Middle East

Obama speech: Mid-East reaction

US President Barack Obama says the US has opened a "new chapter" in diplomacy after the Arab Spring uprisings.

In a speech at the state department, Mr Obama said the future of the US was bound to the Middle East by forces of economics, security, history and fate. People in countries across the Middle East have been giving the BBC their reactions to his speech.

Abu, Duma, Syria

I thought it a bit disappointing that Obama didn't give much attention to Syria.

President Assad
Bashar al-Assad has been Syria's president for 11 years

It's probably because there is no better alternative to President Bashar al-Assad, from the US and Israeli point of view. No-one can protect Israel better than he is doing: he's always talking about peace and the Syrian-Israeli border never has any problems. He has always protected this border while doing proxy wars through Lebanon, while the people of the revolution are shouting: we want to free Golan.

I was expecting Obama to ask Assad to leave, as he did with Gaddafi and Mubarak. I think the US wants him to stay actually, and all this pressure is just shy and fake, compared to what happened to Mubarak and others.

It means that people will lose trust in the west and specially the US. But Assad is killing all those people and still the West is not giving it real attention.

Mohammed, Tobruk, Libya

President Obama had to make this speech now; he couldn't delay it any longer. I stayed in at home and watched it on television.

He seems to understand what was happening with the regime here and he knows we are facing a challenge.

Nato airstrike on pro-Gaddafi ships
Nato is taking "decisive action" against Gaddafi forces.

I liked his language and the way in which he turned a challenge into a "opportunity".

The people here are looking for political and economic reform for Libya. He seems to want the same and knows that we still have a long struggle ahead.

The fact that he highlighted Benghazi shows that he understands the situation. It was an optimistic speech and one that will motivate my fellow Libyans.

What we need now is help to make sure we get the technology we need to sustain ourselves. The dictator has been using it all for himself, when in fact, it is for everybody. This is America's chance to truly help us.

Sayed, Manama, Bahrain

I think Obama was soft on his allies like Yemen and Bahrain. However, he was harsh on Libya and Syria.

Protesters in Bahrain
Protesters in Pearl round about in Manama, Bahrain, in February

When he was talking about Bahrain he mentioned Iran's interference, however he did not mention that Bahrain should stop the violence on its own people.

Obama does not accept using force on peaceful protesters in Libya and Syria however he talked about enforcing the law, using force of course, in Bahrain.

When Obama talked about Israel and Palestine I could clearly see that the US does not treat all countries equally.

What he said was generally well received - but actions are more important than words.

Kais, Tunisia

Obama's speech reminded me of his Cairo speech some time ago, when he signalled a change in US policy. That speech was welcomed as a change of attitude from the Bush era.

This speech sends the same message to this part of the world, and will most probably provoke the same reaction amongst the "ordinary people" Obama so often referred to.

Protesters in Tunis burn a photo of former President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. in January 2011
Protesters in Tunis burn a photo of former President Ben Ali in January

It's a welcomed but not very credible message. After all, his speech only announced some minor changes in the way the US will lead its foreign affairs; it will keep on safeguarding American interests, but has now "officially" stopped opposing political reform.

Nevertheless, Tunisia and Egypt will appreciate the much needed help from the US - the prospect of doing business with a major power can be a powerful incentive for local and regional entrepreneurs.

His promises of concrete economical help and political backing will improve US relations with the Arab world, especially Tunisia and Egypt. They may even give rise to broader and deeper political reform throughout the Middle East.

I still believe it will need much more than a few democracy-praising speeches and one or two billion dollars. Most people I've talked to still hope the US will take a firmer position against some governments and their leaders, and especially against Israel in the everlasting conflict.

Zakaria, Cairo, Egypt

The best way for me to describe Obama's speech is that it wavered between very positive, positive, neutral and vague. Obama's reiteration of the US commitment to democracy is not surprising, but his affirmation that the people's hopes and aspirations is in alignment with US interests was well received.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down this year

Obama also touched on some very real problems faced by people in the Middle East and gave real life examples. It was nice to hear a truthful and comprehensive account of the situation in the Middle East, not just empty rhetoric about democracy and the war on terror.

The promises he made in terms of promoting free speech, democracy and civil society are welcomed but I wonder how they will be put into action. I also wonder how the protection of minorities or the promotion of human rights - especially women's rights - will be encouraged.

It was a very positive move to offer Egypt financial support. There is obviously a plan involved, even if I disagree with some aspects of the plan such as extensive involvement of the world bank and the IMF. His position on parts of the Middle East were neutral - he only briefly mentions Bahrain. I believe his comments about women's rights were directed for the most part at Saudi Arabia.

As the speech reached the Israeli Palestinian issue I thought Obama was rearing to deliver a bite to Israel that never came. It was the most perhaps any US president can deliver to Israel and will definitely not be accepted lightly by Israel or their supporters in the US. Many in the Arab world will not fully appreciate the difficulty nor the significance of what he said in regards to a pre-1967 borders Palestinian state.

I thank Obama for the promised financial aid and his admittance of the very narrow role previous governments in the US have played in the Middle East.

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