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. JJ

    This was the most pointless speech. What about all those CEOS and corporate globalists who reign terror on the American people. That should be the wars we are in. American people can not make money without having a percent bond enslaving them to the federal reserve and percentage rates. Even the American government can not make money without making debt.

    May 19, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  2. Paulie

    You guys have got to understand we arent leaving the middle east. If we leave the war our economy will suffer and Obama will look very bad for sending the USA into abject poverty. This is why he wants to give aid money to the middle east. So we have a well funded enemy in which to fight. Our prosperity and future as a country depends on the war and the jobs it creates. This is something few are ready to admit. Our victory over global jihad is the perpetual war with it that keeps the USA employed and keeps us from losing our jobs and homes. This will be our greatest victory. Permanent bases in these countries is sure to follow? Maybe what Obama is proposing isnt such a bad thing. Then again there probably is a better way but Obama seems to think that the middle east will listen to his vision and ideas and speeches. They wont. They arent going to go along without being forced to.

    May 19, 2011 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  3. Marbles

    So, the "wait and see"-policy of Obama continues... Fair enough. In the long run change in this region will be sturdier if it is created by domestic forces, rather than foreign intervention. This might mean we must wait another 20 years before a country like Syria or Iran moves to true democracy, but when this happens it will be built on solid ground, rather than sand.

    May 19, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. tony

    Looks like we just gave Egypt 2 billion

    May 19, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  5. adam

    Question: Where were all of these "America must only look after itself" people during the past several administrations when we stuck our noses in conflict after conflict? Why are you so suddenly takking affront to US policy?

    May 19, 2011 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. Lex Luthor

    Israel is the root of the problem. The arab world hates us becuase of this terrorist country.

    May 19, 2011 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  7. Paulie

    When will Obama learn you cant bribe an enemy to be your friend? It only makes for richer wealthier enemies.

    May 19, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  8. Name michel hanna

    we just hope that Mr Obama speech will be helpful in restoring peace in region, and not to cause more chaos and more blood shed

    May 19, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  9. Payman

    Too much support for Israel given.

    May 19, 2011 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. esteban gunolaz

    President Obama's speak was very powerful and straight to the point on important issues concerning the Liberty and freedom of people of the Middle Eastern Arab, Christian and Jewish people. Political reform, religious freedom, Democratic freedom, individual rights, the rights of the peaceful protesters, and financial stability were all the main topics President Obama addressed in the best way. To forge allies in parts of the World that are unstable is a wise and prudent move. The conflicts that the President Addressed were great and laid out a path all must take to move forward with Peace Talks was laid out. This is a chance for all sides to come to a political settlement with President Obama leading the way.

    May 19, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. JohnCBarclow

    Did those photos ever get leaked, or do they not exist?

    May 19, 2011 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. HAD ENOUGH? 9% unemployment, $4-5/gal gas, $1.7 TRILLION deficits, $14 TRILLION debt, Obamacare

    Because democracy depends not only on elections, but also strong and accountable institutions, and respect for the rights of minorities."
    ==================================================================================================
    Hey Obama! WAKE UP!! STOP DREAMING!!! This has never existed in arab countries in the region, ONLY ISRAEL. When have islamic states EVER protected other religious minorities, let alone the women in the arab countries. Looks like this is just another Obama bloviator speech which has nothing to do with reality of changing anything.

    May 19, 2011 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  13. jj

    arabs have all the oil and gas in the world !
    why do they need aid?
    they cant give us any Hi-tec solutions like israel dose !

    May 19, 2011 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. HAD ENOUGH? 9% unemployment, $4-5/gal gas, $1.7 TRILLION deficits, $14 TRILLION debt, Obamacare

    Looks like we just gave Egypt 2 billion
    ==============================
    Correction: Looks like Obama just borrowed 2 billion from China to give to Egypt that OUR great grandchildren will be repaying.

    And the spending madness go on and on and on....

    May 19, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  15. Eli

    Those calling Israel a terrorist country, a shame on you ! What is our guilty ? Is that out desire to live ?

    May 19, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. vic , nashville ,tn

    Good speech targeting future generation good job

    May 19, 2011 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  17. Leigh A

    How in the world can we write off $1 Billion in debt & give $1 Billion in credit!?!? We look like a joke... we can't even take care of our own country!!!!!!

    May 19, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. billy

    I thought the USA was broke,where is all this money to come from? We need to start caring for our own people first !

    May 19, 2011 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  19. kccitizen

    There you go again Obama. Giving away what we do not have. But hey, we can just tax the American people more in order to give away to America's enemies.

    May 19, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  20. creepella

    I am glad he thinks we still have money to give away! No country should be getting anything from us until we get our spending under control!

    May 19, 2011 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. mike

    America really needs to stop giving there money away and collect whats owed to country and start helping there own people who have been fucked over left and right. And also why would the president hire the same guys that started the ressesion ???? the us goverment needs to smarten up your already trillions of dollars in debt pretty soon the U.S is going to be bankrupt and the whole worl is going to pay the goverments stupidity. smarten up

    May 19, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  22. Deb

    Very disappointed in speech stating Israel should move back to 1967 borders. Would have liked to hear him praise Israel for it's relative restraint and for it's example of how to develop a modern nation. He should have announced a trip to Israel and if he ever did visit he will understand why the 1967 borders will not do at all! Someone on his staff really did not give him good information and advice. Even if he is trying to appear neutral, long ovelooked facts about this situation could have been pointed out. He made no mention of the thousands pouring over Israeli borders just the other day. How would the us have responded if the same thing happened here?

    May 19, 2011 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  23. Angry Taxpayer

    Where is all this money coming from? If we've got so much money to give away, then we don't need to pay such high taxes!

    May 19, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  24. mike

    give all those poeple who's house were lost there homes back stop helping others out you fuck your own citizens but help other countries before your own something is wrong here. Canada does the same thing if the countrys broke thats there problem let them figure it out

    May 19, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  25. Julian Assange

    How can Obama expect his talk about the Midle East be ANY important without a IMPOSING to Israel the URGENT need for a Palestinian state, INDEPENDENT and SOVEREIGN?
    This is JUST another Obama's photo op, USELESS!

    May 19, 2011 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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