The ‘peacenik’ President heeds a call to arms – but is it too little, too late?

THERE must be an awful lot of soap being used up in the White House and Whitehall, as ministers and their minions try to wash their hands of Iraq.

And I bet the label on each bar is stamped, ‘For ditherers only.’ If not, they should be.

Because the great brains of Western diplomacy haven’t a clue whether to stick, twist or chuck in their hand and allow violence to take its unnatural course in sorting out the latest Middle East imbroglio.

Various military acronyms rooted in WW2 slang – like FUBAR and SNAFU, whose meanings I won’t spell out for fear of upsetting those of a sensitive disposition – spring to mind as pertinent descriptions for the plight of those whose indecision may, or may not, be final.

And at the very top of the pile of confused, anguished hand-wringers is an American leader, whose default setting is to gaze at his navel, as if answers to the world’s ills miraculously lie within the lint of his belly button.

In 2008 Barack Obama was elected President on an anti-war ticket, redolent with slogans ranging from ‘Hope’ to ‘Yes We Can’ (whatever that meant). The following year he was awarded the Nobel Peace prize, based not on deeds, but the same windy promises that shoehorned him into office. Even the man himself was flabbergasted.

Over six years later his main achievements of note have been extricating his gung-ho predecessor, George W. Bush’s ‘Coalition of the Willing’ from Iraq and downsizing troops in Afghanistan, with the aim of every Crusader GI quitting by New Year.

But, given the daily evidence of mounting carnage afflicting both rudderless states, there’s little to embellish Obama’s legacy, except for taking Hillary Clinton’s advice on obliterating Osama bin Laden.

RUTHLESS & MURDEROUS: The Sunni fanatics of ISIS have ignited  the power-keg of Iraq

RUTHLESS & MURDEROUS: The Sunni fanatics of ISIS march on, having ignited the power-keg of Iraq

Meanwhile, even starry-eyed optimists recognise it’s only a matter of time before the untamed Taliban return to Kabul and fill the void created by the exit of NATO troops.

An even more alarming spectre haunts Western policy-makers over the future of Iraq, where a sectarian strife has erupted in all but civil war, as murderous Sunni fanatics of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, mop up the oil-rich hinterland and threaten Shia-dominated Baghdad.

It’s futile to rake over old coals, as former British leader Tony Blair recently did in justifying the 2003 invasion/liberation of Iraq, because history is already writ large, though it was always received wisdom the country would be a powder-keg for decades.

That it has exploded so ghoulishly is largely due to the ineptitude and arrogance of Nouri al-Maliki, the Shia Prime Minister, who ethnically cleansed Iraq’s government, army and civil service of virtually any Sunni and Kurdish influence.

Even if the nation’s religious demographics gave Shias a 65% majority, the vision for a democratic, post-conflict Iraq was intended to be an inclusive one, with a modicum of power-sharing.

Now, stability exists only in far-north, autonomous Kurdistan, while the rest of the country seems damned to imitate next-door Syria and descend into a sectarian bloodbath.

That the blinkered Maliki was stupid and overcome by megalomania is beyond doubt, despite having a democratic mandate.

But, as his paymaster and sponsor, Obama – for all his aversion to confrontation – should have had the wit to nip the shameless power-grab in the bud and read the riot act to the idiot of Baghdad much earlier.

Hence, now we see a battle-fatigued America being re-drawn into the conflict, after the President announced on Thursday 300 special operatives would go to Iraq and ‘provide technical support’ to help overcome ISIS, after Maliki pleaded for US intervention.

Talk about déjà vu all over again!

FAR APART: Obama is angry Prime Minister Maliki (right) has turned Iraq into a Shia-governed state

CLOSE TOGETHER, FAR APART: Obama is angry Prime Minister Maliki (right) has turned Iraq into a Shia-governed state

Meanwhile, how much difference 300 specialists can make – and whether they are too little, too late – is debatable, as is Obama’s vague threat of force, ‘if intelligence recommended it’.

But, at least, he took a sideswipe at the Iraqi leader, underlining the error of his ways.

Nevertheless, it bode ill for the 44th President, who’s hardly put a foot right dealing with crises on foreign fields since his election.

He and his diplomatic corps at the State Department – situated in aptly-named Foggy Bottom – utterly misread the runes of the Arab Spring, ignominiously backtracked over the ‘red lines’ warning to Syria’s butcher, Assad, tried and failed to arm-twist allies Israel into a one-sided peace deal with the deceitful Palestinians and contracted the ousting of Libya’s lunatic, Gaddafi, to France and the UK.

To add to his litany of follies, Obama has practically given Iran a free pass on its nuclear ambitions and allowed Vladimir Putin to run rings round him over Ukraine.

Rarely – if ever – has a US commander-in-chief commanded so little respect on the world stage, now a far more parlous place for his ineptitude and dithering.

The very real and present danger is that matters threaten to grow rapidly worse, because not only does ISIS make Al-Qaeda appear pussycats, their manifesto is to export terror worldwide, once they’ve established a Sharia caliphate across a swathe of Syria and Iraq.

The irony of all ironies is only one nation has sufficient military and diplomatic muscle to halt their charge and lift the West off the peg it’s impaled upon: Iran.

Through its religious ties, only it has the ears of Maliki and Assad, whose Alawite sect is a Shia offshoot.

However unedifying, the notion of Tehran’s terror-mongers and ‘The Great Satan’ of the USA finding common cause is increasing from possibility to probability, as back-channel chatter between the two is said to be buzzing.

The threat is not lost on Iran’s arch foe, Saudi Arabia, whose ambassador to Britain, Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf al-Saud, warned last week, ‘There must be no meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, not by us or by the US, the UK or any other government.’

If a US-Iran alliance does come to pass, though, any slender hope of Obama leaving a legacy of a peace-maker president will be forever tarnished.

No wonder they’re busy passing the soap in the White House and Whitehall.

How BDS bigots, deceivers and smear merchants corner the market in hate

IF you believe in fairies, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaigners – who I’ll call BDS-ards for space reasons – are kindly folk, if a tad economical with truth, who only seek a better world…better still without that pesky state of Israel.

What a travesty it is, they claim, that uppity Jews – six million of them – boss the Middle East, an oasis of fellowship, where 400,000,000 amiable Arabs merely want to go about their daily business of annihilating each other.

And what are these ‘land-grabbers’ doing there at all, demand the BDS-ards. Huh! It’s as if the Jews think they’ve some 3,500-year-old right to Israel, not poor Arabs, who’ve identified themselves as Palestinians for…er, well maybe a century, give or take a decade.

So forget historical fact, including the glaring one that no country called Palestine ever existed.

And perish the thought BDS-ards think there’s anything amiss with China brutalising Tibet, Turkey – with more journalists jailed than anywhere else – persecuting Kurds and ‘annexing’ Northern Cyprus, Russia turning Chechnya into an abattoir or Saudi Arabia, Iran and North Korea believing human rights are just for the wimpy West.

Similarly, the gang of mass murderers blighting much of Africa are of no consequence.

Because in the warped, BDS mindset all the world’s ills lie at the doorstep of Israel, uniquely the world’s only Jewish – if secular – state and rated by internationally respected Freedom House as the Middle East’s only free one.

The point is, despite swapping land for peace with Egypt and Jordan, the confounded Israelis just won’t cave in to all Palestinian demands – PLO warlord-cum-compulsive kleptomaniac, Yasser Arafat, was even offered 96% of what he sought for a nation-state, yet still flatly rejected it.

Israel also has the audacity to insist on the same rights as 57 countries that are Islamic and be recognised as Jewish.

