November 11, 2016 Special Dispatch No. 6674

Arab World Reacts To Trump's Presidential Win With Cautious Optimism, Hope For Future Cooperation

November 11, 2016
Special Dispatch No. 6674

Donald Trump's election as the 45th U.S. president was received in the Arab world with mixed emotions. While Syria and Egypt welcomed the result and expressed hopes for cooperation with the new American administration, reactions in the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar, were ambivalent. Although the Gulf states were glad to see the back of the Obama administration, which had brought them tremendous disappointment because of its Iran and Syria policies, and expressed cautious optimism that Trump's policies would be radically different, they were at the same time very concerned because of his hostile statements regarding Muslims.

The different positions of Arab countries was manifested in their leaders' reactions to Trump's victory. Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi was among the first leaders to call and congratulate him, and also invited him to visit the country.[1] Others, including Saudi King Salman, sufficed with sending congratulatory letters stressing the importance of their countries' relations with the U.S.

This document will review reactions in several Arab countries to Trump's win, as expressed in statements by officials as well as in press articles, especially editorials and op-eds by prominent journalists. It should be mentioned that the Palestinian press has yet to publish editorials addressing Trump's victory.

Egypt: We Expect Trump To Bring New Spirit To Egypt-U.S. Relations

The Egyptian regime, under President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi, welcomed Trump's election. As soon as his win was announced, Al-Sisi was one of the first to call him and congratulate him.[2] A statement by the president's office read: "Egypt expects that Trump's presidential term will bring a new spirit to the relations between the countries" and that the two countries will become closer.[3]

Editor Of Official Egyptian Daily Al-Ahram: Trumps' Victory - An Opportunity For Egypt To Regain Regional, International Prominence

Muhammad 'Abd Al-Hadi 'Allam, editor-in-chief of the official Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, wrote in a similar vein: "The phone conversation between Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi and U.S. President-Elect Donald Trump, and the congratulations [Al-Sisi] conveyed to [Trump], are a direct reflection of [the former's] honest desire for deep relations with a country that, for over three decades, has had tight strategic diplomatic and economic ties  with Egypt - although in the last few years these relations were marred by disagreements about internal [Egyptian] and security matters that created a schism between the largest Arab country and the world's most powerful country...

"Trump's victory and Clinton's defeat [deliver] a crushing blow to the foundations of the tamkin project [the Muslim Brotherhood's plan for strengthening Islamic rule in Egypt], and pave the way for Egypt to regain its natural role as the pivot of the Middle East and the Arab world. The opportunity exists, and both sides must seize it. If we what to seize this opportunity to cooperate with the new administration in Washington, which understands that Egypt's role can be realized only [if there is] cooperation and understanding on crucial issues, we must recalibrate [our course] and make changes, so we can play a more central role and dare to confront the existing positions of [certain] regional countries that openly sponsor terrorist organizations."[4]   

Similar sentiments were expressed by Al-Ahram Ahmed 'Abd Al-Tawab: "Whatever the commentary on his tendencies and ideas, most of which concern domestic U.S. matters... from now on we must consider the positive points where we can collaborate with him, especially in light of his explicit remarks on the war on terrorism, and specifically his promise to eliminate ISIS.

"As for Hillary Clinton, her defeat is highly profitable for Egypt and the Arab region. She was involved in all the destructive actions that harmed the region since she became secretary of state. It was she who adopted and helped spread the policy of reliance on the so-called 'moderate Islam,' that included the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] in that moderate camp. Therefore, the MB is miserable over her defeat, since while she deluded herself into thinking that she was ahead, she promised to help them return to Egypt's political life. She also boasted of her support for Israel and questioned her rival Trump's support for it, and even ratcheted up presidential campaign with overblown slogans about who supports Israel more! She also acknowledged U.S. involvement in establishing the notorious Al-Qaeda terrorist organization. Trump once accused her of participating in creating ISIS..."[5]

On the other hand, Al-Shurouq editor-in-chief 'Imad Al-Din Hussein, known for his criticism of the Al-Sisi regime, wrote: "We forget that it was the various organizations' increasing extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam, and their operations in Europe and the U.S., that triggered the rise of Western extremism. Extremists everywhere, especially ISIS, will be the ones who are happiest with Trump's victory, as he will breathe new life into them.

"We in Egypt and in the Arab world must read and understand the Americans' real feelings, how they think, and what motivated them to elect a man believed by nearly the entire world to be insane. Most world leaders did not yearn for a Trump victory, and some even openly hoped he would lose. But everyone in politics will forget about that and look ahead. This is the reality in the cruel world of politics...

