Arab commentators were divided Wednesday on whether Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential race bodes well for future Arab-American relations.
The leaders of Egypt and the Palestinian Authority rushed to congratulate Obama on his victory, but Islamist officials were more reserved in their public statements.
Sami Abu-Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, called on the newly reelected US president to reassess his “biased” position in favor of Israel. Hamas government spokesman Taher Nunu appealed to Obama to adopt “a moral policy, devoid of double standards” towards regional issues.
“We heard moderate speech from Obama following his first term victory, but his policy was inconsistent with the speeches he gave in Egypt and Turkey,” Nunu told the press. “He now has an opportunity to implement those promises to the nations of the region, far from pressures by the Israel lobby and politicized money.”
Abdel Bari Atwan, the Arab nationalist editor of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, understood Obama’s call in his victory speech “to free ourselves from foreign oil’ as a blow to Saudi Arabia, the largest oil exporter to the United States
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood official Essam al-Erian was pessimistic Wednesday that Obama’s foreign policy would change significantly during his second term in office.
“Accepting the will of the Arab people is the most important change,” wrote al-Erian on his Facebook page.
“We must rely on ourselves and on our resources and build our country. In the absence of direct American influence, Egypt can affect and lead the process of building a democratic and constitutional regime that will become a dream for African and the southern hemisphere.”
Abdel Bari Atwan, the Arab nationalist editor of London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, understood Obama’s call in his victory speech “to free ourselves from foreign oil” as a “worrying warning to the government of Saudi Arabia,” the largest exporter of oil to the US.
In comments on his Twitter account, Atwan added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also has cause for concern, as he “has placed all of his eggs in Romney’s basket,” displaying “striking political stupidity.”
“No sense of exhilaration,” tweeted British Iraqi political commentator Anas Al-Tikriti. “Just somber contentment that a worse outcome was avoided.”
Meanwhile, Iranian parliament member Muhammad Karim Abidi, deputy head of the parliament’s human rights committee, told the Arabic-language television channel Al-Alam that Obama must fulfill promises made during his first term in office. He cited issues such as closing the American prison in Guantanamo Bay; correcting US policy toward [the oppression of Shiites in] Bahrain; and reducing support for “capitalists.”
Abidi also called on Obama to reduce his country’s nuclear arsenal and rid Israel of its “nuclear and chemical weapons of mass destruction.”