HEROIC GIG: Sir Paul McCartney defied death threats to perform in Tel Aviv

HEROIC GIG: Sir Paul McCartney defied death threats to perform in Tel Aviv

That’s a definite no-no, rail the BDS-ards, who contend – for all its Western democracy, respect for gays, equal rights for women and people of other faiths, especially its 1.3-million Muslims – Israel is an ‘apartheid regime’, ruthlessly occupying the West Bank, coincidentally the cradle of terrorism.

Israel even built a protective wall rounds itself, dramatically curbing terror attacks by 80%, and has the nerve to retaliate against suicide bombers and fusillades of rockets fired by Gaza’s cuddly do-gooders, Hamas.

So, indulging in a repugnant equivalence to the Holocaust, not a few BDS-ards compare Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence with ‘Nazism’, disingenuously obscuring the issue their own tactics smack of totalitarian thuggery.

Founded in 2005, BDS was inspired by Qatari-born bigot Omar Barghouti – bizarrely a student at Tel Aviv University – to delegitimise and destroy Israel via an international trade and cultural boycott.

BDS-ards say their model is the one that helped topple white, supremacist South Africa, though Nelson Mandela, who knew a thing or two about real apartheid, distanced himself from their ravings.

Meanwhile, BDS stoops to sophistry in a claim that it merely seeks to end Israeli ‘occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands’ and a ‘right of return’ for Palestinians.

What they’re coy about admitting is this includes today’s four million descendants of the 700,000 Arabs displaced in the 1948 Israel War of Independence, when five, invading Arab armies failed to crush the re-born, UN-sanctioned  Jewish state.

Note the ‘all’, because the ploy is to dump on Israel a multitude of Arabs, weaned on a diet of vicious anti-Semitism, that BDS-ards hope will deliver a new Muslim state, entirely Jew-free – ‘Judenrein’, as Hitler termed it – even if a bloodbath is guaranteed.

In its pursuit of this ghoulish vision, BDS never lets truth spoil its PR war, especially with a pliant Western media – lead by those bastions of journalistic objectivity, The Guardian, New York Times and BBC – to give lies legs

Naturally, there’s a fetid stench of far-Left odium about BDS-ards, who subscribe to free speech, only if it chimes with their preposterous ‘group think’.

OXFAM DUMPED: Actress Scarlett Johansson quit the charity in a storm over her role as the 'face' of SodaStream

OXFAM DUMPED: Actress Scarlett Johansson quit the charity in a storm over her role as the ‘face’ of SodaStream

Its key battlegrounds are academia, big biz and showbiz, where it has achieved some traction, though not without embarrassments, the latest being a kick in the bias of Oxfam by its former goodwill ambassador, actress Scarlett Johansson.

When the charity upbraided her for promoting SodaStream, a fizzy drinks gizmo made in a factory just over the contentious, pre-1967 Six Day War ‘Green Line’,  the Hollywood A-lister summarily dumped it, saying she supported ‘economic co-operation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine’ (which, by implication, Oxfam doesn’t).

Worse, Oxfam was told to shove off by SodaStream’s 700 Palestinian workers, who enjoy identical rights to Israeli staff and are paid four times the West Bank average.

Still BDS remains the toast of certain showbiz luminaries, like the preciously PC Emma Thompson, who ganged up with like-minded luvvies to pen an anguished letter to The Guardian – where else! – demanding an Israel theatrical troupe be banned from appearing at London’s Globe Theatre.

Another is ex-Pink Floyd strummer, Roger Waters, whose hysterical animus towards Israel is claimed by critics to hide motives far more insidious as he tries to harass pop stars into nixing appearances in the Jewish state.

Despite such coercion, icons such as Sir Elton John, Rihanna, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys continue to play Israel; Sir Paul McCartney did so, too, bravely defying death threats, reportedly from BDS-ards; and The Rolling Stones are due in Tel Avis this June.

On the financial front, several European banks have been pressed into severing links with Israel for ‘ethical reasons’, notably Denmark’s Danske Bank (otherwise known as the bank that liked to say ‘Yes’ to backing North Korean sales of ballistic missiles to Iran, according to a US State Department report revealed by Wikileaks).

In academia, the tiny, Left-leaning American Studies Association recently added its voice to BDS, only to find itself boycotted by over a hundred, top US universities.

But BDS-ards claimed a major scalp when they persuaded Professor Sir Stephen Hawking, lauded as Britain’s most brilliant physicist, to renege on an invitation to visit Israel…despite the hi-tech wonders powering his awesome, life-enhancing wheelchair being Israeli innovations

The stark truth is BDS is shot full of such hypocrisy and bigotry and – let’s face it – not a few who hide their repellent anti-Semitism under the pretence of Palestinian solidarity.

The authoritative Economist magazine branded the movement ‘flimsy’ and ineffective, pointing out that ‘blaming Israel alone for the impasse…will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair.’

And not even the Palestinian leadership supports the boycott.

Sane folk would also imagine art, wealth-creation and ground-breaking technology should transcended all boundaries, their bounties shared by people everywhere. But, where only Israel is concerned, that’s heresy in the skewered opinion of BDS-ards.

And the people they target – from showbiz stars to businesses and academics – are no more responsible for the Israel-Palestinian imbroglio than they are for the slump in Mongolian yurt sales.

So let there be no mistaking the real message of BDS: Make hate, kill hope.

Kerry discovers peace deal is no deal for Abbas’s Palestinian ‘mafia’

COULD it be I’ve heard the first cuckoo of spring – or, more accurately, a cuckoo that’s changed its chirp to that of a wise, old owl?

Because, in a rare break from its traditional Israel-bashing and Palestinian tub-thumping, that bastion of liberal smugness, The New York Times, has acknowledged the ugly, flip side of its pet cause.

Temporarily shedding its prejudices, the self-style ‘newspaper of record’ reported how the Palestinian Authority (PA) plumbs the depth of incitement and peddles a diet of incessant, hate-bilge to its people, despite hollow promises to desist.

Jodi Rudoren, the snooty ‘Grey Lady’s’ Jerusalem bureau chief, revealed how Hitler is revered in West Bank schools and kids on TV vilify Jews as ‘barbaric monkeys’ and ‘murderers of Muhammad’ (that’s a new one on me, since the Prophet died in Jew-free Medina in 632 AD).

The report finally noted how PA maps obliterate Israel, a compelling clincher that the Arabs will never countenance a two-state solution, which they’re thrice tried – and abysmally failed – to solve by war in 1948, 1967 and 1973, and vicious blood-letting ever since.

Actually, the story’s so old, it could have grown bushy, white whiskers.

Yet, somehow, it has eluded other NY Times scribes, probing Guardian newshounds and all the BBC’s Mid-East hacks put together. In their defence, maybe they’ve been too obsessed with rubbishing Israel, they simply didn’t notice.

But Rudoren’s ‘discovery’ is bad news for rag-tag, Lefty apologists for Palestinian terror, many of whom cloak their anti-Semitism in chic anti-Zionism, amid the fervent wish democratic Israel is destroyed and replaced by what will inevitably become yet another Islamo-fascist tyranny.

APPRENTICE & SORCERER: A glum Mahmoud Abbas with a portrait of his predecessor as PA leader, the 'inventive' Yasser Arafat

ONE-STATE SOLUTION: Mahmoud Abbas, the PA boss ( with a portrait of his predecessor, the ‘inventive’ Yasser Arafat) won’t tolerate a Jewish state as next-door  neighbour

For years these witless dupes have bought into howling porkies, mostly invented by Yasser Arafat, delegitimising the viper’s nest of a region’s only egalitarian state, where people of 100 nationalities and a swathe of faiths are free to practice their credos, sexual orientations and traditions without fear of persecution.

