Broad welcome but some muted doubts


Middle East:Barack Obama’s re-election was widely welcomed in the Middle East, although Arabs and Muslims have expressed disappointment over Mr Obama’s first-term regional policy failures and three out of four Israelis preferred his rival, Mitt Romney.

When Mr Obama took office in 2009, he promised to make a serious effort to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, engage with the Muslim world, and initiate dialogue with Iran. Arab and Iranian commentators maintain that he did not deliver in any of the three endeavours.

Nevertheless, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas promptly congratulated Mr Obama on his re-election and urged him to resume efforts, abandoned in 2010, to achieve a deal between Palestinians and Israelis involving the creation of a Palestinian state.

Having made no secret of his support for Mitt Romney, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu yesterday pledged to work with Mr Obama “to ensure the interests that are vital for the security of Israel’s citizens”.

Egypt’s Muslim fundamentalist president Mohammed Morsi hailed Mr Obama’s victory and called for a “strengthening of the friendship between the two countries to serve their common interests, namely justice, freedom and peace”.

Mr Morsi did not address prospects for improved US-Muslim relations in the aftermath of the Arab Spring to which, some regional observers argue, Mr Obama’s reactions have been inconsistent and confused.

Regional analysts expect Arab-Israeli peace and conciliatory gestures to Muslims could be put on hold until Mr Obama deals with the urgent threats posed by Syria’s conflict and Iran’s nuclear programme.

Syrian opposition figures did not cheer Mr Obama’s victory. Germany-based activist Fawaz Tello argued a second term for Mr Obama was “not a good sign”, while a Syrian rebel commander warned that if Mr Obama did not clarify his policy, “Syria will become like Somalia.”

Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency expressed relief with the headline: “Republicans’ elephant crushed by Democrats’ donkey.”