President Obama’s first half year in office was singularly focused on reviving America’s desultory standing in the Muslim world. Last week marked the first anniversary of Obama’s Cairo speech—his widely heralded address “to the Muslim world”—which was intended as the culmination of a series of important steps. These included:
–Obama’s appointment of George Mitchell—an Arab-American who was viewed with trepidation by the traditional pro-Israel community—as his Middle East peace envoy;
–Obama’s rhetorical outreach to the Islamic Republic of Iran (in his inaugural address, his first television interview as president (with Al-Arabiyya) and his March 2009 Nowruz video message; and
–Obama’s initial cultivation of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Islamist government, reflected in his April 2009 visit to Istanbul and his high-profile address to Turkey’s parliament, the Grand National Assembly.
These steps, reinforced by the Cairo speech, raised expectations about the course of U.S. policy on a range of issues that matter to the Muslim world. But, less than a week after Obama delivered his Cairo speech, his vaunted outreach to the Muslim world began to unravel. The Islamic Republic’s presidential election on June 12, 2009 threw Obama’s Iran policy not just into conceptual confusion—it was already there, as we pointed out in our May 24, 2009 Op Ed in The New York Times—but into deep political… >>>