Hope For Change in Washington's Policies Towards Arab Issues

On Wednesday 5 November 2008, citizens of the Gulf region welcomed the victory of Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama in the U.S. presidential elections. They expressed the hope of change to the policies of Washington over Arab and Islamic issues in view of the what they see in him as his Islamist roots.

Abdul-Ilah Al-Bakri said in one of the major shopping malls in Dubai: “His father is a Muslim, I think. Certainly, there will be a change in policy toward Arab and Muslim issues.” Al-Bakri added: “God willing, he will be a better president, especially as he said that the first thing he would do is withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.”

For his part, the Saudi businessman Ali Al-Harthy praised the American democracy that allowed a black man of a Muslim father to reach the White House.

Harthy said: “Obama’s victory confirms that the United States is not a racist country and neither is its people. The American people chose Obama, despite the fact that he is an African with a Muslim father, as an expression of rejection of the conservative policies of the current U.S. administration.”

Harthy said Obama’s victory “shows the radicals in our Arab and Islamic world that our differences with the United States does not have ethnic and religious dimensions.”

Obama’s father was Kenyan and a non-committed Muslim. The president-elect worked hard during the campaign to refute reports that he is Muslim, and stressed that he is Christian and “does not censure an apology to anyone”.

The people of the Gulf believe that Obama will deal with the issues of the Middle East better than the outgoing President George W. Bush.

Ahmed Azzam of Qatar said: “I am optimistic with the election of Barack Obama and I expect major changes in the way the White House deals with the issues of the region. I think that the new U.S. administration will implement the new U.S. strategy in particular those relating to national security and relating to our region. The difference with Obama is how he will manage these cases. We expect to have a dialogue and a search for grounds for understanding, which will include Iran.”

Azzam expressed his hope to see Washington’s foreign policy “change in relation to its dealings with the Palestinian case and to avoid the policy of double-standards pursued by previous U.S. administrations.”

The Qatar engineer Al-Jassim Mohammed contended that: “The reforms introduced by Obama will focus on internal American policies, but his foreign policy will not be impulsive and violent like the Bush administration.”

In Bahrain, Adel Shams (38 years old), the advertizing agent, expressed high optimism about the Obama¬ís victory, saying he expected an “80% change in U.S. policy.”

Shams added: “I believe that Obama can offer something for the Palestinian cause, withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, and will also resolve the Iranian nuclear file.”

But, Khalil Al-Remaithy(28 years), a theater artist, was pessimistic, saying: “American policy usually does not change, no matter who the president is.”

Romaithi said: “I am happy with the victory of Obama, but all I have is wishful thinking. U.S. policy does not change. I think that Obama will follow in the footsteps of Bush with little change. I hope that the election will be the beginning of change, but I am not sure of that.”

In Kuwait, the political analyst Mohammed al-Ajami added: “This is a victory for American democracy as an energetic black man was able to overcome the barriers of race and color, and win the presidency.”

“His victory offers hope that the American policy will change for the better, especially for the Middle East” and that “his victory also gives hope that the failures of the Bush era will be corrected.”

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