In contrast, just try being a Christian or gay in Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Gaza or Saudi Arabia – even if the PA’s propaganda machine has ‘rebranded’ Jesus a Palestinian. The facts that no country called Palestine ever existed and Christianity’s Messiah was incontrovertibly Jewish are conveniently airbrushed from history.

Truth, though, has never been an obstacle to Arab lie-mongers. But their latest claim is the most outlandish yet: Jews don’t deserve a reprised homeland, because they were never there in the first place!

Who says so? None other than those shambolic back-stabbers, the Arab League, who’ve shamelessly exploited the hapless Palestinians for decades and are united only when it comes to opposing any suggestion that Jewish sovereignty in the region has legitimacy.

Which is why the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, pulled an exhibit entitled: ‘People, Book, Land – The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel.

Due to open at the UN agency’s Paris HQ last Monday, it was cancelled after a zero-hour protest by the motley bunch of heinous nasties, who rule 350 million subjects with iron fists.

So forget Moses, Isaac, Joshua, Noah and other biblical patriarchs. Presumably, they didn’t exist or, like Jesus, were really Palestinians. And ditto the ancient, Jewish kingdoms of Judea and Israel, much mentioned in both Old and New Testaments.

Even the Nazis didn’t dream up such gobsmacking deceit.

More insidious still, the veto is blessed by the Obama Administration, even though the Americans were originally sponsors of the UNESCO event.

The flimsy reason? The so-called ‘peace process’ was ‘at a sensitive juncture’, claimed a spokesperson.

The real reason: once-mighty America is led by a wimpish, addled appeaser, who’s allowed Iran, Kremlin-backed Syria, the fanatical Muslim Brotherhood and Hizbollah crazies to turn the powder-keg Middle East into the world’s premier killing field.

EAR TO THE GROUND: Secretary of State Kerry knows what the real stumbling block is in his attempts to forge peace

EAR TO THE GROUND: Secretary of State Kerry knows what the real stumbling block is in his attempts to forge peace

So what chance an Israel-PA settlement, a desire shared by most sane folk, especially the majority of Israelis?

As John Kerry has discovered, pigs will fly first.

The US Secretary of State knows Israel has done land-for-peace deals before – with Jordan and Egypt – and will do again if conditions are fair. But not so Mahmoud Abbas, head of the PA’s ruling cabal-cum-self-serving mafia.

For all his pretence of Western-style governance, Abbas is way passed his rule-by date, having fobbed off elections since his four-yearly term in office expired in 2009.

Nor can he speak for the Islamic headbangers of Hamas, who usurped his quasi-democratic credentials in Gaza, murdered PA aparatchiks and stay wedded to a dogma that seeks the destruction of Israel and Jews everywhere.

So Kerry, latest bearer of the poisoned chalice of peace-seeker, now realises the stumbling block isn’t territory, borders, refugees or security, but the PA’s scary hate-world, where no state is better than two, if it means accommodating a Jewish one.

And, secular though their country is, Israelis are no more inclined to disavow their right to the most ancient of biblical faiths than the planet’s 57 Muslim-majority nations will renounce Islam or the Vatican cease to be Catholic.

Palestinian suffering, then, will continue unabted, so long as they have venal, inept, kleptocratic leaders, who line their own pockets with their people’s blood money – mainly donated by America, the EU and Britain – and peddle unremitting hatred.

Meanwhile, having been duped by nuclear-potty Iran, even gullible Obama is beginning to wonder what’s going on, as every initiative he promotes – such as this week’s farce in Geneva, designed to stem the Syrian bloodbath – disintegrates into chaos.

In a telling interview last week, the President admitted the chances of attaining peace anywhere in the Middle East were ‘no better than 50-50.’

‘We may be able to push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us,’ claimed Obama optimistically.

‘I believe that the region is going through rapid and inexorable change. Some of it is demographics; some of it is technology; some of it is economics. And the old order, the old equilibrium, is no longer tenable. The question then becomes: what’s next?’

Answers on a postcard to B.H. Obama, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC.

All ideas welcome.

How Iran conned the trusting West into the great Geneva ‘giveaway’

AT around 5 a.m. a week last Saturday, when the various parties yawned their way through the obligatory photo-shoot after the night-long charade that passed as ‘nuclear peace talks’ in Geneva, who had the most to smile about?

It was a no-contest, because the jubilant grins, lit up like a torchlight procession of skiers descending a Swiss Alp, all belonged to the Iranians.

And the biggest winner wasn’t even there. The crafty, turbaned 74-year-old, Ali Khamenei, a religious fanatic who styles himself Supreme Leader, was sitting several thousand miles away in Tehran, no doubt stroking his beard, eyes agleam at how the UN-anointed delegation of pliant diplomats, the P5+1, could be so easily conned.

After a decade of deceit, deception and time-wasting, the world’s premier purveyor of terror had won the most decisive war of words with the West since Hitler convinced Neville Chamberlain back in 1938 his intentions towards Czechoslovakia were entirely honourable and pigs could fly.

So, following the shameful Munich Pact, say hello to the great Geneva ‘giveaway’. And, replacing the plucky Czechs, insert Israel, Saudi Arabia and most Sunni Muslim states, including Jordan and Egypt – in fact, all the West’s Middle East allies, who’ll be the first fall-guys in Obama’s gamble on appeasing a rogue state that doesn’t even bother to hide an ambition to extend its headbanging hegemony across the world’s powder keg.

No surprise, then, that the bunting also went up throughout the Islamic Republic’s vassal states: Iraq, where Shiite lackeys suppress Sunnis, Christians and Kurds; Syria, where Iranian arms and manpower underwrite the repellent Assad mafia; and Lebanon, indirectly ruled by Iran via its cutthroat proxies, Hezbollah.

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran's Foreign Minister, Javid xxxxxx, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the P5+1

NUCLEAR WINNER: Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, has much to smile about after Iran again duped the UN-backed P5+1

Oh, and let’s not forget how it was hailed as a triumph by those woolly-minded bien pensants, the trusting Left-leaners, who’d give Beelzebub a free pass for inventing the Seven Deadly Sins. If they’re clapping, you know something’s gone badly pear-shaped.

So what precisely is the much-trumpeted deal that’ll prelude ‘peace in our time’ and had the Iranians believing they were floating on a Persian carpet to nuclear paradise, after a decade of biting sanctions?

From its narrow perspective, they insist it entitles them to continue developing dubious nuclear hardware it denied for years it ever had in defiance of six UN resolutions; au contraire, says the P5+1 – purblind America, a supine UK, the occasionally feisty French, scheming Russia and China, plus Germany – who claim they’ve rolled Iran back in exchange for easing financial manacles.

But, without digging deep into the nitty-gritty, here’s how one, independent US foreign policy analyst explained it, ‘Iran will get to pocket billions in [sanction] relief, use the funds to stabilize its economy, bolster its nuclear program and fund its global terror network.’

Indeed, that sentiment was echoed by Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif, who said the deal – ‘cave-in’ is more apt – represented ‘a big success for Iran.’

Underlining victory, he told Iran’s parliament last week that work would even continue on the Arak heavy water, plutonium plant in direct contravention of the P5+1 agreement.

But was it ever going to be anything than thus?  Short answer: No.

Because President Obama’s skewered vision of Western foreign policy has tilted 180 degrees on its axis in favour of opponents, not proponents.

Admittedly, especially in the Cold War era, some ‘friends’ – Chinese nationalist warlord, Chiang Kai-shek, the Shah of Iran and, briefly, Saddam Hussein spring to mind – were not exactly paragons of democratic virtue.

