Obama Seeks a Course of Pragmatism in the Middle East

(New York Times) Mark Landler and Helene Cooper - With the spread of antigovernment protests from North Africa to the Persian Gulf, President Obama has adopted a policy of restraint. He has concluded that his administration must shape its response country by country, aides say, recognizing that American national security interests weigh as heavily as idealistic impulses. That explains why he has dialed down the vocal support he gave demonstrators in Cairo to a more modulated call for peaceful protest and respect for universal rights. Obama has thrown his weight behind attempts by the royal family of Bahrain, the home of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, to survive, although protesters say their demands have not been met. He has said little about political grievances in Saudi Arabia, a major oil supplier, where there were reports on Thursday of a violent dispersal of Shiite protesters. And he has limited White House critiques of Yemen, where the government is helping the U.S. root out a terrorist threat, even after that government opened fire on demonstrators. The more cautious approach contrasts sharply with Obama's response in North Africa, where he abandoned a 30-year alliance with Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and has demanded the resignation of Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Obama is balancing his idealistic instincts against his reluctance to use military action in Libya, where the U.S. does not have a vital strategic interest.

2011-03-11 00:00:00

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