Three speeches stand at the center of the U.N. General Assembly session this week. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu departed Israel last night and will deliver his speech today, and in foreign ministries throughout the world — especially in political party headquarters in the U.S. — experts are sitting with sharpened pencils to assess whether anything happened to the "red lines" on Iran, the issue up for negotiations between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama.
Netanyahu was preceded on the U.N. stage by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. A disgrace to a world that has become accustomed to the president of the Iranian terrorist state and his hallucinatory, venomous speeches. But it must be acknowledged that the world has become less impressed with Ahmadinejad, as if the world has accepted what Iran has been trying to deny for years, that the country is led by a malicious government whose lies are its bread and butter.
Obama's speech could be characterized as "okay," but it contained "no news." As expected in an election year, his words heralded no breakthroughs and no admissions of mistakes. "Red lines" were not included in his speech, although he did reiterate that the U.S. must prevent the nuclearization of Iran. This was important, although it had been said before. But what measures will be taken to achieve this? On what schedule? Under what conditions? Obama kept his cards close to his chest. There were no surprises, no breakthroughs and no disappointments. What was will be, and another year has passed.
The Iranian nuclear issue is still at the center of world affairs. It has not been removed from the agenda. But there also has not been the injection of a sense of urgency, which is needed because another significant period of time has passed. How much time does the U.S. have before it wakes up to find a nuclear bomb in the hands of the Iranians? The current curiosity is whether Netanyahu will use his speech to prod world governments or if he will let it slide until after the U.S. presidential election at the start of November.
How Obama is coping with the problems of the Arab Spring is another important issue. Again, he said everything expected of a politician during an election year. He expressed contempt for the slanderers of the Prophet Muhammad, but also said that those rushing to defend Muhammad's honor should also defend Christian values and stand against the denial of the Jewish Holocaust.
The year 2012 saw a worsening of attitudes toward the U.S. by many Muslims in Arab countries and the degradation of the U.S.'s ability to lead the world. There was nothing in Obama's speech that restored to his country its deterrent power. Obama's words sounded more like those of a Christian preacher than the world's policeman. It may be that this was his intention, and it may be that he does not feel despair over the fact that his hand was involved in events that led to extremist Muslims rising to power in their countries. It also may be that everything is being done to calm the Muslim demonstrators and reduce the harm to U.S. institutions until after the elections.
Obama is preoccupied with his election, and his speech sounded as if he was doing the bare minimum required, as if foreign affairs are not what concern him right now, for better or for worse.