The popular unrest of the last two years has left the Middle East volatile as 2013 kicks off.
In that speech, Mr. Obama outlined a vision for a new era of economic cooperation in the Middle East, one of steadfast US support for democracy, and of reset priorities.
"I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect," he said then.
While Obama ended the war in Iraq on a schedule provided to him by his predecessor, George W. Bush, many of the promises in that speech went unfulfilled. The Guantánamo Bay military prison was never closed. Progress on peace between Palestinians and Israelis was not made. The promised economic development of Afghanistan, beset by a war that Obama now looks set to end in 2014, never took root.
Nevertheless, four years later, he's got his new beginning – not by his own hand, and not the one he would have either imagined or wanted when he made his series of stirring promises in Cairo.
The self-immolation and death of Mohamed Bouazizi in Tunisia in December 2010 led to the sharpest change in the politics of the Middle East since the 1960s. The events of the past year in Egypt, Syria, Tunisia, and Libya have cemented a radical new reality that Obama will have to contend with in his second term.
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