News / Middle East

Arab World Awaits Obama's Mideast Trip

Disappointed Arab World Awaits Obama's Mideast Tripi
X
March 13, 2013 8:29 PM
President Obama's visit to the Middle East next week is being greeted with far less enthusiasm than four years ago, when hopes were high for a new era in U.S. - Arab relations. VOA's Elizabeth Arrott has more from Cairo.
Elizabeth Arrott
— President Obama's visit to the Middle East next week is being greeted with far less enthusiasm than four years ago, when hopes were high for a new era in U.S. - Arab relations.

When the U.S. president visited Cairo in 2009, he was hailed as a son of Africa, a man whose middle name "Hussein" hinted at a fundamental shift in America's relations with the Islamic and Arab world.  He even spoke an Arabic phrase during his address at Cairo University. "As salamu alaikum," he said.

In the audience that day was former intelligence officer General Sameh Saif al Yazal.  He remembers thinking "We got a good one," and change was imminent. Fast forward four years:  "The expectations were very high, but when you see it physically, it was much less than that expectation," he stated.

Among the disappointments was what many in the region saw as Obama's slow response to the "Arab Spring" uprisings against long-time U.S. allies, as in Egypt, and not enough help - especially economic - in the aftermath. One Cairo resident argued it is important for American and Europe to help now because “they helped the dictatorships.”

Al Yazal says the perception that the U.S. continues to side with the interests of governments rather than the people has not gone away. "The feeling now that the Americans are working for the Egyptian administration and the other administrations without looking at the street people - what they want," he added.

Close collaboration with Yemen's government, for example, allows the U.S. to carry out drone strikes on suspected terrorists.  But civilian casualties from strikes gone wrong have deeply alienated many ordinary Yemenis.

Yet for the most part, Obama has earned praise for scaling back America's military role in the region.  Outside observers, like professor Christian Donath of the American University in Cairo, welcome the U.S. limits.

"The Obama administration has done a relatively good job in being very careful in its approach to Syria given that there are a number of competing interests in Syria.  And I think for now one of the most important things we can do is focus on the humanitarian crisis," Donath explained.

Donath believes concern for humanitarian issues and economic outreach directly to the people could do much to improve America's standing.  But he notes that one thing colors almost everything the U.S. does in the Arab world - America's close ties with Israel, which will be the focus of Obama's trip this time.

"Fundamentally this will be quite difficult for the U.S. to improve our relationship with the people, which seems what we are trying to do," added Donath. "Without somehow addressing the Israel issue and we're not. We haven't been doing that."

Even if Obama can help revive the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians during his trip, few expect the regional dynamic to change any time soon.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
March 15, 2013 11:42 AM
I hope Pres. Obama, during the visit, highlights the plight of women, and the need to emancipate women; the record in some countries, on women is a disgrace; no if and buts they are the last personal slaves on the planet. For humanity to progress this needs to be changed, women need to be emancipated. No more aid, unless women are emancipated; their rights and their persons are absolutely protected.


by: Rob Swift from: Great Britain
March 13, 2013 5:01 PM
There is So much that can (and needs) to be done to improve relations between America and the Arab world. The Way will be scriptural rather than military or economic. Seek first the will of heaven and all things will be added. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid