Bullet-Point Guide To Obama’s Big Mideast Speech

Barack Obama

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President Obama today gave his long-awaited speech regarding the Middle East and US relations with the Muslim world generally at the Department of State.  There will be reams of commentary analysing the President’s remarks and we will bring you some of that later today and tomorrow (and through the weekend, assuming that the world doesn’t end, as predicted, on Saturday).What follows is a quick recap of the President’s remarks in bullet-point form.  A link to the entire speech can be found here.

1. Osama bin Laden was no martyr.  He was a mass murderer. Even before his death, Al Qaeda was losing its relevance. 

2. In too many countries in the Middle East and North Africa, power has been concentrated in the hands of too few.

3. Strategies of repression that kept regimes in power no longer work.  A new generation has emerged.  New technologies connect people as never before. “Change” cannot be denied.

4. Through non-violence, people in the Middle East and North Africa have achieved more in six months than terrorists have ever achieved over decades.

5. We have a stake not just in the stability of nations but the self-determination of its peoples.

6. We will speak out for a set of core principles. The US opposes the use of violence and repression against the people of the region.  The US supports the right of free speech in the region. We support political and economic reform in the region.  These are not secondary interests.  These are a “top priority.”

7. Specifics:  First, it will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.

8. Sanctions for Assad and his crew.  Assad can lead the transition to political reform or he can get out of the way.  Another leader in Obama’s cross-hairs.

9. Through our efforts we must support those basic rights to speak your mind and access information. We will support open access to the Internet, and the right of journalists to be heard – whether it’s a big news organisation or a blogger. In the 21st century, information is power; the truth cannot be hidden; and the legitimacy of governments will ultimately depend on active and informed citizens.

10. The hypocrisy of the Iranian regime. Obama praises Iran’s Green Movement, which is something of a first.

11. Obama calls out leaders of Yemen and Bahrain for violating the rights of its peoples. Calls for dialogue.

12. Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress. Says US will stand with them.

13. If you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States. 

14. Reform must extend beyond elites.  We will provide assistance to civil society.

15. We’re going to stand up for the rights of women.  A region will never achieve its potential if half of its people are denied the opportunity to try to achieve its potential.

17. The greatest untapped resource in the Middle East is its people.

18. Successful democratic transitions depend on economic growth and expanding prosperity.

19. The reins of commerce must be passed from the few to the many. 

20. We’re going to start implementing this new US policy with Tunisia and Egypt.  We will relieve both countries of some of its debt obligations.  We will provide economic assistance to both countries. 

21.  So while the core issues of the conflict must be negotiated, the basis of those negotiations is clear: a viable Palestine, and a secure Israel. The United States believes that negotiations should result in two states, with permanent Palestinian borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt, and permanent Israeli borders with Palestine. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognised borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.

22. …the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognise your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.

23.  For the American people, the scenes of upheaval in the region may be unsettling, but the forces driving it are not unfamiliar. Our own nation was founded through a rebellion against an empire. Our people fought a painful civil war that extended freedom and dignity to those who were enslaved. And I would not be standing here today unless past generations turned to the moral force of non-violence as a way to perfect our union – organising, marching, and protesting peacefully together to make real those words that declared our nation: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa – words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.