News / Middle East

    Middle East Analysts Praise, Express Concern about Obama Speech

    U.S. President Barack Obama receives a standing ovation after a speech about the United States' policy on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington, May 19, 2011.
    U.S. President Barack Obama receives a standing ovation after a speech about the United States' policy on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department in Washington, May 19, 2011.
    Meredith Buel

    Middle East analysts say U.S. President Barack Obama's speech on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa was effective in aligning American policy with the sweeping changes in the region.  However, they also say his remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could prove to be a major distraction from his overall message.  

    As Arab protests continue to sweep across the Middle East, analysts say the primary goals of President Obama's speech were to call for political and economic changes, while standing behind the peaceful protestors and against violence.

    Referring to the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, Obama noted that so far this year two leaders have stepped down in the region and said more may follow as demonstrators demand their basic rights.

    "The Arab Spring, as we call it, is changing the region and he wants to make sure that people in the region know and that the American people know, that the United States supports the changes that are occurring in the region," said Graeme Bannerman, a scholar at the Middle East Institute.


    Obama announced financial incentives to support modernization and stability in Egypt and Tunisia.  That brought a positive reaction from Dalya in Cairo.  "He understands what we are going through," said Dalya.  "He is trying to do his best."

    President Obama says the people of Syria have shown their courage in peacefully demanding a transition to democracy, while the government in Damascus is brutally cracking down on the protestors.

    Obama bluntly said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad now faces a choice to either lead that transition "or get out of the way."

    "But if they can continue to protest, then I think the clock is inexorably ticking to the point where U.S. policy will be - it is time for you to go - Mr. Assad," said Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute.

    Perhaps drawing the most attention were Obama's remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as Arab protests have come to the borders of the Jewish state.

    For the first time a U.S. president said publicly the borders of Israel and a future state of Palestine should be based on lines that existed before the 1967 Middle East war, with mutually agreed land swaps with the Palestinians.  Such a move could leave Jewish settlements in the West Bank outside of Israel.

    Israelis and Palestinians reacted to the speech Friday in Jerusalem.

    CHAIM: "Ignore Mr. Obama.  Simple, we are an independent, sovereign state."
    HAJIR: "What happened to us before Obama and what has happened to us since Obama, nothing has changed.  Actually things are going backward."

    President Obama also called for the full withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the West Bank.  Analysts say being so specific about sensitive issues in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process could draw attention away from his overall message of supporting peaceful change.

    "I do think the president injected the seeds of a major distraction from that by delving in as detailed and provocative way as he did in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," said Analyst Robert Satloff.

    As the Arab uprisings continue to transform the region, analysts say President Obama's strategy will likely evolve over time.  They add that the U.S. and other countries will have to adapt their policies to reflect the changes continuing to roil the Middle East.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora