June 22nd, 2009
10:37 AM ET

Obama's Middle East challenge

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/meast/06/04/muslim.reaction/art.obama.tv.afp.gi.jpg caption="Palestinians in East Jerusalam watch President Obama's speech at an electronics shop."]

Fawaz A. Gerges

In a dramatic initiative, President Barack Obama has sought to reframe and shift the Middle East debate away from conflict and war to cooperation and partnership. His choice of Cairo as the location of this initiative, and his recognition of the Palestinians’ plight, have already led some within the Muslim community to sense a powerful change in the US’s attitude to Muslims. This change may even win over more mainstream Islamists and former Jihadis and associates of Osama bin Laden provided the momentum of goodwill created by the rhetoric is built upon and not allowed to fizzle out.

Obama’s speech in Cairo offered a powerful contrarian paradigm to that of bin Laden and reminded his Muslim audience that the relationship between Islam and the Christian West includes centuries of coexistence and cooperation, not just conflict and religious war.

Unlike his preaching predecessor, George W. Bush, Obama fully understands that the raging battle between the US and Al Qaeda’s transnational jihadis can’t be won on the battlefield. In the eyes of the world, particularly Islam, America lost its moral compass and the world’s hearts and minds. Al Qaeda’s war paradigm, if not its terrorist tactics, gained momentum and credibility all over Muslim lands. Opinion polls showed that large majorities of Muslims believed that the US was waging a war against their culture and religion, and that the US was trying to subjugate their people.


Filed under: Middle East • President Barack Obama
soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. earle,florida

    The Republican "Jihad",against Iran,are digging a deeper hole for themselves,and thats good for the world to see these "Chicken-hawks" coming out of the closet,...! I ain't no," Republican Senators Son"as Mr Fogarty sang it in the 70's (Creedance Clearwater)!

    June 22, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  2. Joe G. (Illinois)

    Obama has already received the votes he wanted from the Americans.. So for what reason in the world would he now refrain from smearing/alienating them to gain favor from the Muslims.. Talking about Iran and Obama being “Hard to get.” It’s nothing more than a tactic! It worked for Burney Madoff; it has always worked for the devil..

    June 22, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  3. Neda

    I am haunted by Neda's eyes as she takes her last breath. As if she is asking us to tell and retell her story. The story of millions of Iranians who are being killed and beaten only because they are asking for justice and freedom. They are my brave heroes. Today I heard a disturbing news. As it was announced on the Iranian news that broadcasts outside of Iran, in order for the families of the dead to receive the bodies of their loved ones to burry, they have to sign an official complaint letter against Moussavi! They have to also agree to burry their loved ones immediately without any official burrial ceremonies because those ceremonies might and will stir up further emotions and anger against the regime! At the end, the regime WILL blame this all on Moussavi and his supporters. Imagine that! Please continue covering Iran news. Please find a way to re establish satelite signals in Iran so that Iranians inside Iran can get some true news and not the false and brain washing news that the government is feeding them!

    June 22, 2009 at 12:50 pm |
  4. Melissa

    I'm with DawnMD, and President Obama on this one. Obama is doing the right thing. Now I just hope the Republicans won't pressure him into doing something he shouldn't.

    War is NOT the answer.

    June 22, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  5. DawnMD

    On President Obama's stance on the Iran crisis:
    I believe the GOP criticism of Obama not taking a more critical stance, regarding Iran, may actually help Obama with foreign Leaders who don't like the U.S.

    Given the GOP and the past eight years under President Bush alienating us in the Middle East; don't forget Senator John McCain's rant about bombing Iran.

    It might be worse if they actually agreed with Obama.

    June 22, 2009 at 12:08 pm |

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