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MIDDLE EAST: Reactions to Obama's speech


Reaction in the Middle East to President Obama’s speech on U.S. policy toward the region ran the gamut from surprise to support to disappointment. Following are selected, edited comments from observers in some of the region's nations:

“It was not expected that Obama would criticize any of the U.S. allies, but he did so when he talked about Bahrain and called for a dialogue with the opposition while calling for the release of prisoners. Obama set a new approach toward the Middle East … opening a new chapter with the Arab world.”

                        — Hassan Sahili, student at the Lebanese University in Beirut

“Emotionally, President Obama’s rhetoric and eloquence appealed to the ears of his audience across the world. But Obama fell short of my expectations when he referred to Syrian and Bahrain authorities.

I expected him to be more serious and harsher in his criticisms of President Bashar Assad [of Syria] and Al Khalifah in Bahrain. Both these countries are run despotically and heavy handedly. Bahrain … is the U.S.A.’s ally, and Syria is not an ally of the U.S.

Both governments are fiercely and brutally suppressing their own people. I expected President Obama to … clearly put pressure on both governments to cave in to the demands of their own people.…

The U.S. in particular and the West in general are treating the regional countries with double standards, as the violation of human rights in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are ignored or neglected while the human rights breaches in Iran are highlighted.

Anyway, President Obama has got a historic, golden and unprecedented opportunity to seize  his place in history … if he addresses the democracy in all countries in the region” equally.

                    — Sadegh Zibakalam, professor of political science at Tehran University 

"This very reference to Iran is an indication of Iran’s undeniable upper hand in the region in the wake of the recent insurgencies in the Arab and Islamic countries. If my premise had been wrong, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain would not have tried so much to cut the cultural and spiritual influence of Iran in the Middle East.”

        —   Dr. Ahmad Bakhshayesh, political scientist in Tehran

"I think it’s [Obama’s] dream to change the world in a peaceful way. The Middle East is very complicated. America is heavily involved.

He’s clever and smart. He achieved what previous administrations never could. He’s moving toward fundamental change. He has all means to move forward in this direction.

It’s not easy to shift from the old politics to the new politics. The new method would represent the new ideals.

All these presidents — Mubarak, Ben Ali, Assad, Saleh — it was a scandal that people like that were allied to the United States. It is important to serve and protect not only your national interest, but your image."

        —    Mustafa el Labbad, head of Al Sharq Center for Political and Regional Studies in                Cairo


"Overall, [the speech] was good. I think from my point of view, the fact that  he repeated the slogans of the youth in Yemen, Tunisia, Syria and Egypt …  is important. He is repeating what the people were asking for.

However, I thought he was going to go a little further to say there is a serious division. He indirectly mentioned that the American focus on free trade and fighting terrorism was not enough. I hoped he would have said there were gaps in our approach, there were flaws to our approach. That’s what I was hoping to hear.

[His focus on Syria] a disappointing — he gave Bashar Assad  a choice: Either you lead the reform, or you leave. We know that [Assad] can’t lead reform. [Obama] didn’t use the same strong language that he used in reference to Mubarak. Even the reference to Saleh was stronger than the one with Assad.

He’s giving Bashar Assad room to maneuver, and giving him time."

            —    Dr. Mohammed el Masri, political analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies at Jordan University


"For a speech with unprecedented specificity, Obama’s rhetoric won't consistently be met with action. … Obama’s rhetoric only has teeth where America’s unchanged interests lie. [Even with insisting on] 1967 borders … a strong-willed speech from Obama without the will to twist a few Israeli arms along the way will do nothing to fix the Israeli-Palestinian question."

           —    Anthony Haddad, 25, student in Beirut


"For decades, we saw U.S. administrations turn a blind eye to the practices of dictators in the Middle East for the sake of stability and the sake of serving U.S. interests. Now we see a new U.S. policy.…

The U.S. administration has decided to side … with the people of the region and not with the dicatorships. If the U.S. is going to side with the long-term interests of the region, it has to be with the people trying to free themselves, attain their rights and regain their diginty. This will have an impact on the regimes in the region.

He said not everyone is going to like it [i.e. Saudi Arabia], but they must learn to live with it and adapt to it.…

I think that he said what he said about the Palestinian issue [because he knows] that this weighs very heavily on perceptions of U.S. policy. He said quite clearly that things cannot continue as they are. He said that, because Israel is a friend, whatever it does affects U.S. foreign policy that much more.”

                    —  Riad Kahwaji, military analyst and director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf                     Military Affairs, a think tank in Dubai and Beirut.


