What Arabs and Muslims want to hear - Re: Obama's Speech
What Arabs and Muslims want to hear
Published: June 03, 2009, 23:36
Obama's speech in Cairo on Thursdaywill be watched by the Muslim and Arab world attentively and he is expected to offer a detailed programme for the Middle East, where the most important issue by far is Palestine, but he should also include Iraq and Iran in his regional review.
The following are specific hot topics that many have been waiting for the US president to address.
The Arabs will be watching to see how firm Obama will be on Benjamin Netanyahu's far-right government in Israel.
The real test of Obama's toughness will be how he plans to stop the Israelis building more Israeli colonies on the West Bank, and how he will enforce international and transparent monitoring of colony activity.
Without this, any talk of a two-state solution and Palestinian statehood will remain simple lip-service.
Many will also be watching to see what he says about Hamas. If the Palestinians are ever to reunite and work together for their nation, the Americans will need to work with a government that includes Hamas.
It would be a very good move for Obama to make some sort of conciliatory comment about Hamas, which would then greatly strengthen the cause of a unified Palestinian government.
Many will be watching to make sure that Washington will stick to Obama's deadline of August 31, 2010, by which time he has said that all US troops will have left Iraq.
Any variation on that date will mean deep doubts about what America's intentions are in Iraq.
Everyone is waiting for the results of the Iranian presidential elections, but both leading candidates have been clear that Iran should own the full uranium cycle for power plants, including enrichment.
Obama needs to make clear on what terms he will continue his policy of engagement, and how he will deal with lack of engagement from the Iranian side.
Global Muslim world
While he already addressed the Muslim world in Istanbul in March, it remains very important that Obama helps shift the global atmosphere from one of confrontation to one of seeking points of mutual agreement, and working to expand these with mutual respect.
Without this move from rhetoric to practical steps, the work of the moderate people and goodwill on both sides will be diminished, allowing more space to the extremists and men of violence, who have been allowed to set the agenda for far too long.