20110406 obama  54
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the media. Earlier in the day President Obama met with Congressional leaders in hopes of coming to a agreement on funding the government to avoid a shut down. - 

Jeremy Hobson: President Obama will make a major speech on the Middle East today -- just a day after imposing sanctions on the leaders of Syria. Hundreds of Syrians have been killed in a violent crackdown on the uprising in that country. Today, President Obama will focus on U.S. interests in the Middle East. And economic help the U.S. can provide to encourage democratic change.

Our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale has more.

John Dimsdale: President Obama will say the Arab Spring is an opportunity to encourage free market economies in the Middle East. The president will propose erasing debts owed the U.S. and increasing reconstruction grants and loan guarantees.

Tarik Yousef, the dean of Dubai's School of Government, says that's a good investment.

Tarik Yousef: The amounts of funds we're talking about in my view are minimal relative to what we could gain in terms of a prosperity and a security and a stability dividend over the long term.

Stronger Arab economies will create customers for U.S. exports, he says. But, so far, western aid to the Middle East has done little to create free markets, says Rutgers professor Toby Jones.

Toby Jones: We know that modernization and development aid has not in the past produced democratic outcomes. It hasn't worked in Egypt and it certainly hasn't worked elsewhere.

As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, Jones recommends using U.S. money instead to create more jobs in Arab countries.

In Washington, I'm John Dimsdale for Marketplace.