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Obama's Re-Election: Reactions From the Middle East

See reactions from the Arab, Turkish and Israeli press to the US elections.
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From the Arab press


The main question that As-Safir’s editorial covers is: “Will [President Obama's] main concern be the US economy, or will he become more stringent in US foreign policy and national security?” As-Safir believes that the US president will be freer in dealing with foreign-policy challenges during his second term.

The editorial adds that the latter will be obvious when covering “issues from Syria, Iran and Palestine alongside China and Russia, as well as the Arab Spring states and Sudan, Mali, Pakistan and Afghanistan and when dealing with the terrorism files."

Talal AwkalAl-Ayyam

The opinion piece from Al-Ayyam stresses that “if there were to be a change in the US approach to the peace process and negotiations, the first immediate test will take place within a few days, when the Palestinians submit their request to the United Nations.”

The author goes on to state that “there is yet room for another test, which is the level and nature of intervention and US impact in the upcoming elections in Israel, as some bet that President Obama might work to support the opposing alliance of Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu.”

Mohamed Obeid, Al-Khaleej

The Al-Khaleej writer said, “After having Obama win his second mandate, the mere talk about change, or giving further attention to the issues of the Arab region in general, and the Palestine cause in particular, seems to be farfetched […]”

“It is up to the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular to look at their relations with the US through their issues and interests if they want to achieve a real change in US foreign policy and its orientation toward the region. They should also know that betting on the victory of X Democratic candidate or Y Republican one is a game intended to divert their attention and to cover up the tragedies they had suffered as aresult of such bets.”

Ghassan Charbel, Al-Hayat

Al-Hayat’s editor-in-chief, Ghassan Charbel, stated that the US elections are not only limited to US citizens but to “the global citizens in their economy, security and stability. The number of people who object to or dislike US policy is higher than its supporters. Nevertheless, this fact does not put into question the weight of this country that could win World War III without firing a single bullet.”

He concludes his article by saying: “It is clear that we are facing a long-term test. The key challenge is to improve people’s lives through their jobs, dignity, opportunity, mutual respect and by empowering women. Perhaps the main perspective is to pay attention to our schools, universities and curricula in order to modernize and update them. Otherwise we will follow US elections every four years and the Arab Spring will simply be false hope that quickly faded."

Hassan Haydar, Al-Hayat

Al-Hayat’s columnist Hassan Haydar presented a more skeptical view of President Obama’s re-election concerning Syria and Iran. “.. the old/new administration will not change its position pertaining to the arming of the Syrian opposition.” He notes that the president is not convinced that changing the balance of power in Syria is a US responsibility and does not feel that he will intervene directly in this crisis. The author further adds: “President Obama’s strategy is based on the principle of withdrawing from areas that will drain its power without any hope of final victory.”

When mentioning Iran, he says that “Tehran is happy with Obama’s re-election because it will rule out, to some point, the military choice that Israel is promoting.” He goes on to add that “Obama will face a difficult choice after he has stated that Iran will never possess a nuclear weapon and that the economic-sanctions policy is the best way to achieve this goal.”

Siham Boursoti, El-Khabar

Siham Boursouti interviews Dr. Mustafa Kamel al-Sayyed, president of the Center for the Study and Research of Developing Countries, who said that: “The policy of re-elected President Obama will not change and will continue as is," describing it as positive. He further adds that his re-election “will serve the Arab and Middle East region.”

Kamel explained that “the most important challenge is his ability to end the Iranian nuclear program without resorting to war," and that President Obama will be more firm when dealing with the Syrian crisis, adding that "he will avoid military intervention so as not to cause the collapse of the system and a civil war between the various Syrian minorities, and in order to avoid Islamists coming to power.”

Jihad al Khazen, Al-Hayat

The columnist for Al-Hayat said that “Now that the president has achieved what he wants, and will be with us holding his new title, 'leader of the free world,' until 2016, we expect to see the real Obama, not Obama: prisoner of the elections.”

He adds, “Concerning Arabs and Muslims, the greatest failure of the Obama administration in the last four years was the non-execution of his promises in his famous Cairo 2009 speech. And in the United Nations in 2010, where I heard him say that he wanted to see Palestine seated as a new member of the UN General Assembly the following year.” The author goes on to highlight that in 2011, President Obama led a campaign against Palestine’s membership.

Rosana Bou Mouncef, An-Nahar

She says in her article that “Obama's victory will put him in a challenging position, to lead a movement toward Syria, be it through a dialogue with Russia regarding a possible solution or not.”

Morsi Abou Tawq, Azzaman

In Azzaman, Tawq titles his article “Obama’s victory revives Iran’s hope for negotiation and lack of clarity concerning Syria.” 

From the Turkish press

Sami Kohen, Milliyet

From Milliyet’s veteran foreign-affairs commentator Sami Kohen:

“Election results show a major transformation in American society. Obama’s populist approach attracted segments that, until now, have been marginalized and without any political power."

“What can we expect in the next four years? Obama will continue with his domestic and foreign-policy agendas. Parameters of his foreign policy are known. He is against Bush-style interventions. He prefers peaceful and conciliatory approaches to issues. The question is how he will apply this to specific foreign issues such as Syria, Iraq, Iran and Palestine. For Turkey, what is important is how all of this will affect US-Turkish relations.”

Kadri Gursel, Milliyet

“In foreign policy, Obama’s success in the eyes of the electorate is his determination to end America’s wars. The US is no longer the world’s gendarmerie. If it ever undertakes armed intervention around the world, it won’t be for humanitarian ideals or the sake of ethical foreign policy but for American national interests. Perhaps it may take up arms to defend the vital interests of a couple of strategic allies."

