Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Blog

Engagement in the Middle East and North Africa Cannot be Devoid of Arab American Involvement

I received an email the other day from a community member who is no stranger to Washington politics. Her email reinforced frustration over an issue that has been a topic of discussion here in Washington for the past three months or so: the importance of an Arab American meeting with the President to discuss the Middle East. Now more than ever, Arab Americans are in a unique position to help direct American policy toward a course that is more compatible with our interests in the region. By virtue of our relationships with friends and family in the region, Arab Americans present the Administration with a strategic opportunity to build mutually beneficial ties between the U.S. and the Arab world. The Administration seems to believe this point is valid (at least in the general sense of the concept), and is supporting the Global Diaspora Forum organized by Secretary Clinton’s Office of Global Partnerships.

Despite the obvious benefits of engaging with the Arab American community on Middle East outreach and public diplomacy, and the President has not had a meeting with Arab Americans. And indeed, the status quo with respect to U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, at least on the surface, remains the same.

Tomorrow, the President will make a speech that has been publicized with the title, “The Middle East and North Africa: A Moment of Opportunity.”  The address has been labeled as an effort to re-connect with people in the Arab world. Although it is still unclear what he will focus on, the President will assuredly tie in the Arab Spring and Osama bin Laden’s death. It is important to note that Arabs are not looking for U.S. validation of the Arab Spring--that much is clear. The U.S. needs to engage Arabs within the context of the new Middle East, to improve tense relations and reestablish its relevancy in the eyes of the Arab populace. Arab Americans know that in order to accomplish this, the future of a Palestinian State must be addressed.

The President should view Arab Americans as a resource to help him accomplish these goals.

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