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As soon as US President Obama addressed the Israelis in a televised interview with one of the local [Israeli] television stations, the shock hit our region. This is what became clear from the majority of the Arab media coverage, especially after Obama told the Israelis that he understands that his middle name “Hussein” creates suspicion amongst them. Obama was right when he said – in the same interview – that the logic in our region is that “the friend of my enemy must be my enemy.” The Israelis were angered and suspicious when Obama began his term in office by sending a message of goodwill to the Muslims, while today the Arabs are shocked that Obama is addressing the Israelis in the same language of friendship that he addressed them with. However the question here must be; is Obama the president of the Arabs or of Israel, or is he rather the president of his own country, working to serve his own country’s interests?

Obama began his term in office by visiting Egypt and addressing the Muslim community from Cairo, he also visited Turkey and spent a night in Saudi Arabia, while he has yet to make an official state visit to Israel, and this is the first time that he has addressed the Israelis as President. He also began his term in office being attentive towards the Palestinian issue, in contrast to Clinton and Bush Jr. who only took an interest in this issue at the end of their presidencies. Obama also pledged an early withdrawal from Iraq, and he extended his hands to Tehran, and he relaxed tensions with the Syrians; managing to do all of this before he has spent even two years in the White House. What have the Arabs done to serve their own causes? That is the question!

We are not talking about goodwill gestures towards Israel here, which is something that Washington requested, for there is no goodwill with Netanyahu. However what have we done to strengthen our position, and ensure that our issues are solvable? We must be honest here; what have the Arabs achieved in the inter-Palestinian reconciliation to strengthen the Palestinian position in confronting the Israelis and this is prior to any talk about negotiations? Nothing! Rather we have [Mahmoud] al-Zahar saying that the “reconciliation is dormant” and we know that historically speaking “the unrest is dormant; may God damn anybody who awakens it!” Is this what al-Zahar meant? It seems so, and this is not surprising for this represents the Hamas rhetoric.

As for Iraq, the Iraqis are experiencing an eternal night in their attempts to form a government, and so the US withdrawal from Iraq is less complex than forming the Baghdad government; this is due to the involvement of the Iranian wolf in this issue, which is free to wander as it pleases! As for Iran, it rejected Obama’s outstretched hand, while the Arabs do not have a clear or public position with regards to what Iran is doing. This public position could at the very least explain the dangers represented by the Iranian presence in Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and the Arab Gulf, which is something that has transformed some of our writers and intellectuals into an Iranian propaganda machine. Criticizing Tehran in our region today has become akin to criticizing Israel in America, and the hard evidence of this is the controversy surrounding what the UAE Ambassador to Washington said [about potentially supporting military action against Iran to prevent Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons]. However he is correct and it is enough to simply look at what is being said in Tehran about us, our rulers, and our people!

It is true that the Americans have a unique role in all international files due to America’s role as a superpower, and that our region is important, however we fear that Obama will reach the conviction that was reached by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell following his retirement when he famously said “90 percent of my time is spent on 10 percent of the world.” We are no more than 10 percent of the world, if that, therefore it is not important what Obama – or Hussein – does for us, what is more important is what we do for ourselves.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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