News / Middle East

Obama's Pledge of Aid Welcomed in Mideast, Politics Less So

Obama's Pledge of Aid Welcomed in Mideast, Politics Less So
Obama's Pledge of Aid Welcomed in Mideast, Politics Less So

Multimedia

Audio

Reaction to President Barack Obama's speech on the Middle East has prompted some initial mixed reactions in Egypt.  While plans for economic and development aid are being welcomed, hopes for a more consistent stand on regional unrest and a new approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict were largely dashed.

The promise of aid, in the form of debt relief and loan guarantees, is helping allay some fears in Egypt and Tunisia.  Popular uprisings in the two nations succeeded in toppling the old governments, but at a cost.   

"The economic situation has become very dire, particularly on the financial front. There is a big financing gap and this needs to be closed right away.  So I think any amount of money and any opportunity to have access to cash would help this situation immensely," said Magda Kandil, director of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies.

Both Tunisia and Egypt have been hard hit by a drop in tourist revenue.  In Egypt, remittance earnings are down after more than a million of its workers fled the conflict in neighboring Libya.  General uncertainty has kept foreign investment at bay and led to hoarding of key commodities at home - all elements that put the chances of a peaceful transition at risk.   

Economist Kandil says that the way the economic assistance has been structured will help.  "I think the beauty about the debt forgiveness is that it starts in the form of debt swap, which means that the money will not be just loose cash that the government can do whatever it wants to do with it," he said.

She is encouraged that some of the money is slotted for development projects, a key issue, she argues, at this juncture.

The economic part of Mr. Obama's speech appears to be the one aspect that will resonate strongly in the weeks and months to come.

The rest, according to Egyptian publisher and long-time democracy advocate Hisham Kassem, was a profound disappointment.

"He [Obama] reiterated double standards while trying to package it as a support for freedom.  But we saw how he made clear that [Libyan leader] Moammar Gadhafi has to leave, and then referring to the actions of the government of Bahrain as 'the rule of law,' enforcing the rule of law - that was the bottom line - no.  No, no," Kassen said.   

Kassem argues that the unevenness of Mr. Obama's approach to the region extends to Saudi Arabia - like Bahrain, a key ally and a fierce suppressor of government opponents - which the president did not mention at all.

As for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, there was hope that the U.S. leader would seize this period of dramatic change to take an equally dramatic new approach to the peace process.  Washington had tried to dampen such expectations, but again, some sense a missed opportunity.  

Publisher Kassem says he had hoped that in the political part of the speech, Mr. Obama would offer something tangible, whether on peace talks, or a tougher stand on Syria.   He recalls an earlier effort by the president to reach out to the region, during a 2009 address in Cairo.

"I personally, at the time, in spite of a lot of optimism, thought he said nothing, had no time frames, no concrete plans for anything.  And it turned out to be true.  And now he's doing more of the same, almost two years later," Kassen said.

The question now may be how much that argument will even matter.  The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East began, as Mr. Obama noted, without U.S. political help.  The economic aid, however, could ensure that the successful ones can carry through.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs