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Konstantin Cheremnykh

PHARAOH'S MASK

In his effort to conquer the Islamic community with the new US image, Barack Obama used services of old spin-doctors

THE FETISH OF RELOADING

At one of the panel meetings of the XIII St. Petersburg Economic Forum, a remarkable debate broke out between an American and an Italian – curiously, the former being a TV journalist and the latter a politician.

Bill Schneider, senior analyst of CNN channel, claimed that the political potential of the United States should not be underscored, and the world audience is going to admit this in the nearest future. Italian socialist Euro MP Giulietto Chiesa argued that in the post-crisis period, world policy will qualitatively change, and crucial decisions won't be dictated from Washington, but in case the United States attempts co continue this dictate, this will be the worst menace for humanity.

The US journalist, annoyed with the remark, interpreted it as skepticism over efficiency of Barack Obama's policy, and insisted that if the United States is not "pushing its agenda but just trying to influence the world", it's not yet a sign of weakness.

In the scope of a TV camera moving in the Presidential escort, the picture of the world may look unchanged: for instance, when the camera focuses on "pendants and other trinkets portraying the American president as a pharaoh" (an evidence of Telegraph's Cairo correspondent Rick Spencer), the belief in omnipotence of the United States gains new steam. Meanwhile, a European political analyst, strolling along the same Arab street hours later and talking with its inhabitants, may hear not necessarily delightful judgments on US policy.

While the Italian politician expressed his view on the US performance and global authority at present and in the near future, Russian state-owned Vesti TV channel was giving floor to domestic liberal economists and Finance Ministry officials whose intonation rather echoed the CNN journalist's delight of the US leadership, viewing Mr. Obama may be not a pharaoh but at least a person with magic capabilities. The liberal talking heads were portraying Mr. Obama as the only authority that is able to convince the Congress to implement the allegedly vital "economic side of reloading US-Russian relations", convincing the doubtful US Congress of necessity to open the WTO doors for Russia.

Reiterating the terminology introduced by US Vice President Joe Biden without reference, as textbook truth, the servile commentators insisted that in order to meet WTO conditions, Russia has to "improve the legislation and overcome bureaucratic rule". They failed to mention the legislative acts already adopted for the mentioned purpose, and their present and potential social implications; they did not utter a word about the economic and social experience of former Soviet republics that have already entered WTO Ц namely, Georgia, Moldova, Kyrhgyzstan, and Ukraine; they were dumb about the present state of affairs in WTO, and particularly the endless Doha round Ц though the issue of the starving Third World was central at the World Grain Summit following the St. Petersburg forum.

It is noteworthy that the Russian President, in his address to the Forum, focused on the aggravation of the economic and social situation in the poorest nations of the globe, and reminded of responsibility of the strongest for the weakest. He also pointed at the current challenges to the Russian economy, reminding particularly of acute insufficiency of long-term credits for industry, agriculture, and construction, and of expediency of transition to a new system of reserve currencies. In fact, he referred to the problems unsolved until today by the financial block of the Russian government Ц by the same persons whose sabotage was justified in live air of the state-owned TV. This disaccord created an odd impression that crucial decisions in Russia are made not by the President and the Prime Minister but by the intermediate community that continues to dictate its agenda despite its spectacular bankruptcy.

SAUSAGE DIPLOMACY

Is the "pharaoh" whose "reloading" proposals are reiterated with exceptional servility by Russian liberal observers, really so powerful? The latest political developments coinciding with the St Petersburg forum hardly approved this assumption.

Curiously, Barack Obama, during his third travel across the Middle East states, refrained from campaigning for the values of free trade and sweeping de-bureaucratization. On the contrary, the nations he decided to visit this time were labeled by international media as autocratic, if not dictatorial. Not surprisingly, he mentioned democracy not in point one but in point five of his address to the University of Cairo. Speaking of female rights, he mentioned exceptionally the right for equal education Ц not contradicting to Soviet Marxists and to the incumbent Chinese leadership.

Though Obama's tour to Saudi Arabia and Egypt was long-advertised and obviously well rehearsed, as well as his subsequent visit to the D-Day celebrities in France and to the Buchenwald memorial in Germany, Western reporters found a broad number of pretexts for ridiculing the US leader. In Saudi Arabia, Mr. Obama looked pretty perplexed when the king decorated his neck with a massive golden chain, inducing the tall man to bow before him. At the press conferences in Riyadh and Cairo, Mr. Obama selected convenient journalists that would not bother him with unpleasant questions about Pakistan. No wonder: right on the eve of his arrival in Riyadh, the allegedly exterminated Osama bin Laden surfaced in the air of Al Jazeera TVchannel, claiming that America had sown as many seeds of wrath as many natives of the Swat Valley were forced to leave their homes.

