Arabs overwhelmingly favour Clinton over Trump

Two-thirds of those polled in nine Arab countries said they viewed US negatively

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Trump would provide strong leadership if elected president of the US, but was cool toward Clinton, who  criticised his human rights record. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said Trump would provide strong leadership if elected president of the US, but was cool toward Clinton, who criticised his human rights record. Photograph: Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters

 

Arabs are wary of US involvement in the Middle East but hope the next president will play a positive role in resolving regional conflicts.

Two -thirds of respondents in nine Arab countries to a poll released on Tuesday by the Washington-based Arab Centre said they viewed the US negatively, while 70 per cent favoured Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, against 13 per cent for Republican Donald Trump.

Syria’s Istanbul-based opposition backs Clinton, who advocates a no-fly zone and “safe zones” for Syrian civilians, a demand long put forward by Turkey. Trump argues that attempts to impose either or both could spark “world war three” with Russia, the ally of the Syrian government in the fight against insurgents backed by western and regional states.

Trump has also expressed support for co-ordinating with Russia in the war against Islamic State and given priority to defeating the group rather than ousting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, a US objective shared by Clinton.

Business as usual

Saudi Arabia, Washington’s oldest Arab ally, expects business as usual and US support for the kingdom’s economic reforms. The Saudi-led war in Yemen is, however, a major problem for Washington, which has backed the campaign in spite of heavy civilian casualties and devastation of infrastructure.

Mamdouh al-Muhaini, an editor of regime mouthpiece Al-Arabiya satellite channel, argues that Trump “is much better than Hillary” because he rejects the Iran nuclear deal and criticises “political Islam” as a source of “terrorism”, a line Riyadh says it adopts.

Trump will be surrounded by “wise advisers” – Republicans favoured by Riyadh – who will ground him in realistic policies, writes Muhaini.

Although both candidates have supported legislation allowing family members of US victims of the September 2001 attacks on the US to sue Saudi Arabia, Clinton and Trump have financial interests in the kingdom. The Clinton Foundation received large donations from Riyadh before Clinton became secretary of state, while Trump has business with Saudi and Gulf firms.

Iraqis prefer Clinton, who has said her support for the 2003 Iraq war was a “mistake”. Trump claims he opposed it, but has criticised the early withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, which led to the rise of al-Qaeda and Islamic State.

Continuing US collaboration

Egyptians are strongly anti-US, although the government, like the Saudi regime, expects continuing US collaboration and aid. Both candidates met president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in New York. Trump praised his strong leadership; Sisi replied by saying Trump would provide the same, but was cool towards Clinton, who called for talks with Egypt but criticised Sisi’s human rights record. She had earlier said Egypt was governed by a “military dictatorship”.

Muslims trust Clinton more than Trump. She has vowed not to “declare war” on Islam, to strive to build trust in US Muslim communities and to raise the number of Syrian refugees entering the US from 10,000 to 65,000, whereas Trump has called for a ban on Muslims entering the US and blamed the country’s Muslim citizens for domestic terrorist attacks.

In an October poll, 60 per cent of US voters of Arab origin chose Clinton over Trump, who secured only 26 per cent. The survey found this constituency moving away from the Republican Party, with 52 per cent identifying with Democrats and half that number with Republicans. Arab Americans also prefer a Democratic Congress. The community is particularly powerful in Michigan, where 186,000 claim an Arab background.

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