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Posts Tagged ‘Washington Post’

Obama going to Turkey; speech site still unclear

March 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Turkey will be a stop on President Obama’s forthcoming European tour, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced in Ankara on Sunday. The Washington Post’s Scott Wilson has the story here.

Obama’s stop in Turkey… partly fulfills Obama’s pledge to engage the Muslim world in a substantive way within his first 100 days in office.

But Turkey will not the site of the major speech he promised in a Muslim country. Speculation has swirled on where that speech might be held since he made the promise, prior to the election. Some have guessed Indonesia, on the basis of his background there; others have suggested that he might like to make it closer to the Middle East. In any case, aides will apparently take longer to sharpen the speech for the time being:

As past administrations have found, Turkey is a useful partner because of its placement and politics:

As a non-Arab Muslim nation, Turkey is well-placed to serve as a key administration ally on those issues. Governed by a moderate Islamist party, Turkey has managed to accommodate religious and secular values in its democratic system, something other governments in the Arab Middle East have been unable to achieve with the same success.

The other interesting angle here, and one that the Post buries, is the symbolic importance of the American president visiting Turkey as part of a European tour. The nation’s EU bid remains stuck in limbo, stalled by EU requirements and staunch French opposition to Turkey joining the union. By making this visit now and not as part of a Middle Eastern or Central Asian tour, Obama is surely sending a message, consciously or not.

–David Graham, Trinity ’09 and Editor

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Pakistan Deals with the Taliban, Obama Remains Silent

February 19, 2009 Leave a comment

Three days ago the Pakistani government made headlines when it announced a deal that it would accept a system of Islamic law in the Swat valley and effectively concede the area to Taliban militants. While the Obama administration has remained silent on the issue, officials have admitted that it is a major setback for U.S. goals and an admission that the Pakistani government is incapable of defending the western part of the country from the encroaching Taliban.

While this accord seems to fly in the face of the Obama administration’s goals in the region, two days have passed and a Washington Post article reports that the accord seems to have stalled, perhaps due to pressure from the West.

The government’s position on the deal remained unclear, creating further anxiety. President Zardari, reportedly under pressure from the West, went a second day without signing the pact of making public the details of the law system.

Some local leaders in Swat accuse the national government of sabotaging their chance for peace with the Taliban in the valley. However, despite claims that the inhabitants want peace at any cost, there remains uncertainty as to whether the Taliban will abide by the accord.

In the Swat Valley, a second day of confusion and uncertainty about the pact passed Wednesday, with rising hopes and a jubilant peace march among the local population, followed by the brutal killing of a Pakistani TV journalist, Musa Khan Khel. He was apparently seized and shot by fighters while covering the peace march, despite a Taliban offer of a 10-day cease-fire while elements of the accord are implemented.

While Obama’s recent announcement that he will be sending an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan indicates the seriousness with which he is tackling the war, the situation in Pakistan is outside of the U.S. military’s domain. The U.S. has to rely on air strikes from drones and the Pakistani military but the recent accord made with the Taliban in the Swat valley seems to be a blatant attempt on behalf of the Pakistani government at appeasement, risking legitimizing the militants and complicating the U.S. mission in the region.

Delegations from Pakistan and Afghanistan will arrive next week in Washington for high-level talks, but between now and then, the remainder of the 10-day implementation period for the accord will elapse, making the next 7 days critical in shaping how the Obama administration will react.

–Ella Lipin, Trinity ’10