DUBAI –Arabs in the Gulf on Wednesday hailed Barack Obama’s election victory with hopes his perceived Muslim links could alter US policy toward Arab and Muslim issues and that he will pull out troops of Iraq.
“I believe that his father is Muslim. Surely that will make a difference. There must be a change in policy towards Arabs and Muslims,” said Saudi tourist Abdul Ilah al-Bakri as he wandered in a Dubai mall for early morning shopping just after Obama was declared president-elect.
“God willing, he will be better, especially that he said he wants to withdraw US troops from Iraq ,” Bakri said.
Saudi businessman Ali Al-Harithi hailed the US democracy which brought a man with a Muslim father to the White House.
“This confirms that the United States and its people are not racist. The American people chose Obama, who is African (by origin) and whose father is Muslim, to voice rejection of policies of the conservatives in the outgoing administration,” he said.
“It also sends a messge to (Islamic) fundamentalists in the Arab and Muslim worlds that our clash with America has no racial or religious dimensions,” Harithi added.
Obama’s Kenyan father was a non-observant Muslim, but the president-elect struggled during his campaign to deny reports that he was a Muslim himself, stressing that he was “unapologetically Christian”.
People in the Gulf also felt that regional issues will be in safer hands with Obama after the charged two terms of President George W. Bush.
“I am optimistic ... I expect drastic changes in the way the White House handles regional issues,” said employee Ahmed Azzam in Qatar.
“Although the forthcoming American administration will follow the (common) American strategies concerning its national security and our region, I believe the style will change with Obama,” he said.
“I think he will resort to dialogue and finding common ground between the United States and each of Syria and Iran,” he said, while hoping that Obama will avoid the “double-standard” approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Jassem Mohammed Ali, a Qatari computer engineer, thought that Obama will not be “aggressive” in foreign policy and will concentrate on domestic social issues.
“US foreign policy will not be reckless and aggressive as it has been under Bush,, especially when he intervened in Iraq without an international mandate.”
In Bahrain, advertising executive Adel Shams expressed optimism, saying he expected an “80 percent change in US policies.”
“I believe that he can do something to solve the Palestinian question, and that he will withdraw US troops from Iraq. I also think that he will resolve the Iran nuclear standoff,” he said.
But his compatriot Khalil Al-Rumaythi was less optimistic, despite being happy to see Obama heading toward the White House.
“US policies never change no matter who is the president... I am happy that Obama won, but I have nothing but wishes ... I think that Obama will follow in Bush’s footsteps with just a little change.”
“I do hope that his election will be the start of a change, but I am not so sure about it,” he said.
Kuwaiti political analyst Mohammed al-Ajmi hailed the win of a “young and energetic black man who overcame color and race barriers,” as a victory for US democracy. “His victory gives hope that US policy will improve especially with regards to the Middle East... It also gives hope that it will be possible to leave behind the failures of Bush’s term,” he added.
Several leaders of Arab states in the Gulf, which are close US allies, promptly congratulated Obama on his historic win. – AFP