While not a “miracle worker”, Obama is set to change the way the Muslim world perceives the US. In the time since his widely publicised inauguration in front of million of expectant onlookers from around the world, US President Barack Obama has wasted no time in getting to work.
So lofty is the level of expectation and responsibility placed on his broad shoulders that Obama needs to use every minute to live up to the billing he has received as “global saviour”.
The Middle East will prove as much of a ubiquitous agenda item as any in Washington, and may well be the platform on which he is measured at the end of his tenure. So keen was Obama to showcase the new determination to engage more actively in the Middle east, that within hours of his appointment as US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, was half-way across the Atlantic en route to a Middle Eastern tour.
Bush’s imprint on the Middle East
Without a doubt, the era of George W. Bush will forever be symbolised by key failings in the Middle East. Bush’s track record left behind an uncertain region and no significant results, in spite of the democratic projects and peace roadmaps his administration tried so hard to implement.
Some benefitted greatly from Bush’s foreign policy: just ask the much repressed Kurds and Shiites who suffered immensely under decades of barbarian dictatorships in Iraq; however, the overall consensus is that Bush lost the support and respect of the greater region.
One of Obama’s first goals will be to draw a line in the Middle Eastern sand. His eagerness to highlight the birth of a new chapter and all the opportunities that it brings could not make this intention clearer.
Obama does not want to be prejudiced, for the perceived failing of a predecessor, before his work has even begun. In this light, even the staunch foes of the previous regime, are addressed in the most diplomatic and tactful manner.
Under Obama burnt bridges are being restored and there now exists an opportunity for anyone willing to “unclench their fist”.
Obama’s message of hope and friendship
Above all the aspiration, dynamism and guile, Obama is a realist. Long before he ran for presidency, he would have known from his extensive network of advisors, the size and complexity of the task facing him in the Middle East. Obama knew long before his accession to prominence, that unless he worked diligently to alter policies, even the more established relationships in the region could be threatened.
The first public statement on the Middle East by Obama was judged along the same lines as before, but in a recent television address on a prominent Arabic news channel, Obama was able to put his oratorical skills to great use, in the quest to strike a differnt tone in the region and build new ties with the Muslim world.
Leaving Iraq responsibly
In many ways, Iraq was Bush’s Achilles heel and became the cornerstone of Obama’s election campaign. In spite of the early promise, and almost six years of a costly occupation, Iraq continued to be a vicious thorn in the side of the Bush administration.
Obama never supported the war from the outset, was against the troop surge in 2007, and pledged to withdraw troops within 16 months of taking oath.
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