The reviews of Dick Cheney's tour of the Middle East are coming in - and the verdict is that it was rather less successful than Justin Timberlake's last tour. Even the fiercely partisan American Spectator admits it - although they want to blame Cheney's support act for his lacklustre performance.
The Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the lower house of Jordan's parliament, Mohammad Abu Hudaib, told one reporter:
"I don't think that Cheney has been able to convince these Arab countries to become allies of the Unites States against Iran...I don't believe Arab countries are prepared to support any new crazy behaviour in the region, given Washington's failure to give due regard to the advice of Arab countries concerning the situation in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli conflict,"The Kuwait Times wrote that Bush's new reluctant approval of benchmarks for the Iraqi government may have more to do with Saudi insistence than anything the U.S. Congress might say and also approved another regional newspaper's assessment that:
Talks of the four Arab leaders with Cheney notwithstanding, most analysts in the Arab world are convinced no quick solution appears in sight.The AP spoke to one Emirates expert who got to the real point. Cheney was exactly the wrong person to send when Ahmadinejad only has to convince the Arab states to stay neutral in order to win big.
The Egyptian state-owned daily Al-Ahram carried an editorial Sunday that struck a sceptical note about the aim of Cheney's visit and the likelihood of its success. Under the tile of "For Peace or [against] Iran" the editorial questioned the wisdom of mixing "peace in Palestine, the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the American attack on Iran," arguing that the real aim of this deliberate confusion was to garner support for the US without the US being willing to offer the Arabs any constructive solution in Iraq or Palestine.
"We have to unite all [Arab] efforts to stop the bloodbath in the region and to establish comprehensive peace. For this to happen we have to take definite and clear-cut positions vis-a-vis the US which is the [Middle East] peace broker, but still does not want to link its interests to our legitimate rights,"
Everyone here and throughout the Gulf knows who Ahmadinejad is and what he represents. He's an extremist,'' said Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political scientist at Emirates University. ``People don't trust him. This guy isn't going to energize or mobilize people against America or Bush. People here have their own views of Bush.''Right now, Iran has far more carrots to wave at the region's rulers in the way of increased tourism, trade and energy co-operation than the U.S. has. That seals the "neutral" deal and Iran wins, for without regional co-operation the US is faced with an impossible task of force projection should it wish to simply wave a big stick. But if more impetus for neutrality were needed, then the news that Bush consulted the Last Days prophecy crowd over his Iran policy should more than suffice.
The Emirates invited Ahmadinejad for the visit - the first by an Iranian leader since UAE independence in 1971 - to let him know the Gulf Arab state will remain neutral in his showdown with Washington, Abdulla said. But it must still toe a fine line between Ahmadinejad and the Bush administration.
``Dick Cheney came here with certain demands and people here didn't like it. He's not somebody who is well-liked here, but we have to welcome him because he still represents the United States,'' Abdulla said.