Monday, May 31, 2010

Unfortunately, I Told You So: Who Says Obama is Popular?; Arabs Think America Too Weak; Iran Wars Against US in Afghanistan

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By Barry Rubin

Al-Jazeera magazine runs a long and devastatingly critical article about how America is finished and President Barack Obama is weak. The title is: “The American Century Is So Over.” I cite this piece—much of which is about failures outside the Middle East—only to show the perception in the Arabic-speaking world being one of contempt rather than sympathy.

So far, I haven't seen a single article in the Arabic media extolling Obama. I saw two articles, Saudi and Egyptian respectively, saying that the Arabic-speaking world should give Obama more support but they both admitted that, despite Obama's efforts, those countries have done almost nothing to assist him so far.

Meanwhile, public opinion polls in Arabic-speaking countries also show that Obama’s standing is much closer to that of George W. Bush than anyone would have expected. I wrote last year that Obama was only one percentage point higher than Bush in polls taken in Pakistan.

Also, Iran is escalating its war against the United States in Afghanistan, as I pointed out some months ago. The commander of U.S. and NATO forces, General Stanley McChrystal, has publicly announced that Iran is increasing the training given to Taliban forces. I have also noted U.S. officials pointing out Iran's war on the United States in Iraq and in terms of assisting al-Qaida.

So there is no engagement on Tehran's part, and it doesn't need nuclear weapons to attack U.S. forces and interests. Yet this conflict remains largely unrecognized in Washington.

Finally, here's an article in al-Hayat by the editor explaining that Americans don't understand the Middle East precisely because of the kind of conventional wisdom displayed by Bush and Obama alike. He sounds like the kind of things I've been writing for you.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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