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Kuwait Reacts To Obama: Poll shows strength of America’s democracy
By Francis A. Clifford Cardozo, Valiya S. Sajjad and Abubakar A. Ibrahim
Arab Times Staff
Reprinted from ‘Arab Times (6th November, 2008)

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 5: Barrack Obama’s landslide victory in the presidential elections Tuesday shows the strength of democracy in the US, Deputy Premier and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Dr Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah told the Arab Times Wednesday. Hoping that the overwhelming worldwide support for Obama will help him solve long pending global issues like the problems in Palestine, Sheikh Mohammed expects the new US administration to have a strategic policy and spread peace in Palestine. Asked about his views on the stand of the new US administration on the situation in Iraq as well as the Iranian nuclear program, Sheikh Mohammed said “Obama promised to take concrete steps to address these issues during the campaign. I expect him to face the real world, help Iraqis build their nation, and grant them autonomy in defending their homeland. On the other hand, I believe there is a global consensus to handle this issue through the United Nations (UN).”

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Jassem Al-Khorafi congratulated the newly-elected US president as well as the Americans, wishing Obama success in leading one of the most powerful nations in the world. “I pass judgment on an event only when it happens. We have excellent relations with the US and we hope this will continue under Obama’s leadership but we will always be frank with them as we have been with the previous administration. We will call their attention if we see some errors and praise them for a job well done, since we are their true friends,” he added.
Looking forward to stronger ties between Kuwait and the US, Al-Khorafi urged both nations to respect each other’s sovereignty, customs and values to further cement existing ties. He said the Arab region is also keen on seeing how the new US administration will deal with political issues in the region, particularly the Palestinian issue, asserting “we will fully support moves for peace in Palestine provided these are done in an objective manner.”

In the meantime, MP Saleh Ashour believes Obama’s success is actually the triumph of the whole American nation and is regarded by many as a sign of support for the rights of minority groups, such as the Arabs and Hispanics. He said Obama’s victory also paves the way for remarkable changes not only in the US but also in the whole world, especially the current economic meltdown that, many believe, might lead to recession.
Commenting on the relations between the new US administration (Democrats) and the Gulf and Arab countries, Ashour stressed “we have strong ties with Republicans, especially since they played a major role in the liberation of Kuwait. However, this does not mean that we won’t enjoy special relations with Obama — a democrat. Under his rule, there might be slight changes in America’s foreign policy, particularly the issues related to minority groups and human rights.”

MP Mohammed Abduljader pointed out that Obama’s success symbolizes real democracy and it conveys a strong message to the whole world that actual change has started.
Asked if Obama will solve many problems in Arab and Islamic countries, Al-Abduljader said “America is always keen on serving its interests above all else and solutions to the problems in the region will not come now due to the arrival of one person – Obama. We need more time to get into the root of these problems.”

Barrack Obama should resolve all thorny issues in the Middle East through dialogue as the region cannot afford another war, says Ali Al-Baghli, former minister of oil and rights activist.
Upon assuming office, he said that Obama should send a mediator to the Middle East to take a stock of the stalled peace process and that the US should pressurize Israel in renouncing violent methods against Palestinians.
“This is because whenever the Israelis step up attacks against the Palestinians, it only strengthens hands of Hamas. Obama should work to prop up the authority of the Mahmud Abbas as this is the only we can bring about peace between the two sides. Getting the country out of the economic doldrums, should be another priority of Obama,” Al-Baghli added.

Reacting to the victory of Obama, Dr Khaled Al-Jenfawi, Columnist and Assistant Professor at the Kuwait University said: “Perhaps Obama’s key word “Change” is taking place right now in the streets, towns and cities of America; however, it remains to be seen whether real and dramatic changes in the US foreign policy are going to happen very quickly.”
“Militarily and morally committed to two wars, in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting international terrorism around the globe, the US cannot just ignore its international obligations and as such should swiftly change its positions towards those yet-unsettled issues.”
“Change in America is expected to happen and one hopes that change does take place too in the international image of the US, particularly among the peoples of the underdeveloped world. Nations in Africa, Asia, and South America will have to wait a little bit longer to see whether “real” change has actually happened in the American foreign policy.”
“Instead of continuing what others consider as arrogance, hostile projection of superiority coupled with numerous misunderstandings of the cultures of non-American nations, the US needs to work on many different fronts to change how the world views it. It is of course in the interest of our American friends to start an intensive international public relation exercise to convince us, yet again, that America is the land of dreams, which can actually come true if individuals and people maintain the necessary determination and will to improve themselves.”
“Having a glimpse at the statute of liberty has always been the hope of millions of immigrants from Europe and from all over the world. Yet, due to some previous attitudes of nonchalance or “unconcerned interest” about how the world views the US, our American friends should work harder to regain the trust they deserve,” Al-Jenfawi explained.
“One hopes, of course, that the historic victory of the first afro-American president of the United State will settle some pressing international conflicts, stop the worsening of our global environment, and fix the economies of the world. A more tolerant, responsible, friendly, understanding, creative, and once again, a more beautiful America is what everyone else outside the Grant Park in Chicago wishes to see and enjoy in the very near future.”

