Al-Arabiya’s Game Changing Interview with Barack Obama: A New Punctuation Point in US Foreign Policy

-


MEDIA ALERT: Tonight at about 8:15 pm EST, I will be discussing the Obama interview with Al Arabiya on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Hisham Melhem, Washington Bureau Chief for Al Arabiya, was trying to chase down an interview with former U.S. Senator and new presidential envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell. Pounding all of his channels, friends, networks, Melhem was informed Sunday that “something” might be in the works — but keep expectations modest.
By Monday morning (yesterday), Melhem was told that he’d likely get Mitchell, and then later in the morning, he received a call telling him that “I’m either going to make your day or ruin your day” by what the White House was planning. And then Melhem was asked if he would like to interview President Barack Obama at 5 pm Monday — but that the bureau would have to keep the interview secret until it happened.
The Al Arabiya Bureau Chief said that was not a problem and that he’d adjust his schedule – with enormous grin accompanying his response.
Al Arabiya is part of a major Arabic news network, considered second in global coverage to Al Jazeera, which may yet see a nod from the Obama administration down the road — but seeing that George W. Bush may have joked and/or been serious about bombing an Al Jazeera office in Baghdad, Al Jazeera may still be too much of a leap for the bounding forward new US President.
Obama’s exchange with the Al Arabiya journalist (here is transcript), which was only supposed to last about six or seven minutes got extended a bit as press secretary Robert Gibbs saw how well it was going.
This interview is the initial punctuation point in Obama’s global public diplomacy. By most accounts, Obama’s decision — shocking to some, refreshing to others — to talk to the Muslim world in his first formal, sit down press interview hit the ball out of the park.
While Al Arabiya’s Bureau Chief did query Obama on which Muslim capital he would first go to in the world (I think it will be Jakarta), Obama’s interview — which Al Arabiya quickly got up on YouTube and also broadcast all around the world through their own networks — is consistent with Obama-style Facebook political networking and activism. He is using social networks and a hybrid of new media and old media to change the diplomatic game.
It doesn’t matter which Muslim capital Obama goes to now because he just reached out to the hearts and minds of Muslims in every capital and frankly, Muslims everywhere — including inside the United States.
Obama stood by America’s alliance with Israel, but said also that Israel and others would have to make sacrifices to achieve stable peace.
He is telegraphing to the Muslim world that the lives of those who live in the Middle East and who are Muslim, wherever they are, matter — and can’t be discounted. Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton used to decry any effort at talking about the moral equivalency of a death of an innocent in Palestine or in Lebanon when compared to the death or maiming of an Israeli innocent.
Obama talked about the needs and tragedies that have befallen Palestinians and Israelis. And he offered hope to Arab citizens and talked of health care and education — a vision of the future, that could challenge more rigid groups that have been resisting engagement with the US and Europe and who have been strident in their opposition to Israel.
Barack Obama’s first moves have been uttlerly brilliant. And in his interview, most of it focused on the importance of ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He acknowledged the interconnectedness of the problems in the region, but he noted how important the Middle East Peace process and crisis is.
And I think he was responding personally and sincerely to Prince Turki al-Faisal’s warning in the Financial Times this week that the Arab Peace Proposal offered by King Abdullah would not remain on the table indefinitely, and that the window could be closing in the wake of the Gaza crisis. Obama was asking Prince Turki, who previously served as head of Saudi intelligence for more than two decades and as Saudi Ambassador to the US, and the King of Saudi Arabia to hang in there a bit more. Obama’s messenging was subtle but clear.
Some will argue that this is not much. That this is optics — not substantive change.
I totally disagree. Ron Suskind was on target when he reported several years ago that Bush administration officials believed that they could “make their own reality.”
Presidents — in the right period of their presidencies — can make and shape their own reality. They do so at their peril because someone could eventually demonstrate a gap between the fiction the President is creating and the reality everyone else is grounded in.
But Obama gets to make his own reality at the moment — and is imposing it — in a respectful, humble, and powerful way.
His style matters — just like Bush’s swagger did — and it is this act of humility towards the Muslim world which may animate hope in the nations around the world and in the Middle East specifically.
Everyone will have to adjust now. The Saudis will leave the peace deal on the table. The Israelis have to remake themselves — even if Netanyahu succeeds Olmert. Hamas will have to find a way to become differently postured — if not on Israel, then at least on some level of international acceptability with American partners. Arab stakeholders are going to have to snap out of positions shaped more by status quo thinking and inertia that things will never change and get with the Obama program.
What Obama did has provided a new punctuation point in American foreign policy, and it is not “continuous” foreign policy at all. This is a new game and a very impressive new leader.
Time will tell if Obama has inculcated his foreign policy and national security team with the same signals and messages that he brought to this important media encounter.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

34 comments on “Al-Arabiya’s Game Changing Interview with Barack Obama: A New Punctuation Point in US Foreign Policy

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    Yeah, right now it looks like the Gaza invasion was just a waste of
    campaign money.

