Live blog of Obama’s Middle East address
May 19th, 2011
11:21 AM ET
4 years ago

Live blog of Obama’s Middle East address

Washington (CNN) - In the wake of the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East and North Africa, President Barack Obama will pledge U.S. economic assistance to Egypt and Tunisia on Thursday in a speech highlighting his administration's revised policies toward the changing region.

1:23 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: It was an important speech. Pivotal? I'm afraid not. Arab/Muslim world will wait and watch - for what actions the U.S. takes.

1:15 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: Several have pointed out Obama said vote for a Palestinian state was "symbolic" and wouldn't create a state. But its a legal move.

1:11 p.m. ET - @arwacnn: #syria activists tell me not happy w/#obama speech, wanted 2 hear him say #assad has lost legitimacy 2 lead & step down #CNNTV #MEspeech

1:12 p.m. ET – Obama has arrived back at the White House following his speech at the State Department.

1:10 p.m. ET - @bencnn: As Obama's #mespeech came to an end some trigger-happy blokes opened up with machine guns outside hotel in Benghazi.

1:09 p.m. ET @clancycnn: The speech was broad but pretty comprehensive. Obama's challenge will be walking the walk - we know he's got the talking part down pat.

1:08 p.m. ET - @KMFlower: Palestinians are not going to have heard much at all in that speech that will change their current political trajectory #cnntv #mespeech

1:05 p.m. ET
@clancycnn: There was no mention of Saudi Arabia, perhaps telling of the tensions with Washington right now. But he was clear on Bahrain.

1:05 p.m. ET @bencnn: As Obama #mespeech finishes, some trigger happy blokes open fire outside hotel in Benghazi

1:04 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: Obama admitted the obvious: The U-S didn't lead this change, it was spearheaded by the people of Tunisia Egypt Libya Syria Bahrain Yemn

1:02 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: The tone of the speech may be welcome, but there was no specific "follow through" of action - what people could really expect of Washington

1:01 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: This speech analyzed the Arab Spring and tried to refocus his own view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

1:00 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama finishes speech. It was long on enthusiasm and heartfelt support for the change sweeping the Arab and Muslim world.

12:57 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: Aaron David Miller notes Obama border comments "a day before a meeting w/the Israeli Prime Minister will be viewed in negative terms"

12:56 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: #Obama Majority of Israelis and Palestinians would rather look to the future than be trapped in the past...

12:55 p.m. ET – Obama: "Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognize your right to exist. In the weeks and months to come, Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question. Meanwhile, the United States, our Quartet partners, and the Arab states will need to continue every effort to get beyond the current impasse."

12:57 p.m. ET
- @eliselabottcnn: Obama makes bold statements on Israeli-Palestinian conflict but doesn't say he is sending Clinton to region to advance them #MESpeech

12:55 p.m. ET - @arwaCNN: #syria activist says "if #assad steps down wont be bc of #obama, will be bc of us. we have paid a price like no other." #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:53 p.m. ET
@arwacnn: #syria activist rxn 2 #obama comments "I have no idea what he (obama) is waiting for? #Assad 2 kill us all" #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:52 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: But Miller notes President Obama stays away from Jerusalem & refugees - was a bone to Israel & means Palestinians don't get all they want

12:51 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Aaron David Miler, former peace negotiator, notes Obama tying '67 borders to "mutually agreed swaps" gives Palestinians some takeaway

12:51 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Significance of Obama on Israel, according to Aaron David Miller, "it goes farther than any other president has gone in a formal address"

12:51 p.m. ET
- Obama: "Ultimately, it is up to Israelis and Palestinians to take action. No peace can be imposed upon them, nor can endless delay make the problem go away. But what America and the international community can do is state frankly what everyone knows: a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples. Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people; each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."



12:48 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: #Obama We've tried, expectations unmet. Settlements continue, Palestinians walked away. Stalemate.

12:47 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama Decades of Arab-Israeli conflict have cast a shadow over the region. Palestinians have never lived in a nation of their own.

12:47 p.m. ET @eliselabottcnn: Something for everyone in #MESpeech

12:46 p.m. ET
@arwaCNN: #Syria state tv broadcasting #obama speech. Will be interesting 2 hear their analysis/comments #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:45 p.m. ET
@clancycnn: #Obama We do not want a democratic Egypt to be saddled with debt - will write off $1 Billion - offer another $1 Billion in credits.

12:44 p.m. ET - @HalaGorani: Will Obama mention #Saudi? RT @Ibishblog @HalaGorani No chance.

