US 2012: Arab world discenchantment, Obama lesser of 2 evils

Honeymoon with Obama long faded since 2009 Cairo speech

02 November, 17:03

(ANSAmed) - CAIRO, NOVEMBER 2 - The honeymoon between President Barack Obama and the Arab world has faded, and opinions are mixed on the possible outcomes of the upcoming US presidential elections.

Welcomed at first with relief that the era of Bush and military aggression were over, Obama inspired many with his June 2009 speech in Cairo, where he was hosted by Al-Azhar and Cairo universities.

''The cycle of suspicion and discord must end,'' the US president said that day. ''I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.'' ''A new phase has begun,'' was the initial, enthusiastic response by representatives from Al-Azhar, the highest Sunni Muslim authority in the country.

But since then, US policy towards Israel and the Palestinian question has not changed substantially, as the Arab world had hoped, and public opinion has shifted. A September survey by international internet-based market research firm YouGov showed 63% of Middle Eastern respondents do not trust the US, while June data from the Pew Research Group shows public support for Obama in the Arab world has shrunk; in Egypt and Jordan, public perception of the US is unchanged with respect to the Bush era.

''Mitt Romney makes you think of an ambiguous, contradictory foreign policy. At the same time, the Arab world is disappointed in Obama and won't be optimistic if he is re-elected,'' former Egyptian ambassador to the US, Nabil Fahmy, told Al-Ahram Egyptian newspaper. The Gulf oil monarchies are disappointed in Obama for not supporting their ally and friend, toppled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, Fahmy added. ''As Arabs we are interested in how will a Democratic president deal with our problems. Will he free himself of the Jewish lobby?'' Bahraini analyst Ahmed el Morched opined on his blog.

Syrian activist Faissal Shawki wrote on Twitter that Washington ''allows the Syrian murderer to crush the revolution, because the US fears democracy, it is not in their interests.'' Obama has also taken flak from moderate and secular leaders for uncritically supporting the new, post-Arab Spring Islamist governments in the interests of regional stability - not that this has conquered the hearts and minds of Islamic factions. ''We don't care who wins, Obama or Romney,'' Ali Abdel Fatah from the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood told ANSAmed. ''They have the same principles but with different methods. Their attitude towards the security of Israel to the detriment of Palestinians is the same. What we want is to reinforce our sovereignty. We do not want outside interference in our internal affairs, and we do not want the US to be Egypt's obligatory ally.'' (ANSAmed).

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