    Reply

  2. Dan Kervick says:

    You may be right Paul. But I hate this idea of being held hostage to Israeli politics yet again: “Shut up or we’ll vote for Netanyahu!”
    You know what? It looks like Israel is going to vote for Netanyahu anyway. And that’s because Israel is now a bona fide fruitcake country. Poor Barak and Livni! What else do they have to do? Even massacring 1500 Gazans wasn’t enough for the genocidal Israeli public.

    Reply

  3. Paul Norheim says:

    I would like to follow up my post above with a couple of
    reflections. What are the hopes that Obama really means change
    when he says change?
    On the minus side:
    1) his talk about an “undivided Jerusalem” and his walking on
    fours together with Hillary during the AIPAC conference last
    summer;
    2) his selection of pro Israelis to central positions in his
    administration;
    3) his roaring silence during the bombing of Gaza.
    On the plus side:
    1) Mitchell;
    2) his general inclination to talk to adversaries;
    3) the recent rumors in the Guardian about establishing secret
    channels to talk to Hamas (one person close to Obama said that
    if this is correct, they would not announce it publicly; and later
    these rumors were denied).
    Not much substantial on the plus side? Perhaps not, but I would
    give his inclination to talk to adversaries some weight.
    We often seem to forget the significance and risks of the
    coming Israeli election for Obama. If Netanyahu becomes the
    next Israeli prime minister, it`s bye bye to ANY possible results
    during Obama`s first term. He would be confronted with
    Netanyahu`s “natural growth of settlements” on one side, and
    Hamas on the other side.
    If Netanyahu wins, it may have three (positive) side effects:
    1) He may be so openly arrogant and violent that it may cause
    a divorce between Israel and Fatah;
    2) possibly resulting in bringing Fatah and Hamas a bit closer
    to each other;
    3) it could also make the extremely close relationship between
    Israel and USA considerably more difficult to maintain.
    But for Barack Obama, Netanyahu would certainly represent
    ruin, undermining any possible policy in his first term. Nobody
    can be absolutely sure of Obama`s intentions at the moment.
    But whatever his thoughts or strategy – the most important
    thing right now would be to avoid saying or doing ANYTHING
    that may interfere in the Israeli elections in a way that may be
    favorable to Netanyahu. This probably includes mentioning the
    Israeli occupation, settlements, invasion of Gaza, even the
    killing of children and women (and talking to al Jazeera).
    Netanyahu is Obama`s nemesis in the Middle East.
    Whatever his intention, I think Obama`s priority is to say as
    little as possible that may hurt Ehud Barak`s chances of
    becoming the next prime minister. In the light of this, even
    Obama`s telephone chat with Abbas and the Arab tyrants on
    Day One of his presidency make sense: for the Israeli voters, the
    phone calls makes it look as if Ehud Barak chose the right
    strategy before and during the invasion of Gaza, thus increasing
    his chances of winning.
    If Obama instead had chosen to have a chat with leaders of, say
    Hamas and Iran or Syria, Netanyahu would certainly win, and
    everything would be lost from Obama`s point of view. This is
    politics.
    Even if (again: a big IF) it turns out that Obama is smart and
    have good intentions of establishing more balanced policies,
    announcing them right now would be suicidal.

    Reply

  4. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    It’s probably best to continue this discussion more fully on another thread. But I’m not sure Obama yet grasps how serious the accelerating *disequilibrium* already is. The two state solution is almost dead, and when Likud wins, that may well kill it for good. At that point, we are on a rapid slippery slope toward total chaos, with all option leading to tremendous violence of one kind or another. To prevent the worst, Obama is going to have to act much more boldly, and spend much more political capital, than he has yet given indication of realizing.

    Reply

  5. Paul Norheim says:

    “Hopefully there are at least *some* back channel trysts with
    Hamas being arranged, even if they can’t be publicly
    acknowledged.” (Dan Kervick)
    Exactly. Look, I`m not an optimist regarding Obama/Clinton
    (Mitchell is however a good sign).
    But imagine what could have happened if Obama announced
    publicly – now, just before the Israeli election – that he intended
    to talk to Hamas: Isn`t it likely that the Israeli voters (given their
    broad support of the invasion in Gaza) would have responded
    with more votes to Netanyahu, in a hope to stop such efforts?
    We don`t know Obama`s intentions yet. But IF (a big “if”) he
    intends to talk to Hamas on some level, it would be tactically
    foolish to announce it right now. It would almost certainly
    backfire in Israel.

    Reply

  6. Cee says:

    Don,
    Let us pray. 🙂

    Reply

  7. Steve Clemons says:

    Nir is a close friend of mine and I respect his views…but I’m not a freedom fighter for the downtrodden like Nir. I am a realist who thinks we need a new equilibrium in the region — and I think that making arrangements with the Saudis and other key power stakeholders in the region is vital. I am still an advocate of a two state solution, like Jimmy Carter, Zbig Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and others — I’m not ready to throw in the towel. Nir is very compelling — and we will continue to debate and discuss these challenges in a civil way as colleagues and friends. But while I admire his ability to empathize and somewhat side with the anti-colionalist operations of Hezbollah, Hamas, and others of this sort in the region — a John Reed of our times perhaps — I still believe in states, state interests, and efforts at creating equilibrium between these states that offers self determination to those states. This is a different picture than Nir’s.
    I do agree with Nir on the Israeli Occupation though – and derivatively, the toxic problem of settlements. I get that – and it is from this morass of Occupation that a new equilibrium needs to be achieved. There is much in Nir’s analysis about Hamas’s situation vis a vis other Arab stakeholders that needs to be discussed at some point – but not going to do it now. I think that there are gray lines of divisions between the Saudis and Hamas, not the stark ones I think Nir implied.
    So I’m responding to … on this round, but I’m actually too busy to get into a tit for tat on this. I respect Nir — but I stand by my views and my support of what Obama is trying to do in the region.
    best, steve clemons

