If Obama doesn’t want to be remembered as President Pushover he has to act NOW!

ANYONE got a strategy? Because they’re been hunting all over the White House for one. Either someone can’t remember where they filed it or nothing has yet magically emerged from Barack Obama’s gazing into his navel.

In actuality, the president fesses up to the latter predicament. When it comes to dealing with the barbarous jihadis of IS – the Islamic State formerly known as ISIS or ISIL – his legendary intellect is out to lunch or on the golf course, where he prefer to spend time nowadays.

Apart from pleading perplexity, Obama validates his inertia, saying, ‘You don’t play whack-a-mole wherever these terrorist organisations may pop up.’

That sentiment chimes with the recall of former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

Chronicling her time in office in her recent memoir, Hard Choices, she said Obama’s pro-isolationist foreign policy was, in his words: ‘Don’t do stupid sh*t’ (or, in polite conversation, substitute ‘stuff’ for excrement).

As the woman who could become America’s first female head of state noted witheringly, ‘Great nations need organising principles and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organising principle.’

And neither are IS your average bunch of Islamo-fascist headbangers. With hi-tech US weaponry seized from the Iraqi army, they’ve already carved out a tranche of Syria and Iraq the size of Britain and proclaimed it a Sharia ‘caliphate’, slaughtering thousands of Christians, Yazidis and anyone else who disagrees with their warped worldview.

From ransoms – France is said to have paid $58M, Switzerland $12.4 and Spain $11M – bank robberies, taxes and extortion IS has amassed a war chest of $2-billion they intend to use to reconquer all former Muslim lands, from the Balkans to Andalusia and including pseudo-secular Turkey.

STRATEGY SEEKERS: Obama and Cameron ponder the IS threat at the recent NATO summit

STRATEGY SEEKERS: Obama and Cameron ponder the IS threat at the recent NATO summit

With at least 500 Britons in their ranks and more Europeans queuing to join the carnival of carnage, intelligence sources have no doubt IS poses a clear and present danger to the West. It is, they say, only a matter of time before battle-hardened jihadis drift back home and wreak havoc.

Meanwhile, as the waiting continues for the tumblers in Obama’s brain to clunk into place, the free world must kick its heels, festering – or apoplectic, as his generals are reported to be – and hoping against hope no more Westerners are decapitated, as journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff were so gruesomely slain.

However, midway into his final term in office, Obama remains as gung-no as his predecessor, G ‘Dubya’ Bush, was gung-ho. Yet, as history testifies, neither formulated coherent foreign policies to deal with the charnel house that’s the Middle East.

Obama insists he was elected to extricate America and its allies from conflicts and, in 2008 when he first won election, the war-weary West was grateful to hail a leader who vowed to close the book on military adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mainly due to IS atrocities and the dread of what may follow, the public mood is shifting from indifference to belligerence, even if the world’s most powerful commander-in-chief – a tag that sits uncomfortably with Obama’s peacenik default setting – doesn’t see it.

ON THE MARCH: Fighters from IS already control a huge swathe of Iraq and Syria

ON THE MARCH: Fighters from IS already control a huge swathe of Iraq and Syria

True, he’s sent a squadron of fighter jets to hamper IS progress and is arming the Kurds, albeit with pretty unsophisticated Eastern European hardware, as they manfully defend their stronghold in northern Iraq against the barbarians at their gates.

Shamefully, that’s the current extent of Obama’s bellicosity, even if he does warn, ‘Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.’

Sticks and stones, Mr. President. And we’ve heard your vacuous sabre-rattling before, apropos the ‘red line’ threat to obliterate the chemical weapons arsenal of Syria’s Bashar Assad, but which the Demon of Damascus continues to use on the sly.

The plain, if unpalatable truth is that from Day 1 of his Oval Office tenure, Obama has never put a foot right in the Middle East, the planet’s most viciously volatile region and he’s daily exposed as President Pushover for his indecision and ineptitude.

And, much as I take no pleasure in repeating it, a year ago I wrote here, ‘After seeing the hope that began as the Arab Spring lurch into an Islamic Winter and now a serial bloodbath, what is not required is a vacillating, over-conciliatory, moralising poseur, who talks the talk but patently fails to walk the walk.