"Personally, hand on my heart, I am afraid of Trump's surprises [to come, which may pose] the greatest danger to the world. But in politics we must learn to be pragmatic, and must completely separate passionate emotions and aspirations from interests..."[6]

Egyptian TV Host Tamer Amin: At Least Trump Says He's An Enemy to Your Face - Democrats Wear One Million Masks

On Egypt's Al-Hayat TV, on November 9, television host Tamer Amin said that he was happy that Trump had won, adding that he couldn't stand Obama's policies in the Middle East, and accused Clinton of founding and financing ISIS. He further said that Republicans tell the truth to your face, while Democrats have "70 faces and one million masks." He concluded: "We congratulate ourselves that we will get to see First Lady Trump, as well as his daughter, who is truly a sight for sore eyes."

To view the MEMRI TV clip, click here or below.


Editor Of Syrian Daily: Trump's Election Brings Joy To Syria

In Syria, there was optimism and joy at Trump's win, because of his positions on terrorism, but primarily because of his defeat of Clinton, who as secretary of state when the Syria crisis erupted in 2011 was firmly against the regime's violent suppression of the revolution against it.

President Bashar Al-Assad's political and military advisor Bouthaina Sha'aban expressed caution in an interview with NPR: "Syria does not interfere in the results of the elections and in who won them. What interests Syrians is the policy of the new president. If the policy is in line with Damascus's aspirations, then Syria will be open to any collaboration with the U.S. as well as with other nations that respect national sovereignty and preserve the interests of people, instead of interfering in their affairs. American interference in the affairs of other countries has brought nothing but disaster. The U.S. must undertake a policy of collaboration with countries, as opposed to one of superiority and [issuing] dictates."[7]

However, Syrian MP Muhammad Kheir Al-Akam, who is one of the regime's representatives in talks with the opposition, was more decisive: "A Trump victory is better than a Clinton victory. [Had she won], the situation in the region would have been far worse, and the Gulf states would have been the big winners."[8]

Waddah 'Abd Rabo, editor-in-chief of the Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the regime, was thrilled at Trump's win, saying that all his views "benefit Syria." In an article titled "Trump - Crisis For Global Elites, Joy For Syria," he wrote that the American street "has chosen extremism over manipulation and honesty over lies and deception." He said that the win of both Brexit in the U.K. and Trump in the U.S. clearly showed that both peoples "are more aware [than before] of their politicians' deceit, lies, and destructive wars, as well as their reliance on Gulf money, their obsequiousness to backwards and reactionary [Gulf] emirates, and their disregard for the spread of Wahhabi Islam in their own countries' mosques and suburbs - and of the fact that they had enabled Al-Sa'ud [the Saudi royal family] and others to arm and fund terrorist organizations..."

Explaining why he was glad about Trump's win, he wrote: "U.S. President-Elect [Trump] has no aspirations regarding Syria and the region, and does not believe that the Gulf states' plans to destroy Syria are beneficial. He, like most Syrians, seeks the elimination of ISIS and other extremist terrorist groups, and could take the hands of Russia and Syria so that they together could end one of the most horrible crimes of the century, which was perpetrated by the previous American administration along with its Saudi, Qatari, and Turkish allies; he could also protect his own country's borders and revive its deteriorating economy. These positions all benefit Syria. Therefore, you could not miss the joy on the faces of most Syrians, many of whom spent the entire night watching the tally of the votes, while others awoke to the results for which they had hoped but did not expect." 'Abd Rabo added: "There is no way that Trump will take, and hold, power without seriously changing his country's foreign policy..."[9]

Senior Figure In Syrian Opposition: We Expect To Cooperate With Trump In Order To Stop Killing Of Syrian People

At the same time, the Syrian opposition also congratulated Trump on his win and expressed hope to cooperate with him in order to end the tragedy of the Syrian people. The general coordinator of the High Negotiations Committee (HNC), Riyad Hijab, sent a letter to Trump in which he congratulated him on his own behalf and that of the HNC, and "on behalf of millions of Syrians yearning for freedom and democracy," and wrote: "This is a historic opportunity that we must seize in order to deepen the friendship between the Syrian and American peoples... We in Syria expect to deepen the ties and the coordination with you in order to bring peace to our region and find just and expedient solutions to the threat of terror that is endangering the region, in all its forms and organizations, especially the state terror that the [Syrian] regime is employing against the Syrian people - [a people] that is fighting to rid itself of a repugnant dictatorship and enjoy freedom and democracy like all other nations of the free world... We expect to cooperate [with you] in order to stop the killing of Syrians and find, along with [the U.S.] and Syria's other allies, the best and most expedient ways to defend [Syria's] citizens, relieve their suffering and bring peace and security to our region."[10]   

Qatari Dailies: "Trump's Win Is Greatly Worrying For Arab Rulers And Leaders"

In the Gulf countries there was cautious optimism and hope that Trump's policies on issues of regional concern, particularly Iran and Syria, would differ from those of his predecessor. Gulf leaders sent Trump congratulatory messages expressing their desire for closer relations with the U.S.

