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Sun May 21, 2017, 07:47 PM

Tough talk on extremism weakened by backing for autocracies

Julian Borger
Sunday 21 May 2017 14.01 EDT

... Trump called on the Gulf monarchs to do more to combat terrorist groups and cut off their source of funding, and that was the ostensible central theme, but US support was not made conditional on that effort.

US administrations have routinely made such appeals. Barack Obama made similar exhortations in a speech in Cairo in June 2009, another attempt to address Islam early on in a presidency. “The sooner the extremists are isolated and unwelcome in Muslim communities, the sooner we will all be safer,” Obama said then. Trump was blunter: “Drive them out,” he said repeatedly at the climax of the speech.

But the intent and context for the two speeches eight years apart were very different. Obama spoke at Cairo University and the intended audience was the educated populace of the Islamic world, pressing for greater liberties.

After the turmoil of the Arab spring and the disaster of the Syrian conflict, Trump’s speech on Sunday marked a deliberate bookend to his predecessor’s values-led approach. It was delivered in an ostentatious hall to absolute rulers, hosted by a regime with an appalling human rights record and it promised that the US would no longer question the way they went about running their countries ...


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