Following on from his video address to the Islamic Republic of Iran, covered in our current edition by Christopher de Bellaigue, and a thoughtful interview with the BBC on Tuesday, President Obama continues his middle east charm offensive tomorrow with a much anticipated speech in Cairo. The remarks, and the four-day overseas trip, are part of a promise made during his election campaign, that the President would make a landmark address to all Muslims, in part to try and clear up some of the bad blood left behind by his predecessor. But what should he say? One temptation to be avoided, say Moataz El Fegiery of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, and Kristina Kausch from the Foundation for International Relations and External Dialogue, is to junk entirely all of President Bush’s pro-democracy initiatives. The two authors, in a Prospect web exclusive see a real danger that:
with Iraq’s security situation deteriorating, Hamas winning elections in Palestine, the growing nuclear threat from Iran European, and American moods toward the Middle East quickly turned again, there is a danger that for all Obama’s eloquence, his country will now simply return to its traditionally policies of propping up Arab tyrants, whom they considered most capable of keeping the security balance in the region.
This, they think, would be a mistake—and nowhere is that more evident than in Egypt, where Obama is to make the speech, and where pressure from President Bush for democratic reforms seemed to be making real progress. So, in today’s speech, watch to see how strong the democracy promotion rhetoric is. If it’s gone altogether, it’s a bad sign.