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Arab world hopes for more from Obama

The Nobel prize-winning American president is given credit for reaching out to Muslims rhetorically, but many in the Arab world see him as having caved in the face of Mideast peace difficulties.

October 10, 2009|Jeffrey Fleishman

CAIRO — The Arab world greeted President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize with praise for his efforts at reaching out to Muslims but also with frustration that the president's eloquence and charisma have not forced dramatic change on the ground.

Bloodshed continues in Iraq, talks to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have stalled, and fellow Muslims in Afghanistan suffer amid violence and uncertainty. Obama inspired the region in his Cairo address to Muslims in June, regarded as a wise and conciliatory gesture to erase the combative years of the Bush administration and mend relations with the Arab world.

But as months passed, passionate words and good intentions were seldom enough.

Success here is traditionally measured by the progress the White House makes toward the creation of a Palestinian state. And many Arabs see Obama as having been stymied and outflanked by a stubborn Israeli government that shows little inclination for peace.

"People feel let down," said Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

"They like Obama, they want him to succeed, but in their view he caved at the very first step."

Many believe Obama has been awarded for his vision, not his accomplishments, akin to a thoroughbred with great potential winning the roses before its time.


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