Muslim Nations Glued To Obama's Speech

Obama speech
Hassan Roudani, 73, gestures while listening to a live broadcast from Cairo of a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama at a cafe in Casablanca, Morocco, Thursday, June 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar)
AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar
President Obama's words were heard even inside a tent in Gaza by a family living near the ruins of their home, destroyed by Israeli bulldozers.

Israelis also gathered around television stations, glued to every word.

Obama's speech was no small event in the Middle East. From the coffee shops of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, across the Islamic world to Afghanistan, Pakistan, even Indonesia. Muslims everywhere listened, reports CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan.

"He's a star," said Rebab el-Mehdi, a political scientist at the American University of Cairo.

"He's a star?" Logan asked.

"There's an energy in the room," el-Mehdi said. "I don't know if you can feel it. I can."

The excitement was greatest on the streets of Cairo, including crowds chanting praise for America's new president. It's not surprising since this ancient city is where he chose to deliver his address.

It is a first in Cairo - T-shirts and souvenirs with the name of an American president on sale here. It's sign of Barack Obama's personal popularity - and how much is resting on his shoulders.

That was reflected on Arab TV channels that broadcast it live. The speech was big news, even leading the main evening bulletin in Iran.

Reporter's Notebook: Arab World Saw Obama's Speech As Historic
The reaction was mixed. Arab leaders were conspicuous by their absence, and it was no surprise that Mr. Obama's comments on Israel and the Palestinians dominated the discussions. Many in this region felt the president did not go far enough in condemning Israeli violence against the Palestinians.

"Mr. Obama asked Hamas to stop the rockets at the same moment he did not speak of anything about 1,500 Palestinians killed in the last invasion of Israel in Gaza in 2009," said Mahmoud Ramahi, a Hamas legislator.

In Israel itself, the speech led all broadcasts, with a sense of major change in the U.S. attitude towards its old ally. Israel is no longer the "favored son."

An Israeli government statement welcomed Mr. Obama's plea for peace, but avoided any reference to his calls for a settlement freeze in the West Bank and the creation of an independent Palestinian state - demands that Israel's hawkish Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, continues to reject.

"I think the statements he said are very, very politically threatening, and he must be very honest and really realistic, and very strong to be able to say those things and not be afraid of what's coming next," said Sarah Hassan, a student.

Dampening some of the enthusiasm is the fact that Obama's main allies in the region are oppressive regimes unpopular with many of their own people.

  • Lara Logan
    Lara Logan

    Lara Logan's bold, award-winning reporting from war zones has earned her a prominent spot among the world's best foreign correspondents. Logan began contributing to 60 Minutes in 2005.