However, this most naïve of US leaders’ belief that he can placate lunatic, Islamic extremists is the most deranged, fanciful gambit of modern times, because they represent a bloc that not only vilifies the West, but has the avowed intention of destroying it.

Simply put, there cannot be a happy accommodation with radical, repressive, expansionist theocrats, who want a new world order based on a 7th Century credo, which defines Western liberalism as decadent, inferior and ungodly.

So an interim deal that’s just a dab on the footbrake of Iran’s headlong rush to tool itself up with nuclear goodies is about as useful as putting a nappy on an elephant.

And the question that shrieks to be answered is: if tough sanctions were working, why shelve them just on the dodgy premise the maverick Iranians – who freely admit they’ve brazenly lied in the past – will keep to a deal they’re already unpicking at the seams?

Meanwhile, in leading the world down Appeasement Avenue, another facet of Obama’s flawed psyche has surfaced: he’s shown he’s not averse to a tad of skulduggery either.

It’s now emerged that his sidekicks held back-channel talks with the Iranians – and, apparently, Hezbollah – for 12 months to slick up the detail, while the perfidious president lied through his pearly teeth to erstwhile allies that all’s well and will end well. Only he neglected to say for whom.

REPEAT ROUTE: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

REPEAT DEFEAT: US negotiator, Wendy Sherman, failed to rein in the North Koreans and fails again with Iran

Students of diplomatic cock-ups will remember how President Bill Clinton once tried to stymie North Korea’s nuclear ambitions in 2001, only to end up being suckered.

Kim Jong Il, the Beloved Leader of the pariah state and, unsurprisingly, a playmate of Iran’s Supreme Leader – don’t these loony despots adore grandiose titles – promised not to produce, test or deploy missiles and halt the export of nuclear technology.

Clinton’s chief coordinator, Wendy Sherman, noted then that Kim ‘appears ready to make landmark commitments’.

Alas, appearances can be deceptive and, predictably, the North Koreans reneged on every promise they made.

Ironically, witless Wendy was tasked by the visionary Obama to reprise her stunning debacle, this time with the Iranians. So, small wonder they’re cock-a-hoop.

Meanwhile, the US President looks still more a busted flush, his credibility holed below the waterline over the humbling, bumbling Middle East shambles created under his watch, while his ratings at home plummet to near-record lows.

At a seminal moment in world history, clearly Obama and his appointees – especially Sherman – are ignorant of the wisdom of Spanish philosopher-poet, George Santayana.

Just for the record, a century ago he wrote, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

French ‘Non’ saves President O-Blunder from another fine Middle East mess

AS the major powers queued up to rubber-stamp Iran’s application to gatecrash the Nuclear Club, it took the pragmatic French to break ranks, recognise a drastic reality check was needed and toss a huge dollop of mushy foie gras in to gum up the works.

Well, something approaching that occurred in Geneva a little over a week ago when France’s timely intervention put the brakes on the P5+1 – that’s the USA, Britain, China, Russia, Germany, plus, of course, the Gallic sceptics – nodding through their misbelief that the turbaned terror-mongers’ nuclear ambitions were purely peaceable.

It was supposed to have heralded a ‘first-step agreement’ to a final deal to grant Tehran’s cherished wish to enrich more uranium, continue manufacturing centrifuges and build a plutonium reactor to generate energy…purely for domestic consumption, you understand.

In return up to $50 billion in petroleum revenues, laying frozen in international banks under tough sanctions custody, would be released and future prohibitions shelved.

The fact that the conniving mullahs are swimming in dirt-cheap oil and natural gas, and need atomic energy like Roman Abramovitch craves another super-yacht, apparently barely registered.

Neither did a decade of forked-tongued deceit and downright porky-peddling by the Shiite theocracy’s mouthpieces, a point proudly admitted to by the nation’s latest president, Hassan Rouhani, long-time head of their negotiation team.

So, after days of being assailed by Iranian schmooze and shallow promises, the West – I exempt Russia and China, since they’d trade with Lucifer if they could trouser a profit – only the French had the temerity to say ‘Non!’

Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, went even further, describing what Iran offered as ‘a sucker’s deal’, which reportedly left uber-pacifist President Obama so seething, he actually cancelled one of his hallowed, weekly golf games.

Of course, French obstinacy isn’t new to America. In 2003 they famously – infamously if your name was George W. Bush – were branded ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys’ for not backing the invasion of Iraq.

NO DEAL: France's Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, vetoed agreement on letting Iran pursue its nuclear ambitions

NO DEAL: France’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, vetoed agreement on letting Iran pursue its nuclear ambitions

This time, however, even The Wall Street Journal sang Gallic praises for protecting the world ‘against a historic security blunder.’

The bible of America’s financial community added that the deal, as conceded by all but France, would have given ‘Iran immediate, if incomplete, sanctions relief’ and allowed it to ‘keep its nuclear infrastructure intact’, with ‘no meaningful mechanisms for verifying compliance.’

But, where the Middle East in concerned, the recurrent problems aren’t just Iran (or the Israel-Palestinian impasse). No, it’s Obama – now renamed ‘O-Blunder’ by his growing band of critics – who plainly still doesn’t know which way is up.

Variously, he totally misread the runes of the Arab Spring-cum-Islamic Winter; failed to intervene in Syria two years ago, when arming the secular rebels would have given them a real edge in ousting the odious Bashar al-Assad; turned up too late for both Egyptian revolutions; then got the collywobbles over his ‘red line’ ultimatum for the Butcher of Damascus to ditch his nerve gas arsenal (latest update: he hasn’t).

Instead, Obama hung the only two real friends the West has in the world’s nuttiest neighbourhood out to dry: Saudi Arabia and Israel. Not exactly bosom buddies, nonetheless they are at one on the existential threat to world peace posed by Iran’s lust for atomic muscle.

The Kingdom has consistently warned that if the Shiite crazies go nuclear, so will it. And, as BBC2 Newsnight recently revealed, Saudi Arabia will buy off-the-peg A-bombs from Pakistan when – not if – its arch foe across the Persian Gulf crosses the nuclear threshold.

So, underscoring its opinion of abject US diplomacy, the Saudis passed up a seat on the UN Security Council to emphasise their contempt for Obama’s ignominious retreat on Syria and pig-headed refusal to see the Iranians for what they are: conmen, hiding behind Rouhani’s grinning façade, who have used every ruse imaginable in a bid to gain extra time to fulfil their aim.

CASHING IN: Ayatollah Khamenei - Iran's real boss - controls a vast business empire, worth $95bn, according to Reuters

CASHING IN: Ayatollah Khamenei – Iran’s real boss – controls a vast business empire, worth $95bn, according to Reuters

Now, to further Obama’s discomfort, a six-month investigation by Reuters has exposed Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – the real power in Iran – as covertly running a business empire built on thousands of properties snatched from ordinary Iranians, that now extends from finance, oil trading and telecoms to producing contraceptive pills and ostrich farming.

Estimated to be worth $95-billion, the humble cleric appears to know his way around a balance sheet as well as he does the Koran.

So, how much further evidence does the most gullible leader in recent US history need for the scales to be lifted from his eyes and see Iranian perfidy for what it is? That’s a question many would love to ask (not doubt along with whether Obama also believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny).

Meanwhile, like the Saudis, Israel has constantly stressed the reality that Armageddon looms large if the fanatical Khamenei gets his itchy finger on the trigger of a piece of ordnance his previous poodle, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, vowed to use to ‘wipe the Jewish state off the map.’