12:43 p.m. ET
@clancycnn: #Obama America's support will include G8 plan to help Tunisia and Egypt recover from economic upheaval.

12:43 p.m. ET
– Obama: "The goal must be a model in which protectionism gives way to openness; the reigns of commerce pass from the few to the many, and the economy generates jobs for the young."

12:40 p.m. ET
- Obama: "America will work to see that this spirit prevails – that all faiths are respected, and that bridges are built among them ... What is true for religious minorities is also true when it comes to the rights of women."

"For the region will never reach its potential when more than half its population is prevented from achieving their potential," Obama said.

12:39 p.m. ET - Obama: "What we will oppose is an attempt by any group to restrict the rights of others, and to hold power through coercion – not consent. Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities."

12:38 p.m. ET - @HalaGorani: But also praised #Bahrain govt and said Iran trying to take advantage of situation. #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:37 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Applause for Obama criticism on regime in #Bahrain.Also says President Saleh in Yemen must make good on committment for transition #MESpeech

12:36 p.m. ET
@HalaGorani: Obama mentions "friend" Bahrain, critical of mass arrests and brute force. #MEspeech #CNNTV

12:36 p.m. ET - @JamjoomCNN: President Obama: "In Sana'a, we heard the students who chanted, the night must come to an end." #yemen #yf

12:36 p.m. ET
– Obama: "Our message is simple: if you take the risks that reform entails, you will have the full support of the United States."


12:34 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: Obama will say: "The borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps" ...

12:33 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama First protests were in streets of Tehran. We will continue to insist the Iranian people deserve their universal human rights.

12:32 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama Libyan leader will leave or be forced from power...Syria trying to hold power by shooting demonstrators, Assad must start dialogue

12:31 p.m. ET
- @edhenrycnn: Obama on Libya: "Had we not acted ... thousands would have been killed." Gadhafi "doesn't have control over his country" now #MESpeech

12:31 p.m. ET
- @eliselabottcnn: Obama:US supports political transition in the region, not just Tunisia and Egypt but in places where transition hasn't taken place #MESpeech

12:30 p.m. ET @edhenrycnn: Now President turns to Libya, taking aim at Gadhafi for vowing he would hunt down his own people "like rats" #MESpeech #CNNTV

12:29 p.m. ET
@eliselabottcnn: policy of US to promote reform and transitions to democracy across the regio- begins in Egypt and Tunisian where the stakes are high

12:28 p.m. ET
- @eliselabottcnn: Obama: .chance to show American values the dignity of the street vendor in #Tunisia more than the raw power of the dictator

12:27 p.m. ET @arwaCNN: Lebanese man told us wld love 2 hear #obama speak about & see US apply same level of compassion towards Arabs as Israel #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:26 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Obama: failure to change our approach threatens a deepending spiral of suspicion between America and Arab world. #MESpeech

12:24 p.m. ET – Obama says "calls for change may give way to fierce contest for power," leaving the U.S. to question what role it will play as the "story unfolds." Says America has a stake in "in the self determination of individuals."


12:23 p.m. ET - @bencnn: President Obama forgot to mention #Bahrain in that list of countries where people are crying out for freedom. #MEspeech

12:21 p.m. ET - Obama says Arab Spring "tells us change cannot be denied."

12:20 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Why hasn't WH put out a pre-game text of the entire speech? Is there a surprise?


12:18 p.m. ET
- Obama compares young man who set himself ablaze in Tunisia to the Boston Tea Party and Rosa Parks.

12:17 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: #Obama: OBL Concentrated on destroying, not on building. His movement was already seen as a "dead end" in Middle East.

12:16 p.m. ET - Obama: "We've dealt al Qaeda a huge blow by killing its leader Osama bin laden," who he called a "mass murderer."


12:16 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: Obama: Square by square, town by town, country by country, people have steped up to demand their basic rights #MESpeech

12:15 p.m. ET – Obama: "We know that our own future is bound to this region by the forces of economics and security, by history and by faith."

12:14 p.m. ET
- Obama takes the stage, jokes that Secretary Clinton has traveled so much she is approaching one million frequent flyer miles.

12:13 p.m ET - @clancycnn: Clinton: Tunisians and others across the Middle East have given the world inspiration to claim their universal rights....

12:12 p.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: WH aides saying last-minute edits to blame for President being late #MESpeech

12:11 p.m. ET
- @clancycnn: Hillary Clinton introduces #Obama - hints at leading in "new and innovative ways..."