    Reply

  8. DonS says:

    FWIW, Helena at “Just World News” is pretty amped up about what she sees as a “difference” in the Obama approach. A positive difference, that is. With some suggestions for next steps.
    http://justworldnews.org/archives/003358.html
    And some more suggestions for next steps.
    http://justworldnews.org/archives/003359.html
    As here at TWN, some of her commenters are less excited about the optics than she. Maybe something about being so close to the action.

    Reply

  9. ... says:

    steve – nir rosens post speaks clearly and strongly on the reality of things and is a direct challenge to yours.. i feel your post which initiated this thread has been put in a very poor light… you appear as nothing more then a water boy/cheerleader for this administration… i am curious to know if you’d care to comment or recognize this in the same way i do?? this is my criticism of mainstream media as well..
    thanks nir rosen for setting the record straight.. your voice needs to be heard by more..

    Reply

  10. Cee says:

    And arab leaders? A collection of dictators propped by the US, terrified of their own people, collaborating with Israel? Who cares what they think
    Nir,
    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    I also think Obama should appear on Press TV…my new favorite channel.

    Reply

  11. Dan Kervick says:

    Fantastic post Mr. Rosen. Thank you for the view from Beirut.

    Reply

  12. AhmedA says:

    The caveats offered by commentators about what words actually mean make sense–but Obama already acknowledged them, as Steve cites in his post, by saying actions matter more than words.
    Yes, this is mainly a symbolic gesture, but it is difficult to underestimate the importance of symbolism in the struggle between AQ-esque groups and the US. IA president such as BHO shatters the civilizational war narratives by his very existence. His sophisticated, nuanced outreach to diverse audiences in the Muslim world goes even further to undermine the jihadist narrative.
    And the fact is, he didn’t have to do this. He could have done outreach, but he could have waited before his first week was out; he could have done it in a less symbolic fashion than giving his first interview to an Arab network.
    Most of all, Obama could have been much more cautious in how he described his views towards the region given the exigencies of domestic politics. On Iran, on his having extended Muslim members in his family even though he is a Christian, on voicing sympathy for civilian suffering. What the interview underscored for me above all else is that we really do seem to be at a breakthrough point, that the discourse in the US has changed, and in a way I really didn’t imagine would happen so quickly.
    Yes of course, the grave suffering in Gaza, and the often complete disregard of civilian life might, in purely moral terms, require a more vigorous moral condemnation. But within the web of the domestic politics of the US, I would not describe this interview as anything other than brilliant, and, well, audacious.
    But yes, in the end actions do matter, so lets see how this is followed up on.

    Reply

  13. nir rosen says:

    hi steve, i’m afraid you have it all wrong. Obama wasn’t reaching out to muslims, but to arabs, since most muslims don’t speak Arabic, and arabiya is an Arabic network
    Moreover, choosing al arabiya was a mistake. It’s a pro Saudi station (owned by a Saudi and promoting Saudi interests). Arabs know it as such and know that it lacks credibility as a result, especially because it initially sort of backed israel’s attack on gaza, since the Saudis are anti-hamas.
    Bush was interviewed many times on arab stations and condoleeza rice and other american officials frequently appeared on al arabiya, so this is not a unique event at all.
    If obama’s advisors were smart they would have gone with al jazeera, the overwhelmingly most popular and influential arab satellite network. Unlike al arabiya, which did not challenge obama, an al jazeera correspondent would have asked the president more challenging questions. If he was looking to increase his credibility in the arab world he would have gone on al jazeera.
    Moreover, in the arab world, where I live (Beirut), the interview was not a big deal at all and got little attention. That’s because arabs are not stupid, even if successive american regimes treat them like idiot children, using ‘public diplomacy’ and the same bromides to substitute for any change in actual policy. Obama did not utter anything that Bush had not previously said, and its what obama didn’t utter, his silence during the war on gaza, his refusal to say the words ‘israeli occupation,’ that matter much more in the region.
    Obama’s words may impress people in the US, non-arabs and non Arabic speakers, but let me assure you that arabs are not deceived
    Arabs don’t care that obama mentioned jobs or healthcare, they want justice and dignity and their rights, they want an end to occupation and for the US to stop coddling dictatorships like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia (some people call them “moderates” because they collaborate with the US).
    Obama informed arabs that Israeli security had primacy. So he’s telling them that Palestinians are inferior. That their much more real insecurity under Israeli violence is less important than Israeli security. And they are sure to remember that when obama visited Israel as a candidate he spoke of how he would feel if his daughters lived in an Israeli town within range of missiles from gaza. Of course he never mentioned how he might feel if his daughters lived in gaza, besieged by the Israelis, within range of an Israeli military that eagerly kills Palestinian women and children. He did not mention that because arabs are less important to Americans, less human, and their suffering is less important and less real. This is what people in the arab world know, and a silly interview given to a fawning interviewer on a pro american channel makes no difference.
    When obama says he will listen, who will do the talking? The same arab dictators that the US always deals with or genuine representatives of the arab people? Leaders and movements that have popularity and legitimacy or the hated president of Egypt?
    Obama spoke about going after terrorist groups who killed civilians. To arabs those terrorists who kill civilians are Israeli soldiers, or american soldiers.
    Obama spoke about Palestinian suffering, but of course he did not mention the cause, as if it was the weather that made them poor and hopeless. No, it’s the Israeli occupation. That is the cause, that is the beginning. Any approach that does not acknowledge the Israeli occupation as the cause of the conflict is going to fail.
    Obama’s style does not matter. It is the same bombs and bullets that will continue to kill people in Palestine, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is the same american backed Israeli occupation that continues to steal Palestinian land. Obama will just be slightly more polite about it. From the point of view of arabs, at least bush was more honest.
    So obama’s interview was not a game changer. It was insignificant. Nor was his appointment of mitchell especially important. I know you previously wrote that Israeli diplomats and arab leaders you spoke to were pleased. But isn’t that exactly the problem? Israel has been oppressing the Palestinians for 61 years. It just conducted a brutal war against a trapped and starved civilian population. And Israel has benefited from blind american support. So if Israeli officials are pleased then this is terrible news. And arab leaders? A collection of dictators propped by the US, terrified of their own people, collaborating with Israel? Who cares what they think. What about what Palestinians think?
    how about a policy that addresses the causes of the problem? the israeli occupation and the dispossession of the palestinian people?

