March 21, 2011
Posted: 908 GMT
President Obama and his national security team worked behind the scenes Sunday to try to shore up support within the Arab world for the military mission in Libya, with top White House aides reaching out to officials of the Arab League to insist the bombing does not exceed the scope of a U.N. mandate, according to senior administration officials.
The senior officials described the Obama team's phone calls as making clear to the Arab League that bombing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses falls within the U.N. Security Council resolution's scope of imposing a no-fly zone and taking "all necessary measures" to stop the dictator from attacking civilians in his own country.
"We don't believe this goes beyond the resolution," said one senior administration official in describing the White House's message to the Arab League.
The lobbying came after Arab League officials complained earlier Sunday that airstrikes by the U.S. military and other allies inside Libya exceeded the scope of merely instituting a no-fly zone.
The senior officials noted that Obama also personally called King Abdullah of Jordan as part of the effort to keep key Arab allies on board with the mission. Read more...
November 8, 2010
Posted: 1433 GMT
Editor's Note: Ben Wedeman has lived and worked in the Middle East for more than 30 years, and has reported from Yemen.
Yemen is "a hotbed of al Qaeda activity," a "failed state," "the next Afghanistan." Or so we are being told.
Trying to make sense of the uproar over Yemen stirred up in late October by the handful of alleged bombs shipped from Yemen and bound for the United States, I sought the wisdom of people who have been to Yemen, lived there, and speak the language.
One of them is Sheila Carapico, a Yemen expert teaching at the American University in Cairo.
"Some of the intelligence from inside the government and think tanks and other sources in Washington on Yemen is so focused on this AQAP (al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) entity that they just neglect to get a basic grasp on Yemeni geography and history," she told me.
AQAP is believed to be behind the package bombs, as well as the accused bomber Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, who U.S. authorities say tried to blow up a passenger jetliner with an explosive partially sewn into his underwear. He's facing six charges, including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and has pleaded not guilty to charges of trying to blow up the plane.
AQAP's so-called spiritual leader, US-born Anwar Al-Awlaqi, is said to have been the inspiration for Major Nidal Hassan, accused of going on a shooting rampage in Fort Hood, Texas, a year ago, in which 13 people were killed.
AQAP may be on the lips of the growing army of terrorism "experts" around the world, but it remains, she said, something of an unknown quantity in the Arab world. "Americans recognize the notion of AQAP and think it's a huge threat. For most Arabs, the acronym makes no sense and the organization, if it exists at all, is a sort of shadowy, fluctuating, almost viscous entity."
Indeed, I suspect if you were to go out on the streets of Cairo and ask one thousand people if they knew who Anwar al-Awlaqi is, you'd probably be met by blank stares. It may come as a surprise to some, but the poster demons in the war on terror are largely unknown in this part of the world.
September 1, 2010
Posted: 2003 GMT
Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel is highly optimistic about the outcome of the Washington summit, despite popular cynicism surrounding yet another attempt at Middle East peacemaking.
Wiesel, the 1986 recipient of the Peace Prize and author who has chronicled humanity's darker side, spoke about the U.S. effort to launch direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the sidelines of a conference he was attending in Jerusalem. Wiesel told CNN: "President Obama, the initiator of this noble endeavor, he would not have done it had there been no indication, the kind of indication from all parts, all segments of the equation that something is about to happen."
All the parties coming to Washington must see some light at the end of the tunnel to take this kind of gamble, he said, asking rhetorically: "Why meet, to have another failure at home and abroad in the world? It makes no sense."
Wiesel also believes that both sides are now in a state of war fatigue. "I have a feeling here everybody is tired... too much war, too much violence, too much suffering, too much pain, too much death, and therefore I think that this time we are on the right way," he said. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: 844 GMT
July 5, 2010
Posted: 838 GMT
By the CNN Wire Staff
(CNN) - Moving toward direct peace talks with Palestinians will be a focus of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United States this week, the prime minister told Israeli Cabinet officials Sunday.
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with President Obama on Tuesday.
"We are ten minutes apart. Ramallah almost touches Jerusalem," Netanyahu said, according to a copy of remarks released by his office. "I have been ready to meet with (Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas) since this government's first day in office. Whoever desires peace will hold direct peace talks. I hope that this will be one of the results of my trip to Washington."
Netanyahu said he will discuss the issue in a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
Currently Israelis and Palestinians are negotiating via "proximity" talks, in which U.S. officials serve as a go-between.