12:10 p.m. ET - Secretary Clinton, introducing the president stresses the importance of American leadership around the world.

12:08 p.m. ET @clancycnn: One thing to keep in mind, Arab rulers like King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia are MOST UNHAPPY with U.S. treatment of Mubarak.

12:07 p.m. ET - @clancycnn: Still waiting for Obama. I wonder, if he can't push Israel-Pal peace process, will he vote 'No' at the U-N to a Palestinian State?

12:03 p.m. ET
- @arwaCNN: ahead of #obama speech #syria activist says only hope is in own people #CNNTV #MEspeech

12:02 p.m. ET - @eliselabottcnn: State Dept audience for POTUS speech filled w/ Arab ambassadors whose countries suffered, are in the throws of, or about to have revolutions

12:01 p.m. ET – Obama has arrived at State.

11:58 a.m. ET - The presidential motorcade just departed the White House en route to the State Department.

11:56 a.m. ET
@bencnn: I watched US Mideast policy go into a tailspin during the #Egypt revolution. It appears to still be in tailspin cycle. #mespeech

11:53 a.m. ET
- @KMFlower: Differing accounts from on whether Obama will make news on Israel – Palestinian conflict – where are those excerpts?

11:48 a.m. ET
- @bencnn: Whatever pundits say, Obama's #mespeech underscores US confusion about what to do in a region it's been deeply involved in for decades.

11:42 a.m. ET - Speech was scheduled to begin at 11:40 a.m. President is still at the White House (but it's a short drive to State).

11:30 a.m. ET - @edhenrycnn: Aides are tight-lipped but soundingto me the President will NOT callfor pre-1967 borders for Israel.

11:29 a.m. ET - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will introduce the president before his address at the State Department.

11:18 a.m. ET @KMFlower: Not expecting reaction from Netanyahu tdy on #MEspeech unless Obama makes surprise reference to 67' border as basis for future talks #cnntv

11:16 a.m. ET – Included in the audience are Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, former Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, as well as ambassadors from Libya, UAE, Algeria, Yemen, Oman, Saudi, Arabia, Lebanon, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey.

11:15 a.m. ET - @natlsecuritycnn: Brookings Shadi Hamid: Obama should apologize in his speech today. http://bit.ly/itw82W

11:12 a.m. ET
@KMFlower: Israel PM Netanyahu will be leaving for DC a couple of hours after Obama #MEspeech #cnntv

11:04 a.m. ET - @bencnn: There were great expectations in Cairo after Obama's 2009 speech. So much since then has changed expect, perhaps, the cliches. #mespeechm.


Filed under: Middle East • President Obama
soundoff (127 Responses)
  1. independent

    I would like to see the President step out of the box. Something bold, something regionally encompassing, something positive and uplifting for those aspiring for a brighter future in the region (inhabitants and internationalists), something that will include massive investments from the Gulf Oil states, something that could include Iran, but will exclude it if it doesn't get on the democratic/transparency bandwagon, and something that doesn't abandone Israel but also show non-Israels that the other aspirantsin the region are just as important, and that Turkey is just important as Israel. Is that too much? This is doable, if you step out of the box.

    May 19, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. independent

    abandon Israel but also show non-Israelis (sorry – no editing feature)

    May 19, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. Harold Trainer, USAF RET

    WE need out of Iraq, Afghanistan, Middle East and let them settle the matter themselves. No more money to any of them. Give the money to the many who need it here at home. We are in debt, remember? And, they want the poor and most vulnerable to pay for the debt. Not the Americans who cheered the wars but contributed nothing to them, money or men or women.

    May 19, 2011 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  4. Matthew

    If Obama tries to introduce Sharia Law to the US because of other countries doing it, I may have to consider moving. :/

    May 19, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  5. Mom

    We need to take care of our country before we go pledging anything to anyone else.

    May 19, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. Jim Christian

    Obama has been moving further and further into the pro-Islamic camp. Israel is our ally.. for so many reasons.. but, now this president is trying to marginalize them, betray them and give them into the hands of those who wish to holocaust them. If you get my point...

    May 19, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  7. idb

    How about economic assistance to the US?

    May 19, 2011 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  8. Chris

    Good luck with that. The problem is for anything like that to work people have to think rationally and you know that isn't going to happen in the middle east. No matter what he says both sides will find something wrong with it anyway.

    May 19, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  9. Thinker23

    Now... if only you've told us WHAT would these "out of the box" statements say... Then we would have something to talk about.

