By visiting Prime Minister Erdogan, Obama is overtly reaching out to what Americans would call "moderate" Islamists. Going to non-Arab Turkey also appears to be an effort to separate US relations with Muslim countries from US policy toward the Arab world. The need for that is evident in a recent University of Maryland poll.
With Pakistan on the brink of collapse, Afghanistan soaking up American troops, and a plethora of challenges in the Muslim former Soviet republics, the US needs to find new issues of common cause with would-be allies – or at least intermediaries – in the Islamic world that surmount, or at least distract from, anger at US Middle East policy.
That is not helped by the perception that US policy toward Israel continues to be dictated by domestic US politics. Mrs. Clinton is the poster child for that.
Earlier this month, newspapers here in Cairo carried front-page photographs of Clinton being kissed by Israeli President Shimon Peres during her visit to Jerusalem. Arabs saw in that a clear message. Ditto what she said – and did not say – about Gaza, Israeli settlements, Hamas, and human rights in Egypt. Many Arabs fear it's Condoleezza Rice redux. The Israel lobby's success in torpedoing Obama's nominee for head of the National Intelligence Council – widely reported here – underlines the perception of business as usual.