Still, Obama offered some nuances and innovations in terms of US policy that are likely to have an effect in the region. In four areas Obama signaled how a closer dovetailing of American values and policies is likely to translate into action:
Egypt and Tunisia
The president announced that Egypt and Tunisia, where popular movements have already removed entrenched leaders, will become something akin to demonstration projects for how economic partnerships will be advanced to underpin both economic and political reforms. A $4 billion package of measures for the two countries – mostly involving existing programs and funding – is to include $1 billion in debt relief for Egypt to be redirected to encourage economic development.
Obama is signaling that the days of waiting for President Bashar al-Assad to stop the repression of his own people and open up to dialogue with his political opposition are numbered. In his speech, Obama went further than ever toward declaring – as he ultimately did in the case of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi – that President Assad has lost his legitimacy as a result of the repression and must go.