Some Militants Respond Positively to Obama Outreach to Muslims, Others Warn He Is Deceptive

June 7, 2009

Author: Karin Laub

Source: The Orlando Sentinel

Wire Service: AP,0,1114653.story

From Lebanese guerrillas to Saudi preachers, Islamic extremists have warned followers not to be taken in by President Barack Obama's conciliatory words — a sign that some may be nervous about losing support if animosity toward the U.S. fades.

But even moderates warn Obama will have to quickly follow his call for a new relationship with the Islamic world with bold actions to prevent a disappointed backlash.

In his speech in Cairo Thursday, Obama listed confronting "violent extremism" as the top priority in addressing tensions between the U.S. and Muslims. He urged the Islamic world to reject radical ideologies and promised to work aggressively to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also said the U.S. does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement in the West Bank and endorsed a Palestinian state.

There are already some indications his words are having the desired effect of undercutting extremists. A militant leader in Egypt called on the Taliban to respond positively to Obama's gestures, and Hamas militants in Gaza say they are ready "to build on this speech."

Obama may have managed to "plant the seed of doubt in some minds," said Robert Malley, senior analyst at the International Crisis Group think tank. "There was enough ... that represented openings for those who wanted openings."

Yet Obama's eloquent promises were seen as only a small step toward halting the region's drift toward militancy, accelerated in recent years by the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and Washington's perceived pro-Israel bias.