Middle East Regimes Must Get Ahead Of Unrest, Obama Says
President Barack Obama recognized the presence of a "young, vibrant generation" in the Middle East and North Africa, saying the authoritarian governments they are protesting against must stop being behind the curve.
Security forces in Bahrain and Iran have cracked down on protestors with violence and force during the past two days. Obama said he wants to see more restraint from these governments. But even more so, the president urged the countries "to get out ahead of change."
In a press conference on Tuesday morning, the president touched on both his budget proposal for next year and the spreading unrest throughout the Middle East, including in Yemen and Algeria.
A second person was killed by police in Bahrain this week as he attended the funeral of the person killed during protests. Without mentioning any country by name, the president's support for the protests was cautious, aiming to again keep the U.S. out of events happening internally in those countries. Pro-democracy groups criticized Obama for not acting more swiftly in condemning the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, who resigned last week after nearly three weeks of demonstrations calling for his removal from office.
Like Mubarak did throughout the protests in Egypt, the leaders of Yemen and Bahrain have offered minor concessions in recent days. However, the small increases in pay and promises of fresh governments in the future are unlikely to quell the protests. In Egypt, outright ignorance of the protestors' demands fueld only even larger demonstrations.
Obama defended his handling of the situation in Egypt.
“History will end up recording that at every juncture in the situation in Egypt that we were on the right side of history,” he said. “We ended up seeing a peaceful transition, relatively little violence and relatively little, if any, anti-American sentiment, relatively little anti-Israel, anti-Western sentiment.”
Obama is again receiving criticism from those on the left for not taking a bolder and more pronounced stance on the emerging anti-government movement in Bahrain, where the U.S. has a key military base. The tiny island country acts as gateway to the rest of the Middle East. Its strategic location allows the U.S. to keep tabs on Iran. And Iran is where the U.S. would like the government to fall more than anywhere else.