Obama will speak to the Muslim world

June 2, 2009 7:38:10 PM PDT
President Barack Obama is on his way to Egypt to deliver a much anticipated speech to the Muslim world. There are challenges and a lot at stake.

MOST POPULAR: Video, stories and more
SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

It's been two months since the president delivered his last speech to the Muslim world; that speech was given in Istanbul. The one on Thursday will be in Cairo.

The president's trip to Cairo speaks symbolically to the split between moderate Arabs and radicals says former Middle East CIA field Officer Robert Baer.

"In December Mubarak, the president of Egypt, said Iran is going to devour the Middle East. So going and standing with Mubarak essentially, symbolically or metaphorically, he is saying 'We are standing with the moderate Arabs against Iran,'" says Baer.

And the single biggest issue, says Baer, is if Obama will follow through on his efforts to stop the building of Jewish settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.

"Does this president have the political power and the political will to stop these settlements? And that's going to be the question on everybody's mind as he speaks," says Baer.

It's on the mind of American Muslims. Basim Elkarra works for the Council on American Islamic Relations which is sending a letter to the president saying, "Now is the time to tell Israeli leaders that we will no longer support the denial of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people."

"He's going to have to address the key issues that Muslims worldwide care about -- the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," says Elkarra.

Two weeks ago President Obama told Benjamin Netanyahu the settlements must be stopped in order for the U.S. to move forward. After that meeting the president was excoriated in the conservative Israeli newspapers.

The head of Stanford's Iranian studies program, Professor Abbas Milani, Ph.D., is just back this week from Israel.

"The ground is shifting in his favor," says Milani.

Milani says Thursday's speech will be the most important speech the president has ever given.

"Since Bush senior, this is the first time that the president of the United States has stood firm on the issue of the settlement," says Milani.

But President George H.W. Bush did more than lecture Israeli leaders, he cut off aid to Israel. President Obama has not.

"Has not yet. The dance has just begun," says Milani.

The White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday there will be an extraordinary effort to get the president's speech in front of as many eyes as possible, including posting it on social networking sites.

And in a sharp turnaround from the campaign trail, this week the White House played up the president's connections to Islam in a conference call with reporters.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget


Load Comments