    Reply

  14. TonyForesta says:

    I third Rami’s suggestion. Obama could make a much bigger impression on muslim communities by accepting an interview on Al Jazeera.
    And Dan Kervicks points are well spoken. Words mean nothing if not backed by deeds. Words are cheap and hollow. It is deeds that shape the course of history and measure the mettle of leadership.
    Your several appearances on the various MSNBC broadcasts speak well to your balance, intelligence, humanity, and integrity Mr Clemons. Hopefully those inthethickofit are paying attention.

    Reply

  15. critic says:

    Mr. Clemons,
    I have seen your profile in the media leap higher and higher. I frequently disagree with your takes on things, but I admire your balance, your effort to keep cool and to engage even your screaming critics.
    I saw you just now on Countdown, and you are World Class and far, far superior to most of the predictable and vapid guests on that show.
    Bravo.

    Reply

  16. Dan Kervick says:

    A few people who didn’t hear Obama’s televised interview:
    Ibtihal Kechko Girl 10
    Ahmed Riad Mohammed Al-Sinwar Boy 3
    Ahmed Al-Homs Boy 18
    Ahmed Rasmi Abu Jazar Boy 16
    Ahmed Sameeh Al-Halabi Boy 18
    Tamer Hassan Al-Akhrass Boy 5
    Hassan Ali Al-Akhrass Boy 3
    Haneen Wael Mohammed Daban Girl 15
    Khaled Sami Al-Astal Boy 15
    alaat Mokhless Bassal Boy 18
    Aaed Imad Kheera Boy 14
    Abdullah Al-Rayess Boy 17
    Odai Hakeem Al-Mansi Boy 4
    Allam Nehrou Idriss Boy 18
    Ali Marwan Abu Rabih Boy 18
    Anan Saber Atiyah Boy 13
    Camelia Al-Bardini Girl 10
    Lama Talal Hamdan Girl 10
    Mohammed Jaber Howeij Boy 17
    Nimr Mustafa Amoom Boy 10
    29/12/2008 Ismail Talal Hamdan Boy 10
    Ahmed Ziad Al-Absi Boy 14
    Ahmed Youssef Khello Boy 18
    Ikram Anwar Baaloosha Girl 14
    Tahrier Anwar Baaloosha Girl 17
    Jihad Saleh Ghobn Boy 10
    Jawaher Anwar Baaloosha Girl 8
    Dina Anwar Baaloosha Girl 7
    Samar Anwar Baaloosha Girl 6
    Shady Youssef Ghobn Boy 12
    Sudqi Ziad Al-Absi Boy 3
    Imad Nabeel Abou Khater Boy 16
    Lina Anwar Baaloosha Girl 7
    Mohammed Basseel Madi Boy 17
    Mohammed Jalal Abou Tair Boy 18
    Mohammed Ziad Al-Absi Boy 14
    Mahmoud Nabeel Ghabayen Boy 15
    Moaz Yasser Abou Tair Boy 6
    Wissam Akram Eid Girl 14
    30/12/2008 Haya Talal Hamdan Girl 8
    31/12/2008 Ahmed Kanouh Boy 10
    Ameen Al-Zarbatlee Boy 10
    Mohammed Nafez Mohaissen Boy 10
    Mustafa Abou Ghanimah Boy 16
    Yehya Awnee Mohaissen Boy 10
    Ossman Bin Zaid Nizar Rayyan Boy 3
    Assaad Nizar Rayyan Boy 2
    Moaz-Uldeen Allah Al-Nasla Boy 5
    Aya Nizar Rayyan Girl 12
    Halima Nizar Rayyan Girl 5
    Reem Nizar Rayyan Boy 4
    Aicha Nizar Rayyan Girl 3
