/Provided as a service from the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC/
UPDATED 11:30 AM EST
PRESIDENT OBAMA DELIVERS MAJOR SPEECH ON U.S. POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
For full text and video click here
PALESTINE SHOULD HAVE ’67 BORDER: “US President Barack Obama, in a major Mideast policy speech Thursday, said the political changes in the Middle East and North Africa mark a “new chapter” in American diplomacy, and that the future of the US is bound to the Middle East and North Africa by the forces of economics, security, history and fate. He also called on the Israelis to withdraw to pre-1967 borders.” Reports Barbara Ferguson (Arab News). SOME GOOD THINGS: In Foreign Policy, Hussein Ibish, comments that, “There was a great deal to both please and annoy almost all concerned parties, and Netanyahu has already signaled his displeasure with the 1967 lines. But it was not a bad step forward: Within the constraints of U.S. interests and the limitations of its power, Obama offered a number of important commitments that can, in fact, be fulfilled, and that help to place the United States more on the side of the aspirations of the Arab peoples than it ever has been in the past. MIXED FEELINGS IN SAUDI: “US President Barack Obama’s speech elicited a mix of responses here in the oil-rich ally of Washington, but primarily one of relief that the US leader did not mention the kingdom directly when it came to the issue of political reforms,” Caryle Murphy (The National) reports. SOME SAUDIS CALL SPEECH ‘MEANINGLESS’: Some Saudis “dismissed US President Barrack Obama’s much-anticipated “Arab Spring address” as meaningless, predictable drivel while Egyptians and other Arabs, to whom Obama offered some sops, also did not find anything new in the speech, which according to them focused on US interests,” Arab News reports. OBAMA’S POWERFUL SPEECH: Others in the region disagreed. Rami Khouri, Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, believes, “U.S. President Barack Obama’s speech Thursday laying out the American government’s position on the Arab Spring and the Arab-Israeli conflict is a historic text that has the potential to do much good — if it proves to be a blueprint for policy-making rather than just a showcase for speech-making. The context and the content of the speech are both significant — and related.” OPINION: SPEECH REVEALED ‘STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES, ASPIRATIONS AND FRUSTRATIONS’: “Few speeches capture as completely the character of a president or a presidency as did Barack Obama’s thoughtful, important address on the Middle East delivered today at the State Department. It was a speech that revealed his strengths and weaknesses, his aspirations and his frustrations. It was the speech of an intelligent, ambitious president buffeted by two kinds of events in the world’s most volatile region: those beyond his control and those over which he has only a modest amount of influence,” David Rothkopf (FP) writes. GOP HOPEFULS SLAM OBAMA SPEECH: “President Barack Obama’s announcement that the United States will now move to support Israeli-Palestinian negotiations based on the 1967 borders with agreed land swaps met with near-universal condemnation from GOP presidential contenders and leaders in Congress,” Josh Rogin (FP) writes.
US Quietly Expanding Defense Ties With Saudis: BUSINESSWEEK
Robert Burns | 5/19/11
“Despite their deepening political divide, the United States and Saudi Arabia are quietly expanding defense ties on a vast scale, led by a little-known project to develop an elite force to protect the kingdom’s oil riches and future nuclear sites. The U.S. also is in discussions with Saudi Arabia to create an air and missile defense system with far greater capability against the regional rival the Saudis fear most, Iran. And it is with Iran mainly in mind that the Saudis are pressing ahead with a historic $60 billion arms deal that will provide dozens of new U.S.-built F-15 combat aircraft likely to ensure Saudi air superiority over Iran for years. Together these moves amount to a historic expansion of a 66-year-old relationship that is built on America’s oil appetite, sustained by Saudi reliance on U.S. military reach and deepened by a shared worry about the threat of al-Qaida and the ambitions of Iran.”
Saudi Govt Calls Back Unnecessary Consulate Staff: THE NATION (Pakistan)
“The Saudi government called back the unnecessary staff and families of the diplomats deputed at its Karachi consulate, after the attack on its consulate that claimed the life of a security officer. Eighty Saudi citizens comprising consulate staff and their families Thursday returned to their homeland through a special plane.”
“A group of Saudi female activists launched an online campaign calling for the participation of women in municipal elections both as voters and candidates, amid arguments over the conflict between law and tradition.”
Riyadh IT Show Draws 45,000 Visitors: ARAB NEWS
“More than 45,000 people visited the four-day GITEX Saudi Arabia 2011, the 10th International Information Technology Exhibition, the Kingdom’s premier ICT event that concluded in Riyadh on Thursday.”