However, the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, owned by Qatar, that openly supported Clinton, reported that "far from [diplomatic] protocol, Trump's win is greatly worrying for Arab rulers and leaders. They are facing a new America led by Trump, and they fear that he will change the regional order that existed for decades." The daily also stated that Gulf leaders "want an American president who understands their fears, after eight years of lack of confidence because of Obama, with whom they did not have the kind of personal relationship that they highly value."[11]

The daily's November 11, 2016 editorial expressed these apprehensions felt by the Gulf states. It noted that the first to rejoice at Trump's victory and congratulate him were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi and the Syrian regime of Bashar Al-Assad, whereas the Gulf states felt "considerable apprehension" about his win. He added: "One of the controversial aspects of Trump's election campaign was his position towards the Arab Gulf states, and his statements to the effect that the U.S. would not defend these states for free, but would exact a price for this protection. This is close to blackmail... The fact that he made similar statements regarding [America's] allies in NATO may comfort the Arabs somewhat, but this statement nevertheless alerts [the Arabs] to how he truly sees them: as weaklings who need to bribe someone to defend them!

"Some might say that Trump the president will be completely different from Trump the candidate who wanted to collect votes, and that the U.S. is a state of institutions. Those are reasonable arguments, but Trump is known as an authoritarian figure, and unlike Obama, his party has a majority in Congress. Add to that the fact that the Supreme Court will be under his influence, [and we are led to the conclusion that] the distance between his slogans and his actions may not be so big. Therefore,  some of the Arabs' and Muslims' fears may unfortunately come true."[12]     

Cartoon in Qatari daily: "The real end of the world" will not be the result of "a meteor hitting the earth," "the eruption of a super-volcano" or "the return of the ice age," but of "trump's victory in the U.S. presidential elections (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, November 11, 2016)

Cartoon in Qatari daily: "The scream of the U.S. elections" (Al-Quds Al-Arabi, London, November 10, 2016)

In an editorial, the Qatari daily Al-Raya called on Trump to take seriously the Gulf countries' apprehensions about U.S. policies in the region, and to rethink them so that they are more in line with these countries' regional and international status: "The history of solid relations between the Arab Gulf states and the U.S., which evolved into a strategic partnership, mean that the new American president must take seriously the concerns in the Gulf about U.S. policy, particularly the U.S. position on problems in the region - the bizarre JASTA [Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act], Iran's interference in regional affairs, Israel and the Palestinian problem, and the situation in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria - because these issues impact relations between the U.S. and the Gulf states...

"Trump's presidential win, and the beginning of a new presidential era for the U.S., offer the perfect opportunity for the American administration to reexamine its positions on Gulf and Arab issues. Therefore, the U.S., which is facing a new era, must realize that the international and regional situation has completely changed, and that the Gulf Cooperation Council states will no longer stand on the sidelines of the regional and international crises that affect them. This is especially true after they became main and central actors, whose positions on all matters are listened to, and after they became central partners regionally and internationally who cannot be dismissed, circumvented, or glossed over, as the past.

"Therefore, the Gulf states, including Qatar which has congratulated the new American president on his victory, openly yearn for the glorious future that awaits their relations with the U.S., because they grasp their importance. They hope that the Gulf and the U.S. will act together to overcome the fears impacting their relationship and will strengthen their strategic partnership on the basis of new principles that meet Gulf demands. This hinges on settling of matters that are pending, which is the most important thing being demanded of the new American administration."[13]

Cartoon in Qatari daily: Trump in the White House (Al-Sharq, Qatar, November 10, 2016)

Saudi Editorial: Perhaps Trump, Unlike Obama, Will Once Again Acknowledge The Existence Of A Global Axis Of Evil

Saudi King Salman bin 'Abd Al-Aziz sent his congratulations to Trump, underlining the close U.S.-Saudi relations and expressing his wish for even greater closeness in a way that will serve the interests of both.[14] Saudi prince and businessman Walid bin Talal, who last year called Trump a "disgrace... to all America" and demanded that he withdraw from the presidential race for his remarks about Muslims, tweeted: "President elect @realDonaldTrump whatever the past differences, America has spoken, congratulations & best wishes for your presidency."