    Abdul Rahman Nizar Rayyan Boy 6
    Abdul Qader Nizar Rayyan Boy 12
    Oyoon Jihad Al-Nasla Girl 16
    Mahmoud Mustafa Ashour Boy 13
    Maryam Nizar Rayyan Girl 5
    01/01/2009 Hamada Ibrahim Mousabbah Boy 10
    Zeinab Nizar Rayyan Girl 12
    Sujud Mahmoud Al-Derdesawi Girl 10
    Abdul Sattar Waleed Al-Astal Boy 12
    Abed Rabbo Iyyad Abed Rabbo Al-Astal Boy 10
    Ghassan Nizar Rayyan Boy 15
    Christine Wadih El-Turk Boy 6
    Mohammed Mousabbah Boy 14
    Mohammed Iyad Abed Rabbo Al-Astal Boy 13
    Mahmoud Samsoom Boy 16
    Ahmed Tobail Boy 16
    Ahmed Sameeh Al-Kafarneh Boy 17
    Hassan Hejjo Boy 14
    Rajeh Ziadeh Boy 18
    Shareef Abdul Mota Armeelat Boy 15
    Mohammed Moussa Al-Silawi Boy 10
    Mahmoud Majed Mahmoud Abou Nahel Boy 16
    Mohannad Al-Tatnaneeh Boy 18
    Hani Mohammed Al-Silawi Boy 10
    01/01/2009 Ahmed Al-Meshharawi Boy 16
    Ahmed Khodair Sobaih Boy 17
    Ahmed Sameeh Al-Kafarneh Boy 18
    Asraa Kossai Al-Habash Girl 10
    Assad Khaled Al-Meshharawi Boy 17
    Asmaa Ibrahim Afana Girl 12
    Ismail Abdullah Abou Sneima Boy 4
    Akram Ziad Al-Nemr Boy 18
    Aya Ziad Al-Nemr Girl 8
    Ahmed Mohammed Al-Adham Boy 1
    Akram Ziad Al-Nemr Boy 13
    Hamza Zuhair Tantish Boy 12
    Khalil Mohammed Mokdad Boy 18
    Ruba Mohammed Fadl Abou-Rass Girl 13
    Ziad Mohammed Salma Abou Sneima Boy 9
    Shaza Al-Abed Al-Habash Girl 16
    Abed Ziad Al-Nemr Boy 12
    Attia Rushdi Al-Khawli Boy 16
    Luay Yahya Abou Haleema Boy 17
    Mohammed Akram Abou Harbeed Boy 18
    Mohammed Abed Berbekh Boy 18
    Mohammed Faraj Hassouna Boy 16
    Mahmoud Khalil Al-Mashharawi Boy 12
    Mahmoud Zahir Tantish Boy 17
    Mahmoud Sami Assliya Boy 3
    Moussa Youssef Berbekh Boy 16
    Wi’am Jamal Al-Kafarneh Girl 2
    Wadih Ayman Omar Boy 4
    Youssef Abed Berbekh Boy 10
    05/01/2009 Ibrahim Rouhee Akl Boy 17
    Ibrahim Abdullah Merjan Boy 13
    Ahmed Attiyah Al-Semouni Boy 4
    Aya Youssef Al-Defdah Girl 13
    Aya Al-Sersawi Girl 5
    Ahmed Amer Abou Eisha Boy 5
    Ameen Attiyah Al-Semouni Boy 4
    Hazem Alewa Boy 8
    Khalil Mohammed Helless Boy 12
    Diana Mosbah Saad Girl 17
    Raya Al-Sersawi Girl 5
    Rahma Mohammed Al-Semouni Girl 18
    Ramadan Ali Felfel Boy 14
    Rahaf Ahmed Saeed Al-Azaar Girl 4
    Shahad Mohammed Hijjih Girl 3
    Arafat Mohammed Abdul Dayem Boy 10
    Omar Mahmoud Al-Baradei Boy 12
    Ghaydaa Amer Abou Eisha Girl 6
    Fathiyya Ayman Al-Dabari Girl 4
    Faraj Ammar Al-Helou Boy 2
    Moumen Alewah Boy 9
    Moumen Mahmoud Talal Alaw Boy 10
    Mohammed Amer Abu Eisha Boy 8
    Mahmoud Mohammed Abu Kamar Boy 15
    Marwan Hein Kodeih Girl 6
    Montasser Alewah Boy 12
    Naji Nidal Al-Hamlawi Boy 16
    Nada Redwan Mardi Girl 5