Confusion took place also in Germany, when the aged Buchenwald survivor Eli Wiesel noted that the Nazi camp was the first ever experiment of globalization practice; the D-Day ceremony in France that lacked Russian and British official representatives, was interpreted by Paris media as a primitive PR action.

In fact, the would-be pharaoh was ridiculed both from the left and from the right. Admitting his eloquence in Cairo, Arab observers (particularly, Al Quds al Arabi's editor Abdel Beri al Atwan) interpreted his address as an insincere "half-apology". In Israel, even the US Democratic party- sympathizing Jerusalem Post admitted that his speech was going to be perceived as exceptionally naive. While Amnesty International condemned the very fact of his visit to the "totalitarian" Egypt, and Paris observers expressed fury over Obama's justification of wearing hijabs in schools Ц the custom that had been disputed by the French Constitutional Court, Anti-Defamation League chair Abe Foxman ironically said that the apologizing remarks, addressed to the Arab community, are "understandable regarding Mr. Obama's African and Islamic background".

On the background of this sarcastic choir that did not correlate with perception of Mr. Obama as a pharaoh, British journalists coined the term "sausage diplomacy", attributed to the revealed secret document of the US State Department to embassies across the globe that instructed to invite Iranian diplomats to celebrations of the US Independence Day. This exposure reminded that Obama's tour to the Middle East, as well as the emphatically cool intonation of his talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Washington, was "occasionally" timed to the oncoming Presidential elections in Iran.

THE DARK, THICK SKIN

On June 13, 4 p.m., President Barack Obama confessed of his "excitement" with the process of Iranian elections and particularly, with the activity of voters. He avoided mentioning the name of the candidate he favored, though expressing hope of a result that would help Iran to "follow a democratic way". In this occasion, democracy appeared to be point one, as opposed to an autocratic but loyal Egypt, or a monarchic but oil-exporting Saudi Arabia.

It is noteworthy that Obama's remarks were made forty minutes after the report, broadcasted by the staff of Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the Iranian hopeful with a most outspoken liberal reputation, that their candidate has garnered over 60 per cent of the vote. Obviously, Mr. Obama blindly relied upon his advisors who convinced him of authenticity of these results.

Identification of Mr. Mousavi's desirable success with a groundbreaking democratic change had been common among Washington-loyal media commentators. The Independent's correspondent Robert Fisk portrayed Mr. Mousavi as a true follower of ex-President Mohammed Khattami, the person whom the West refused to back in 2005, despite his pro-Western views and democratic practice, and thus enabling the dictatorial "oddball" Ahmadinejad to grasp power.

However, Iranian refugee Kameli Entekhabifard, in her interview to New York Times, portrayed Mohammed Khatami in different colors. She had fled from the country exactly under Khattami's rule, after the state leader, advertised by international media as a democrat, launched "brutal persecution" of journalists, religious reformists, and liberal scholars. From Ms. Entekhabifard's evidence, one could derive a comclusion already illustrated by Mr.Obama's recent visits, that a West-loyal politician is not necessarily supposed to pursue a democratic domestic policy.

Other Western correspondents in Iran, as well as their Russian colleagues, admitted that the political conflict in the Islamic Republic was more complicated than a black-and-white confrontation of a "reactionary oddball" and a "revolutionary reformist". Many authors indicated that Mr. Mousavi had stronger connections in Iranian clergy that Mr. Ahmadinejad, an engineer and a son of a blacksmith. The words of a 38-year-old school teacher that "Ahmadinejad is the man who didn't allow the clerical mafia to steal our money" (i.e. state expenses for secondary education), addressed to Sunday Times' correspondent, shed some different light at the basic subject of the real contradictions that had emerged in the Iranian society, and that the US State Department was trying to play upon.

These real contradictions emerged not from difference in foreign policy strategy of Iran, though the relevant debate was on the surface; not from the issue of religious freedom, though the Movement of Combatant Clergy ascended to the surface of the political battle; not even from the views on the political system, though Mr. Mousavi insisted that the army and intelligence be re-subordinated from the Ayatollahs to the President.

Beyond foreign policy rhetoric, and especially the Holocaust issue, beyond the issue of theocracy that Tehran students condemned in the streets (particularly, the morality police as the institution introduced by the Revolutionary Guards), the domestic policy of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was opposed by an influential faction of establishment (particularly, by Akbar Ali Rafsanjani, Khattami's predecessor, a billionaire, and the idol of Ms. Entekhabifard) over the issue of re-distribution of the national income.

