State Dept. Official Tells Arab Media: We Want to Reach Out to the Islamist Parties

MEMRI reports that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman published an op-ed in the English version of Al-Hayat last week, pledging the Obama administration’s commitment to reach out to Islamist political parties coming to power in the wake of the Arab Spring:

The U.S. recognizes that, in a region where public opinion matters more than ever before, we need to increase our efforts to reach out beyond the traditional government and business elites not only to articulate clearly our own goals but to listen to a wide spectrum of views. This includes reaching out to Islamist parties, who now play an important role in the political transformation of many countries in the region. We are less concerned what a political party or organization calls itself than what it does in practice, and we will reach out to those who act according to democratic principles, respect their fellow citizens’ rights, and do not use force or violence to impose their views.

The Obama administration’s new outreach Islamists is a reversal of decades of American policy. In part, the effort is a recognition of new political realities–yet it also reflects an effort that predates the Arab Spring, in which President Barack Obama cast himself as a mediator between the west and the Islamic world.