Positions in Arab World Following Obama's Election

In scanning the Arab world’s press writers, they seem to be all over the place. Opinions range from concern about US Foreign Policy staying the same, to hope that Arabs can establish a lobby to influence foreign policy. Egyptian and Palestinian editors expect status quo with regard to Israel and the Palestinian situation.

Flashes of realistic expectations from the Palestinian daily Al-Quds: “Despite our satisfaction [with Obama’s election], there is no call for harboring illusions – because resolving the conflicts in the Middle East will not be a top priority of the new U.S. administration. As American [public opinion] polls show, the top priority [of the American public] is the economic and financial crisis, and the U.S. administration cannot afford to neglect it.”

Meanwhile in Iraq, a columnist calls any optimism “misplaced”: “The ever-growing optimism [inspired by] Obama’s ascent to the White House is misplaced, reflecting an inaccurate assessment of this man’s plans. Such optimism has no basis in reality, especially when it comes to the situation in Iraq…

“The Iraqis must realize that the improvement of the domestic situation in their country depends not on what the U.S will do, but on what the [Iraqi] people and its leadership will contribute to the establishment of true peace in [Iraq].”

Syrian Dailies call for “continued resistance” despite the new administration. Assuming Obama’s first two years will be occupied by dealing with the current financial crisis, followed by two years of “preparing for his second term in office”, Obama won’t be placing a “high priority” on Arab issues. Thus: “Continued resistance will ensure that the price of the occupation will be too high, preventing the occupation forces from imposing their imperialist goals. [The occupation forces] will thus be left with only two options: to continue [the occupation] and face a war of attrition which will only exacerbate the crises in the U.S. and Israel… or to withdraw and thus extract themselves from this [dark] tunnel.”

Saudi Arabian editors caution their readers against “…their joy over the victory of Obama – whom the Arab media has begun to call ‘Abu Hussein’ or ‘Ibn Hussein’ – some Arabs have forgotten his positions vis-à-vis the Arabs and Israel, which have always been extremist…”

Saudi officials admit they do not know much about Obama, despite their good relations with certain American statesmen.

Another line of thought is to use “Arab capital” as a carrot in this time of financial woe to “…to make significant political demands in return for their capital and investments in the world economy…

“Any significant contribution on their part towards saving the world economy from collapse… must come with conditions, with the main condition being change… in the policy of the U.S. and Europe towards the Middle East in general and towards the Palestinian issue in particular…”

To possibly bail out the US economy in return for forcing change in our position toward Israel? To curry such favor with the US that we would turn our backs on Israel, or take a more accepting view of Arab issues?

None seem to be harboring high expectations that anything will change significantly, and none are apparently willing to tackle the Iranian nuclear issue which has a high probability of going critical sometime in Obama’s first year of office. There is agreement that a “Unified Arab Front” is essential, possibly unifying behind “…an axis comprising Russia and some of its traditional allies, such as China and the large Arab and Muslim countries in Asia and Africa…”.

All in all, there was no dancing in the streets at Obama’s victory, but rather a cautious even skeptical optimism that things will change in Arab favor. Remember this is only the “Main stream Arab” view.

The extremist view? We know they want to kill Americans, but how to top 9/11? Attacks on embassies overseas are barely noticed here in the US. An attack here on US soil would only make us stronger, cause us to pull together again, if only for a while. Terrorists are patient if nothing else, and with the Obama/Pelosi/Reed triad in power, it’s only a matter of time before the Patriot Act is gutted and resolve turns inward against conservative Americans who are their mutual enemy.

With Osama Bin Laden purportedly making his own security his highest priority and at the same time “plotting new attacks”, one has to wonder if Joe Biden knew something he wasn’t telling us, or had dust thrown in his eyes by an escaped terrorist reduced to running for his life and greater insignificance by Predator drones appearing at all hours and SpecOp warriors appearing from the darkness closer and closer to his hiding place in Pakistan?

Bush may be the “Lame Duck” President, but as Commander in Chief he still is very much in power and keeping the pressure on terrorists overseas. But time is getting short, and so the editor of the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida writes: “While many are glad that the George Bush nightmare is finally over, we must not have high hopes about Obama’s policy. We will not derive much benefit from the new Democratic president, because the slogan of ‘change’ from his election campaign pertained only to domestic issues and not to foreign [policy] issues…”.