Monday, August 09, 2010

Arab World Loses Hope for Change Under Obama

Gil Ronen
A7 News

Arabs' belief that U.S. President Barack Obama could deliver on promises for a “new beginning” have been dashed, an annual survey of public opinion in Middle Eastern countries shows. The survey of Arab public opinion conducted by Shibley Telhami shows that positive views of President Obama have plummeted from 45 percent in 2009 to 20 percent today, with the negative views of him skyrocketing from 23 percent to 62 percent.

While Obama has been claiming that his “outstretched hand” approach will win the U.S. new friends in the Mideast, the poll suggests otherwise. Only 12 percent expressed favorable views of the United States, even lower than the 15 percent that the Bush administration got in its final year.

According to Middle East analyst Marc Lynch, writing in Foreign Policy Magazine, Arabs have “grown frustrated at Obama's perceived failure to deliver on the promise of the 'new beginning' outlined in Cairo and had begun to lose hope in his ability to meaningfully change American policies towards the region.”

This year’s poll surveyed close to 4,000 people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates.

Only 16 percent declare that they are hopeful about administration policies, compared to 51 percent last year. Sixty-three percent declare themselves discouraged, up from 15 percent. On the other hand, there has been a significant drop in those with "very unfavorable" views of the United States – from 64% in 2008 to 47% today.

“The survey's findings suggest overwhelmingly that it is the administration's failures on the Israeli-Palestinian front which drove the collapse in Arab attitudes towards Obama,” Lynch explained.

“Sixty-one percent of the respondents say that this is the area in which they are most disappointed. Only one percent say they are pleased with his policy.”

An impressive 86% of Arabs say they are prepared for peace with Israel. Just 12% – down from 25% last year – say that Arab countries should continue to fight Israel even if there is a two-state peace agreement.

However, 77% now say that Iran has the right to its nuclear program and just 20% say that it should be pressured to stop its nuclear program, compared to 40% last year. Fifty seven percent say that if Iran gets nuclear weapons, the effects on the Mideast would be positive. Twenty one percent say the effects would be negative.

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