For its audacity in stating the glaringly obvious, Israel faces arm-twisting by Obama’s lackey, Secretary of State John Kerry, and buckling to a White House-imposed deal that rewards Palestinian terrorism and an on-going refusal to recognise the right of a sovereign nation to exist.

No surprise, then, that the Israeli are looking East towards India and China as military partners, because  with friends like the feckless, peacenik US President, who needs enemies (the question’s purely rhetorical).

While darkly muttering about its intent to acquire a nuclear capability, bellicose Turkey, too, has all but given up on the Americans and has bought a Chinese weapons system, which NATO fears will plant a ‘virus’ in its operational and command structure.

Meanwhile, Russia rubs its hand in glee at the colossal cock-up the US continues to make of the Middle East.

Apart from checking American pressure on its pet tyrant, Assad, Vladimir Putin sees opportunity exploding everywhere and his first gambit has been to woo Egypt with a no-strings, $1.6-billion package of military aid to replace hardware Obama has frozen (Background note: The US tied aid to Egypt on progress towards democratic elections and a civilian government, completely ignoring that democratic elections brought the repugnant Islamist, Mohammed Morsi, to power and forced the Egyptian army to step in and avert a civil war).

The Europeans – specifically Britain and France – also see a chance to fill the armaments void forfeited by America. And they’re quickly exploiting it, the French already having signed a €1-billion defence contract with Saudi Arabia and the UK salivating to do business with Iran.

Come hell or high water, though, it seems nothing will alter Obama’s egotistical perception of himself as a great peacemaker – even if his legacy of incompetence leaves this world a far more dangerous place than ever, with a Middle East bristling with nuclear weaponry.

Obama’s a gullible President, who wants to believe the unbelievable

TO shamelessly plagiarise from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, it is the best of times and the worst of times for President Obama.

Putting aside for a moment his shambolic failures on the international stage – viz-a-viz the Syrian civil war, Arab Spring and the risible ‘talkathon’ of hot air that poses for negotiations with nuclear, hell-bent Iran – many US government functions shut down last week in what appears, ostensibly, to be a Congressional brouhaha over the nation’s budget.

It is not unprecedented and last happened 17 years ago under the Clinton administration.

Meanwhile, without boring you witless with the technobabble of this, basically Republicans refuse to sign the blank cheque imposed on them to pay for the Democratic President’s flagship initiative, dubbed Obamacare.

There’s no arguing about its laudable aim to bring 30 million impoverished Americans a quality of cover approaching that enjoyed by a majority of the population, whose workplace insurance gives them access to much-prized medical treatment.

The questions are: is it an apt time to introduce such a far-reaching commitment and, when the US economy is only just rising from its knees after the worst economic slump since the 1930s, how many trillion of dollars will it cost?

The problem is the price-tag is a guesstimate, depending on which bean-counter you believe in a country long resistant to anything smacking of ‘socialised’, NHS-style welfare.

Plus, with Medicaid – a system the poor can to tap into – already in existence (along with Medicare for the elderly), Republicans ask why it’s not beyond the ken of the White House to introduce something less devise and more affordable, especially as polls show a majority of Americans disapprove of it.

TROUBLE AHEAD: Obama should win the battle of the US government shutdown, but there's more aggro ahead over the Debt Ceiling

I BELIEVE: Obama dearly wants ‘peace in our time’, but is he showing signs of placing too much trust in Iran’s sweet talk?

The Right-wing’s rather naïve gambit, however, has played straight into Obama’s hands. And, for once, he’s caught the ball, artfully outmanoeuvring the opposition with something along the lines of, ‘See, I told you Republicans don’t care about the poor.’

That is more than slightly disingenuous as several conservative administrations of recent times have consistently outspent their Lefter-leaning counterparts on poverty relief.

Regardless, it’s one-nil to Mr. President and he should go on to win this showdown, thereby boosting his approval ratings, which are abysmal for a two-term winner.

However sweet is victory, it could be short-lived, because Obama’s next financial hurdle comes later this month, when Congress will debate whether the US can borrow more than $16.7-trillion, known as the ‘Debt Ceiling.’

While the President was able to railroad through his outline plan for Obamacare during his first term – when Capitol Hill was pre-loaded with loyal Democrats – that case no longer applies.

And, gaffe-prone as they are, the Republicans won’t fluff this next chance to give the President a monumental lambasting.

While all this is internal, US politicking and of passing interest to the rest of the world, the collateral damage could do immense, further harm to American flagging prestige.

Firstly, with an ego the size of the Empire State building, Obama doesn’t want to go down in history as merely America’s first black leader; he wants to leave an enduring legacy, which Obamacare would be.

If it fails, his tenure in the White House will solely be distinguished for the colour of the occupant’s skin.

Because, such is the dearth of Obama’s achievements, few but the most purblind loyalists can argue the merits of his presidency, other than point out he’s telegenic and a compelling orator (even if most of his words ring hollow).

At home, he’s floundered as an economist; overseas he leads from the rear, a pushover for any tyrant with the temerity to call his bluff and ignore his warning (i.e. Assad, the Butcher of Damascus).

Woeful White House indecisiveness over the Egyptian uprisings has witnessed the country lurching back into a military dictatorship – still a far safer bet than the Islamic headbangers of Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Next, the President virtually relinquished US foreign policy over Syria to Vladimir Putin. This was based on a vague non-commitment by the Russian leader to talk his client, Assad, into halting the gassing of innocent Syrians and, perhaps, come clean about the extent of the repressive regime’s arsenal of nasty weapons

Then, to compound his litany of spectacular miscalculations, Obama has now fallen for the charm offensive of Iran’s smiley, new president, Hassan Rouhani, who claims the oil-rich Islamic Republic want nothing more than to utilise nuclear power to energise a few tellies and vacuum cleaners.

WINNING BY A SMILE? Rouhani might show a more welcome side to Iran's regime, but how sincere is he about the nuclear impasse?

A WINNING SMILE? Rouhani might show a warmer face of Iran’s hard-line regime, but can he break the nuclear impasse?

Despite snubbing Obama during his recent visit to the UN, Rouhani – who freely admits to lying to UN arms inspectors – the pair held a president-to-‘president’ telecon, which greatly enthused the reluctant leader of the Free World.

The trouble is, like his odious predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani is barely in charge of his own turban, let alone the country. The real – and only – power in Iran lies with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, who could be realistically described as the organ-grinder to Rouhani’s monkey.

At least Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli premier, isn’t deceived by Iran’s duplicity and doesn’t go along with Obama’s new-found optimism that the nuclear impasse can be sorted in a couple of months.

Netanyahu warned the UN on Wednesday that Rouhani is a ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing, pulling the wool over the West’s eyes’, determined to engineer a political thaw, end hard-biting sanctions and advance dangerous nuclear ambitions.

He added that Israel believes Iran already has enough enriched uranium for an atomic bomb, if it is processed further into weapons-grade fuel.

And Netanyahu emphasised that Tehran, which has threatened to ‘wipe the Jewish state off the map’, is building long-range missiles to deliver nuclear payloads, a conclusion the US government shares.

Nonetheless, the gullible Obama continues to be an avid believer in ‘peace in our time’, a slogan which will no doubt resonate with older readers (I suggest younger ones Google it).

Meanwhile, I wonder if the US President is interest in buying my car – an ageing, but thoroughly roadworthy VW, with only 120,000 kilometres on the speedo?

To him, it’s a snip at $100,000 or near offer. Heck, I’m sure he’ll be bidding.

Q: Where’s the Arab League in the Middle East mess? A: Leading from the back, as usual

They gather in august conclave, preening princes in sumptuous, flowing robes seated beside elegantly-tailored tyrants and military strongmen, clad in uniforms so adorned with medals, they’re in danger of keeling over.

