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Barack Obama backs Bahrain king’s pledge to reform

King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa has announced the replacement of four members of his cabinet, including two royal family members, and a national dialogue initiative in hopes of appeasing Shia protesters.  The BBC News reports on United States President Barack Obama full-fledged support of this important ally.  Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and extremely important strategically for the United States in countering Iran in the Straight of Hormuz.  Time will tell if these governments reforms will appease protesters asking for the removal of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa ibn Salman al-Khalifa and a democratically elected parliament.

Introducing MEDG’s Weekly Perspectives Feature

This week we’re starting several new features on the MEDG blog.  On Mondays and Fridays we will be debating a timely and interesting issue impacting the Middle East.  On Monday we will post the discussion topic, and then on Friday we will have two of our officers from the group state their own perspective/opinion/outlook and encourage any readers to chime in with their own comments. Some weeks this may take the form of a pro/con debate while in others we’ll throw out a more open-ended question. For this week, our question is thus: What should the Obama administration do about the situation in Egypt? Make sure to check out the blog on Friday for our perspectives. Until then, happy reading!

An Open Letter to President Obama

January 30, 2010

Dear President Obama:

As political scientists, historians, and researchers in related fields who have studied the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, we the undersigned believe you have a chance to move beyond rhetoric to support the democratic movement sweeping over Egypt. As citizens, we expect our president to uphold those values.

For thirty years, our government has spent billions of dollars to help build and sustain the system the Egyptian people are now trying to dismantle. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Egypt and around the world have spoken. We believe their message is bold and clear: Mubarak should resign from office and allow Egyptians to establish a new government free of his and his family’s influence. It is also clear to us that if you seek, as you said Friday “political, social, and economic reforms that meet the aspirations of the Egyptian people,” your administration should publicly acknowledge those reforms will not be advanced by Mubarak or any of his adjutants.

There is another lesson from this crisis, a lesson not for the Egyptian government but for our own. In order for the United States to stand with the Egyptian people it must approach Egypt through a framework of shared values and hopes, not the prism of geostrategy. On Friday you rightly said that “suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away.” For that reason we urge your administration to seize this chance, turn away from the policies that brought us here, and embark on a new course toward peace, democracy and prosperity for the people of the Middle East. And we call on you to undertake a comprehensive review of US foreign policy on the major grievances voiced by the democratic opposition in Egypt and all other societies of the region.

Sincerely,

Jason Brownlee, University of Texas at Austin Joshua Stacher, Kent State University Tamir Moustafa, Simon Fraser University Arang Keshavarzian, New York University Clement Henry, University of Texas at AustinRobert Springborg, Naval Postgraduate School Jillian Schwedler, University of Massachusetts at Amherst Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chris Toensing, Middle East Research and Information Project Ellen Lust, Yale University Helga Tawil-Souri, New York University Anne Mariel Peters, Wesleyan College Gregory White, Smith College Asef Bayat, University of Illinois Diane Singerman, American University Cathy Lisa Schneider, American University Robert Vitalis, University of Pennsylvania Ahmet T. Kuru San Diego State University Toby Jones, Rutgers University Lara Deeb, Scripps College Michaelle Browers, Wake Forest University Mark Gasiorowski, Louisiana State University Samer Shehata, Georgetown University Farideh Farhi, University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Emad Shahin, University of Notre Dame John P. Entelis, Fordham University Tamara Sonn, College of William & Mary Ali Mirsepassi, New York University; Kumru Toktamis, Pratt Institute Rebecca C. Johnson, Northwestern University Nader Hashemi, University of Denver Carlene J. Edie, University of Massachusetts at Amherst Laryssa Chomiak, University of Maryland Mohamed Nimer, American University Steven Heydemann, Georgetown University Miriam Lowi, The College of New Jersey Wendy Pearlman, Northwestern University Hesham Sallam, Georgetown University Melani Cammett, Brown University Michael Robbins, University of Michigan Katherine E. Hoffman, Northwestern University Asli Bali, UCLA School of Law Hamid Dabashi, Columbia University Guilain Denoeux, Colby College Tom Farer, University of Denver Norma Claire Moruzzi, University of Illinois at Chicago Saad Eddin Ibrahim, American University of Cairo & Drew University Asma Barlas, Ithaca College Ethel Brooks, Rutgers University; Maren Milligan, Oberlin College Alan Gilbert, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver; Glenn Robinson, Naval Postgraduate School Ahmed Ragab, Harvard University Kenneth M. Cuno, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Agnieszka Paczynska, George Mason University Zillah Eisenstein, Ithaca College Quinn Mecham, Middlebury College Riahi Hamida, Faculty of Arts and Human Sciences Sousse Tunisia Jeannie Sowers, University of New Hampshire Hussein Banai, Brown University Joel Gordon, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville Ed Webb, Dickinson College David Siddhartha Patel, Cornell University Thomas Pierret, Princeton University Nadine Naber, University of Michigan As`ad AbuKhalil, California State University at Stanislaus Dina Al-Kassim, University of California at Irvine Ziad Fahmy, Cornell University William B. Quandt, University of Virginia Lori A. Allen, University of Cambridge Eugene Sensenig-Dabbous, Notre Dame University Lebanon Alfred G. Gerteiny, University of Connecticut (ret.) Lucia Volk, San Francisco State University; Anne Marie Baylouny, Naval Postgraduate School Ulrika Mårtensson, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology Emma Deputy, University of Texas at Austin Sherry Lowrance, University of Georgia Kaveh Ehsani, Depaul University Ebrahim Moosa, Duke University Benjamin N. Schiff, Oberlin College Jeff Goodwin, New York University Margaret Scott, New York University (adjunct) Mehrzad Boroujerdi, Syracuse University Kevin M. DeJesus, York University, Toronto Courtney C. Radsch, American University Gamze Cavdar, Colorado State University John F. Robertson, Central Michigan University Shira Robinson, The George Washington University Michael McIntyre, Depaul University Andrew Arato, New School for Social Research David Faris, Roosevelt University Amir Farmanesh, University of Maryland Paul Amar, University of California, Santa Barbara Ervand Abrahamian, City University of New York Zachary Lockman, New York University Denis Sullivan, Northeastern University Laleh Khalili, School of Oriental and African Studies, London John O. Voll, Georgetown University Hamid Rezai, Columbia University Jonathan Wyrtzen, Yale University; Ranjit Singh, University of Mary Washington

Institutional affiliations are listed for identification purposes only. Views reflected in this letter are those of the individual signatories.