Middle East Not So Happy with Obama

Helle Dale /

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Under President Obama’s leadership, U.S. influence among Middle East nations has waned, and in fact declined since President Bush left office.

During last week’s visit to Ramallah, Palestine, Obama was the object of demonstrations by irate Palestinians. They are not alone in their anger over neglect and unfulfilled presidential promises, as Princeton graduate and Fulbright scholar Sarah Mousa wrote following Obama’s Middle East trip:

Throughout the region, people celebrated Obama as a potentially revolutionary force via US policy in the Arab world. They were quick to be disappointed, however, as they came to realize the emptiness of the president’s rhetoric, especially regarding Palestine, among the most important issues for many throughout the region.

As a consequence, Mousa writes, Arabs regard the U.S. as “increasingly irrelevant.”

Several factors are at play here:

The Obama Administration badly bungled U.S. policy on the Arab uprisings, a historic opportunity to advance free societies. The U.S. repose was confused, contradictory, and reactive. As a result, the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalists moved in to fill the power vacuum.
To quote Mousa again, “The Arab uprisings transformed many peoples’ views on the role played by the U.S. in their region. While Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did offer verbal support to most of the protest movements, hypocritical selective support, initial American hesitation in backing the uprisings and past policies bolstering dictatorships were not forgotten.”

In order to become relevant again, the United States needs to show engagement and a sustained commitment to secular, political progress in the Middle East.