They pose, ponder and prevaricate – fudging issues appears to be their natural inclination – before ending the charade of unity with a sabre-rattling declaration that is as worthless as the paper it’s scrawled on.

This is the Arab League: 21 nations, covering 13 million square kilometres, ranging from Mauritania, on the Atlantic coast in the far west, to Oman, whose shores are lapped by the Arabian Sea in the extreme east.

Sandwiched in between are the ‘super powers’: Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and – until its suspension two years ago – the odious Al-Assad family fiefdom of Syria, a pariah state even by the Middle East’s appalling standards of disregard for basic human rights.

The League represents over 400 million people, although ‘represents’ is a misnomer, since the overwhelming majority of Arabs have not an iota of democratic influence on whatever their monarchs, dictators or military juntas discuss, decide or do.

The members’ authority within the organisation varies according to its wealth or size of populace. Oil-bejewelled Saudi and the Gulf emirates, for instance, wield enormous political muscle, while Egypt – whose 85 million inhabitants make it the region’s most populated nation – was the crucible of militarism, until the ructions of the Arab Spring/Islamic Winter.

Formed in 1945, the League’s stated aim was to ‘to safeguard members’ independence and sovereignty, to consider in, general ways, how to draw closer the relations between states and co-ordinate collaboration between the Arab countries.’

BELEAGUERED LEAGUE: Member states of the Arab League, though Syria is suspended

BELEAGUERED LEAGUE: Member states of the Arab League, though Syria is suspended

Until this day, these noble goals have achieved little to say the most. And, apart from the largesse heaped by the petroleum realms on their citizens to buy obedience, the League has demonstrated such manifest incompetence, it couldn’t douse a fire in a matchbox.

In short, the League is a travesty of self-interest. It is an exclusive club of despots, whose sole purpose is to retain power, exert disproportionate sway over the oil-buying West – especially in that chamber-pot of irrelevance, the United Nations – and disregard the just aspirations of their peoples.

And Europe, the USA and Russia are – and have been – complicit in helping this disassembly of autocrats to continue and prosper.

First, Britain and France carved up the Middle East into artificial states in the wake of World War One, the British imposing foreign monarchs – think Jordan and Iraq – on disparate clans and tribes, with nothing in common, except perhaps, timeless vendettas and religious animus.

Secondly, with American foreign policy designed to check the power of Russia, the West armed the Arabs to the teeth – as it continues to do, with abiding ignorance and negligence – propping up regimes, whose values are crudely medieval.

And, for all its pretentions to solidarity, the bickering, back-biting League can agree on only one topic: the annihilation of Israel and the legitimate Jewish state’s replacement by a Palestinian entity, with the iffiest historical claims to territory.

Three major wars – in 1948, 1967 and 1973 – ended in ignominy for the Arabs. But, instead of seeing the massive peace dividend from an accommodation with the ‘can-do’ Israelis, too many of the League’s tyrants remain obsessed with maligning it on the world stage, indulging in the crudest anti-Semitism, and funding extremist terror.

For decades, the counterproductive tactic of using the one nation in the neighbourhood, where Arabs enjoy freedoms that are non-existent in Arab countries, was a highly convenient sideshow that worked a treat.

GOING NOWHERE: Arab League members meet - and rarely come up with a solution to problems

LEAGUE OF SELF-INTEREST: Arab leaders meet – and rarely come up with a solution to the Arab world’s problems

The so-called Arab Street was hypnotised and propagandised into believing the Jews were the font of all their ills – poverty, lack of education, joblessness and general deprivation.

Not any longer. The advent of the internet, which even local tyrants can’t suppress, has opened up a window of enlightenment and a kernel of hope is taking root in a desert of human despair.

Repressed people everywhere can read Western opinions that don’t kow-tow to their governments, learn of liberties, of fundamental rights enshrined in laws, of progress and opportunity, not forgetting the benefits, responsibilities and challenges of democracy, warts and all.

So, regardless of whichever brand of Islam, Shia or Sunni, they subscribe to, awareness is growing – as demonstrated in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia – and it is becoming apparent to many Arabs that the reason for their third-class lot is not Israel.

This slither of land the size of the state of New Jersey being populated by a born-again nation with a biblical imperative to be there may be a thorn in Arab pride, but the rapacious lust for power and greed for riches of their masters is the true reason they inhabit a lesser world.

The genie is out of the bottle now and, as Syria’s Assad resorts to unimagined levels of barbarity in a civil war that began as a cri de coeur for democracy, the League’ impotency  is exposed again for its ineptitude and self-interest.

A half-hearted attempt at mediation in 2011 by Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir – himself an alleged war criminal – flopped. So the League resorted to its default setting of wanting the West to sort out the mess by military means, just as it did apropos Mad Dog Gaddafi in Libya.

A resolution passed at a meeting in Cairo last week urged the United Nations and international community to ‘take the deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime [the gassing of the innocents] that the Syrian regime bears responsibility for.’

The League – too timid and dysfunctional to allow its own forces to get their hands dirty – desperately needs some form of Western intervention, not merely to slap down Assad, but to send a blunt message to his puppet-masters in Iran, where the Armageddon-seeking ayatollahs continue their game-changing quest for nuclear weaponry.

So, as usual, once again the Arab League is doing what it does and does best: leading from the back.

Low hopes for Kerry’s ‘roadmap’ finding a highway to Middle East peace

It’s tempting to write off John Kerry’s efforts to undo one of the most intractable knots challenging world diplomacy before it’s even generated a wisp of steam.

But last week, in Washington, the US Secretary of State at least started the ball rolling by bringing together Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, if only for talk about talks.

Kerry has set a nine-month timeframe for his peace roadmap to flourish or flounder, as all other attempts have done since both sides signed up to the 1993 Oslo Accords.

But if all ends in acrimony, it should produce one, valuable indicator: we’ll find out which of the antagonists sincerely wants to reap a peace dividend, not widen the great divide.

Oddly, despite not even the starriest-eyed optimist prepared to bet a red US cent on the outcome, as the craziest region on earth goes madder by the minute this might be a propitious time to break the longest-running Middle East impasse.

PEACE-SEEKER: No-one is better on John Kerry's Mid-East 'roadmap' reaching its aim of an Israel-Palestinian deal

PEACE-SEEKER: No-one is better on John Kerry’s Mid-East ‘roadmap’ reaching its aim of an Israel-Palestinian deal

Surrounding by chaos and bloodletting in Syria and Egypt – plus another Lebanese civil war looming – even a frosty peace with a Palestinian-West Bank state would allow Israel to concentrate on the far greater existential menace of a nuclear Iran (and plenty are betting the mad mullahs will have their weapon by the end of 2014).

And a deal would also leave Palestinian Authority (PA) president, Mahmoud Abbas, crowing, because it would deliver a triple-whammy to his arch foes, Hamas.

The murderous bigots of Gaza are already isolated, following the ousting of their Muslim Brotherhood buddies in Egypt and they’re in Iran’s bad books for refusing to back the Assad tyranny in Syria.

So, if only predicated on the theory that my enemy’s enemy is my friend, Abbas and Israel’s premier, Benjamin Netanyahu, have some common cause.

Israel, however, is nothing if not pragmatic. It has twice pursued the ‘land for peace’ route, with Egypt and Jordan, returning huge swathes of territory both lost in the 1967 Six Day War, when their invading armies were routed.

In Jordan’s case, it ceded control of a West Bank it grabbed illegally in the 1948 War of Israel Independence to the Palestinians, while Egypt gifted them the Gaza Strip.

