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Obama's speech: No "allies" - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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If a major headline or summary could be taken from US President Barack Obama’s speech [on the Middle East] it would be the clear message he sent to the regional countries, namely that if your people do not stand with you, then we [the US] will not stand with you! This was the guarantee that Obama made in his speech, which means that we are facing a new form of relations between the US and Middle East states.

During Obama’s 5,761 word speech, he only used the terms allies twice, which is something that we must pay close attention to; once when he was talking about the NATO forces in Libya, and once when talking about the project to provide economic support to Tunisia and Egypt in coordination with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. Obama also only used the term “ally” once, when describing the relationship between Syria and Iran. This is an important indication, and evidence of a change in Washington’s strategy in the region. This change goes beyond Obama’s words about the Palestinian cause and the 1967 borders. We are not playing down what he said [about the Palestinian cause], but everything must be put in its proper context, for Obama’s talk about the 1967 borders represent a slap in the face for [Israeli prime minister] Netanyahu, as Obama has taken an important negotiating card out of his hands. We all know that there can be no peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians that does not include the 1967 borders, which is something that exposes Hamas’s political stupidity…that’s right, stupidity! Hamas deserve to be described in this manner for the position they took on Obama’s speech, and their statement that the US president’s reference to the Palestinian cause amounted to “throwing dust in the eyes.” Hamas issued this statement whilst Obama was still shaking audience members hands before leaving the Benjamin Franklin room at the US State Department, so what would have happened if Hamas was silent for a single day?

Accordingly, the most important thing in Obama’s speech, as we mentioned above, is that regional states and regimes will need to deal with the US differently, both diplomatically and politically, after Obama explicitly announced that Washington’s strategy in the region will now be based upon reform and change, women’s rights, and freedoms. It is not important here whether the US president is basing this change in US strategy upon an accurate understanding of the region or not, what is important is that Obama means what he says, and has made his decision. The proof of this can be seen in what the US president himself said in his speech, he said that America was founded through a rebellion against an empire, and that the people of America fought a painful Civil War to extend freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved, even stressing that he would not be standing before his people today as president if this were not the case. What this clearly means is that regardless of whether or not Obama is aware of the nature of the region, he has – rightly or wrong – made his decision to stand with the movements for change in the region, rather than supporting the traditional political alliances. Obama said that he will not accept “the world as it is in the region” but rather that he is pursuing “the world as it should be.” This is a huge and unprecedented change, and it will have a huge impact on the region. Accordingly, we saw Obama talk about the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, and this is after he has been extending his hand to Tehran over the past two years, without Tehran ever reciprocating this gesture. We also saw him using harsh rhetoric when speaking about the Syrian president, saying that he should lead a transition [to democracy], or get out of the way.

From here, we can say that our region has changed, and that the manner in which regional countries deal with the US will also change. This is something that requires a lot from our regional states, particularly prudence. As for the repressive regional states like Syria, Libya, and Yemen, their fate is sealed, whether this occurs sooner or later.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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