    Hanadi Bassem Khaleefa Girl 13
    06/01/2009 Ibrahim Ahmed Maarouf Boy 14
    Ahmed Shaher Khodeir Boy 14
    Ismail Adnan Hweilah Boy 15
    Aseel Moeen Deeb Boy 17
    Adam Mamoun Al-Kurdee Boy 3
    Alaa Iyad Al-Daya Girl 8
    Areej Mohammed Al-Daya Girl 3 months
    Amani Mohammed Al-Daya Girl 4
    Baraa Ramez Al-Daya Girl 2
    Bilal Hamza Obaid Boy 15
    Thaer Shaker Karmout Boy 17
    Hozaifa Jihad Al-Kahloot Boy 17
    Khitam Iyad Al-Daya Girl 9
    Rafik Abdul Basset Al-Khodari Boy 15
    Raneen Abdullah saleh Girl 12
    Zakariya Yahya Al-Taweel Boy 5
    Sahar Hatem Dawood Girl 10
    Salsabeel Ramez Al-Daya Girl 6 months
    Sharafuldeen Iyad Al-Daya Boy 7
    Doha Mohammed Al-Daya Girl 5
    Ahed Iyad Kodas Boy 15
    Abdullah Mohammed Abdullah Boy 10
    Issam Sameer Deeb Boy 12
    Alaa Ismail Ismail Boy 18
    Ali Iyad Al-Daya Boy 10
    Imad Abu Askar Boy 18
    Filasteen Al-Daya Girl 5
    Kamar Mohammed Al-Daya Boy 3
    Lina Abdul Menem Hassan Girl 10
    Unidentified Boy 9
    Unidentified Boy 15
    Mohammed Iyad Al-Daya Boy 6
    Mohammed Bassem Shakoura Boy 10
    Mohammed Bassem Eid Boy 18
    Mohammed Deeb Boy 17
    Mohammed Eid Boy 18
    Mustafa Moeen Deeb Boy 12
    Noor Moeen Deeb Boy 2
    Youssef Saad Al-Kahloot Boy 17
    Youssef Mohammed Al-Daya Boy 1
    07/01/2009 Ibrahim Kamal Awaja Boy 9
    Ahmed Jaber Howeij Boy 7
    Ahmed Fawzi Labad Boy 18
    Ayman Al-Bayed Boy 16
    Amal Khaled Abed Rabbo Girl 3
    Toufic Khaled Al-Khahloot Boy 10
    Habeeb Khaled Al-Khahloot Boy 12
    Houssam Raed Sobeh Boy 12
    Hassan Rateb Semaan Boy 18
    Hassan Ata Hassan Azzam Boy 2
    Redwan Mohammed Ashoor Boy 10
    Suad Khaled Abed Rabbo Girl 6
    Samar Khaled Abed Rabbo Girl 2
    Abdul Rahman Mohammmed Ashoor Boy 12
    Fareed Ata Hassan Azzam Boy 13
    Mohammed Khaled Al-Kahloot Boy 15
    Mohammed Samir Hijji Boy 16
    Mohammed Fareed Al-Maasawabi Boy 16
    Mohammed Moeen Deeb Boy 17
    Mohammed Nasseem Salama Saba Boy 16
    Mahmoud Hameed Boy 17
    Hamam Issa Boy 1
    08/01/2009 Anas Arif Abou Baraka Boy 7
    Ibrahim Akram Abou Dakkka Boy 12
    Ibrahim Moeen Jiha Boy 15
    Baraa Iyad Shalha Girl 6
    Basma Yasser Al-Jeblawi Girl 5
    Shahd Saad Abou Haleema Girl 15
    Azmi Diab Boy 16
    Mohammed Akram Abou Dakka Boy 14
    Mohammed Hikmat Abou Haleema Boy 17
    Ibrahim Moeen Jiha Boy 15
    Matar Saad Abou Haleema Boy 17
    09/01/2009 Ahmed Ibrahim Abou Kleik Boy 17
    Ismail Ayman Yasseen Boy 18
    Alaa Ahmed Jaber Girl 11
    Baha-Uldeen Fayez Salha Girl 5
    Rana Fayez Salha Girl 12
    Rola Fayez Salha Girl 13
    Diyaa-Uldeen Fayez Salah Boy 14
    Ghanima Sultan Halawa Girl 11
    Fatima Raed Jadullah Girl 10
    Mohammed Atef Abou Al-Hussna Boy 15