(, November 9, 2016)

Several editorials in Saudi dailies expressed optimism about Trump's future policies. The official Saudi daily Al-Watan's stated: "Trump promised that he would reexamine international treaties signed between the U.S. and other countries, chiefly Iran, whose foreign minister yesterday asked the new American president to honor past agreements. Perhaps Trump will [re-acknowledge the existence of] the global axis of evil declared by George Bush Jr., [a recognition] which Obama abandoned when he negotiated [with Iran on the nuclear issue], saying at that time that this was a good thing...

"There is no doubt that Trump, who blamed Obama and his administration for the failure of American foreign policy, will be successful in his own foreign policy, as the years past have been one long failure because of false red lines, empty promises, and agreements that damaged international peace and security. There will be no radical changes to the strategy of U.S. policy around the world despite eight years of weakness and withdrawal to the domestic arena. But Trump will restore confidence in the U.S. government, which has lost credibility worldwide [due to events in] Crimea, Syria, China, and Libya..."[15]

In its editorial, the official daily 'Okaz stated: "We are hopeful - [although] it is hope mingled with fear  - that the new [American] policy that we will see in Trump's presidency will be more positive vis-à-vis the important issues in the Middle East, after the waning of the U.S. role [here] changed the situation in the region from one end to the other."[16]

Cartoon in Saudi daily: Following Trump victory, "American Muslims and Arabs" immigrate to "Canada and other countries" (Al-Medina, Saudi Arabia, November 10, 2016)

Former Editor Of Saudi Daily: Trump's Position Against Terrorist Muslims Should Not Be Considered Racist

Senior Saudi journalist 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, formerly editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and also former director of Al-Arabiya TV, sought to reassure readers, writing that the U.S. is a state of institutions, and that even if Trump does make changes in U.S. foreign policy, there will not be a complete reversal: "Don't look at President-Elect Trump, but at the U.S., which is an establishment state... Perhaps there will be changes, but there will be no reversal of [U.S.] foreign policy. Trump won the U.S. presidential election, so the debate that comprised the election campaign is over, and you will hear no more statements against Muslims and foreigners...

"Will Trump go very far from the policy of his predecessor Obama? He may do so on issues that the previous policy failed to tackle, and on issues that have been proven by developments to threaten the interests of the U.S. or its allies in Europe, or that are connected to the international balance of power..."

With regard to Trump's statements about Muslims, Al-Rashed wrote: "The president-elect has a rich background in his attitude towards Muslims, and he never took a racist stance and never joined informational or political campaigns against Muslims in the U.S. or outside it, even in the wake of the phobia that prevailed following the September 11 terror attacks in New York, his own city...

"Being against Muslims involved in terrorism and in extremism should in no way be seen as racist. This is also the Muslims' position. It is groups of ideologies with a terrorist perception that are trying to blur [the difference between] hostility to extremism and hostility towards Islam, and it is they are trying to disrupt and incite for their own political aims. The Arab countries have much to do in order to create a relationship with the new administration in Washington once it is established, and in order to work with the U.S. superpower that impacts the region's stability and prosperity. We must not blame Washington [for our troubles] and ignore the fact that most of our problems stem from our own decisions and actions, and that most of the solutions are in our own hands."[17]  

Cartoon in Saudi daily: U.S. presidents change; U.S. policy stays the same ( Al-Sharq, Saudi Arabia, November 10, 2016)

A post on the Twitter page of Saudi blogger and human rights activist Raif Badawi likewise reacted to Trump's election. Badawi, founder of the "Liberal Network" website and a prominent figure in Saudi Arabia's liberal movement, was sentenced in May 2014 to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam. The post on his Twitter account, which is managed by his wife, congratulated Trump and urged him not to forget to defend human rights and the prisoners of conscience against extremism.[18]

Jordan: Relations With The U.S. Are Not Impacted By Election Results

In Jordan too, it was emphasized that the U.S. is a state of institutions, and that relations with it will not be impacted by the election results. King Abdullah sent a letter of congratulations to Trump expressing his hope that U.S.-Jordan relations will become closer.[19]

Jordanian government spokesman Muhammad Al-Momani said: "Our relations with the U.S. are friendly and strategic in economic, political, military, and security aspects, and they are genuine relations between institutions, not only between leaderships... The U.S. is a state of institutions and cooperation with it continues regardless of the election results... President[-Elect] Donald Trump has already expressed his esteem for Jordan, in several statements in the past, saying that he, like the Congressional leaders, expects to cooperate with King Abdullah II, particularly in matters pertaining to fighting terrorism and to security and stability in the region."[20]

