Obama Delivers Solid Speech on Middle East, Must Be Reinforced By Action | Freedom House

Obama Delivers Solid Speech on Middle East, Must Be Reinforced By Action

Washington

Freedom House commends President Obama on his speech concerning political upheaval in the Middle East and U.S. policy toward the region, delivered today at the State Department.  In his address, the President detailed a forceful agenda based on longstanding American values and interests, articulated a solid set of principles to guide US policy, and emphatically aligned the United States with the vast majority of people throughout the Middle East who are striving for basic freedoms. 
 
“We applaud the President’s commitment to supporting democracy across the region, and his pledge to support these principles as a ‘top priority’ with all the diplomatic, economic and strategic tools the United States can bring to bear,” said David J. Kramer, executive director at Freedom House.  “It was a first-rate speech that was long in coming but worth the wait.  I also wish he and his Administration would realize that Syrian President al-Assad needs to go.”
 
While the President highlighted the Syrian regime’s brutality and repression, he failed to call for Bashar al-Assad’s ouster, a call which was made by Freedom House in April. He instead demanded that al-Assad “lead that transition or get out of the way.”  Additionally, while the President rightly criticized the “mass arrests and brute force” used against the opposition by the government of Bahrain, he did not make clear what steps he believed the Bahraini government should take to meet the legitimate demands of its citizens, beyond calling for the government to release prisoners and begin a dialogue with the protesters.
 
“The President delivered an effective speech largely designed to reshape the debate within the Middle East on US support for democracy, and in this we believe he has succeeded,” said Charles Dunne, senior program manager for MENA at Freedom House.  “While the President articulated four specific economic initiatives to support democratic transitions in the region, there were no similar specifics on what United States is prepared to do to support the advancement of democracy.  Translating his compelling vision into political and diplomatic reality is critically important.”
 
Freedom House recommends that the Obama Administration:
  • Elevate US support for democracy to a top priority in bilateral US relations with countries of the region.  The United States should offer political and, if necessary, economic support for those who move ahead on democratic reform; at the same time, it should impose real consequences for those who do not.
  • Work with Congress to expand the funds available to support democracy and governance initiatives, as well as the economic programs the President outlined.  Shifting funds from one account to another within the current budgets of federal departments is not enough to support the vital national interest of defending and sustaining democratic transitions in the Middle East.
  • Ensure that the Administration’s foreign policy bureaucracy, which has traditionally been reluctant to support reform and democracy in the region, is fully on board with the President’s vision and has the personnel and resources to carry it out effectively.
The MENA region has consistently been rated as one of the least free regions by Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual global assessment of political rights and civil liberties.
 
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.  
 
Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhousedc) and stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our RSS feeds.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.

Join us on Facebook and Twitter (freedomhouse). Stay up to date with Freedom House’s latest news and events by signing up for our newsletter.