For his part, former Kuwaiti diplomat Amer Al-Hilal said: “Both Senator McCain and Senator Obama are honorable gentleman, passionate public workers who love their country and want the best for their nation. I know that irrespective of whether a Democratic or Republican administration is present, the United States will continue to protect the sovereignty of the Gulf nations and maintain peace and stability in our part of the world.”
“As a Kuwaiti living in a very tough neighborhood, I worry about external and internal threats, but I have complete faith in Senator Obama’s commitment to safeguard our region from any instability and external coercion.”
“As a former diplomat who served in our Embassy in Washington DC during the Clinton Presidency and was privy to senior meetings at the State Dept. Pentagon, NSC – I can tell you first-hand that a Democratic administration can indeed maintain an assertive, wise and fair-minded policy in the Gulf, protect its interests and those of its allies, and continue a path of stabilization in the Middle East and elsewhere.”
“I am positive an Obama presidency will potentially even jump-start the stalled Middle East Peace Process, which lately has lost much of its luster under the shadow of extremism and geopolitical turmoil.”
Change is always welcome, especially after a long period of political, economic, and social turmoil — and people demanded change, especially in the gloom of economic woes and uncertainty over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he added.
Al-Hilal added that Obama energized the election and the issues even as he was a catalyst for a large voter turnout, especially among the young.
Al-Hilal said Obama inspired people all around the world to show a newfound interest in American politics and the election in general, adding the feeling on the Kuwaiti street certainly is one of hope and affection towards Obama.
“It is a historic day in the United States because for the first time, a multi-ethnic individual has been elected to the Presidency and is symbolic of the melting pot in the US and the impartiality and wisdom of its system.”
“Congratulations to the United States, I am happy for our friends and allies; as a Kuwaiti I too hope that we will one day get our own Obama, our own version of positive change, someone who truly loves this country and can wisely take Kuwait to new heights and out of the current doldrums we are in.”

There may not be much change in America’s Middle East policies with Barrack Obama winning the Presidential elections in the US, says political writer and journalist Ghannem Al Najjar.
Al Najjar was talking to the Arab Times Wednesday following news of Obama’s successful bid to the White House. However, he said “It’s a great moment for America and the world in general, because the Americans have voted for change.
“President Obama might be able to make some difference to the disastrous policies of the Bush government. But talking specifically about the Middle East, some of America’s worst foreign policies were staged here, and Obama may not be able to clean up the mess in a short span.”
Al Najjar further noted “We have to wait and see if our region would be there on his list of priorities. We have to bear in mind that Israel will soon go to vote and a radical party might come to power there. If that’s the situation, it will be interesting to watch how Obama balances the equations.
“So in the backdrop of all these developments, I don’t have very high hopes about Obama’s presidency in terms of US’ policies in the Middle East.”

Political scientist and academician at Kuwait University Dr Mariam Al Kandari, for her part expressed joy over the results of the American elections. “Obama as president of America is good for America and for us.
“The American’s have voted intelligently and supported change. We know that American foreign policies are not the sole decision of the president. These are part of larger national strategies and will not change overnight.
“However, we have hope. Obama may not be able to turn tables around all of a sudden, but we can expect the beginning of change. America has its own allies in the Middle East; it has new policies evolving around the subcontinent including India and Pakistan, while GCC countries have always enjoyed special ties with America.
“Let’s see how Obama takes these relations ahead. There might be greater diplomacy from the side of the new government in the Middle East, because now America has to focus on bringing its economy back to its feet. This will definitely alter military strategies.
Dr Mariam added “Obama has proved to be a great fighter so far. He was not only able to win over the swing voters but also the constituencies that were the stronghold of republicans.
“Let’s hope that he continues in the same spirit to bring about a positive change in this world. He is capable of doing it.”

Political thinker and women’s rights activist Lubna Al Khadi said she is pleased with the outcome of American Presidential election. “It shows that everyone in America as elsewhere in the world is eager for change.
“We hope the new President will be more aware of the real issues in the region and make positive interventions sensitive to the sentiments of the people here.”
When asked what kind of changes she expects to see in America’s policies in the Middle East, she said “It’s unlikely that there will be a major shift in policies. But there might be some changes.”
She said Obama’s promise on pulling back American troops from Iraq will be welcomed by everyone in the region. “It will also help save the deteriorating image of the US in the region, and give full authority to Iraqis.

Usama Al Sayegh, head of the Ja’ffery Department at Kuwait Awqaf Public Foundation, said “We hope the new President of America has a clear agenda that will be of benefit to the whole of humanity. “The election reflects a sweeping change in the mindset of Americans. They have once again shown the world that when it matters they are always open to choices and change.” When asked if the election result is only a knee jerk reaction to Bush’s alleged disastrous foreign and economic policies, Al Sayegh declined. “It is indeed a historic election and the beginning of a new chapter in American politics.” To a question on the effect of the new government in America on US-Iran relations, Al Sayegh said “There is hope that the relations between the two countries will improve, and the tensions in the region will ameliorate. We hope there will be greater peace and an increase in economic activities.”

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