Gulf reacts to Obama win with optimism laced with caution


Dubai : The Gulf reacted expectedly with a definite sense of optimism, but tinged with caution, as America elected its first African American president, Barack Hussein Obama, to the White House.

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Media across the region reacted variously with headlines such as “Symbol of hope and change”, “Mr. Obama, yes you can”, “A momentous mandate yes, we agree”, “Change has arrived for all of us” and “New beginning”.

In its editorial, Saudi Arabia’s Arab News said that Americans might not be entirely precise about what they actually wanted but their vote made it clear what they no longer wanted.

It went on to say that Obama’s victory reminded old hands of John F. Kennedy’s victory 48 years ago, but added that one couldn’t have imagined those years to be Camelot years as Kennedy was “a political animal from a political family”.

“Obama, though he has proved himself a consummate presidential candidate with arguably one of the most efficient and certainly the most expensive White House campaigns ever mounted, is a largely untried political force,” it said.

“A one-term senator with no experience of any office – it is hardly surprising that Republicans are nervous about the sort of president he will make.”

The Saudi daily described McCain’s defeat as not only a defeat for the Republicans but for the entire US political establishment at the hands of a complete outsider.

“We are, therefore, embarking on exciting times,” it concluded.

The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) Gulf Daily News, while congratulating Obama, made a point-by-point wish list of what was wanted from the new presidency with “Dear Mr. President-elect” interjections.

“You said: ‘The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope’,” the paper wrote.

“The entire world hopes you keep your promise. We are simply tired of George W. Bush. The majority of people around the planet cheered for you yesterday morning and prayed you would undo the damage he has done to the world, allies and foes, in his two terms. And no place has suffered under Bush more so than the Middle East.”

On the current global financial crisis, the Dubai-based Khaleej Times wrote that Obama and his team would have to find solutions to problems not of their own making.

“If we believe economists then the truth is that the US economy is in recession and is likely to get worse by the time Obama steps into the White House,” it said, stressing that Obama’s immediate focus would have to be the financial crisis more than anything else.

In its editorial headlined “New beginning”, the Oman Tribune said that the dimensions of the Obama victory revealed the despair of the majority of Americans over the pathetic state of their country’s economy and wretched foreign policy.

“Obama, therefore, has an arduous job to do, once he walks into the White House and the Oval Office after his inauguration on January 20,” the editorial read.

“The president-elect does not have even a moment to relax now. With his able team of advisers, he will have to hastily draw the contours of a new economic and foreign policy.”

The Peninsula of Qatar said Obama needed to address the negative perceptions abroad of the US “by placing increased emphasis on multilateralism and using the tools of soft power rather than the high-handed approach of his predecessor”.

“There is reason for hope because change is the magic word around which Obama built his fortune during the campaigning, and he assured Americans in his victory speech that change has arrived,” it said in its editorial.

However, the general public in the Gulf seemed to be cautious in their reactions to the US poll result.

“Obama is a good agent of change, at least for the US,” Mazen Hamwieh, a Lebanese engineer, told the Gulf News.

“But when it comes to issues concerning Middle East, I don’t think there could be much of a change,” he said.

Mahmoud Ali, an Indian IT engineer based in Al Ain in the UAE, said that US foreign policy had never changed and would remain the same with just cosmetic make-up.

“The US will continue to play safe with India, China and Russia. For the Middle East, I don’t see any major policy change,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, even as the Kenyan community in Dubai celebrated – Obama’s father was a Kenyan Muslim – a club in this west Asian metropolis has started a three-day-long party for the African community.