President Obama has failed to live up to the expectations he created in the Arab world, according to a new poll released by IBOPE Zogby International and the Arab American Institute Foundation. The poll also noted that most Arab countries view the U.S. less favorably today than they did during the last year of the Bush administration.
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When President Bush left office, 9 percent of Egyptians had a favorable attitude towards the United States. After Barack Obama was elected, that number jumped to 30 percent. But today, only 5 percent of Egyptians surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of the United States and its president. Similar figures in Morocco, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates illustrate that the initial optimism in the region has been eclipsed by a widespread sense of disappointment.
“President Obama did not create the problems, but he created the expectation that the problems would be solved,” said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.
“He sent a number of signals early on that U.S. policy would change: in his inauguration speech, in his al-Arabiya interview, and in his appointment of [former Senate Majority Leader] George Mitchell as special envoy,” said Zogby. “By the time of his speech in Cairo, the favorable ratings of the U.S. were at their highest ever.”
But figures from six Arab nations tell the same story: People in the Arab world are frustrated by the lack of follow-up. “You get credit for trying after 100 days, but after two years you don’t get credit for trying; you get credit for producing, and the production isn’t there,” Zogby said.
“I’m not faulting the president. He didn’t get a magic wand when he took office,” Zogby said. “Instead, he got a shovel to get out of a deep hole. Every one of the issues that he's inherited has been more difficult than he or anyone else expected.”
Aaron David Miller, a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, said that the results reflect a fundamental “clash of interests” between the United States and countries in the region, calling the results “a very old story, which Zogby has simply brought up to date.”
“The fact is that there is a huge disconnect between what we believe is the right approach in the region and what many of the people who live there believe is the right approach,” Miller said.
“The bottom line is that Arabs expect a fundamental change in policy, but that change will not be forthcoming. And therefore the story of the United States in this region is going to continue to be difficult, to say the least.”