Obama’s Outreaching Hand is Met with Middle Finger from Arab World

Posted on August 6, 2010


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I’m so glad that all the apologizing and outreach President Obama has been doing has paid off. 

From the Washington Times:

A new poll shows that the percentage of the Arab world that thinks a nuclear-armed Iran would be good for the Middle East has doubled since last year and now makes up the majority.

The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll found that 57 percent of respondents not only believe that Iran’s nuclear program aims to build a bomb but also view that goal positively — nearly double the 29 percent who thought so in 2009. The percentage of those who view an Iranian nuclear bomb negatively fell by more than half, from 46 percent to 21 percent. (emphasis mine)

The survey, conducted by University of Maryland professor Shibley Telhami in conjunction with the polling firm Zogby International, also found rapidly diminishing support among Arabs for President Obama, who has made an outreach to the Muslim world a key focus of his foreign policy. Those findings have been reflected in other recent polls.

But the Arab Public Opinion Poll’s findings on Iran stand in marked contrast to the stances of most Sunni Arab leaders, who fear the regional implications of an Iranian bomb.

“In my view, the Arab public position on Iran is largely a defiance vote or an ‘enemy of my enemy’ vote,” Mr. Telhami told the Washington Times.

So why is the U.S. now seen as more of an enemy even after President Obama’s first formal interview was given to Al-Arabiya, after his “historic” Cairo speech, and after other gestures have been made to the Muslim world?   The reported reasons for the decline include:

Sixty-one percent of respondents cite the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the issue with which they are most disappointed in the Obama administration, while 27 percent choose Iraq and 4 percent Afghanistan.

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Amjad Atallah, co-director of the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force, said he viewed Mr. Obama’s tanking favorables as a function of frustration among Arabs over a lack of progress on the Palestinian question.

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The May 31 flotilla incident, in which nine Turks were killed aboard a Turkish-flagged ship trying to run Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-ruled territory, appears to explain another poll result.

I”m sure that the limited information the average Arab gets in the Middle East is more propaganda than factual news, so the results aren’t totally surprising.  But, short of outright disavowing Israel as our ally, there doesn’t seem to be anything that might change the mind of the “Arab street.”

So which world leader is most admired outside of their own countries:

Asked which world leader outside their own country they admire most, the largest percentage of respondents (20 percent) named Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who took a hard line against his country’s longtime ally in the aftermath of the bloodshed. [of the flotilla incident]

Mr. Erdogan was followed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (13 percent, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (12 percent, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (9 percent), Syrian President Bashar Assad (7 percent), French President Nicolas Sarkozy (6 percent) and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (6 percent). Mr. Chavez and Mr. Nasrallah both won the distinction in previous years.

Really? Chavez and Ahmadinejad?

Dude.

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