It was a cornerstone of the foreign policy change that was supposed to come with a Barack Obama Presidency. President Obama was going to make sure that the United States was going to become close buddies with the Arab world. That was the reason his first post inauguration interview was with an Arabic news network. It was the reason for his big speech in Cairo, and the Indonesia speech. But according to a new poll of six Muslim nations conducted by Zogby International, the United States now has a lower rating in the Arab World than during the last year of the George Bush presidency (when Obama running for president and outlining his foreign policy change.)
The six countries queried were Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), and the UAE.
At the beginning of the Obama presidency, the Arab world’s attitude toward America rose to new heights, but since then US ratings have plummeted to the point of in five out of six of those countries surveyed, the U.S. was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France—or Iran.
In fact “U.S. interference in the Arab world” is now seen as the second greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East, second only to the fact that there are still Jews living in the holy land (my description not Zogby’s).
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The key points of the survey are:
- After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran’s favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).
- The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.
- While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama’s favorable ratings across the Arab world are 10% or less.
- Obama’s performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.
- The U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya receives a positive rating only in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, but, as an issue, it is the lowest priority.
- The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.
- A plurality says it is too early to tell whether the Arab Spring will have a positive impact on the region. In Egypt, the mood is mixed. Only in the Gulf States are optimism and satisfaction levels high.