A chilly peace continues to exist between the two Arab nations and Israel, but this never prevented shockwaves of Palestinian terrorism, ultimately forcing the Jewish state to construct a wall round itself, resulting in suicide bomb attacks plummeting by 90%.

Meanwhile, with everything in play under Kerry’s ambitious plan, the duplicitous Abbas still tried to insist on pre-conditions, first calling for talks to be based on the 1948 armistice – the indefensible ‘Auschwitz Lines’ in Israeli parlance – which never set borders.

Much to Abbas’s chagrin all historical evidence – i.e. UN Resolution 242 in 1967, which called for ‘secure and recognized boundaries’ and the Oslo Accords, which promoted ‘mutually-agreed’ land swaps – ignored the 1948 ‘lines’, thus exploding more myths Palestinian propagandists have tried to peddle to a gullible world for years.

PEACE GESTURE: Israel PM, Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to release 81 hardened terrorists

PEACE GESTURE: Israel PM, Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to release 81 hardened terrorists

Similarly, Abbas must have known his call for ‘refugees’ right of return’ would fall on deaf ears, since the 650,000 who originally fled or were ejected 64 years ago have now multiplied to 4.5 million.

With Israel’s population of around eight million – and already including 1.5 million Israeli Arabs, who enjoy lifestyles and freedoms unmatched anywhere in the Arab world – absorbing such a colossal influx would be demographic suicide.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu pre-empted an Abbas demand by freezing any new plans for West Bank settlement construction.

However, by attempting to impose his own agenda over Kerry’s, uncertainties arise as to whether the PA president is actually sincere in his quest for peace or whether he’ll invent a  smokescreen excuse to abort the talks and blame Israel for their breakdown.

The Jews have a word for such outrageous impudence: chutzpah, best defined by the allegorical story of a man convicted of murdering both his parents, who pleaded for clemency from the judge…because he was an orphan.

However, as a positive gesture, Netanyahu agreed to phase the controversial release of 81 Palestinian prisoners – all vicious, hard-core terrorists, who have cold-bloodedly slaughtered and maimed thousands of Israeli civilians – and put any potential peace deal to a referendum.

With an overwhelming majority of Israelis favouring the creation of a viable, non-belligerent Palestinian state, subject to final terms, the plebiscite should be a formality.

In stark contrast, after decades of Palestinians being drip-fed a diet of hate-filled, anti-Semitic bile, Abbas faces a hard sell if his people are to accept peace with the Israelis, regardless of the boundless commercial, economic and social benefits it guarantees.

A snapshot of attitudes on the Palestinian ‘street’, as revealed by a recent Pew Survey shows how deeply they are locked into a medieval mindset: 40% believe suicide bombing is justified, 89% think homosexuality is immoral, that women must always obey their husband and favor the imposition of Sharia law, while 45% believe honor killing is permissible.

PEACE PARTNER? Arafat spurned peace, but will Mahmoud Abbas break with Palestinian tradition and give peace a chance?

PEACE PARTNER? Arafat spurned every deal offered, so will PA boss, Mahmoud Abbas, break with tradition and give peace a chance?

Additionally, Abbas’s leadership ratings are in tailspin and his credentials as a potential peacemaker are woeful.

In line with the established custom and practice of many Arab regimes, his presidency is tainted, because his term in office expired over four years ago and he adamantly refuses all calls for new elections.

With a bankrupt exchequer reliant on US and EU bailouts (plus, to some extent, Israel) – though with no significant contribution from his rich, Arab brethren, who frankly detest the Palestinians – Abbas’s presidency is rife with cronyism and graft.

There is little or no financial transparency and civil servants have gone unpaid for months.

In April, former World Bank economist, Salam Fayyad, acrimoniously quit as prime minister and in June, his replacement, Rami Hamdallah, an independent academic, resigned after only two weeks in the job.

Both cited clashes with the autocratic president and his chums from the Fatah party.

So the key question is: will Abbas give peace a chance and break with the traditions of his predecessors – Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Hitler-worshipping Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and venal, money-laundering despot, Yasser Arafat, who, in the words of Israel’s late, eminent Foreign Minister, Abba Eban, ‘Never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity’?

The world waits with hope – and places no bets on peace breaking out.

 

 

 

Oh Danny Boy, you’re all at sea about cutting the UK’s nuclear shield

Apart from any card-carrying member of the Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament (CND), I can’t think of a worse candidate to proffer advice about the future of Trident, spearhead of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, than Lib-Dem Treasury Secretary, Danny Alexander.

With the possible exception of Paddy Ashdown, a Special Boat Service veteran, the Lib-Dems generally don’t do defence any more than I crochet doilies No, they’re far comfier on non-martial issues – gender equality; ASBOs instead of hard time for lags; more Europe, not less, etc. – so stick to what you (think) you know, I say.

I mean would you canvass Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne’s opinion on curbing pub opening hours or task Top Gear petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson to say why bicycles are better than cars? Neither would I.

So asking Red Danny – that’s an allusion to his politics, not hair colour – to provide a circumspect overview of whether Britain needs to replace all four of its nuclear-tipped, ageing Trident submarines seems a rather redundant query.

Predictably, in what he modestly claimed last week was ‘the most comprehensive study ever published’ on the Royal Navy’s formidable defensive shield, he pronounced that Britain should ‘step down the nuclear ladder’ and described Trident as the ‘last unreformed bastion of Cold War thinking’.

Perhaps as an afterthought – some would say a wobble on his lofty, moral perch – Alexander recommends we only need three new, Trident-class subs, not the four currently deployed, 24/7, that need de-commissioning by 2024.

What the Lib-Dem military mastermind fails to appreciate, though, is that for 45 years the Tridents have lurked, submerged and unseen in undisclosed locations. This has helped NATO gain a tactical edge against anyone tooled up with land-based missiles, which can be ID’d in a flash by spy-in-the-sky satellites (and read this column from 10 miles high).

MAN OVERBOARD: Danny Alexander wants to scrap one of Britain's four, Trident nuclear subs - a drop in the ocean in real terms

MAN OVERBOARD: Danny Alexander wants to scrap one of Britain’s four, Trident nuclear subs – a drop in the ocean in real terms

Nonetheless, Alexander is right that the saving in beaching a single Trident would be a not insignificant £4bn.

However, taken as part of a £40bn defence budget – 2.5% of Britain’s GDP – it is a relative drop in the ocean, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Money, though, is not the issue for those far-Left and piously-principled residents of La-La-Land, for whom the very mention of Trident and its nuclear, Cruise missile payload is anathema.

So they’ll regard the loss of even one super-sub as partial vindication for all the energy they expended on hot air, placards, sit-ins and demos from the 1950s onwards that got them precisely nowhere.

Today’s postcard to them from the real world is that, though the stalemate between the communist East and democratic West may be technically over, we inhabit a planet where the omnipresent threat of atomic Armageddon is a worsening.

Russia might have shrugged off its Soviet mantle, but it’s still sufficiently paranoid to invent two new types of undersea-launched ballistic missiles, a new class of ballistic submarine, a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile, a new bomber and deadlier Cruise missiles.

As the military historian Sir Michael Howard warns, ‘The nuclear dragon is asleep, not dead’.

So clearly Moscow’s nationalist tsar, Vladimir Putin, doesn’t buy into any post-Cold War peace posturing, even from a US President as malleable and hands-off as Barack Obama.

And, at the risk of going boss-eyed, Putin is looking both ways…in fact, further east rather than west.

The danger posed by Iran’s quest for a nuclear armoury heightens by the day, as the mad mullahs’ subterranean centrifuges churn out increasingly greater amounts of fissile material while they slyly dodge full, UN accountability.