Editor In Official Jordanian Daily Al-Rai: Jordan's Good And Strategic Relations With U.S. Will Continue In Trump Era

On the day after the elections, the official Jordanian daily Al-Rai published on its front page an article titled "Jordan-U.S. Relations Are Good and Strategic," by Faisal Malkawi, a senior member of the paper's editorial board. He wrote: "Over the last decades, Jordan's relations with the U.S. have developed from [mere] bilateral ties into strategic ties and an alliance in various domains. This did not change with the changing U.S. administrations, whether Democratic or Republican... The various U.S. administrations [all] appreciated Jordan's role and the leadership of King Abdullah II, [and Jordan's] positions on regional and international issues...

"Jordan-U.S. relations will [continue to] develop in all areas under the administration of the 45th American president, Donald Trump...

"At all stages and in all conditions, and under various U.S. administrations, the Middle East, with all its issues, crises and circumstances, has been at the focus of U.S. concern, and it is expected to remain a central issue of concern for the new U.S. president Donald Trump... In the coming days we will witness strategic Jordan-U.S. relations anchored in a long history and with a present and future based on cooperation and trust... There is nothing to keep Jordanian diplomacy from embarking on a new path of [joint] work with President[-Elect] Donald Trump and the new U.S. administration..."[21]   

Cartoon in independent Jordanian daily: Statue of Liberty seeks to emigrate to Canada following Trump's win (Al-Ghad, Jordan, November 10, 2016)[22]

Newspaper of Lebanon's March 14 Forces: Trump Will Necessarily Adopt A Middle East Policy That Differs From Obama's

Lebanese Prime-Minister Elect Sa'd Al-Hariri sent a congratulatory telegram to Trump, stressing that in light of the great challenges faced by the Middle East, his leadership is "essential for achieving stability, security, and peace in it." He stressed in the telegram that Trump will find Lebanon to be a partner for his efforts, and that the Lebanese "have high hopes for his help in advancing peace, security, stability, and democracy in our region that suffers from instability, [and this] begins with a political, peaceful solution for the Syria crisis."

In its editorial, the Lebanese Al-Mustaqbal daily, which Al-Hariri owns, stated that in light of the failure of the Obama administration's policy, the Trump administration would certainly change U.S. foreign policy, but wondered whether this would be better or worse for the world: "After Trump's election, the Lebanese and the Arabs in general cannot but hope for an improvement in the atmosphere in the region, in a way that will advance a policy of tackling explosive issues instead of letting them be a main cause of loss of human life, property, and resources and a wide arena for terrorism...

"There is no argument that Obama's policy, characterized by hesitation, withdrawal, and passivity, was one of the main reasons for the escalation and spread of these crises, for the increase of the human and humanitarian tragedies that they brought, and for their spilling across their geographic borders, particularly in Syria and Iraq, into farther-flung areas in the region and in the world.

"Therefore, no one disputes that the only sure thing now is that President-Elect Donald Trump will change the policy of his predecessor and adopt a different perception with regard to what is going on inside and outside the Arab region, as he himself said. The question is whether this change will help or hurt the region and the world."[23]

Cartoon in UAE daily:  Trump, just like Obama, dives blindly into Middle East waters (Al-Arab, London, November 10, 2016)




[1] On Egyptian regime's preference for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton during the election campaign, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1278,  Egypt's Severe Economic Crisis Sparks Harsh Criticism Of Regime's Economic Policy, Calls To Topple Regime On November 11 , November 10, 2016.

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 9, 2016.

[3] Al-Watan (Egypt), November 9, 2016.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 11, 2016.

[5] Al-Ahram (Egypt), November 10, 2016.

[6] Al-Shurouq (Egypt), November 10, 2016.

[7] Al-Watan (Syria), November 10, 2016.

[8] Al-Watan (Syria), November 10, 2016.

[9] Al-Watan (Syria), November 10, 2016.

[10], November 9, 2016.

[11] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 10, 2016.

[12] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), November 11, 2016.

[13] Al-Raya (Qatar), November 10, 2016.

[14], November 9, 2016.

[15] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), November 10, 2016.

[16] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), November 9, 2016.

[17] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), November 10, 2016.

[18], November 11, 2016.

[19] Petra news agency (Jordan), November 9., 2016.

[20] Al-Rai (Jordan), November 10, 2016.

[21] Al-Rai (Jordan), November 11, 2016.

[22] It should be noted that the cartoon was also posted the same day in the Jerusalem-based Palestinian daily Al-Quds.

[23] Al-Mustaqbal (Lebanon), November 10, 2016.

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