World News Brief, Friday June 5

Obama's Muslim speech – extensive coverage from US and Middle Eastern media; Police surround Tiananmen Square on anniversary; Bernanke in 'debt trap' warnings; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama's Speech to Muslims

Speaking in Cairo today, U.S. President Barack Obama called for a "new beginning" between the United States and the Muslim world (speech text here). Obama called on both sides to work past their suspicions of one another and work together to counter extremism; he cited his own ascendance to the American presidency as an example (NYT) of the United States' willingness to think broadly and connect with different peoples. Obama's speech wasn't heavy on concrete policy prescriptions but the U.S. president did encourage (WashPost) Islamic nations to embrace democracy, women's rights, religious tolerance, and the rights of Israel and a Palestinian state to peacefully coexist.

Poll numbers suggest significant rifts remain between the peoples of the United States and the Muslim and Arab worlds. New data from Pew shows Arab approval ratings of the U.S. president have improved, generally, since Obama took office, but are still low in most Arab countries. Al-Jazeera reports on different data from Pew showing that 46 percent of U.S. respondents held an unfavorable view of Muslim countries--though this number has also risen, up 5 percent from 2002.

The BBC has a video segment examining how Middle Eastern countries and media view Obama's visit and his speech. A series of correspondents note that Muslim populations are generally attuned to the "change of language" Obama has brought to the region's many political issues, but that most also remain somewhat skeptical of the extent to which U.S. policy changes are in the wings.

The Israeli paper Haaretz focused its coverage of Obama's speech on his comments that the United States won't turn its back on Palestinians.

The Saudi paper Arab News, fresh after Obama's meetings with Saudi leadership yesterday, says the United States has a "historic opportunity" to mend ties.

The National, a UAE paper, has a piece saying Obama is starting a dialogue that is long overdue.

Iran's supreme leader made a statement ahead of Obama's speech that "beautiful" words alone could not remove the distrust (FT) the Middle East feels toward Washington.

Foreign Policy, meanwhile, has a feature questioning whether Obama is giving up on the United States' push for democracy in Egypt in favor of more pragmatic interests.

Background and Analysis:

CFR's Steven Cook explains Obama's main objectives on his current trip.

CFR's President Richard Haass gives his take on how Obama should address the Muslim world in a new Wall Street Journal op-ed.

A report from the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project details a comprehensive approach to improving U.S.-Muslim relations.


PACIFIC RIM: Tiananmen Anniversary

Chinese police surrounded Beijing's Tiananmen Square (BBC) today on the twentieth anniversary of a deadly Chinese government crackdown on pro-democracy protestors.

An article in Global Times, a Chinese news source, says discussion of the incident among the Chinese public remains quite limited.

CFR has a new interview with the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, who reported from Tiananmen Square twenty years ago, on how China's government has changed since that day.

In a separate feature, six experts discuss the "two Chinas" of 1989 and 2009.



Bernanke makes stiff warning on deficit.
Holbrooke calls for more aid to Pakistan.

This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on