In his New York Times column, Tom Freidman quotes Obama saying this: "When it comes to dealing with the Middle East, the president noted, 'there is a Kabuki dance going on constantly. That is what I would like to see broken down. I am going to be holding up a mirror and saying: "Here is the situation, and the U.S. is prepared to work with all of you to deal with these problems. But we can't impose a solution. You are all going to have to make some tough decisions." Leaders have to lead, and, hopefully, they will get supported by their people.'"
Friedman concludes, "When young Arabs and Muslims see an American president who looks like them, has a name like theirs, has Muslims in his family and comes into their world and speaks the truth, it will be empowering and disturbing at the same time. People will be asking: 'Why is this guy who looks like everyone on the street here the head of the free world and we can't even touch freedom?' You never know where that goes."
The Washington Post: "More than any other president in a generation, Obama enjoys a reservoir of goodwill in the region. His father was Muslim. His outreach in an interview with an Arabic satellite channel, a speech to Turkey's parliament and an address to Iranians on the Persian New Year have inclined many to listen. Just as important, he is not George W. Bush."
More: "But Obama will still encounter a landscape in which two realities often seem to be at work, shaped by those symbols. There is America's version of its policy toward Israel and the Palestinians, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Islamist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah, defined in recent years by the legacy of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001."
The Boston Globe's lead on Obama's Mideast trip: "President Obama arrives in Saudi Arabia today for his first trip to the Middle East as president, determined to change the image of America in a region that largely reviled his predecessor, George W. Bush."
The Hill: "[S]ome Muslims are outraged that security precautions in Cairo, Egypt, have blocked off a historic mosque. Obama is scheduled to visit the 14th-century Sultan Hassan mosque with Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, head of al-Azhar University, an Islamic school that is co-hosting Obama's visit. But super-tight security surrounding the president's trip -- which has included thousands of U.S. and Egyptian security forces cordoning off Obama's route and even rounding up and questioning select students at the Islamic university -- has put a security perimeter around the Sultan Hassan mosque."
In other foreign policy news… It looks like accusations that the U.S. military accidentally killed civilians in an Afghan air strike are true.
Uh, oh: "The federal government mistakenly made public a 266-page report, its pages marked 'highly confidential,' that gives detailed information about hundreds of the nation's civilian nuclear sites and programs, including maps showing the precise locations of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons," the New York Times writes. More: "Several nuclear experts argued that any dangers from the disclosure were minimal, given that the general outlines of the most sensitive information were already known publicly."
The soon-to-be commander of U.S. strategy in the Af-Pak region, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, had this to say at his confirmation hearing:
"Still, when asked to describe 'success' in Afghanistan, McChrystal said the first component would be 'a complete elimination of al-Qaeda' from Pakistan and Afghanistan. That, in turn, would prevent al-Qaeda from operating in either country with the Taliban, which he said would not be 'destroyed' but rather made'irrelevant.'"
So success is simple: Destroy al Qaeda and hope that renders the Taliban irrelevant.
"President Obama's top military adviser on Tuesday issued a thinly veiled warning to North Korea, while some lawmakers said the communist country must be put back on the U.S. terrorism list," The Hill reports. "The salvos from the Pentagon and Congress come as North Korea appears to be preparing to test some of its ballistic missiles amid global concerns of its nuclear weapon capabilities."
And want to make conservative talk-radio personalities heads explode? Then check out this article from the Washington Times claiming al Qaeda may be looking at the southern U.S. border as a way to smuggle in terrorists or weapons. This report is based on a videotape that has since been authenticated by U.S. counter-terrorism officials. The Washington Times has the al Qaeda video on their web site.