Obama to lay out Mideast policy on Thursday
Washington, May 14, 2011
President Barack Obama will lay out a vision for his policy toward the Middle East on Thursday, using Osama bin Laden's death as a chance to recast the US response to political upheaval in the Arab world.
Obama, who has enjoyed a boost in his standing at home and abroad with the death of the al Qaeda chief, will give his much-anticipated 'Arab spring' speech one day before White House talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The president is expected to re-commit to seeking an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal but seen as unlikely to present major new proposals, given the impending resignation of his envoy George Mitchell, who led two years of mostly fruitless mediation efforts.
The administration, looking to counter criticism it has struggled to keep pace with turmoil in the Arab world, has been crafting a new US strategy for the region since shortly after popular uprisings erupted, toppling autocratic rulers in Egypt and Tunisia and engulfing Libya in near-civil war.
The killing of bin Laden in a US raid on his Pakistan compound last week will give Obama a chance to make the case for Arabs to reject al Qaeda's Islamist militancy and embrace democratic change in a new era of relations with Washington.
'The president believes very firmly that those who view Al Qaeda and those who view terrorism as a means to achieving a better future are fast moving towards ... the dustbin of history,' White House spokesman Jay Carney said when asked how bin Laden's death would figure in Obama's policy address.
Pro-democracy movements spreading in the Arab world underscored the region's repudiation of bin Laden's message, Carney said.
He said that Obama's speech, to be delivered at the State Department, would be a 'sweeping' review of the US response to political unrest in the Arab world.
'I'm sure he will, as he has in the past, call on governments in the region to respond to those demands through peaceful political dialogue, not just because it's the right thing to do for the people of these countries but because it is in the interest of stability,' he told reporters.
'The president obviously has some important things to say about how he views the upheaval and how he has approached the US response to events in the region,' Carney said. – Reuters