Obama Mulls Speech in Muslim Capital
The New York Times reports that President-elect Barack Obama is “considering making a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office,” possibly in Cairo.
As Politico’s Ben Smith points out, this would possibly fulfill an obscure primary campaign pledge to hold a summit with Muslim countries, made during an interview with a French magazine.
From Reuters, in January:
“Once I’m elected, I want to organize a summit in the Muslim world, with all the heads of state, to have an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows every day between Muslims and the West,” Thursday’s edition of Paris Match quoted Obama as saying,
“I want to ask them to join our fight against terrorism. We must also listen to their concerns,” Obama said in the French-language transcript.
The speech is a good move, but a summit is still a very good idea. It would build good will and send an immediate signal to the rest of the world that the tone of American foreign policy is going to be moving in a different direction under the new administration.
Also, by inviting every leader in the Muslim world — including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and even the new Israeli prime minister — a summit could provide a little political cover from critics who scoffed at the notion of meeting with hostile foreign leaders “without preconditions.” Obama could hear their concerns without giving the bully pulpit to Ahmadinenjad that those critics fear bilateral talks would produce.
Most important, it would break the ice between the United States and its perceived enemies again, which most of the world would welcome.