Obama will work to change perception about US in ME

DUBAI — A "new initiative" to counter the perception that the US has not been a 'honest broker' in the Middle East can be expected from the Democratic Party presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama, if he wins the race to the White House.

By Anand Sagar

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Published: Wed 27 Aug 2008, 1:28 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:10 PM

A leading American political analyst Jerry Hagstrom stated this on Monday evening while participating in a live videoconference from the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, and a select group of journalists in Dubai. He was replying to a question raised by Khaleej Times.

Admitting he was aware of this widespread perception in the Middle East, that the US has over the years not been a very honest broker in terms of finding a permanent solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, he said, "Obama is pledged to work more and re-examine American foreign policy," especially in this context.

There will be substantial changes of "style and approach on all foreign policy issues." However, Hagstrom conceded, "It is harder to make changes once you are in office as compared to when you are on the campaign trail."

He also said that although, "(political) pressures remain the same, there is now a real potential for change," if Obama becomes the next US president.

Accusing Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain of, "aligning himself with President Bush's positions", Hagstrom stressed, "Obama will be much more interested in the Middle East peace process, Iran and Iraq, and a total re-examination of US foreign policy in this region."

In reply to another question regarding the fact that American political rhetoric rarely changes, irrespective of whether a Republican or a Democratic president occupies the White House, he said, "with Obama there is the potential and the opportunity for change."

Also, he explained, one reason why Middle East issues have gained a certain significance is because, "broadly speaking, both the Democrats and the Republicans are competing for the American-Arab vote as well as the Jewish vote. But this focus is in general terms — not based on ethnic concerns, special groups, or gender."

Regarding the difficulty many Middle East students face in gaining admission to American universities, Hagstrom said, "This would change if Obama becomes president. We are losing these students to England, Canada and Australia. What is also required is a review of the Department of Homeland Security — which is involved in such decisions."

The US Consul-General in Dubai, Paul Sutphin, also attended yesterday's videoconference at the Dubai Convention Centre. The Dubai School of Government and Dubai Press Club organised the event jointly, in association with the American Center for Press and Cultural Affairs.

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