    Reply

  17. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Going on Aljazeera woulda taken balls.
    Balls aren’t allowed when you are an American politician involving yourself in Israel’s business.
    Only American eunichs are allowed to meddle in Israeli affairs.

    Reply

  18. Dan Kervick says:

    Thanks for seconding my comments …
    And I second Rami’s point about the Al-Arabiyya connection to the Saudi royal family. Based on Obama’s interview, this Mitchell trip is supposed to be a listening tour. But Mitchell is mostly going to be listening to a bunch of discredited old US pals who are going to tell him versions of stories we have already heard before. US diplomacy is still wearing a condom in the Middle East, shielding itself from any direct contact with the region’s various untouchables, while we dick around with its people illicitly. Hopefully there are at least *some* back channel trysts with Hamas being arranged, even if they can’t be publicly acknowledged.

    Reply

  19. ... says:

    Rami – really interesting comments.. thanks.. one wonders why AlArabiyya TV and not Aljazeera which has always been referenced the past however many years.. now your comment fits into a larger picture that gives greater clarity..

    Reply

  20. politicaldude says:

    Steve,
    Excellent appearance on Keith Olbermann. Really great stuff packed into smart answers, particularly about valuing Arab and Muslim lives and Facebook Diplomacy and on what terrorism is about and how to beat it. Learned a lot in a few minutes.
    Olbermann is smart to have you on! Go on his show more!

    Reply

  21. Rami says:

    Honestly i am disappointed by this interview. i am an Arab living here in the states.
    and i know that most Arabs are disappointed by it. the main issue is the choice of AlArabiyya TV (the station of King Fahd’s brother-in-law). i hope you understand that AlArabiyya TV is a discredited TV station in the Arab world, basically a mouthpiece for the Saudi Royal Family. If president Obama was serious about reaching the so called”Muslims” or “Muslim street”(i disagree with these descriptions anyway) he should have used Aljazeera TV. The president was given an easy interview. you should watch some of the interviews Aljazeera conducts, these are deep probing interviews. actually Brent Scowcroft was interviewed a couple of days ago, and he was confronted with hard question.
    In other words, i think the so called “Game Changing Interview” did not achieve anything, i am reading the Arab forums all over, it is not liked at all, AND Aljazeera is not even mentioning the interview which discredits it in many homes. i hope President Obama reconsiders and gives an interview to Aljazeera.

    Reply

  22. Michael C says:

    Nice Olberman interview, but TV’s incessant need
    to show Obama moving his lips while a speaker is
    talking is not only discourteous but tends to
    cancel out the words of the speaker. In your
    particular case, such canceling out is troubling
    because you actually have something worthwhile
    listening to (for the most part).

    Reply

  23. ... says:

    i 2nd dan kervicks comments and observations.. i couldn’t have said it as well.. thanks dan..

    Reply

  24. Dan Kervick says:

    Giving an interview is clearly better than not giving an interview. Talking is good. But nothing really important has happened yet. I don’t think it is helpful to build up small gestures like this into epochal historical events. That only creates extravagantly false impressions among Americans about the nature and difficulties of the problem.
    Saying, “I want a better relationship with the Muslim world” is extremely easy. Taking concrete steps beyond words to build that relationship is where all the heavy lifting comes it. So far, Obama has not done a single concrete thing. That isn’t to say he won’t. But lets save the palm fronds for the real action.
    Overly enthusiastic praise of small gestures sets up the possibility of stupid reactions among the public in America, reactions which we have seen so often before. If Palestinians show the slightest firmness in defending their rights, we will hear, “Look how unreasonable these Atabs are! Look how they betrayed poor Obama! After all, HE HEROICALLY VENTURED ONTO AL-ARABIA, and still those damn Arabs say Israel needs to withdraw from the West Bank!”
    Obama speaks at the end of the interview about keeping our focus on the children of Palestine and Israel. But a few hundred Gazan children were just slaughtered, and he said nothing – nothing at all. That was because “there is only one president at a time.” But now he is the one president, and still he says nothing. He couldn’t even bring himself to say anything about the dead children of Gaza in this interview. To me, it just made him look either (i) badly informed, or (ii) heartless.

    Reply

  25. TonyForesta says:

    Nothing anyone in the bushgov ever uttered was based on any fact or truth Don Bacon. All the bushgov blandishments and bruting of false promise and hollow visionair pipedreams were full of rank deceptions, malicious distortions, wild exaggerations and patent naked lies. For example bush proclaiming he “knows Palestinians fairly well” is a pathetic joke. Bush did absolutely NOTHING for eight years to help Palestinians and I know of no instance where bush visited Palestine or spoke with any Palestinian outside of the puppets in the Abbas regime, (whom the Palestinians reject) and who were put in power by the warmongers, profiteers and pathological liars in the bushgov.
    I feel your pain Joe M. It is understandable that you hold such disdain and justifiable cynicism for American leadership and America’s blanket condoning the aparthied practices and policies of Israel against Palestine up to this moment. Ours is a onesided history.
    While I personally think you are being unfair to both Mr Clemons and President Obama, – I empathize with your anger and frustration.
    If I can offer any hope, it is to let this new American government and this new American President have an opportunity to work toward the changes you seek. Know these changes will not be swift or total. America is like an a giant ship, it cannot stop on a dime, or change course rapidly, but must plan ahead and take slow and measured actions to effect any new direction, – but there is a tectonic shift in Washington and America. and Obama is promising to alter the dynamics in the region. Be open to allowing the Obama administration the opportunity to gradually but purposefully change directions and the dynamics in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and through-out the region. This horrorshow is only one of many monsterous crisis facing the Obama administration. Navigating these crisis will require wise, intelligent, and methodical planning and purpose. In my personal opinion, this interview and the message conveyed is the first of many steps the Obama administration has taken in the right direction.

