1/24/09

Marc Lynch on the effects of Obama's inaugural address:

Obama's inauguration dominated the front pages of Arab newspapers, editorials ranged from effusive to cautiously welcoming. Tellingly, many of the papers (including the Saudi pan-Arab paper al-Hayat) led with his promise to begin responsibly withdrawing from Iraq -- clearly words that the Arab observers were keenly looking to hear. Al-Jazeera reported that 38 Islamic figures (including Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Rashed Ghannouchi, and other prominent personalities) offered an immediate response to his invitation to a new way of interaction between the U.S. and the Islamic world. Even al-Quds al-Arabi, a newspaper staunchly opposed to U.S. foreign policy, allowed that Obama's inauguration demonstrates that for all of America's flaws and hypocrisies, democracy remains the best form of government.

Deeds must follow the words, for any of this to matter -- skepticism is high and resentments running hot over Gaza. During the seemingly endless period of "one president at a time," Arab observers pounced on every piece of evidence no matter how slim to prove that nothing would really change. It will take some real effort to begin to demonstrate the credibility and sincerity of this new way forward. But this is a good start.

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