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Timeline of Bumps in the Middle East

Created on September 26, 2012

Timeline of Bumps in the Middle East

During his September 23 interview on 60 Minutes, President Obama described U.S. relations with Middle Eastern governments as having “bumps in the road.” Here are some key events involving the region since Obama took office.


January 21, 2009. President Obama delivers his inaugural speech, offering to “extend a hand” to hostile regimes willing to “unclench their fists.”

June 4, 2009. Addressing the Muslim world in Cairo, Obama attempts to separate himself from the previous Administration, stressing “a new beginning.”

June 12, 2009. Iran holds flawed elections causing mass protests in Tehran. The Obama Administration responds by muting its criticism of the regime.

August 30, 2010. President Obama establishes a one-year deadline for attaining an Israeli–Palestinian peace agreement, which is not met.

December 16, 2010. Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian fruit vendor, self-immolates, sparking a chain of protests across the Muslim world in response to government autocracy.

March 27, 2011. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells Face the Nation that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a “reformer” despite his ruthless attacks on Syrian protestors.

May 2, 2011. A presidential aide refers to the Obama Administration’s strategy in Libya to the New Yorker as “leading from behind.”

October 11, 2011. An Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on U.S. soil is revealed.

December 20, 2011. The day after the last U.S. convoy leaves Iraq, Iraq’s Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki inflames sectarian tensions by issuing an arrest warrant for Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi.

September 4, 2012. Iran resumes shipping military equipment to the Syrian military via Iraqi airspace.

September 11, 2012. The U.S. embassy in Cairo is stormed by a Salafist mob protesting a movie that they allege insults Islam. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans are killed in a terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that U.S. intelligence agencies suspect may be linked to al-Qaeda or other Islamist extremists.

September 23, 2012. After rejecting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s request for a meeting, President Obama dismisses Netanyahu’s fears concerning Iran’s nuclear program as “noise” in a 60 Minutes interview.