Arab approval of the United States in the Middle East has plummeted so drastically that it now is lower than it was during the presidency of George W. Bush, according to a startling new survey.
The poll of over 4,000 citizens in six Arab nations -- Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates -- shows the favorability rating of the United States dropping precipitously in four of them.
U.S. favorability has increased by 2 points in Lebanon and 17 points in Saudi Arabia since the Bush era. But those were the only nations where U.S. favorability is now higher.
The survey was conducted by IBOPE Zogby International on behalf of the Arab-American Institute (AAI) Foundation.
AAI founder and President James Zogby tells Newsmax the results reflect Arabs’ profound disappointment that the high hopes raised by President Barack Obama in his June 2009 speech at Cairo University were dashed.
“Expectations raised, and not met,” Zogby declared, adding: “The president might have the best of intentions, but moving beyond that, into actually getting something done, can be very difficult. And that might be the one place where the administration got upended.”
One worrisome indication regarding the outcome of the ongoing political turmoil in Egypt: Only 5 percent of Egyptians expressed a favorable view of the United States, compared to 95 percent who had an unfavorable opinion, the survey found.
In fact, only one Arab country felt the United States contributed more to Arab peace and stability than Iran did. That was Saudi Arabia.
One of the survey’s most startling findings: The majority of respondents in all six Arab nations said the killing of al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden gives them a worse opinion of the United States.
James Zogby tells Newsmax that respondents saw the kill mission as “a flaunting of power more than it is something the region looks to as a good thing.” But that does not mean Arab citizens approve of bin Laden or his terrorist tactics, he said.
Compared to European powers, Zogby says, America historically “has had clean hands, we were the one power that was not a colonial power.”
But the lingering wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have changed that perception, he said.
The No. 1 issue Arabs see as disrupting peace in the Middle East: “The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands.” Some 66 percent say that issue is the worst stumbling block.
Other highlights from the survey:
• More than 90 percent of those surveyed in Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan said President Obama had failed to meet the expectations set by his speech at Cairo University.
• In no Arab country did approval of President Obama’s policies exceed 10 percent. That compares to 60 percent of Lebanese who agreed with the policies of Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
• U.S. interference in the affairs of Arab countries, and the lack of democracy in Arab countries are the other two problems that prominently were cited.
• By an overwhelming margin, respondents said the most important problem for the United States to address in order to improve relations with the Arab world is the impasse over Palestinians.
Resolving the Palestinian dispute isn’t the only issue affecting relations, Zogby said. “But it has become the core issue,” he added, “almost the defining issue in the relationship. And that’s the one they wait and say: ‘What are you going to do on that one?’”
Resolving that issue, Zogby told Newsmax, would contribute to “a very substantial turnabout in the relationship.”
Zogby is the recent author of "Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us, and Why It Matters."
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