Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1121, 8-14 November
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1121, 8-14 November

Ahram Weekly

‘The best is yet to come’

Barack Obama writes another chapter in US presidential history as he wins a second term in the White House. Ezzat Ibrahim joins the celebrating crowds in Chicago

Al-Ahram Weekly

Barack Obama defeated the Republican candidate Mitt Romney after winning a majority of votes of the Electoral College early yesterday. Most polls had placed the election too close to call, yet Obama managed to score an extraordinary victory over Romney. His campaign succeeded in breathing new life into the broad coalition that supported Obama’s first term. The coalition included Hispanic, black and woman voters who compensated for the loss of white male voters and saw Obama take six out of seven swing states, including Ohio.
       Obama’s second term in the White House will be shaped around building a broader consensus on economic and financial reforms, and reshaping America’s relations with other countries. Re-electing Obama may suggest “continuity” in US foreign policy but there are a plenty of thorny issues that need to be resolved and which will require decisive leadership.
Tehran’s nuclear programme, and the possibility of a military strike against Iran, tops the list. The Brookings Institute’s Martin Indyk has repeatedly argued that 2013 will be a decisive year as far as Iran is concerned, and has suggested Obama’s wider commitment to nonproliferation could produce a “focussed and assertive” policy.
“It’s going to be very high on the agenda,” says Indyk. “Preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons is a critical imperative for bolstering the nonproliferation regime.”
The wider Middle East will also be central to Obama’s second-term agenda. According to sources inside the administration the US president intends to hold extensive discussions with the goal of developing new approaches to the region’s fledgling democracies. Islamic parties now hold power in several states and are poise to make more gains.
Obama’s victory speech saw the president extend his hand to Republican foes.
“Despite all our differences,” he told supporters, “most of us share certain hopes for America’s future. We want our kids to grow up in a country where they have access to the best schools and the best teachers. A country that lives up to its legacy as the global leader in technology and discovery and innovation, with all the good jobs and new businesses that follow.”
Such remarks hint at the kind of bi-partisan politics Obama is seeking to embrace. The Republicans retained their majority in the House of Representatives, making constructive dialogue between the parties on the Middle East and other foreign policy issues a necessity.
Obama adopted a reconciliatory tone.
“I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.”
Obama’s campaign headquarters confirmed that his language was meant to send a clear message that a new era of cooperation is needed across a host of issues, foreign policy included.
The Republicans have criticised Obama’s policy towards long-time allies and accused him of compromising US interests. Romney did, however, agree with Obama over the US position towards Egypt’s 18-day revolution and in the last presidential debate said he would have done the same things Obama did, including asking Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Richard Longworth, of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told Al-Ahram Weekly, that “after the president has been in power for a while, he learned that there is a limit on what he can do,” especially when it comes to pushing countries like Syria or Iran around.
“The Islamists are still held in some suspicion. Nobody knows what they want to do. We have to deal with President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brothers,” says Longworth. “We are getting to know them.”
President Obama now has a free hand to invite Morsi to Washington but given regional developments and the economic situation in Egypt the administration may well want to talk to Congress first before sending an invitation to the Egyptian president.
Washington’s relationship with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will also come under scrutiny. It is no secret that the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has deteriorated over the last three years. Netanyahu rushed to congratulate Obama moments after the results were announced.
“The strategic alliance between Israel and the US is stronger than ever,” he said. “I will continue to work with President Obama to protect the security interests of Israeli citizens.”
Yesterday Netanyahu met US Ambassador Dan Shapiro at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. According to Haaretz newspaper, “Netanyahu’s government quickly embraced President Obama’s victory in the US elections late Tuesday, expressing certainty that his administration would continue to show support for Israel.”
In his victory speech, Obama told the American people that “we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.”
Whether he feels the same about the Middle East is a moot point. (see p.15)

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