One of the big questions of the Obama presidency is can he actually use his popularity to go over rulers’ heads and straight to their people. Obama’s interview with Al Arbiya, a 24 hour Middle Eastern news channel, was an attempt to do just that. Obama emphasised his willingness to listen and repeatedly talked about ensuring about a better future for the children. He struck a far more doveish tone than he did either in his inaugural address or on the campaign trail; it was clear quite his comments were not aimed at a domestic audience.

We’ll have to wait and see if this approach works. My concern is that it muddles his message and the soft-pedalling on issues such as Iran’s nuclear programme will encourage the Iranians to test his resolve. But maybe I’m under-estimating how effective Obama’s direct pitch will be.