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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More