Morning Brief: Diplomatic offensive

Top Story Barack Obama granted his first formal television interview as president to the Arabic-language station Al Arabiya. In the interview, Obama discussed his own Muslim family ties and promised to speak to the Islamic world in a “language of respect.” Mideast envoy George Mitchell has been dispatched on a trip to the region in ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
589124_090127_obamamitchell5.jpg
589124_090127_obamamitchell5.jpg

Top Story

Barack Obama granted his first formal television interview as president to the Arabic-language station Al Arabiya. In the interview, Obama discussed his own Muslim family ties and promised to speak to the Islamic world in a "language of respect."

Mideast envoy George Mitchell has been dispatched on a trip to the region in which he will visit Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. As Marc Lynch noted, Obama's earlier exclusion of Saudi Arabia from a visit to the region may have been interpreted as a snub. Obama vowed that Mitchell has been charged with making real progress, "not just photo-ops."

Top Story

Barack Obama granted his first formal television interview as president to the Arabic-language station Al Arabiya. In the interview, Obama discussed his own Muslim family ties and promised to speak to the Islamic world in a “language of respect.”

Mideast envoy George Mitchell has been dispatched on a trip to the region in which he will visit Egypt, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. As Marc Lynch noted, Obama’s earlier exclusion of Saudi Arabia from a visit to the region may have been interpreted as a snub. Obama vowed that Mitchell has been charged with making real progress, “not just photo-ops.”

Newly-installed U.N. Amb. Susan Rice also promised “direct diplomacy” with Iran shortly after meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Time’s Scott Macleod was encouraged over the weekend by Obama’s early charm offensive, but wrote that real progress requires more than renewed diplomacy: “To succeed, Obama needs a new Middle East policy, one that genuinely addresses the needs, interests and aspirations of the region itself.”

Middle East

An Israeli soldier was killed near Gaza in the first major test of the recent ceasefire.

Syria is ready for negotiations with the Obama administration, says President Bashar al-Assad.

Gunmen opened fire outside the U.S. embassy in Yemen. No one was injured.

Europe

The EU expressed support for Obama’s decision to shut down Guantanamo but stopped short of agreeing to accept prisoners.

Iceland’s Social Democrats and Greens are working to form a coalition government after the country’s Conservative-led government collapsed over the weekend.

A corruption scandal has rocked Britain’s House of Lords.

Africa

Fighting is escalating between Darfur rebels and Sudanese government forces.

Islamist insurgents took over another major Somali town as Ethiopian troops pulled back.

The U.S. plans to hand over captured Somali pirates to Kenya for trial.

Asia

An opinion poll showed strong opposition to Japanese PM Taro Aso.

The Reserve Bank of India predicted growth would fall to a six year low.

China began the Year of the Ox.

Americas

Bolivia’s constitutional referendum passed with 60 percent support.

Hillary Clinton’s senate successor, Kristen Gilibrand, will be sworn in today.

A crippling drought has been declared an emergency in Argentina.

Obama Administration

Timothy Geithner was confirmed as secretary of the treasury.

Obama’s tech-savvy staff are flummoxed by the White House’s archaic e-mail system.

Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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