Under Obama, Iraq has fragmented into its component parts, the Shia government’s authority extending little further than Baghdad, while only the plucky Kurds withstand the scourge of IS.

After three years of grisly civil war, over 200,000 deaths and two million made refugees, Syria is a multi-dimensional bloodbath, though the loathsome Assad regime remains in situ, propped up by an unholy alliance of Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Meanwhile, Libya – where US Ambassador, Chris Stevens, was murdered by Islamic fanatics in 2012 – is ungovernable, as tribal factions compete to grab the oil wealth.

And Obama trying to arm-twist Israel, the only sane nation in the region, to stomach the demands of Hamas’s terrorist thugs only resulted in exposing the White House’s emissary, John Kerry, as a diplomatic dunce.

Though by far not the last piece in the mangled Middle East jigsaw, much against Obama’s wishes the army stopped Egypt becoming another Sharia paradise by toppling the Muslim Brotherhood, even if it was victorious in a travesty posing as a democratic election.

Fast forwarding to last week’s NATO summit in Wales, topping the agenda of the 28 member states was Russia’s incursion – invasion more like it – of Ukraine and Afghanistan’s future, following the withdrawal of all foreign troops by the end of 2014.

It was also patently clear the heat was on a equivocating American leader to find a strategy to crush IS.

Hence Obama’s sounding out UK Prime Minister David Cameron on transforming the RAF’s recce sorties over Iraq into strike missions, though that isn’t likely to happen unless British MPs agree it.

So, as the clock ticks down on his reign, the 44th US President faces being remembered as the man whose dithering made the world a far more dangerous place.

Only if he finds the will – and a strategy – to act decisively can he avoid that ignominy.

Obama needs to do that now. Dilly-dallying any longer will be too late.

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.

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.

Here’s hoping 2014 is a year to remember – for all the right reasons

HAVING just glanced at what’s slated for 2014, it looks such a yawn I’m tempted to do a Rip Van Winkle and snooze my way through it.

That may sound cynical, but the fact that the United Nations has designated MMXIV the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography doesn’t enthuse. And, no, don’t ask me what ‘crystallography’ is – look it up for yourselves, because I don’t think I’d stand the thrill discovery may bring.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Latvia becomes the 18th EU state to adopt the Euro. So, maybe family farming will be a timely learning experience to offset the single currency’s dubious bounties…joblessness, austerity and slowly being mashed to death by a German woman sporting a pudding-basin haircut, driving a financial steamroller.

At least February looks promising. Tsar Putin will open the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where his repellent, homophobic laws will be temporarily eased, a grilling over sexual orientation won’t replace drug tests and any competitor found wielding a ski pole in an unseemly manner won’t be banished to a gay gulag.

Long ago I ceased to wonder what went through the rapacious minds of those governing world sport – e.g. the IoC and FIFA – when pariah states like Russia and Qatar were awarded showcase spectaculars, despite appalling human rights violations. Money, though, shrieks louder than morality, so sport is just another bankable commodity.

Moving swiftly on, give March a pass, since Comet Holmes reaches its perihelion (again, don’t ask) and similar galactic conditions apply in May, when Faye’s Comet performs astral acrobatics.

At least there’s a solar eclipse to savour in April, so radio telescopes at the ready.

WORLD CUP WOBBLES: Roy Hodgson's England face a daunting task in Brazil next June

WORLD CUP WOBBLES: Roy Hodgson’s England face a daunting task in Brazil next June

June is jubilee month for soccer…unless you’re an England fan (or my missus), because Hodgson’s plodders have about as much chance of lifting the World Cup in Brazil as a three-legged carthorse has of winning the Derby.

Excuses are already fashioned: it’s was too hot, too windy, the ball too round, the sun was shining in our goalie’s eyes and the other lot had eleven men. Oh, and the ref was blind/bent/barmy (tick whichever is applicable). Besides, he was an Argentinian.

July is another month for sports-averse females to go on a girlie holiday, but it looks marginally brighter for us blokes, with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. The home nation can expect an avalanche of medals, though – let’s face it – this is a school sports day compared to the Olympics.