Meanwhile, those inane enough to be seduced by the smiling visage of the nation’s new president, Hassan Rohani, are overdue for an alarm call. Because, like his odious predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he’s merely a puppet of the tyrannical Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who’s fixated on becoming a nuclear bullyboy.

Not that such capacity doesn’t already abound throughout Asia, often in the hands of maverick regimes, nowhere more unhinged than Stalinist North Korea, where the crackpot dictator would rather starve his people than forsake the prestige of being a nuclear power.

Increasingly flexing its regional supremacy muscles, China long ago joined the nuclear club, as did India.

NUCLEAR SHIELD: Trident subs have been helping to keep the West safe for 45 years

NUCLEAR SHIELD: Trident subs have been helping to keep the West safe for 45 years

Pakistan even has a thriving export industry in nuclear hardware and that’s where Sunni Saudi Arabia will shop for an off-the-peg, super-bomb when – no longer if – their arch enemy and Shiite neighbour, Iran, cracks the technology.

As a prelude to its final development, the turbaned maniacs have threatened to blow Israel off the map. And heaven help the world, let alone the Middle East, if they try such mind-boggling stupidity.

The tiny Jewish state refuses to confirm or deny it packs a nuclear punch, so take it as read it has one. However, unlike Iran, it threatens no-one, but relies on the power of ambiguous mystique to discourage wannabe attackers.

So back in the La-La Land of Westminster, inhabited by the party of pacifism, Lib-Dem Danny Boy sounds off about slashing Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet by a quarter.

And this in the wake of the Coalition decimating the army and having to live with the former Labour government’s reckless spending of £7bn on two aircraft carriers, one of which is likely to be mothballed on completion in 2020 to save money.

The loss of a single Trident, though, would be a heftier blow, according to many defence analysts, who say the super-sub fleet provides NATO with a far superior deterrent than anything on or above water.

Therefore, even under the clunking fist of austerity, many in Britain believe £4bn is price well worth paying at time when the world totters on the brink of cataclysm.

Hopefully, then, Danny Boy’s recommendations will receive the consideration they richly deserve…and be filed in an appropriate receptacle, like the one under the Prime Minister’s desk.

Doing your bit now for Syria is too little, too late, Mr. President

As the weight of history leans ever more heavily on his shoulder – and no US President wants to leave office looking like a ‘wuss’ – Barack Obama is about to shed his conflict aversion.

‘Stop leading from behind,’ his friends chorus apropos Syria’s civil war, while ex-President Bill Clinton is even more critical, describing his Democratic Party successor as a ‘fool’ and that word, ‘wuss’ (a term I’m unfamiliar with, but can’t help thinking it’s not a compliment).

Obama’s problem is two-fold: firstly, his default setting is that of a liberal conciliator, who, for all his silver-tongued oratory, would rather shut up than put up; secondly, he slavishly follows opinion polls, which Slick Willy says isn’t the hallmark of a true leader.

Because, of all US Commanders in Chief, Clinton knows there are limits to navel-gazing, as he admitted – with teary regret – after shutting his eyes to the Rwanda genocide. That was why he finally ignored the people’s voice, took up military cudgels and sorted out the Bosnia-Kosovo mess, after Europe and the UN had lamentably failed.

The Syrian bloodbath, however, is riddled by complexities that threaten the worst of worse-case scenarios. Plus, coming as it does when the West is untangling itself from controversial engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq – after an Arab Spring that has transited into an Islamic Winter – no-one wants a Cold War-style stand-off.

But, while Obama’s policy of wait and berate may have seemed laudable after G ‘Dubya’ Bush’s gung-ho era, sitting on the sidelines, manicured fingers crossed that Syria’s goody rebels – not those nasty Al-Qaeda types – would topple the detestable Bashar Assad, is growing a remoter possibility by the day.

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

STAYING GLUM: Obama ponders over arming the Syrian rebels

And now the President has fallen into a trap of his own making. When, last August, he threatened ‘red lines’ would be crossed if the Demon of Damascus ever resorted to chemical weapons, Obama should have realised it would only be a matter of time before that likelihood happened and the snare was triggered.

It has been, even if Bashar’s Russian buddies claim evidence is flimsy.

In reality, so far perhaps only a few hundred Syrians have been victims of gassing, probably by sarin. And while I don’t denigrate that appalling statistic, Obama’s stress on bio-warfare being a game-changer somehow diminishes the other 93,000 fatalities, whose deaths by conventional weapons were mostly far grislier than from anything concocted in a laboratory.

To be fair, the off-the-cuff , ‘red lines’ remark to journalists was made when the rebels – under the banner of the secularly moderate Syrian National Council (SNC) – looked short-odds favourites to win and fears were growing the maverick regime would break open its biological arsenal and stage a gory last stand.

Less than a year on, however, the tables are turning dramatically in Assad’s favour, after worse dangers than the sporadic use of nerve agents have exploded onto the bloodletting.

On one side, thousands of Shiite fanatics from Hezbollah have streamed over the Lebanese border to prop up the despot and they are being joined by an estimated 4,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards, all tooled up with increasingly sophisticated Russian weaponry.

In the rebel corner, provisioned by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, countless, rabidly Sunni jihadis from every corner of the globe, including Britain, have flooded into Syria, itching to take a swipe at Assad and his foreign legion.

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

FIGHTING BACK: But anti-Assad rebels are looking to the West to arm them

It is these combined alien elements, not gas, that have proved the real game-changer. And, far from being internecine strife, Syria has become the battleground for a proxy war between Islam’s opposing ideologies.

Now – after Obama’s failure at last week’s G8 confab to talk Vladimir Putin into halting Russia’s ‘arms-lift’ to Assad – thanks to his ‘red lines’ warning, the US President is faced with a humiliating volte face or putting his munitions where his mouth is.

The nightmare fear is that US weaponry will fall into the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates and eventually be used against the West. Certainly, nobody with a modicum of marbles has forgotten Afghanistan, where the CIA equipped the mujahedeen against the Soviets and Osama bin Laden was regarded as a ‘good guy’, a fact chillingly underlined by Putin.

So the talk is of supplying limited battlefield technology, maybe light arms plus anti-tank missiles, and pray a diplomatic miracle – one of the magnitude of Obama walking on the nearby lake – will somehow happen if a Geneva peace conference slated for later this month takes place.

Should it do, the likelihood is everyone will turn up, with the possible exception of the adversaries. Having clawed back the initiative, Assad has nothing to gain by making an appearance. And the SNC, who certainly don’t speak for all the rebel factions, insist on the tyrant retreating into ignominious exile before they’ll come for a natter.

Far from a ushering in a breakthrough, the meeting’s chances of success can best be summarised by an expression incorporating the words ‘snowball’, ‘chance’ and ‘Hell’.

Meanwhile, with an eye to his legacy, Obama won’t want to be remembered as a Jimmy Carter Mark II, though there’s every danger he will.

Imitating probably the most inept, post-WW2 occupant of the White House – who blundered monumentally in the Iran Hostages Crisis with a botched rescue mission and was serially incompetent in handling the US economy – Obama missed a real window of opportunity to halt the Syrian carnage more than a year ago.

Urged on by his then Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Pentagon top brass to outfit the rebels when their fortunes were soaring and they weren’t infested by Islamist headbangers, he dithered, dallied and did nothing.

Today, then, it’s nigh on impossible for the President to make a moral, humanitarian case for intervention, because that time has elapsed.

The best Obama can hope for is to claim, ‘Well, I did my bit.’

But whatever that bit is, it’s a bit too little and a lot too late.