President Obama Shout Out to the Muslim World
Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, my home state, should have been as gratified as I was yesterday when President Barak Obama issued his inaugural call to the Muslim world and pledged “a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect.” Senator Specter had told Congressional colleagues last spring that a good bit of recent U.S. foreign policy toward the Muslim world and elsewhere had been “insulting” and “earned us the title of ‘the ugly American.’” The Obama administration’s change in tone should be a change that Republicans as well as Democrats can believe in.
Senator Specter favors U.S. talks with Iran without preconditions. President Obama has promised such talks. President Obama’s shout out to the Muslim world picked up Iran’s favorite word in talking about the change it wants from the U.S., “respect.” Iranians will have gotten the message that the President’s remarks were directed to them, as well as to others. The president’s challenge to Muslim leaders that “your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy,” will also have resonated in Iran, where the sad state of the Iranian economy will be a key issue in the presidential elections that will take place this June. Dissatisfaction with the economy may help the moderates in Iran. A softer U.S. tone may help the moderates, too.
The U.S. and Iran have many common interests: in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Administration initiative and bipartisan support in Congress for pursuing them, with respect, will be needed. The inaugural address was a good start.