Still north of the border, September’s highlight is the Scottish vote on independence. And, since my previous comments on this topic drew threats – of a fate worse than fate worse than death – from stroppy Caledonian separatists, I’ll say no more…except if Scotland braves it alone, I wish them the best of British luck (except they’ll no longer be Brits).

Ditto for Catalans when they hold their referendum in November on whether to quit Spain.

However, whatever your political drift, December should end with a voluble sigh of relief when Western troops finally exit Afghanistan, after 13 years – and 3,395 battlefield casualties – of trying to sort out an intractable conflict against an implacable foe.

If the ongoing aggro following what promised to be the end of the 2nd Iraq War  is any yardstick, the hapless Afghans pack less than a dog’s chance of retaining any vestige of democracy. Certainly not with a government so institutionally corrupt facing a Taliban enemy so fanatically obsessed with a 7th Century religious credo.

It might sound churlish to say the opening years of the third millennium have, so far, witnessed an irreconcilable ‘clash of civilizations’, as American political scientist, Samuel P. Huntington, controversially foretold in 1993.

Those useless idiots on the hard Left still castigate this assertion. But the unassailable truth can be seen across swathes of Africa and the Middle East, where what is tantamount to a patchwork Third World War is being waged by the forces of brutal, jihadi fervour against anyone with the temerity to stand in their way.

This year reminders came closer to home – like the hideous slaying of Gunner Lee Rigby – that the battle-fatigued West is not immune to an overspill of hatred that festers in extremist corners of our own Islamic communities and it’s not going to magically vanish.

Meanwhile, wedded as we are to a dotty construct of political correctness, the idea of a multi-cultural, multi-faith Britain isn’t helped by spectacular own goals.

MARKS MAKE SPARKS: The UK supermarket caused a consumer storm by telling Muslim staff they didn't have to handle alcohol and pork products

MARKS CAUSE SPARKS: The UK supermarket faced consumer uproar after telling Muslim staff they didn’t have to handle alcohol and pork products at check-outs

Following hard on the skid-marks of Universities UK’s decision – later revoked – to allow gender segregation at Islamic events on campuses, high street chain, Marks & Spencer, boobed monumentally by absolving Muslim check-out staff from handling pork products and alcohol.

Both were crass, ill-conceived decisions, which backfired by insulting all faiths (plus those of no faith at all), again highlighting how the UK has allowed nonsensical PC to take a wrecking-ball to the nation’s social cohesion.

On a broader canvas, Barack Obama’s lamentably foreign policy will, no doubt, bumble on, frustrating the West’s traditional, regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan et al – and reinforcing the view that the President is not the Messiah, just another inept, egotistical politician.

After backtracking on his ‘red lines’ warning to the odious Syrian regime, utterly misreading both Egyptian revolutions, then capitulating to Iran’s lust for nuclear weaponry, Obama is in danger of retreating so far he’ll fall into the Pacific.

There is even a growing belief the President will leave Bashar al-Assad in power, since the secular rebels – who could have toppled the Butcher of Damascus with US support two years ago – have now been ousted by Al Qaeda-affiliated cutthroats, ready to use Syria as a launch-pad to export terror to the West.

Meanwhile, John’s Kerry’s bid to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians is downgraded to attaining a mere interim deal, as the Arabs use every ruse to achieve their sole aim of airbrushing the Jewish state from Holy Land history.

But maybe my cynicism will be unfounded, because a New Year should signal a fresh start, with rekindled hope and revitalised spirit.

Like you, I very much yearn for that and 2014 proves to be a happy, healthy, prosperous, peaceful 12 months for all of us.

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.

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.

Eat your ‘red line’ words, Mr. President – or show some real stomach for a fight

There’s a question I’d like to ask Barack Obama right now: Where does a red line become a green light?

You’ve guessed, of course, because the answer is self-evident… in Syria.

Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear how the US President unhooks himself off a peg he fashioned a year ago, when, in sternly unambiguous language, he warned dictator Bashar al-Assad a red line would be crossed if ever biological weapons were moved, let alone unleashed on the Syrian people.

Yet, even before last week’s horrific massacre that probably took at least several hundred lives, Obama knew the Demon of Damascus had already employed his chemical arsenal to lethal effect more than once.

