Middle East Awaits Obama With Hope-Scepticism

The inauguration of Barack Obama as president was met with renewed hope from people in the Middle East as well as with some hesitation as to whether he would adopt an even handed approach to dealing with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Saleh Al-Mohaisen, a Saudi from Riyadh, said he was “overjoyed” because “I felt he could understand Arab suffering” but also expressed disappointment at Obama’s failure to speak out against the Israel invasion of Gaza. “I love him despite his silence.”

During his inaugural speech, Obama sent a message to the Muslim world saying the US was seeking “a new way forward based on mutual interest and mutual respect” and offered to extend a helping hand to those who are willing “to unclench your fist.” Even while he was speaking a reporter on Al-Jazeera, cut into the live broadcast and said Obama’s word were in “sharp contrast” with those of Bush comments. Diaa Rashwan of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, said many average people would welcome Obama’s remarks that pointed a finger at those who rule by corruption and persecution since most Arabs believe he is citing the record of many rulers in the Middle East.

Reporters in Iraq found widespread hope the new president would undo the mistakes of Bush. Ali Salam, a store owner, said, “”this is real democracy and the results of the people’s struggle.” Muna Abdul-Razzaq, said bluntly, “We hope that Obama will be more responsible. In Iran, Mahnazi Abbasi, a housewife hoped the two nations would “resume relations and then we will be able to get a US visa and visit there.”

Most probably, high expectations in January may not be present in July after months have passed without resolution of many problems. It will take a desire for compromise on the part of Israel and Arab nations to achieve any sort of peace in the Middle East.