Arabs mostly give Obama negative 2014 report card

2014-06-04 14:14
Barack Obama. (File, AP)

Barack Obama. (File, AP)

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Washington - Arabs believe the Obama administration has little commitment to a Palestinian state, should not intervene militarily in Syria and mostly failed to support Egypt's interim leaders, a new poll released on Tuesday showed.

Five years after President Barack Obama's landmark speech in Cairo aimed at re-setting ties with the Arab world, the poll revealed that while support for Obama, which had fallen in recent years, is on the rise again among most Arabs it still remains below an average of 50%.

Zogby Research Services polled about 7 000 people across six nations as well as the Palestinian territories in May for its annual survey, focusing on some of the most pressing issues facing the Arab world in 2014, including the negotiations to rein in Iran's nuclear programme, which most broadly supported.

"In most Arab countries, attitudes toward the US are back to where they were in 2009, and are higher than the Bush-era lows," the poll says, referring to the unpopularity of former president George W. Bush.

Just weeks after the latest US effort to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed, the poll found most Arabs "believe that the United States is not even-handed in its approach to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making."

And even though they cite continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories as one of the biggest obstacles to peace and stability in the Arab world, most "have very little confidence that the United States is committed to an independent Palestinian state".

Rejection of US involvement

In Jordan, one of America's closest allies in the Middle East, some 95% of those polled said they were "not confident" the US wanted to see the creation of a Palestinian state.

Three years into the war of Syria, people in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian territories broadly supported America's bid to find a negotiated solution to end the fighting which has left more than 162 000 dead.

The overwhelming majority also believed that the US should "give greater attention to the humanitarian crisis of the Syrian refugees".

Despite the fierce debate in the US about arming the rebels, there was a marked lack of support for US intervention to help the rebels battling to oust President Bashar Assad, including giving weapons to the opposition or air strikes against the Syrian military.

In Morocco and Lebanon, 70% of those polled believed the US should "leave Syria alone, because it is none of the US business".

"Between one-third and one-half of all respondents also say the US should reject providing more advanced weapons to the Syrian opposition," the poll says.

Amid the political upheavals in Egypt - the world's largest Arab nation of 80 million people - many felt the US administration had shown greater support for ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak than for his elected successor Islamist Mohammed Morsi or for the interim military-led government.

In Saudi Arabia - which has openly clashed with the Obama administration over its muddled Egypt policy - some 53% believed the US had not been supportive enough of the military-installed leadership which ousted Morsi.

But in a reflection of the deep political divisions in Egypt, some 51% of Egyptians believed the US had been too supportive of the military leadership, even as last week ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi scored a crushing victory in presidential elections.

While most of those polled backed US-led negotiations to broker a nuclear deal with Iran, there was broad skepticism the talks would succeed in reining in Tehran's atomic ambitions.

Read more on:    bashar assad  |  abdel fatah al-sisi  |  barack obama  |  saudi arabia  |  morocco  |  united arab emirates  |  jordan  |  egypt  |  palestine  |  syria

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