Last week, the White House also said Tuesday's meeting would focus on how to move proximity talks to direct talks, and on the recent "liberalization" of Israel's policy on commercial traffic into Gaza.
It will be the fifth meeting between Obama and Netanyahu since the prime minister took office last spring.
Moving toward direct talks was also a topic when Obama met with Abbas on June 9.
"We agreed that, should a progress be achieved, then we would move on to direct talks," Abbas said after the meeting.
May 15, 2010
Posted: 715 GMT
October 11, 2009
Posted: 814 GMT
By Ben Wedeman
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) - When President Barack Obama came to Cairo in June and made his address to the Muslim world, reaction in Egypt was wildly positive.
U.S. President Obama delivers a key address at the Cairo University campus in June, 2009
Many Egyptians had fallen in love with the new young American president with an Arabic middle name. Some even picked up the "Yes we can" slogan.
His appeal was fueled by an almost unanimous dislike for his predecessor, George W. Bush, widely perceived in the region as a Christian fundamentalist leading an anti-Muslim crusade.
But that was then. Euphoria has a short shelf life in the Middle East, and Barack Obama is not exempt.
To gauge reaction among Egyptian intellectuals to the news, I called Hisham Qassim, a democracy and human rights activist I've known for many years. He was perplexed at the news from Norway.
President Obama, he said, "is stumbling in the Middle East. He hasn't achieved any of his promises, and the Arab-Israeli conflict appears to be getting even nastier."
In short, he said, "nothing is working."
One winner of the Nobel peace prize Egyptians continue to admire is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who won the prize in 2002.
After personally overseeing prolonged and painstaking negotiations between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Carter brokered the 1978 Camp David Peace Accords. It was the first peace agreement between Israel and an Arab country, and one a majority of Egyptians still believe was a major landmark in their long history.
Egyptians contrast Carter's intensive involvement in peace efforts with Obama's stab at peace-making between Israel and the Palestinians. After initially demanding Israel halt all settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Obama administration softened its stand after running into a concrete wall of opposition from hard-line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Obama administration is seen, not only in Egypt but also across the Arab world, as following in the footsteps of so many previous American administrations, caving in to Israeli intransigence. It hardly augurs well for peace in the Middle East, especially at a time when tensions are simmering in Jerusalem, with some wondering if a third Palestinian intifada is in the making.
Hisham Qasim, the human rights activist, pointed out to me that the deadline for submission of nomination to the Nobel Committee is early February, which means that the nomination was, at least in theory, made on the basis of Obama's performance after less than two weeks in office.
He still has more than three years to go before the next elections, and the United States is embroiled in two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is, according to some reports, considering military action against Iran. There is an awful lot of war on America's plate at the moment.
For all these reasons, it's not surprising that many in the Middle East say it's a tad premature to be handing Barack Obama the peace laurels.
June 4, 2009
Posted: 1449 GMT
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images. US President Barack Obama waves as he arrives onto the stage to deliver his highly-anticipated address to the Muslim world on June 4, 2009 in the Grand Hall of Cairo University in Cairo. Obama discussed Middle East peace with his Egyptian host ahead of a much-heralded address to the world's Muslims, seeking to heal a wide rift between America and Islam.
SAIF DAHLAH/AFP/Getty Images. A Palestinian man listens to US President Barack Obama as he delivers a speech at Cairo University, at an electronics shop in the West Bank city of Jenin on June 4, 2009. The Palestinian Authority hailed as a 'good beginning' Obama's speech to the Muslim world in which he reiterated his support of a Palestinian state.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud presents US President Barack Obama (L) with the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit during a bilateral meeting at the king's ranch in al-Janadriya in the outskirts of Riyadh June 3, 2009. Obama launched a landmark Middle East trip to reach out to the world's Muslims, but earned a swift rebuke from Osama bin Laden in a stinging new audiotape.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images. US President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Hosni Mubarak during a bilateral meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo on June 4, 2009. Obama, in Egypt to deliver a speech to the world's Muslims, held talks with his host Mubarak on how to advance stalled Middle East peace talks.
Posted: 1203 GMT
CNN's Ben Wedeman sits down with some young Egyptian minds to talk about Barack Obama's visit to the Middle East.
May 4, 2009
Posted: 813 GMT
CNN's Paula Hancocks in Ramallah, West Bank talks with two restaurant owners and a music teacher about President Obama.