And, though, as yet, there isn’t incontestable proof Assad wasn’t embolden to repeat the war crime on a far grander scale, the finger of suspicion points inexorably in his direction.

However, there are caveats. Aided by Iranian Republican Guards and Hezbollah cutthroats, government forces are reportedly crushing the opposition. And, with UN arms inspectors in town to check the scenes of earlier gassing incidents, it’s a questionable moment to re-deploy deadly nerve agents.

Contrarily, maybe in his Machiavellian mindset, Assad is counting on the swirling fog of civil war to cloud culpability and/or deliberately tweak Obama’s nose, knowing his allies, Russia and China, will parry any UN censure.

They did exactly that last Wednesday, rendering a Security Council statement gutless. However, in the light of international condemnation, Russia has been forced to back calls for a probe, even if Vladimir Putin still insists his pet tyrant isn’t the guilty party.

A MOTHER MOURNS: Many of the victims of the recent gassing in Syria were children

A MOTHER MOURNS: Many of the victims of the recent gassing in Syria were children

And it is not outside the realm of possibility that the motley rebels – especially battle-hardened jihadis, sprinkled with Al-Qaeda affiliates – concocted a ‘false flag’ black op to smear the Assad regime, not that it any needs help in cloaking itself in further opprobrium.

But, if Obama drew a red line in the Syrian sand and someone took this as a green light to act in gross defiance, what price the warning from the leader of the free world?

All we’ve heard is Obama has – finally! – asked his generals to ‘provide all options for all contingencies’, as he views the worsening situation with ‘grave concern.’

Understandably, after Iraq and Afghanistan, the West doesn’t want any more complicated adventures on Muslim soil or another gung-ho president in the mould of G. ‘Dubya’ Bush.

Yet, after seeing the hope that began as the Arab Spring lurch into an Islamic Winter and now serial slaughter, what is not required is a vacillating, over-conciliatory, moralising poseur, who talks the talk but patently fails to walk the walk.

And, while Obama may be the coolest dude to occupy the Oval Office, for all his theatrical gravitas, he’s in danger of becoming the lamest duck President since bumbling Jimmy Carter, which takes some underachieving.

He signalled this potentiality from the very start of his first term in office, when his initial foray overseas was to Cairo, where he made a grovelling speech, which the Arab world predictably scoffed at.

Since then, where Middle East matters are concerned, Obama has rarely put a foot right.

Admittedly, his options with Syria are now limited, particularly since he muffed the chance to be effectual a year ago, before the conflict became the magnet for every turbaned headbanger with an AK47 to hitch a camel-ride and join the carnage.

That lost window of opportunity would have afforded the West the chance to supply the then mainly moderate rebels at least with light arms plus anti-tank ordnance and prod the bunglers of the Arab League into helping clean up a mess in their own back yard.

MUFFED IT: Obama misses a putt during a golf game, just as he muffed the chance to sort out Syria

MUFFED IT: Obama misses a putt during a golf game, just as he muffed the chance to sort out Syria

Instead, like the legal geek he is, Obama navel-gazed, preferring to wag a reproving finger at Bashar The Basher and mutter darkly about ‘red lines’.

Well, one way or another, they have been crossed and, as the US Commander In Chief huffs and puffs, Vladimir Putin unfailingly delivers macho support to the Assad mafia, however disingenuous Russia’s morally-bankrupt motives are.

Britain and France, meanwhile, seem up to the challenge of trying to stop the Syrian madness escalating into a mini-holocaust – the death-count is already beyond 100,000 and largely composed of innocent civilians, many of them children – though UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague, doesn’t specify what sort of intervention he has in mind.

It might mean establishing no-fly zones to checkmate Assad’s MIGs or bombing his missile batteries, as the RAF and French air force did to help oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya; conversely, it could involve selectively arming rebels, but ensuring weaponry doesn’t reach those seeking to impose an anti-Western, Sharia paradise on Syria; or it may mean diplomatically arm-twisting Russia and China to bring Assad to the peace talks table.

It should not mean, as Hague and his French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, have been at pains to stress, Western troops on the ground.

But at least they are talking robustly in a test for the West inflicted by the rhetoric of an American leader, who, so far, seems to display no real stomach for a fight.

