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Obama and the Islamist Disease | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The new Obama administration is pushing forward at the helm of American politics, especially with regards to Islamists of various orientations.

The features of Obama’s presidency have started to become clear before the end of his first 100 days in office, upon which traditionally the performance of the new US President is assessed. The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, and with Obama’s blessing, is courting the Taliban leadership, promising them that those that chose peace with his government will be involved in power. While in Somalia, Sheik Sharif Ahmed of the Union of Islamic Courts [UIC] has become the new President of Somalia, the UIC was viewed as a terrorist organization by the Bush administration, but is viewed as moderate by the new US Obama administration. And so as I noted in my previous article [The Somalization of Hamas] Obama gave his blessing to Sheik Sharif Ahmed’s appointment as President, while the following article expands upon a number of issues raised in that one.

The most obvious indication to the moderate Islamic trends in the Arab world of the new policies of the Obama administration can be seen with regards to comments made by J. Scott Carpenter, a US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and the Director of Project Fikra which focuses on empowering Arab democrats in their struggle against extremist. In response to a question about the US administrations willingness to accept the political consequences that may result from democratic reform [in the Arab and Islamic world] including the possibility of Islamic political movements coming to power, Carpenter answered that his government was ready to recognize this no matter what the consequences.

In fact the features of US policies towards the Islamic world actually began to change prior to Obama moving into the Oval Office; this was seen when Israel read this change in the wind and ended its brutal military aggression on the Gaza Strip days before Obama’s inauguration. This was in order not to embarrass the new President who had campaigned on the slogan of “Change” and it was this slogan that brought him into power, and enabled him to defeat his opponents in the US Presidential election.

It is true that America is America, home of the Congress and the Senate, and that one man – no matter how important he is – cannot make radical changes to the US strategic policies. However it is also true that the kind of change that we are talking about is not an overly optimistic dream, but a logical and natural consequence of the failures during the era of former President George Bush, and his policy of using a big stick with regards to the Islamic world, and not realistically and logically differentiating between its moderate and militant wings. This was not only counter-productive and disastrous towards the Arab and Islamic world, but also with regards to the interests of America as well. And so the new Doctor Obama has come to heal what was exacerbated by the Bush era.

One of the wrong prescriptions written by the Bush administration and distributed to a number of governments in the Islamic world – the side-effects of which Doctor Obama wishes to cure- was a poorly planned medication that only served to increase the strength and ferocity of the Islamist trend. And so the Taliban was prescribed with this medicine, and the result was that America with all of its technology and military might, along with its allies, were unable to limit the Taliban’s influence on Afghan society. Therefore Obama’s America has begun – via Karzai – to express a willingness to have dialogue with any Taliban cadres that do not have ties to Al Qaeda; which is something we did not see under Bush.

Certainly there is a trend in the US administration that believes in the [current] path that is being taken, and a number of experts and decision-makers in the US believe that this is better than suppressing and marginalizing Islamism and not making any distinction between its radical and moderate fringes, which was not a solution during the Bush era. Will this trend gain strength when the medicine prescribed by Obama cures the side-effects of the Bush era, resulting in the realistic engagement with Islamism, and in differentiating between the moderates and the extremists? Or will Obama’s prescription only result in other side-effects that will call for another Doctor to cure?