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Obama's Messages to the Arabs

Abdullah Iskandar Al-Hayat, 28/01/09

The new American administration has revealed - in an unquestionable manner - that the Middle East issues and the relation with the Muslim world top its priorities. President Barack Obama apparently attributes the turmoil that plagued the US policy in this regard to mistakes and failed methods of treatment. Therefore, during the first days of his tenure, he sent many political messages to the Middle East and the Muslim world. The strongest message was the appointment of a diplomatic veteran to the region, George Mitchell, who enjoys wide decision-making prerogatives and is in direct contact with the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Besides, this envoy has immediately started implementing his mission through his current tour in the region. Mitchell carries with him Obama's recommendation that peace is very important for the region and for him personally, which reflects his administration's political and humanitarian commitment. Among these messages was also Obama's choosing of Al-Arabiya satellite channel to address the viewers and rulers in the Arab world, announcing that his strategy rests on "mutual respect and mutual interests," thereby canceling the ideological approach which the Arabs suffered from in the past. At the same time, he challenged the Arabs - or some of them - to abandon the traditional image of the United States. Also, Obama challenged the ability of the Arabs - or some of them - to hammer out their interests in peace in the region and their mutual interests with the United States in a way that they no longer be the victim alone and regard themselves as exploited in this relation. The American president also pointed out that the essence of the relation has nothing to do with the religious affiliation or is not governed by the different faiths. Instead, as Obama told Al-Arabiya, what brings us together is that people continue to have dreams and aspirations which they seek to achieve. Hence, Obama assumes that the Arab and Muslim countries must provide opportunities for all people to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. His personal experience confirms that conducive political and social circumstances help achieve the most ambitious dreams. Obama evoked as well the cultural and educational aspect, only because he wanted to emphasize how important it is to prepare the coming generations to "lead peaceful lives" and identify their active and objective interests aside from violence and terrorism. Yet, the American president did not deny them the right "to disagree with his administration over the best approach to the progress of their countries." The Israeli offensive on Gaza and its disastrous consequences on the Gazans alongside the Arab-Israeli conflict are perhaps the most pressing concerns in Washington and the region as well. But Obama's reference to certain political and cultural characteristics in the Arab and Muslim world is inseparable from the concept of peace in the Middle East or the understanding of the personal and common interests with others. The new American president did not hurl direct criticism at the current situation of the Arabs and Muslims; neither did he specify what is required from them, since he wanted his message - with the arrival of his envoy to the region - to be smooth and non-sensitive. However, he did not miss to say - in an implicit and diplomatic manner - that people "regardless of their faiths" must "share the same dreams and aspirations" and the ability to achieve them, thus making a clear distinction between terrorism and the point of view defending the national and humanitarian interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds.

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