Arab affairs, days after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Arab leaders to work with their peoples to bring reforms.
Remarks: Right, give us money; protect us from Iran; pressure Israel into concessions; flatter us and shut up about human rights' violations, but remember we won't do a single thing to help you. In other words, business as usual. And so much for Obama’s charm offensive.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at and of his blog, Rubin Reports,

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