— Borzou Daragahi and Roula Hajjar in Beirut and Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran


Obama makes blunt push for Middle East peace

Mixed reactions in Egypt to speech

Obama hints at shift on Syria

NATO expects Kadafi regime to collapse eventually


Comments () | Archives (40)

President Obama used one word in his otherwise important and wide ranging speech which undercuts so much of what he said about making peace in the mid-east Israel-PLO negotiations. That word was "contiguous" in referring to the up-coming Palestinan-Arab state. Will someone educate me and the president on how the Gaza Strip and the West Bank can be made "contiguous"?

America is sick of this fight . Obama is stating the obvious " things have changed in the Palestinian Israel conflict " the Arab spring has changed everything. Israel spent way to much political capital settlements. It is time to tell our friend we are not going to keep this up for another 50 years .

I think solving this issue will be tough. The first item of business is this:

1. Designate Jerusalem as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and not let it be the capital for any country. Israel moves its capital back to Tel Aviv, and the Palestinians, when and if they get a country, choose another city.

Having one city divided between two countries just doesn't work.

well i will never vote for obama now !! sorry buddy

Perhaps, some of the GOP operatives on this forum can find a leader like President Obama, but then again, they had W who went to war with the wrong nations, caused the deaths of over 4,000 US servicemen and over 100,000 Iraqis for nothing. As for those inane comments about US domestic policy, Hello! the speech concerned foreign policy and the situation in the Middle East.

This seems very one sided.
Shouldn't we focus on America's economic crisis.
This move by Obama seems like a deterrent.

The most important part of the speech dealt with borders. Israel does not want to accept the establishment of borders because it is determined to expand by occupying and ethnically cleansing more Palestinian land. That has always been the source of Israel's extreme rejectionism. How extreme was made clear recently by Wikileaks; cables revealed that nothing the Palestinians offered would ever be accepted by Israel because Israel has chosen violent expansion over peace. It so chooses because it has an enormous advantage in the means of violence (thanks, of course, to vast amounts of US military aid and welfare -- which is why, as Patreaus testified before Congress, continuing Israeli brutality and intransigence endanger American soldiers in the region). I hope that he sticks with his position this time. AIPAC and its hyenas will howl -- let them. Jews in the diaspora and the entire rest of the world are sick of puffed up Israeli settlers and neo-fascists.

And if Israel agrees to this there will be a nice 'photo op' at Camp David and everyone will be happy UNTIL the Palestinian leaders walk out and say NO that's not what they wanted. And then, just as it did 13 years ago, the suicide bombings will start. What is being asked of the Palestinians? What of the rockets and bombs launched over the border day after day?

Peace in the Middle East will only be achieved when THEY (as that wonderful journalist Helen Thomas said) go back to Poland and Germany. And we know what THAT means....


I wish he was as concerned for his own country/people as he is for other countries. He can't handle problems in the USA, what makes him think he is such an expert in other countries problems!

Wow...what a stacked deck of muslim/islamic surveys of how Israeli's feel after having the ground they gained (in a war not started by them) given back by an arrogant and very ignorant US president. So they give up the high ground to enemies that don't think they have a right to exist..and get a strip of land the size of Manhatten? ..I wasn't a birther/truther...but I'm beginning to think Obama and Osama are spiritual brothers. Thanks for ushering in WWIII Obama....oh wait...I forgot we're not going to back Israel are we....get out office you incompetent poser. Thankfully, the zombie castradi hasn't gotten to Netanyahu...

Word to the wise....don't mess with Israel

"Peace" ...Out

Does anyone believe there will be peace if Israel takes more land?

Obama is no friend to Israel, therefore he is no friend to God

With U.S. now on the side lines, Israel the 2nd best military power house in the world can now attack Iran.

Does anyone believe there will be peace if Israel gives up more land?

I think Obama should be more concerned with the U.S. borders.

Obama cannot regulate our borders - How dare he lecture Israel!!!

Obama's speech was insignificant and irrelevant. Repeating the slogans of the youth in Yemen, Tunisia, Syria and Egypt was just Obama jumping on the bandwagon. This president did nothing to generate the events that have taken place in countries like Egypt, Lybia, Tunisia etc. He was late to respond to most.
The credit, all the credit lies on the shoulders of the populus, who chose change and are willing to give their lives for it. Sounds like a dream that came upon America a few hundred years ago. With freedom comes prosperity until the people fall silent again.

The opinions of a bunch of scholars. Not very representative.

I think that the LA Times should have also included the perspectives of Israel and Israelis.

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