While endless analysis of Obama's nuanced words in Cairo is being conducted, it may be wise to examine when Obama chose to deliver his speech to the 3,000 invited guests at Cairo University and millions more worldwide.
Obama's overtures to the Muslim world come as the Middle East is poised for two important elections in the next week - one in Lebanon on June 7th, the other in Iran on June 12th.
Analyst Rannie Amiri explains that "due to the Lebanon’s complex, sectarian-based political framework, understanding the mechanics and dynamics behind its upcoming parliamentary vote is more complicated" than that of Iran's presidential election. There are two main political coalitions in Lebanon, dubbed March 8 and March 14. Amiri clarifies:
The March 8 Alliance is named after the date of a massive 2005 Beirut rally organized by Hezbollah that expressed opposition to its disarmament, support for Syria, and resistance to Israel. The coalition is primarily comprised of Hezbollah, Nabih Berri’s Amal party, and the secular Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) of General Michel Aoun. Unlike Nasrallah and Berri who are Shia Muslims, Aoun is a Maronite Christian and thus draws support from this and other Christian constituencies.While the March 8 coalition wields veto power over cabinet decisions as part of the power-sharing agreement reached through the May 2008 Doha Accord and holds 58 seats in Lebanon's National Assembly, the March 14 alliance has 70 seats. Whereas Hezbollah leader Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah has encouraged a stable, unified Lebanese government that represents the will of the people, saying, "...it is in the interest of Lebanon and its stability that there is understanding and partnership among Lebanese in running their country's affairs,” his opponent, Parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri, remarked coldly, "We will not take part in the government if the March 8 Alliance wins the elections..."
The March 14 Alliance is also named after the date of a huge 2005 Beirut demonstration, but one decidedly anti-Syrian. It occurred exactly one month after the assassination of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and heralded the beginning of the “Cedar Revolution.” This ultimately led to the withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon after 29 years. March 14 is the current Western-backed, ruling coalition and is principally comprised of Sunni, Druze, and Christian parties. It is led Saad Hariri, billionaire son of Rafiq, and his Future Movement forms its largest bloc.
It is suggested that there are only about 30 contested seats, and therefore, "March 8 need only win an additional seven to gain the parliamentary majority." Were this to happen, it would be a frustrating turn of events for the United States, Israel, and their Middle Eastern allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, further shifting popular representation in Lebanon against Western influence and toward continued imperial and colonial resistence.
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