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Arabs Favor Obama for White House

Published: 24/10/2012 08:18:13 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Despite being disappointed about his failure to deliver on his promises of a new beginning with the Muslim world, Arabs favor the re-election of incumbent President Barack Obama than his Republican rival Mitt Romney. (more)

CAIRO - Despite being disappointed about his failure to deliver on his promises of a new beginning with the Muslim world, Arabs favor the re-election of incumbent President Barack Obama than his Republican rival Mitt Romney.

"I am one of those who is very much disappointed with Obama," Hassan Nafaa, a professor at Cairo University, told Reuters on Wednesday, October 24.

Following his election in 2008, Obama in a landmark speech from Cairo pledged a new beginning in relations with the Muslim world after a decade of mistrust since the 9/11.

"He didn't deliver,” Nafaa said of Obama.

However, he still prefers the Democrat president than Republican Romney.

“But I think he (Obama) is much better than Romney," said Nafaa.

"I don't appreciate at all the right wing in the United States with their preference to use extensive military force."

Many Arabs were disappointed that Obama failed to support Arab Spring revolutions that swept US allies from power.

"Obama was easy on Mubarak at points and the American administration did not play a full role in supporting the Egyptian revolution," said Mohamed Adel, a spokesman for the April 6 movement that was at the forefront of the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power.

But he said Republican candidate Romney was not an attractive alternative for Egypt or the Middle East.

Adel opines that Romney is more “aggressive” than Obama, citing his threats to halt US aid to Egypt over protests around the US embassy over a film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).

Romney has accused Obama of being a weak steward of US power, promising among other things to boost the US naval presence in the Middle East.

He has also said he would be a better friend of Israel, a nation Obama has not visited in office.

That kind of language rings alarm bells in the region and has drawn comparisons with the policies of President George W. Bush, reviled by many Arabs for leading an invasion of Iraq.

"He (Romney) doesn't differ much from Bush," Ahmed Zaki wrote on Twitter after watching the final debate between the US rivals on Monday night.

No Difference

Still, many Arabs see no big differences between the two US presidential candidates.

"What we didn't see in the debate was any sign of who has the backbone and foresight to bring about a just peace," said veteran Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi.

She said that both candidates were competing on "who's more loyal to Israel".

Romney has angered the Palestinians and Arabs earlier this year after describing Al-Quds (occupied Jerusalem) as Israel's capital.

He also said that the Palestinians lack the culture that has driven Israel's economic success, ignoring problems generated by Israeli occupation of territories where the Palestinians seek statehood.

Obama has also disappointed many Arabs after pledging support for a Palestinian state that now looks as much a distant prospect as at any time.

For 45-year-old Iraqi shop worker Firas al-Qaisi, neither candidate will make a real difference.

"Look at the Palestinian issue, there is no change in the American policy since 1948 although many presidents came and went," he said in Baghdad.

Yet Iraq is one place where Obama has had an impact by withdrawing US troops, although Romney has accused Obama of being too hasty.

That achievement was acknowledged by Alaa al-Saadoun, an Iraqi Kurdish lawmaker.

"The work Obama did withdrawing American forces from Iraq made a difference,” he told Reuters.

“If the Republicans were in power, they would not have left.”

But even as that military intervention was ended, Obama has ordered US drones to kill militants in Yemen and Pakistan, enraging many in the region. Romney has backed this action.

Obama or Romney

For the non-Arab heavyweight Iran, the two candidates are similar.

"Obama has already showed he wants to wreck the Iranian economy, bring hard times and prevent important medicine by sanctioning the central bank,” said Mohammad Marandi of Tehran University, speaking by telephone from Tehran.

“So there is not a lot Romney could do that Obama hasn't done already.”

A commentary published by the Iranian news agency Fars echoed a similar view.

"Will it be more of the fist inside the velvet glove, or the hammer directly to the skull?"

The West has slapped a series of sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, which Washington and its allies suspect it for military purposes.

Tehran says the program is entirely peaceful and aims at generating electricity.

As sanctions tighten on Iran, the conflict in Iran's ally Syria has deepened with the United States and its Western allies at odds with Russia and China about what action to take.

Romney said earlier this month he would find elements in Syria who shared US values and make sure they obtained weapons needed to defeat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama's administration says it is giving logistical support to Syrian opposition fighters but has shied away from providing arms.

The international gridlock over Syria and uprisings that have breathed new vigor into Arab politics may also be changing attitudes about the United States, for years seen as the only player with the clout to make a difference in the region.

"There is sense that the US isn't as relevant as it once was," said Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center.

"But that is also partly because the Arab Spring helped empower Arabs to move away from their obsessive focus on the US."

His remarks were echoed by 70-year-old Egyptian security guard, Gamal."I don't expect any change from the Americans towards us. We have to change ourselves with our own hands."

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