Some in Mideast Unimpressed by Obama's Actions
By Elizabeth Arrott
09 October 2009
Many in the Middle East are offering Barack Obama congratulations for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. But there is also disbelief among some that his outreach to the region has been enough for him to receive the honor.
It was in the Egyptian capital that Mr. Obama laid out his new direction for U.S. relations with the Muslim world.
"As-salaam alaikum," said President Obama.
The U.S. president's message of peace at Cairo University earlier this year marked a sharp break from his predecessor, whose use of the word "crusade" to describe war against Islamic extremists was just the beginning of a fractious relationship.
But for some in the region, Mr. Obama's message is not enough.
Cairo University professor Hassan Nafae is among those who have been encouraged by the president's words, but says subsequent actions have not been enough to earn him the Nobel prize.
"We have heard very good words from Obama, but we are not quite sure he will be able to change the world in the direction he has chosen," said Hassan Nafae. "So if it is a sign of encouraging Obama to achieve what he promised the world to do, that's fine. But otherwise I think was a little bit fast."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas joined some leaders in the region in congratulating President Obama for winning the Prize, but a number of countries, including Iran, which has long had strained relations with Washington, offered a subdued response.
Presidential aide Ali Akbar Javanfekr noted that Iran is "not upset", and added that Tehran wants Mr. Obama to start taking what he called "practical steps to remove injustice in the world"
Other countries with poor relations with Washington were also lukewarm in their reaction. Syrian diplomat Jihad Makdissi, based in London, says it is time for Mr. Obama to offer something substantial on what many Arabs consider a key issue.
"It's high time, after winning the peace prize, to work more for peace and to see action on the ground by convincing Israel to pursue the peace option and withdraw for all Arab land in exchange for peace," said Jihad Makdissi.
Cairo American University political scientist Saiid Sadek praised Mr. Obama for improving the international atmosphere "with nice rhetoric", but, he too, finds the choice odd.
"In practice, in concrete terms, he delivered zero when it comes to peace in the international arena," said Saiid Sadek. "There is no peace in Iraq nor in Afghanistan. The Arab-Israeli conflict is still at a standstill as usual - nothing happened. And Guantanamo Bay jail is still open. So what for is he getting that prize?
In naming Mr. Obama, the Nobel committee specifically mentioned his outreach to the world's Muslims and creating "a new climate in international politics," but Sadek argues that the selection undermines the value and the importance of peace in the world.
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