    May 19, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  10. George From Damascus

    The speech will exactly state:
    1- Don't bother Israel too much.
    2- Keep your oil pumps wide-open.
    3- We are supporting dictators all around the middle east if they are aligned with our national interests.
    The speech will not say what the Arabs want to hear:
    1- We are getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan this year.
    2- We will not offer unconditional support to israel anymore.

    May 19, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  11. indedpendent

    We have to go back to the 67 borders. The Jewish settlements are illegal. Israel has no right other than they have the weapons to do it and the world still feels guilty for the Holocaust. The Palestianians deserve a home under their own rule.

    May 19, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. hih

    I am so glad he has a vsion for the M.E...just why he was elected

    May 19, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  13. Jay

    Does that limo he's riding in have wings?

    May 19, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  14. Vern

    Its obvious the President is trying to get a hold of a situation that was created by our own policy. We condone Middle East behavior by giving billions in aid, killing indiscriminately through the means of war, and funneling money to Israel through the Federal Reserve, US Treasury, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan. This is the Law Of Casualty working. There is nothing the President will be able to say or do stop the inevitable. The "cause" of our demise is in "effect", right now.

    May 19, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  15. Jason in Sacramento

    As an American and an Obama supporter, I don't believe it's his place to provide a vision of the arab nations post-revolution. Something that I've consistently heard in interviews with the arabs is that it's their time, their event... they are breaking the shackles and shaping their own governments, and they don't want the US or any outside nation involved. Our place as American's is to be on the sidelines, watching the events unfold.

    May 19, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  16. ConservaFASCISTS

    The state of Israel should NOT exist!!! I know that's impossible when it's on the back of our $1 bill. There should be no peace deal between Palestine and Israel. WW2 is over and the jews should go back to Poland where they came from. Israel is not your land!!!

    May 19, 2011 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  17. DeAguaDulce

    Sixty percent of historical Palestine is in Jordan. The 1947 plan was to give the Arabs Transjordan and the Jews the rest (Israel). Jordan renegged on the deal. Tell them to honor their word before you take one scrap of land from Israel!

    May 19, 2011 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  18. teddy

    Abandon the only friend and democracy. Keep sucking up to those who hate us and our values.

    May 19, 2011 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  19. Barry Osama

    You know, one big difference between Bush and Obama is that for press conferences and such Bush was always on time. Obama is ALWAYS late. This whole fashionably late nonsense is typical of a Celebrity-in-Chief.

    In regards to Israel what's Obama going to say that new in regards to his position? He's going to request Israel make far more concessions than they should and encourage them to negotiate with a terrorist organization. On Israel Obama has far more in common with Ahmadinejad than Shimon Peres. He talks a big game in regards for the United States support of Israel but deep down with his underhanded comments he hates Israel.

    May 19, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  20. Dave

    It's interesting and sad to see how many so-called liberals enmity toward Israel. Israel should continue to be supported. Enough with the anti-Semitic "go home" nonsense.

    May 19, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  21. Joe

    The Obama/US position for The Middle East is to denounce any illegal activities carried out by Israel on TV but to Veto any UN action against them!

    May 19, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  22. Rockpyle

    You know, one big difference between Bush and Obama is that for press conferences and such Bush was always on time. Obama is ALWAYS late.

    In regards to Israel what's Obama going to say that new in regards to his position? He's going to request Israel make far more concessions than they should and encourage them to negotiate with a terrorist organization. On Israel Obama has far more in common with Ahmadinejad than Shimon Peres. He talks a big game in regards for the United States support of Israel but deep down with his underhanded comments he hates Israel.

    May 19, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  23. Big ATX

    Stop supporting Israel!

    May 19, 2011 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  24. Hyram Tyre

    I want to hear his best rapture, can his words and actions sway the hearts of many to complete his promise? We need a silent invasion that promotes expansion of our country, as well as emphasize our principle on freedom and democracy throughout the world. We need to take over Egypt, but in a way that the Egyptians are swayed into think it's still their country, when really America owns much of the world except China. Egypt is the key if America wants to take over Europe and the Middle East.

    May 19, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  25. holland

    i'm confused, the us is trillions of dollars in debt, but at the same time we have $2,000,000,000 to give/invest in the Arabs? They need jobs? economic help? What about us? What about american jobs? American help? Unbelievable, Drill the &#@ oil under the rocky mountains, the Bakken Shale, Texas – Spraberry, thats what all this is about, oil! We have enough oil to match our demand for over 2,000 years right here in the good ole us.

    May 19, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
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