Saudi Arabia Set To See 14,000 New Hotel Rooms in 2011: ARABIAN BUSINESS
“Nearly 50 new hotels offering more than 14,000 rooms are expected to open in Saudi Arabia this year to cope with a huge increase in visitors. “Hotel properties valued at $7.3bn are set to start operations in the kingdom, with tourism officials expecting to see tourist numbers rise to 88 million over the next decade.”
Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson | 5/19/11
“As an oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is one of the richest countries in the world. And with an economy that is continuing to grow, its reputation among many people in the Arab world is that of a nation of extravagance and, sometimes, excess.”
SYRIA: OBAMA HINTS AT SHIFT
“Tucked into President Obama’s speech on Arab world policy Thursday were indications of a subtle but important shift regarding the repressive rule of President Bashar Assad in Syria, a linchpin state in the Middle East that has long been considered a bulwark of stability,” Borzou Daragahi (LAT) writes. “For years, diplomats and scholars worried that the departure of the Assad clan would plunge Syria into the kind of civil strife that engulfed neighboring Lebanon and Iraq or the former Yugoslavia. But increasingly they believe that the biggest factor in Syria’s potential instability is the regime’s attempts to exploit the nation’s sectarian tensions, not the inherent divisions in the country.” ASSAD GOVERNMENT CONTINUES CRACKDOWN: “Clashes and gunfire rattled Syrian cities and towns Friday as President Bashar Assad’s gunmen opened fire on crowds of thousands of peaceful protesters during another day of nationwide anti-government demonstrations that erupted as the weekly Muslim prayers ended, according to video footage and activist accounts,” Babylon and Beyond reports.
BAHRAIN: SPEECH CRITICAL OF CRACKDOWN
“The single biggest policy shift in President Obama’s Middle East speech Thursday may have been his public criticism of the “brute force” with which the government of Bahrain has cracked down on its political opposition,” McClatchy reports. “The main political opposition group there welcomed the speech. The Sunni Muslim minority government, in a statement early Friday, ignored the criticism, but said the speech “included visions and principles that agree with the democratic strategy adopted by Bahrain.”
LIBYA: NATO PLANES ATTACK SHIP IN TRIPOLI PORT
“A Libyan official accompanying the journalists said the ship, between two large cargo container vessels, was a civilian craft, possibly a yacht,” Babylon and Beyond reports. “But a photograph of the burning ship taken with a telephoto lens suggested that it was a warship with a large main gun. Much of Libya’s navy was destroyed in the early days of the NATO-led bombing campaign against the regime of Moammar Gaddafi.”
NETANYAHU IN WASHINGTON: ‘BY ALL ACCOUNTS, THEY DO NOT TRUST EACH OTHER’
“As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel heads to the White House on Friday for the seventh meeting since President Obama took office, the two men are facing a turning point in a relationship that has never been warm. By all accounts, they do not trust each other. President Obama has told aides and allies that he does not believe that Mr. Netanyahu will ever be willing to make the kind of big concessions that will lead to a peace deal,” Helene Cooper (NYT) reports.
OPINION: ISRAEL ON COURSE TO BECOME ‘PARIAH STATE’
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to Washington at what may be the last chance to turn the establishment of a Palestinian state from a global anti-Israel campaign into a joint Israeli, American and European project. The establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is today a necessity, just as Zionism was a necessity. And about half of Israeli society apparently agrees with Western public opinion and Western governments on the principle that Palestinian Arabs have the same right to independence and sovereignty as do Israeli Jews,” Zeev Sternhell (Haaretz) writes.
COMMENTARY: ‘WELCOME, PALESTINIAN UNITY’
“The Israeli government regrettably does not seem to realize what a unique opportunity the Palestinian unity agreement provides. This agreement presents, for the first time in decades, a unified, moderate Palestinian consensus, which includes Fatah, Hamas and the democratic camp,” Mustafa Barghouthi (NYT/IHT) writes. “From a Palestinian perspective, this fruit of the Arab Spring and a post-Mubarak Egypt is a vital development as we seek to move beyond internecine strife and focus on the need to end the Israeli occupation and secure our freedom.”
/The daily news is provided as a service of the Saudi-US Trade Group, Washington, DC. Visit www.SUSTG.org for more information and to get a free email subscription to the News Review./</h4></div>