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 World Affairs

Muslims are disappointed with Barack Obama

A lingering doubt about Barack Hussein Obama since he made his bid for office of the president of the United States has been whether he is a closet Muslim or not. Some Muslims fondly believed that he would reveal his Muslim loyalties after inauguration.

 However, close analyses made by many reputed political analysts have been that Obama is a Christian and has no allegiance to the Islamic faith even though his father had been a Muslim. Obama's opinions on various issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have given positive indications that he entertains no allegiance to the Muslim faith, if this conflict is viewed in terms of religion.

Anger over Gaza

Reports from Islamic countries indicate that there is growing anger even among American Muslims about the President Elect's pregnant silence about the Israeli-Palestinian clash in the Gaza strip. Obama has been holidaying in Hawaii and his spokesmen have been warding off queries saying that 'There can be only one president at a time and till January 20 it is President George Bush.'

His critics point out that while Obama can maintain silence or offer some comments on the terrorist attacks on Mumbai where 175 people were killed, the issue of the bombing of the Gaza strip which has resulted in around 400 being killed by Friday and around 1800 being injured, is vastly different.

 President George W. Bush in his eight years in office had followed a markedly pro-Israeli line. There was speculation that contrary to the Republican neo-conservative Bush, Obama's policies would be more liberal towards Palestine.

For whatever reasons almost the whole Islamic world thought so and were jubilant at Obama's victory. Most countries of the Third World too were of the same opinion. But now it appears that even before he becomes the president, his global popularity may wane, at least in some countries.

Pro-Israel

Obama's pro-Israeli stance was quite evident in the statements made during the election campaign. In his address to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee soon after he won nomination of the Democratic Party ticket, he even went to the extent of supporting the idea of Jerusalem being made the capital of Israel in implementing the 'two state proposal.'

During his Middle East tour last year he directly backed Israel on the issue of Hamas' rocket attacks on Israel. He is on record saying 'In view of the special relationship of America with Israel, America is obliged to help Israel in search for a credible peace while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.'

 On the issue of a nuclear armed Iran, he has said that under no circumstances could Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons. Instead of taking on Iran militarily he has advocated 'sustained aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions.'

The choice of his cabinet members leaves no illusions about his pro-Israeli leanings. The White House Chief is Rahm Emmanuel, a Jew, who is described as a 'forceful proponent of Israeli policies' while Gen. James Jones, the National Security Adviser too is identified as being pro-Israeli.

Most important of all is the choice of Hillary Clinton as Foreign Secretary - Clinton the New York Senator is turning out to be strongly pro-Israel after her initial flirtation with the Palestinians. During her bid for the presidency she had made the memorable remark 'Iran will be obliterated if it attacked Israel.'

Jewish lobby

 Obama's Palestinian leanings were identified following his close relationship with Zbigniew Brezinski, the national security adviser of President Jimmy Carter and Robert Malley who was in the national security advisory team of President Bill Clinton.

It is believed by Americans that no president could survive going against the tide of the Jewish lobby, the most powerful lobby in Washington. Barack Obama who has shown remarkable qualities of pragmatism has indicated that he will not swim against the tide. But he will no doubt be asked to prove his credentials as being an 'agent of change.'

Iraq

His pledges oblige him to change George W. Bush's Middle East policies. Predictions are that he will not be able to do a right-about-turn as some Islamic countries would like him to do but with Hillary Clinton as foreign secretary the policies may approximate to those of Bill Clinton.

This will be a bitter disappointment to Islamists who hoped for radical changes.

The new president may gain some of  the popularity he will lose on the Palestine issue to his troop pull out from Iraq, if conditions permit him to do so.

Last week the US formally handed over control of Baghdad's Green Zone (high security zone) to Iraqi troops including Saddam Hussein's former palace. Under the new security arrangements between Washington and Baghdad the UN mandate for foreign troops will go to Iraq and Iraq will have control of US troop's actions and the country's air space.

Pulling out US troops in Iraq within about 16 months while leaving the country secure will be the toughest foreign assignment for Obama.

 President Bush quits the White House with a dubious honour of having the title of 'the most unpopular American president' being conferred on him by some Americans. It will be food for thought to the new incumbent.     


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