In a brief review entitled "The Jubilee Carnival of Democracy", Russian-Israeli online agency newsru.co.il indicates that "in domestic policy, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pursues continuous subsidizing of poorer households and financial support of large-scale projects, being opposed by economic experts who believe that this policy leads to a catastrophe". In fact, the President, described by critics of Robert Fisk type as an obscurant retrograde, is focused on improvement of social standards of Iranians and at the same time, in investments in industry, transport infrastructure and costly scientific projects, particularly in space exploration. This fact, admitted by rightist Israeli media, is blacked out by major international press Ц as well as by Russian state-owned Ц or Finance Ministry-owned? Ц TV channels.

The real essence of domestic Iranian contradiction in fact clarifies the motivation of Ayatollah Khamenei: bearing personal responsibility or the nation's independence and economic survival, he relied upon the man who was in odds with powerful clerics but advocated the needs of the people, thus assisting the religious leader in the necessary purge of the clerical community itself. The Ayatollah’s public support of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, expressed on the next day after the elections, and his recognition of the official results that give Ahmadinejadalmost 70% of the vote, correlated with Ahmadinejad's own message: "We have won, and that means that the world still has an alternative".

The fact that the world still has an alternative was confirmed by the first summit of BRIC nations in Yekaterinburg, Russia, that took place in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization's forum, on the background of clashes that were still shaking Tehran.

On the eve of the Yekaterinburg summit, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia may enter WTO only in an alliance with the co-participants of the CIS Customs Agreement Ц namely, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Both republics (one as a full member and the other as an observer) were represented at the Yekaterinburg summit, along with Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Though the domestic ideological fight over alternatives to the bankrupt system of US-centered financial globalization is not over Ц in Russia and in Iran as well, it is obvious that Barack Obama is not viewed by the nations, comprising the majority of the human population, as an undisputable authority.

It is noteworthy that in Russia of the early XX century, the word "pharaoh" was ironically attributed to a policeman. Egypt, with its reputation of a police state, was really zealous in preparations to Abama's arrival: while street traders exhibited "pendants and other trinkets" with Obama's face, local police detained a group of Russian Islamic students of the Al Azhar theological university for the only reason of their origin from Chechnya.

Days before the Iranian elections, the United States seemed to have got a really stronger grip on the Middle East, exemplified by the elections in Lebanon where the pro-Iranian parties were defeated, and the preceding round of diplomacy in Damascus, designed to break the links with Tehran. However, after the 100 thousands of pro-Mousavi demonstrators in Tehran were confronted by 600 thousands of Ahmadinejad's supporters who, according to Guardian's correspondent, "poured out into the street like lava", the accents have changed.

Barack Obama's speech in Cairo had faded on the background of the later international events, being viewed today as not more than an attempt to sooth the Islamic community in order to buy tolerance to "democratization" in Tehran, as well as to the bloody campaign in Pakistan. The style of the election campaign in Tehran, especially the excessive use of Internet tools like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter (that Mr.Obama had relied upon in his own Presidential campaign), has unequivocally exposed direct involvement of US political technologists in inspiring the so-called "genie of democracy". Meanwhile, selection of three liberal candidates and reliance on two-round elections reveals self-interest of US spin-doctors who thus hoped in this way to extort a higher income from their service.

In his emotional description of the Iranian political system, Robert Fisk used an ambiguous metaphor of a "thick, dark skin of clerical rule that covers Iran, scratched occasionally perhaps, but unable to bleed" (sic). It is noteworthy that it was Yadollah Javani, the chief of the Revolutionary Guards, who issued a public warning about a bloodshed that the pro-Mousavi crowd was preparing for in case the result would be in Ahmadinejad's favor. What he warned of really happened, fully confirming the above quoted judgment of Italian Euro MP Giulietto Chiesa.

Positioning himself as a herald of hope and change, Barack Obama surrounded himself with advisors and spin doctors of the same quality as that his predecessor had used. The way they carried out their job made Obama dependent from the neoconservative community, closely associated with Israeli rightists. This fact was proven with the statements of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu who openly demonstrated that his government is not going to obey Mr. Obama's instructions.

Starting this month with a political maneuver that was supposed to consolidate his international authority, Barack Obama underwent a humiliating defeat within two weeks, failing to scratch the thick, dark skin of the permanent establishment that carelessly tried to sell the same tarnished trinkets of “color revolution” that they had traded in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine (it is noteworthy that Yadollah Javani, warning about the oncoming clash, referred to the "Ukrainian pattern"). For this outcome, Obama cannot blame anybody but himself.

The existence of a global alternative, protected by the Iranian people, was meanwhile consolidated by the accord of the rising economic powers in Yekaterinburg, Russia, thus opening the way for the Russian leadership to scratch off the patches of liberal skin from the government body. The choice is ripe: either to follow the old way and sink into non-existence along with its apologists, or to pave a way to a better future for the world in accord with nations representing the human majority.


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