So I suggest Obama recalls what he said on August 20, 2012, and, if he doesn’t, here’s a reminder:-

‘We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.’

Now the world waits with mounting urgency to hear what the President’s solution is, before droves more innocents die in Syria.

If something positive isn’t quickly forthcoming, I suggest Obama pops into the White House kitchen, butter two slices of bread, insert his words in between and eats them.

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.

Now ‘sultan’ Erdogan’s not so much a Turk, more a power-crazed turkey

If Kemal Ataturk, the visionary reformer and founding father of modern-day Turkey, could see the bloody shenanigans going on in downtown Istanbul he’d be spinning in his grave with the velocity of a deranged power drill.

Back in 1923, following the corrupt Ottoman Empire’s humbling in The Great War, he decreed a new nation must rise from the ashes of ruination, one unfettered by religious, Dark Ages dogma, but a state closely mirroring Western values.

So out went the sultan, the autocratic Caliphate, repressive sharia law and its stultified education system. Visible symbols of Islamism – headgear, like the turban and hijab – were banned from public display and even the language was re-written, a Latin alphabet replacing the ancient Arabic script.

Ataturk’s liberal sea-change also saw women’s rights respected and restrictions on alcohol curbed, so that seductively potent raki, an anise-based liquor, became the people’s preferred tipple.

Apart from the blips of occasional military coups punctuating national serenity, for nine decades Turkey was proudly cited as the cuckoo in the Muslim world’s nest; the exception to the rule where a secular, pluralist democracy flourished and people were free to speak their minds.

In tandem came economic progress and a boom in living standards, especially spectacular under the stewardship of prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and his Justice and Development Party, the AKP.

FACE OF DEFIANCE: Tree-huggers' demo has now become a test of Turkey's democracy

FACE OF DEFIANCE: Tree-huggers’ demo has now become a test of Turkey’s democracy

Lately, however, justice and development have been overtaken by the leader’s religious zeal more reminiscent of the old Ottomans, as Erdogan flexes his muscles with brazen arrogance.

Despite having seen a pack of dictators – Mubarak in Egypt, Tunisia’s Ben Ali and the Libyan lunatic, Gaddafi – tumble like dominoes in the whirlwind Arab Spring (or Winter, as it’s transpired) and Assad’s savage defiance of change in Syria, Turkey’s premier appears to harbour a growing lust to join their dwindling ranks.

Melding Islamic fervour with nationalist expansionism, he has whittled away the pillars of the nation’s liberty, persecuted secular opposition leaders, imprisoned military top brass – mostly on trumped-up charges – censored the media and jailed more journalists than in any other country.

‘Democracy is a bus ride,’ Erdogan is disquietingly reported to have told Jordan’s King Abdullah. ‘And, once I get to my stop, I’m getting off,’

Following a decade of moderately benign rule, clearly that stage is being reached. The wheels on Turkey’s freedom bus are coming off and the man in the driving seat is increasingly exhibiting the megalomaniac tendencies of the pre-Ataturk old guard.

As one fearless local commentator noted, Erdogan’s ‘mandate to rule seems to have been interpreted as a blank cheque to transform the identities and lifestyles of the people.’

Unsurprisingly, then, cronyism is rife and political accountability bang out of fashion.

If further proof was needed, the brutal crackdown on environmental protestors, peacefully demonstrating in downtown Istanbul against the building of a shopping mall in Gezi Park, is it in spades.

One of the city’s few, remaining green spaces, it needs an H&M, Zara or Tesco like Bill Gates needs job-seekers allowance. But Erdogan’s apparatchiks waived through planning permission, so there’s no reprieve.

Meanwhile, thanks to the heavy-handedness of riot police, what started as a tree-huggers’ fiesta turned nasty and spread farther afield into a popular uprising against what many believe is Erdogan’s creeping despotism.

Water cannon, pepper spray and tear gas – dropped from helicopters – has resulted in several deaths, over 1,500 injuries and 2,000 summary arrests, all of which cast doubt on Turkey’s democratic credentials and highlight its leader’s true ambitions.

FACE OF RAGE: Erdogan confronts the demonstrators with rage and threats

FACE OF RAGE: Erdogan confronts the demonstrators with threats

In the finest traditions of Arab despots, Erdogan poured petrol on the flames of dissent, outrageously slandering the activists as ‘communists’, ‘looters’ and  ‘hooligans’, under ‘foreign influence’.

