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The Cairo speeches and US foreign policy in the Middle East

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Over the past two decades, three high-ranking US officials have gone to Cairo to lay out their vision for US foreign policy in the Middle East. Each time, they have criticised their predecessors and each time nothing good has come out of it.

In June 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice delivered a speech at the American University of Cairo two years after the US invasion of Iraq. The toppling of Saddam Hussein had left a crack in the edifice of Arab authoritarianism and President George W Bush was claiming to be the torch bearer of freedom and democracy in the region. Hence, in her speech, Rice spoke at lengths about "freedom and "democracy" in the Middle East and bashed six decades of US support for "stability at the expense of democracy".

But by then, the Bush administration had already shipped back home hundreds of bodies of US soldiers killed in the ensuing security vacuum in Iraq; many more were to come. In the following years, it would become clear that the barrel of the gun could not deliver freedom and democracy to the region and that the Iranian regime had taken advantage of Iraq's weakness to rise as a militant regional power.

Exactly four years later in June 2009, President Barack Obama made a very different speech at an event co-hosted by al-Azhar and Cairo Universities in what was then dubbed by his critics an "apology tour" for US misbehaviour under the Bush administration. He spoke of a historical tension between the US and the Islamic world which he would seek to resolve through a "new beginning" in relations.

Obama had two goals in mind: to disengage from the Sunni-Shiite tensions by extending a hand to Tehran and to reach a peace deal between........

© Al Jazeera