Hatred growing from Middle East
Election results increase the dread.
Arabs Disappointed at Bush Lead, Many See Conflict
By Jonathan Wright
CAIRO (Reuters) - Middle Eastern peoples, with the exception of Israelis and some Iranians, reacted with resigned disappointment Wednesday to U.S. election results expected to give President Bush four more years in power.
One consolation for them was that few had high hopes from Democratic challenger John Kerry, who attacked the way Bush has handled the occupation of Iraq but did not promise action Arabs wanted to see on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many said they feared another four years of Bush would bring more conflict and bloodshed to the Middle East, which has borne the brunt of Washington doctrine of preemptive attacks.
A few said Bush was preferable because he now knew the region and would have time to adjust his policies, or because of his campaign for political reform in the Arab world.
Imad Shuaibi, a political science professor at Damascus University, predicted "four years of nightmare again" on the assumption that Bush would not learn from his first term, which has made the United States more unpopular than ever among Arabs.
"(A Bush victory) is likely to mean more violence in Iraq, in Afghanistan but not only there. Other hot spots could blaze up like Sudan, Iran, Syria. Dark clouds are gathering,," said Ali Ammar, a leading lawyer and journalist in Morocco.
Jasim Ali, a Bahraini analyst, said: "This is not good news for the Middle East. Bush could take this as a sign that his foreign policy in the region is a success and he may harden his positions. There will be more killing and bloodshed."
"Four more years means ... more innocent people will be victims. Unless he has more sober people around him I don't know what is going to happen," added Khaled Maeena, editor in chief of the Saudi newspaper Arab News.
"All the Saudis I've seen so far are disappointed. We spoke to more than 30 people. They are disappointed that Bush has been awarded victory," Maeena added.
The only immediate official Arab comments came from Yemen, which has cooperated with Washington against militant Islamists despite its reservations about overall U.S. policy.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi told Reuters his country would continue to cooperate "no matter who wins."
But he added: "After September 11 there was unfortunately a violation of human rights of Arabs and Muslims in America, and Washington did not act on the bloody situation in the Palestinian territories, which led to anger toward the Bush administration, in addition to the war in Iraq which turned out to be completely unjustified."
He said it made no difference whether Republicans or Democrats were in power because "each will try to strengthen the United States' hegemony militarily and economically."
The Bush administration has brought America's standing to record lows among Arabs, mainly because of its invasion of Iraq and neglect of the Palestinian problem.
Even his campaign for reform and democracy in the Middle East had not been well received because of suspicions that it is an attempt to impose U.S. interests in the region.
There were pockets of pro-Bush sentiment in Israel, the closest U.S. ally in the region, and paradoxically in Iran despite quarter of a century of frigid relations.
Bush has worked closely with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and appeared to agree with Sharon that cracking down on Palestinian militants was part of a joint "war on terrorism."
Israel Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said: "There is no doubt that this was a serious chemistry (between Bush and Sharon), and President Bush's friendliness was very great."
"But in the case of President Bush and the candidate Kerry, there is no significant difference when it comes to their warm support for Israel," he added.
Mohammad Ali Abtahi, an adviser to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, said a Bush victory was preferable despite his "wrong policies."
"By the mistakes he made in the Middle East he has more knowledge about the region than Kerry, who needs time and money to reach Bush's conclusions," Abtahi said.
Ordinary Arabs and politicians reflected the divide between those who had hoped for Bush's humiliation, those who saw some slight advantage in a Bush second term and those who consider all leading U.S. politicians as hopelessly biased.
"Bush is the most hated man in the region... His mentality is naturally against Islam and Muslims... Kerry is better for the plain reason that he is not Bush," said Dia el-Din Dawoud, head of the left-wing Nasserist party in Egypt.
But Salem Soueid, a Syrian hotel worker, said: "If the other man (Kerry) becomes the president he will try to change things for sure, how can we know that he will change it for the best? At least Bush knows all the secrets and it took him four years to do that, he is more experienced."
Ghassan Shehaby, 29, a businessman in Bahrian, doubts that. "We would not have gotten anything from this anyway. What has Bush done for us or would Kerry have done differently?" he said.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article