Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Middle East election goes our way

The New York Times speculates that the favorable election outcome in Lebanon may be the first tangible benefit from President Obama's outreach to Muslims.
There were many domestic reasons voters handed an American-backed coalition a victory in Lebanese parliamentary elections on Sunday — but political analysts also attribute it in part to President Obama’s campaign of outreach to the Arab and Muslim world.

...It is hard to draw firm conclusions from one election. But for the first time in a long time, being aligned with the United States did not lead to defeat in the Middle East. And since Lebanon has always been a critical testing ground, that could mark a possibly significant shift in regional dynamics with another major election, in Iran, on Friday.

With Mr. Obama’s speech on relations with Muslims still fresh in Lebanese minds, analysts point to steps the administration has taken since assuming office.
Before anyone gets too excited, it's useful to recall that there have been previous "harbingers" of changing Middle East dynamics, such as Libya's dismantling of its nuclear program following the start of the Iraq war.

A bigger and vastly more important test of President Obama's approach will be the Iranian elections later this week. There are lots of internal reasons why the Iranian hard-liners should lose the election. President Obama's conciliatory, yet challenging speech last week may also deprive the hard-liners of an external rallying point.