Barack Obama, the Arab spring and a series of unforeseen events
On Palestine, always a touchstone for Arabs and Muslims, Obama has been a grave disappointment. Having strikingly called the situation of the Palestinians "intolerable", he blinked first in the confrontation with Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, over whether settlements in the occupied territories would have to stop before peace talks could resume. US domestic politics interceded. Hopes of a two-state solution to the world's most intractable conflict are now fading fast.
From the start, Obama reached out to Iran with a friendly message to its people and hints at flexibility in negotiations with its government. But his efforts to engage have failed, leading only to tougher sanctions and a covert war. Unless long-running diplomacy starts to work, a potentially catastrophic confrontation over its nuclear programme still looms.
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