“I want to emphasize two realities. First, Turkey is not a strategic ally of the US. Second, no matter how bad the situation is in Syria, it doesn’t threaten America’s national interests. American success here will be to keep the situation at a manageable level and spread it over time. Nobody should expect the Obama administration to enter a new war whose results cannot be predicted now that he is free from election pressure. He will resist  provocations of his warmongering allies in the region. Keep these points in mind when reading the news.”

Mehmet Barlas, Sabah

From the daily Sabah’s chief editorial writer Mehmet Barlas:

“If Romney — who during the election campaign spoke the language of a new cold war, who labeled Russia and China as countries threatening the US and who looked at the Middle East through Israeli spectacles — had won, the world could have entered into a period of tense uncertainty. Turkey is satisfied with the continuity in Washington. The dialogue between Obama and Erdogan will ensure the stability in Turkish-American relations. We still don’t know if Hillary Clinton will stay on. Our foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu is impatiently waiting for the news, given her significant role in shaping a joint policy toward Syria.”

Asli Aydintasbas, Milliyet

Milliyet’s former Washington correspondent was in Chicago to follow election results.

"Was it a reaction to Romney being a Mormon? Was it because of low unemployment figures? Was it because Americans are tired of being the world’s policeman? None of the above. There are two basic reasons for Obama’s victory: A very professionally-run election campaign and grave mistakes by Romney."

"Americans like happy endings. Every presidential candidate has to come up with a narrative of success. Obama used both the social and mainstream media expertly. Because of his wife and his attachment to her, he won over the women. He appealed to middle class Democrats, blacks, latinos and everyone else who felt marginalized. He read the American mood correctly and instead of promising to rule the world, he promised to bring American soldiers home."

"Romney made basic mistakes. The problem was not his being a Mormon or his conservatism, but his being rich and  staying with the rich. Obama’s biggest success was to paint Romney as a man of the old order, of Wall Street, of the rich, of the white — in short, a part of the established order. Voters said no this."

Murat Yetkin, Daily Radikal

“Obama did not win only because he is for social justice. He won because he was close to women, to non-whites and to the marginalized. Contrary to conspiracy theories in Turkey and the world over, the choice of American voters had nothing to do with heavy world problems but with their own pockets."

“Also, remember the scene when Obama appeared with his family for his acceptance speech. He was greeting the crowd when his daughter Sasha gently prodded him. Instead of ignoring her and saying, 'later,' Obama turned around listened to his daughter. As far as we can determine from the camera coverage of that scene, Sasha said something like, ‘back.’"

“Obama turned around and greeted the voters who were behind him and then went on with his speech."

“What do you think Obama’s secret is?"

Hasan Cemal, Milliyet

“The American people were not delighted electing Obama. But, by keeping him in the White House, they proved their decision not to gamble. Romney was the gamble. He could have gotten the US into untold troubles with his militarist language reminiscent of the Cold War and his haphazard financial policies.

“So instead of playing a dangerous gamble with Romney, people opted for another four years with the calm and confidence-inspiring administration of Obama.”

From Israel

Alon Pinkas, Nrg-Maariv

According to Alon Pinkas, "for those looking at the Israeli angle, deeming the relationship and the alliance between the United States and Israel important and realizing that it has been Israel’s greatest asset since its foundation, they would do well to ask themselves the following: In the past four years, has Israel made the effort to understand, connect and have a dialogue with the America of 2012, or has it lived in denial, feeding on the surreal fringes of that country? Has it acted arrogantly, relying on those whose understanding of that country ended in the 1980s? Has it crassly and unwisely meddled in the presidential campaign only to continue its ties with a segment of America that is no longer dominant?"

Arik Bender, NRG-Maariv

Arik Bender writes that President Barack Obama’s victory elicited different reactions across Israel’s political spectrum. While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to congratulate the president-elect and laud the “rock-solid” relationship between the two countries, his own right-wing Likud Party members were vocally disheartened, prompting the Prime Minister's Office to send out a message prohibiting them from commenting on President Obama’s re-election. By contrast, President Shimon Peres, Chairperson of the Labor Party Shelly Yachimovitch and Chairperson of the Meretz Party Zehava Gal-On all sent heartfelt wishes to President Obama on his victory. 

Nahum Barnea, Yedioth Ahronoth

Nahum Barnea holds that "for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, [President] Obama’‎s victory is quite the dent to his ego. The Israeli who is so well-versed in American politics — ‎even better than Americans themselves — had ‎bet on the wrong horse. Israeli voters have taken note of this blunder.

Barnea thinks that "we can tell him to relax. No calamity will befall him, at least not in America. He’ll be able to conceal the dent with some makeup. Obama isn’t built for embarking on vendettas against prime ministers on the other side of the globe. That’s not in his character and not part of his priorities.

"Giving a cold shoulder, however, is. At most, he won’‎t rush to respond to every telephone request that comes from Israel. From now on, Netanyahu is going to have to talk more with US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro. An affable man, the ambassador would be happy to talk. Indeed, Netanyahu quickly adjusted himself to Shapiro’‎s upgraded status. Immediately after congratulating the president-elect, the prime minister informed Israeli voters that he had summoned Shapiro for a meeting.

"The big question in the Israeli context is how Iran will respond to Obama’‎s victory, and in turn, how Obama will react to Iran’‎s response. The optimistic scenario suggests that the sanctions are effective. Obama’‎s reelection will persuade the Iranians that they have no choice but to stop their nuclear program. There are, naturally, less optimistic scenarios as well. The question remains whether Obama will order a military strike or stand behind an Israeli strike. It’s his call: Netanyahu can no longer sic the Republican candidate or retired Jews from Florida on him. Those days are over."


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