    Reply

  26. DonS says:

    We’re all learning.
    Yes, Obama has reached out, but in a fairly conservative way, as JoeM passionately notes.
    And Mitchell is not making contact with Hamas, a mistake according to Don Bacon, amounting to a snub.
    Steve reminds us that signals are important and that Obama is sending signals. Else, why would he leap into this malestrom so quickly.
    My very uninformed view: if Obama has seemingly decided to spend politcal capital in the direction of the ME — thereby alientating and confirming the worst fears about him domestically by the MSM and their followers — why not go the whole hog? After all, it’s just as ‘bad’ for Obama to be interviewed on Al Arabiya as Al Jazeera in domestic MSM view, so why not go for a more meaningful impression in the Musli world?
    As to results, I think JoeM is right, due to the way Israel has been able to play the US like a violin, increasingly so in the last 8 years, there will have to be some reality moments that Israel will not like but that indicate Obama is dead serious about results not just rhetoric. If he is.
    Confidence building. One tiny brick at a time.

    Reply

  27. Anonymous says:

    This was an excellent post Steve.

    Reply

  28. Don Bacon says:

    George W. Bush had several interviews by Al Arabiya also. Here’s a portion of one.
    Well, part of the plan is for people to see a better life. And the other part of the plan is for there to be a clearly defined state so it’s no longer just a two-state solution; it’s “here’s what the borders will look like, here’s how we’re going to deal with the refugees, here’s how we’re going to deal with the different, complicated issues,” so people could actually see and analyze, do I want this, or do I want what’s happening in Gaza, for example? And given that choice, I’m confident, having met a lot of Palestinians and know the Palestinians fairly well, about how people just want peace. They want their children to grow up in peace and they want to be able to make a living.
    Interview of President Bush by Al Arabiya TV
    5/12/2008
    So is this a “new game,” or the same old game?

    Reply

  29. Joe M. says:

    I just want to point out, there are many type-os in what i just wrote, but the most obvious is in the past paragraph. i said:
    “Lastly, let me tell you this as a Palestinian who has a state in this fight (not as some commentator who spouts empty words about other people’s rights and freedoms).”
    I meant to say “stake”, not “state”. though that was probably obvious enough.

    Reply

  30. Joe M. says:

    Steve,
    You are very wrong.
    There might be some barely recognizable difference in the nature of the conflict by the end of Obama’s time as president, you are sadly mistaken to think that this interview means anything, or that things will dramatically change.
    This interview was superficial mumbo-jumbo. Meaningless nonsense. Do you think we Arabs are so stupid and empty headed to believe that Obama is going to make a difference to us? He had plenty of opportunity to make a difference during the war, and he did nothing to stop the violence. Actually, he did more than nothing, his silence empowered Israel to slaughter more and more people.
    Maybe you are so obsessed with the glitz and glamor or your Washington life, such that you don’t realize that this conflict is one that happens on the ground. Bush made endless speeched. Condi traveled to the Arab world approximately one million times. They had hours and hours and hours of negotiations. NOTHING WAS ACCOMPLISHED!!!! NOT ONE DAMN THING!!
    So we Arabs are far beyond believing that some stupid diplomatic trick of going on an Arabic TV show has meaning. Especially when Obama expresses his zionism clearly during the interview. it matters to you, but it does not matter in the real world.
    I will consider Obama as having potential to make peace when i see sanctions on Israel, deny military aid to Israel, when I see him condemning Zionism, when the USA supports international tribunals to try Israel war criminals…. Until then, he is just part and parcel to the occupation.
    Not with some asinine speech to a right-wing, Bushist, fanatic Arab “journalist”.
    Lastly, let me tell you this as a Palestinian who has a state in this fight (not as some commentator who spouts empty words about other people’s rights and freedoms). THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION IS FINISHED, THERE WILL BE NO TWO-STATE SOLUTION. IT IS OVER, DONE, GONE! FOR THOSE WHO WANT PEACE, THERE IS ONLY A ONE-STATE SOLUTION NOW. OTHERWISE, THERE IS WAR. AND EVENTUALLY THE JEWS WILL BE FORCED BACK TO EUROPE… That is simple fact. and no voice from the “peace industry” can change that. it was Israel’s decision, and they will be forced to live with it.

    Reply

  31. Ian Fried says:

    Steve:
    I completely agree with your assessment. Symbolism, as you know well, is incredibly important in the Middle East and the timing of the interview was part of the message. I also think Obama was pitch perfect.
    Are there any good sites to track the Arab response to the interview. Mark Lynch has done some but I am hoping for more.

    Reply

  32. Lurker says:

    Steve,
    I think that the Obama administration is reading this blog. This
    kind of move, while obviously something Obama and his team
    wanted to do, is straight out of the Clemons – Scowcroft –
    Brzezinski playbook. They are reading. I know it.

    Reply

  33. Jess says:

    I think the decision to be interviewed was a great move. There is something to be said for an American president who has a good rapport with other countries. There is debate though about whether Obama will be like Bush in regards to the Middle East. I saw a video today that raised that question:

    Reply

  34. Greg P says:

    I’m very favorably impressed with Obama thus far — this interview, which struck exactly the right tone, and the symbolic gesture of making phone calls to heads of government in the region on his first full day in office, signaling that he is willing to engage the prestige of the presidency in this effort. And getting George Mitchell on the ground in the region before the end of his first full week in office.
    I’d been a bit concerned that the dire economic situation would leave Obama without time to engage — but this White House can clearly walk and chew gum simultaneously…

    Reply

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *