Obama’s Cairo Speech
by Prof. Peter Dale Scott
Global Research, June 10, 2009
In his remarkable speech at Cairo University on June 4, President Obama promised “a new beginning.” In the words of the Israeli commentator Uri Avnery, the speech offered “the map of a new world, a different world, whose values and laws he spelled out in simple and clear language — a mixture of idealism and practical politics, vision and pragmatism.” 
Much of what Obama had to say was new, and warmed the hearts of observers like myself, who had become increasingly concerned about the new president’s fidelity to the financial and military policies of the previous Bush-Cheney administration. But while Obama broke new ground on Israel-Palestine issues, he glossed over troubling issues pertaining to the US presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also glossed over one of the fundamental issues alienating the Muslim world: America’s relentless efforts to preserve its threatened financial status by moves to dominate the region’s oil resources. Here his careful ambiguity was ominously reminiscent of the Bush era.
The speech reaffirmed a complete withdrawal of US forces from Iraq by 2012, as the U.S. committed itself to do in a signed agreement last December. In addition Obama asserted that “we do not want to keep our troops in Afghanistan… We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan.”
But Obama’s remarks did not address the statement on May 26, 2009, by Gen. George Casey, Army chief of staff, that, despite the agreement with Iraq, the United States would continue to have fighting forces in Iraq and Afghanistan beyond 2012. The reality, Casey said, is that “we’re going to have 10 Army and Marine units deployed for a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan.” 
Nor is it clear that Obama’s promise to withdraw “troops” from Iraq would also cover private military contractors (PMCs) . Jeremy Scahill, author of a book on the notorious firm Blackwater, said on the Bill Moyers show that what we’re seeing in the Cairo speech “is sort of old wine in a new bottle. Obama is sending one message to the world,” he told Moyers, “but the reality on the ground, particularly when it comes to private military contractors, is that the status quo remains from the Bush era.” 
On June 15th and 16th the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will hold its ninth annual heads of state summit in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. It will be attended by the presidents of its six full members – China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – and by representatives from its four observer states – India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan – and from several aspiring partner nations yet to be announced.
Its six full members account for 60% of the land mass of Eurasia and its population is a third of the world’s. With observer states included, its affiliates account for half of the human race. They also include four of the world’s seven official nuclear states.
As a Russian daily said in 2006, “The SCO is a momentous organisation which occupies territory from the Arctic to the Indian Ocean and from Kaliningrad to Shanghai. It may become the second political pole of the world.”
At the 2006 heads of state summit in Shanghai, the presidents of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan attended as observers. To see those three leaders meet under the auspices of a multinational security alliance headed by Russia and China, as all three of their nations were at war or could soon be, revealed the regional and global prospects for the SCO as a new model for conflict resolution and cooperation.
The Yekaterinburg Turning Point
By Prof. Michael Hudson
June 13, 2009
The city of Yakaterinburg, Russia’s largest east of the Urals, may become known not only as the death place of the tsars but of American hegemony too – and not only where US U-2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down in 1960, but where the US-centered international financial order was brought to ground.
Challenging America will be the prime focus of extended meetings in Yekaterinburg, Russia (formerly Sverdlovsk) today and tomorrow (June 15-16) for Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The alliance is comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan, with observer status for Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. It will be joined on Tuesday by Brazil for trade discussions among the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
The attendees have assured American diplomats that dismantling the US financial and military empire is not their aim. They simply want to discuss mutual aid – but in a way that has no role for the United States, NATO or the US dollar as a vehicle for trade. US diplomats may well ask what this really means, if not a move to make US hegemony obsolete. That is what a multipolar world means, after all. For starters, in 2005 the SCO asked Washington to set a timeline to withdraw from its military bases in Central Asia. Two years later the SCO countries formally aligned themselves with the former CIS republics belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), established in 2002 as a counterweight to NATO.