For good measure, he dubbed social media, such as Twitter, ‘the worst menace to society.’

And just to rub in his ruthless hunger for power, Erdogan even threatened the demonstrators by saying, ‘Don’t compete with me. If you can gather 100,000 people, I can gather a million.’

What’s more, he can.

Because Turkey isn’t one country, but two: the urban, secular, liberal middle class and rural, Sunni conservatives, whose votes shaded him three election victories.

The AKP faithful likes the notion of a hard-line leader and backs his aim to turn the premiership into a US-style presidency. They also applaud his crackdown on the metropolitan elite, by restricting the sale of booze as part of an agenda to reintroduce sharia law and outlaw abortion.

Most particularly, they favour his regional, super-power aspirations and a face-off with the mad mullahs of Shiite Iran.

Becoming a bosom buddy of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and a cheerleader for Hamas in Gaza, Erdogan’s gambit is met with glee by religiously-traditionalist country folk, but deep dismay by the liberal city dwellers.

And, while many across the Arab world admire the verbal skirmish he deliberately engineered with Israel – once Turkey’s closest Middle East ally – consternation is growing abroad, where Erdogan’s Islamic leanings and foreign policy misadventures are viewed as reckless.

Patience is wearing particularly thin in Washington, where the Obama Administration fears he wants to drag the West deep into the Syrian conflict, by arming and abetting the Al Qaeda-inspired rebels against the Iran-backed Assad regime.

Yet the last thing the Middle East – and the world – needs now is another, unhinged loose cannon with a yen to be a latter-day sultan-despot.

As a NATO member – and a wannabe recruit to the European Union (much against the better wishes of Germany, which doesn’t want 75 million Turks as members of the club) – Erdogan’s is in dire danger of becoming exactly that.

Ataturk would grieve over the chaos his crude and impulsive successor has created, plus the man’s utter disdain for democracy.

But, so far, no-one seems capable of stopping Erdogan the Turk becoming a turkey.

A siren voice in the Middle East madness signals a glimmer of hope and sanity

Incredible as it may seem at this critical juncture, could I have detected a tiny glimmer of hope amid the chaos and lunacy of the carnage-strewn Middle East?

Not that Shiite and Sunni, Palestinian and Israeli, Arab and Jew are all suddenly going to embrace each other warmly, cooing ‘Salaam’ and ‘Shalom’. On the contrary: tragically, there’s no denying much more blood will be spilt before the pipe dream of peace comes true, if ever fully.

No, the script will continue apace, after disparate anti-Assad fighters forged an iffy alliance in Doha early this month, the fragmented opposition agreeing to combine under the Soviet-sounding nom de guerre of The National Coalition Forces of the Syrian Revolution. With Al Qaeda extremist and raving Salafists in its ranks, skeptics aren’t betting it’ll enjoy a long life.

In the meantime – having already overflowed into Turkey and Jordan, where thousands of Syrian refugees have fled their odious regime’s killing machine – the conflict is engulfing Lebanon, where Iranian-backed proxies of the terrorist franchise, Hizbollah, hold the country by its throat.

Israel has done its best to stay above the fray, despite Syrian army tank rounds, mortar shells and stray bullets landing in its territory. But now they, too, have been shanghaied into taking defensive action on their southern flank.

With nearly 800 rocket attacks targeted at its civilians so far this year up to the beginning of November from Hamas’s terror enclave in Gaza – missiles smuggled in from Libya, Iran and Sudan and seriously lethal ordnance – it’s small wonder Israel felt compelled to take out the terror-monger-in-chief, Ahmed Jaabari, on Wednesday.

READY TO FIRE: Hamas terrorists prepare another rocket fussilade to further provoke Israel

But what did Hamas expect by deliberately provoking an Israeli defensive retaliation with a rocket blitz?

As usual, they escalated the violence for PR gain, but the real reason is they want to test the new-found power of their sponsors and armourers, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, who swept to control after Egypt’s overthrow of the Mubarak mob.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the Palestine Authority’s inept boss and arch foe of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas, is ignoring all sage advice by preparing a second bid for fig-leaf statehood at the UN, knowing it will kybosh any hopes of reigniting talks with Jerusalem.

