More Feedback on Obama’s Speech

More Feedback on Obama’s Speech

The New York Times reported on a few more reactions from the Middle East on President Obama’s speech in Cairo yesterday. In Iran, Alireza Rajaee, a political analyst, praised the president’s acknowledgment of the 1953 CIA-led coup that removed democratically-elected prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh from power. “Now those who favor better ties with the United States have no fear to publicly call for it because they can say that the United States has admitted to its historic mistake.” Never mind that former secretary of state Madeline Albright apologized for the coup in 2000.


In Egypt, Ayman Nour, one of President Hosni Mubarak’s leading critics, said that President Obama did not press hard enough for democracy and human rights: “What touched on democracy and human rights in the speech was far less than what we wanted.”


Mansoor al-Jamri, the editor of a daily newspaper in Bahrain seemed to sympathise with the president’s plight of high expectations: “If I were in his shoews, what would I do?…My closest friends are dictators, and the best strategic ally I have is viewed as a strategic enemy for the Muslim world. If he delivers on what he said, and it is a compromise, many people will ultimately be happy.”


 Meanwhile, the blogger behind Rantings of a Sandmonkey reported on the scene inside Cairo University’s domed auditorium. He noted that the crowd inside went particularly wild over the president’s opening ‘as-salaam alaikum’, and that many in the crowd after the speech were excited to finally hear an American president “talk with some balance on the issue” of Israel and Palestine. The Sandmonkey still thought that the human rights section of the speech was weak, as “let’s face it, he ain’t going to push on human rights and democracy. That era is gone.” Even if the democracy activists in Egypt feel they are being screwed over now, they “didn’t really like it when Bush was calling for democracy and human rights, so maybe they deserve it.”


Another critical voice on the democracy-related content of the speech, which the president explicitly identified as the fourth main point of his speech, was Michael Rubin, who proclaimed that “Obama studiously avoids the word democracy”, and in so doing tells Arab leaders not to “worry about those pesky votes.”


Some surprising words of support came from Hamas’ Khaled Meshal, based in Damascus. He noted that “undoubtedly Obama speaks a new language…His speech was cleverly designed…to improve the U.S. image and to placate the Muslims. We don’t mind either objective, but we are looking for more than just mere words.” If the U.S. were to change it’s policies, Meshal asserts, Hamas would welcome it and would be “keen to contribute”, however, they would need to see a change in “policy on the ground.”


Meshal’s words are placed in stark contrast with those of Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha, who said that Obama’s policies towards Palestinans were essentially the same as those of George W. Bush.


The Source