Thursday, December 4, 2008 5:14 PM
By: Jim Meyers
Barack Obama is considering making a major foreign policy speech in an Islamic capital during his first 100 days as president in an effort to mend rifts between the U.S. and the Muslim world.
Helene Cooper of The New York Times spoke to several sources, including diplomats, about which Islamic capital Obama might choose, and the consensus was Cairo, Egypt.
The reason: Process of elimination.
A speech in Baghdad would appear to validate the Iraq war, which Obama opposed. A visit to Damascus, the Syrian capital, “would look as if he was rewarding the Syrians and it’s too soon for that,” Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine, told Cooper.
Asali also ruled out:
Ramallah on the West Bank, noting that “Palestinians seek Jerusalem as their capital.”
Tehran in Iran. “Too soon for that.” Amman, Jordan. “Been there, done that.”
Islamabad, Pakistan. “Too dangerous.”
Ankara, Turkey. “Too safe.”
As for Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama spent part of his youth, “people would yawn about that,” said Asali.
One of Obama’s foreign policy advisers ruled out Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and other capitals around the Persian Gulf.
Cooper concluded: “It’s got to be Cairo. Egypt is perfect. It’s certainly Muslim enough, populous enough and relevant enough. It’s an American ally, but there are enough tensions in the relationship that the choice will feel bold.”
Whatever capital Obama might choose, press reports don’t explain why the new president feels it necessary to give a speech so early in his new administration.
During the presidential campaign Obama indicated U.S. foreign policy was too skewed in favor of Israel and that he would seek to balance that approach in his administration.
He was also dogged with claims that he was a secret Muslim, an accusation he denied.
In fact, Obama had been raised a Muslim and converted to Christianity after meeting the Rev. Jeremiah Wright in his 20s after he moved to Chicago.
Obama was born to a Kenyan father who was a Muslim. His mother divorced this man and later remarried an Indonesian muslim who became Obama’s stepfather.
The couple moved to Indonesia with the young Obama. There he was registered at two schools as a Muslim student.
Earlier this year, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs claimed: "Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian."
But in his autobiography, "Dreams From My Father," Obama mentions studying the Koran and describes the public school as "a Muslim school." Obama’s campaign web site later removed the claim made by Gibbs that Obama was never a Muslim.