Chuck into the mix maniacal Iran’s obsession with developing a nuclear weapon that will guarantee them bully-boy status over the Middle East if only they can only annihilate Israel – in your dreams, Ahmadinejad – and the perfect storm continues to foment.

So the status quo is worsened and – unlike their creative, medieval predecessors – today’s Arabs can appear guilty of seeming unable to organise a fondu party in a funfair, so factionalised and fractious are they over ancient tribal and religious enmities among themselves.

Hence, with an Arab Spring now turned Islamic Winter, where’s this glimmer of hope I mentioned? So, consider the following carefully:-

The Arab world wasted hundreds of billions of dollars and lost tens of thousands of innocent lives fighting Israel, which they considered is their sworn enemy, an enemy whose existence they never recognized.

‘The Arab world has many enemies and Israel should have been at the bottom of the list.

‘The real enemies of the Arab world are corruption, lack of good education, lack of good health care, lack of freedom, lack of respect for the human lives and finally, the Arab world had many dictators who used the Arab-Israeli conflict to suppress their own people.

‘These dictators’ atrocities against their own people are far worse than all the full-scale Arab-Israeli wars.’

These aren’t my words, though I fully endorse the sentiments. No, they emanate from Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, who goes on to state tellingly, ‘If many of the Arab states are in such disarray, we should contrast them with Israel.

‘It now has the most advanced research facilities, top universities and infrastructure. Many Arabs don’t know that the life expectancy of Palestinians living in Israel is far greater than in many Arab states and they enjoy far greater political and social freedom than many of their Arab brothers.

‘Even the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank enjoy more political and social rights than in some parts of the Arab world.’

VOICE OF REASON: Saudi journalist Abdulateef Al-Mulhim

So who is this Abdulateef Al-Mulhim and is his a siren voice of reason in the Arab wilderness, where hatred is common currency and unyielding Islamo-fascists are increasingly calling the shots?

Strangely, he is a retired commodore of the Saudi navy, now a columnist in Arab News, the oil-rich desert kingdom’s first English-language newspaper.

Given the implacably Sunni Muslim House of Saud isn’t a renowned advocate of a free Press or human rights, it is bizarre Al-Mulhim was permitted to express such heretical opinions. So they must have passed muster with a censor high up the Saudi bling chain.

Al-Mulhim’s comments – and their obvious official sanction – represent a glimmer of blue-sky thinking by the ultra-conservative Saudi establishment. And it’s a sign, too, they are getting a tad hotter under their kaffiyehs about what’s long been brewing on the Iranian Shiite side of the Persian Gulf.

As small acorns become imposing oaks, many Middle East watchers are intrigued by what they perceive may be an ever-so-slight thaw between the Saudis and the Israelis, since Al-Mulhim has called into doubt the one, abiding distraction uniting Arabs: eradicating Israel.

The three wars they instigated against the Jewish state – in 1948, 1967 and 1973 – all resulted in ignominious loss, along with large tranches of territory that Israel negotiated back to Egypt and Jordan in exchange for ‘cold’ peace deals.

Abbas, however, hasn’t shown he’s serious about such accommodations, much to the satisfaction of his glee club of purblind, Left-liberal luvvies, whose credo is echoed daily by the anti-Zionist cheerleaders at The Guardian, BBC and New York Times.

The luvvies, of course, will continue to pretend that Israel is still the nub of all Middle East woes and 250 million Arabs will make love, not war when those five million stubborn Jews disappear in a second Holocaust and the Palestinians reclaim a ‘homeland’ that was never their birthright in the first place.

Al-Mulhim has shot that proposition down in flames, as if to say ‘It’s not Israel, stupid’; that’s just been a convenient sideshow, camouflaging the real problem of tyrants suppressing their people.

While I’m not naive enough to imagine such ideological foes as Saudi Arabia and Israel can kiss and make up, a chink of light has broken through the gloom, even if it is largely based on the premise that my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

It might never guarantee total peace, but if back-channel diplomacy can unite Saudi influence with Israeli can-do, it could put the brakes on an unfolding calamity exploding into an apocalypse.