Arab Affairs Editor
Barack Obama's trip to the Middle East made headlines on Arab media. As soon as it was announced, one newspaper headline anticipated “Obama will visit the region accompanied by an army of journalists." This set the stage for the coverage theme that this visit is not aimed at Arab media outlets or their audiences but rather at the U.S. voters back home. Many opinions focused on Obama’s need to acquire more foreign policy experience.
An opinion editorial in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi reads: "This Middle East tour is aimed at boosting Obama's foreign policy credentials and refuting the notion that his rival, Republican John McCain is more mature in military and national security matters."
In Iraq, Obama met with several officials and discussed his plan for troop withdrawal if elected president.
The government TV station Al-Iraqiya reported that Obama discussed with Iraqi officials “the political Spring the country is going through." From the Dubai-based satellite channel Al-Arabiya came a strikingly different view with a reporter saying, "The ray of hope Obama's visit could carry to Iraq remains insignificant in comparison to the dark cloud that covers the sky of the nation"
And then, there is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict... which was at the heart of Arab media coverage:
Commentary from Al-Jazeera’s reporter in Ramallah criticized Obama's 45-minute meeting with Palestinian officials... and contrasted it with what she called "his extensive program in Israel." She concluded, "This is a clear indication that the Palestinian visit is just for show whereas his visit to Israel aims at supporting the state and appealing to the Jewish voters in the U.S."
The unwavering support for Israel is an opinion shared by most Arab media about both candidates, and demonstrated in reports, commentaries and political cartoons. (See attached political cartoon) and check this one on Al-Jazeera’s website.
In his OpEed piece in the London-based Arabic paper Asharq Al-Awsat, Abdel Rahman al-Rashed described Obama's Mideast trip as “politically brilliant” without a guarantee that it will pave the way, as Obama hopes, straight to the White House.
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