Change in America, change in the Middle East: Milan Vesely reports from the United States on how the policies of president-elect Barack Obama will impact on the Middle East.

Author:Vesely, Milan

ON THE NIGHT of his greatest triumph US president-elect, Barack Hussein Obama, told the crowd of 500,000 in Chicago's Grant Park: "Change has come to America, and change has come to the world." Gone was the Bush Republican dogma of pre-emptive strike, the "with us or against us" foreign policies and the unrestricted greed of Wall Street. Incoming are consensus-based military objectives, disciplined foreign relationships based on mutual respect and more government-regulated banks, resulting in a more subdued US stock market.

Stability and measured policy statements were the hallmark of the Obama presidential campaign, and the same is expected of his incoming administration. As if acknowledging its failure, the freewheeling elitism of the Republican Party retreated before the Democratic Obama juggernaut without a whimper, rejected by an American public in no uncertain terms; the 364 to 173 verdict on Republican John McCain's "four more years of the same" showing the measure of the public's disgust with eight years of George W. Bush.

For the Middle East an Obama presidency heralds a different way of doing business, as the United States is certain to retrench both its political and military objectives. Gone will be the idealistic pressure to bring western-style democracy to the Arab world, this no longer a front-line pillar of American foreign policy. Also gone are military decisions based on the whim of a Bush/ Cheney cabal, an Obama presidency more likely to value broad-ranging consensus above presidential unilateralism.

Of greatest importance to OPEC is Obama's stated intent of weaning America off foreign oil imports; his alternative energy programme to develop new sources of renewable energy seems sure to be one of his first priorities. "In 10 years we can cut our oil imports in half," he said on the campaign trail, "and we can do this while increasing employment through the development of new technologies that wean us off foreign oil imports."

While this had been the mantra of the outgoing Bush administration, the sway of oil company lobbyists during the last eight years proved far too influential. The record profits still being announced by US and foreign oil companies are now so outrageously extravagant the American public has voted openly for increased capital gains taxes on such exorbitant excesses.

For oil producing countries of the Middle East the reality of an Obama presidency means the onset of decreasing US crude oil demand within...

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