Obama heads to Middle East in Muslim outreach; US and China planning "landmark" economic talks; British government in cabinet crisis; Cuba divides American States; and more
Top of the Agenda: Obama Opens Mideast Trip
U.S. President Barack Obama travels to Saudi Arabia today on the first leg of a trip aimed at improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world and pushing forward the regional peace process. Major U.S. papers took a dim view of Obama's prospects for making quick progress. The New York Times reports Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, have cooled on the idea of offering a gesture to Israel to entice them to accelerate the peace process. The article says Riyadh feels the Arab world has already made such a gesture, through the Saudi-brokered peace plan of 2002, and that they want to continue addressing Israel en masse so as to avoid splintering the Arab League bloc. The Washington Post, meanwhile, says Obama faces a chasm of distrust toward the United States from Arab states.
Al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri released a statement on the eve of Obama's trip aimed at deepening this chasm, calling Obama a "criminal" (BBC) and telling Muslims not to listen to his "polished words."
At the same time, however, some hopeful signs have also emerged. A new gallup poll notes that Arab views of U.S. leadership have improved since Obama took office in all regions except for Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. The Saudi paper Arab News focused its coverage this morning on this optimistic tone--quoting several Saudi citizens on what Obama's visit means to them, and getting generally hopeful responses. Egypt, where Obama travels tomorrow and is expected to give a speech addressing the Muslim world, is also in an anticipatory mood--but the weekly Al-Ahram notes divides that exist between official Egyptian opinion on Obama, which have been generally positive, and those of everyday Egyptians.
CFR's Steven Cook discusses Obama's trip in a new interview. Cook says the president's talks are likely to focus on the Saudi-led Arab peace plan and on trust-building.
CFR's Crisis Guide gives in-depth background information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
PACIFIC RIM: North Korea Missile Preparations
The South Korean paper Chosun Ilbo reports North Korea is preparing to fire mid-range missiles and could potentially launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the same time.
Meanwhile, the Korea Times reports a South Korean naval destroyer was struck by a software glitch that incapacitated its missile-tracking radar system and may not be able to carry out the mission of following a potential North Korean missile launch in the coming weeks.
CHINA-U.S.: Xinhua reports Washington and Beijing laid the groundwork for "landmark" strategic and economic talks later this summer in meetings between U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Chinese President Hu Jintao.