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November 8, 2016 No.
6671

On Eve Of U.S. Presidential Election, Arab Press Editorials Ask: Who Is Better For The Arabs - Clinton Or Trump?

On the eve of the U.S. presidential election, a number of editorials in the Arab press discussed whether the Arab world would prefer Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as president, and which of them would best serve the Arab issues and preserve good relations with Arab countries. Most of them concluded that since both candidates are hostile to Arabs and Muslims, and because in the U.S. the president formulates policy together with other governmental institutions, it will make little difference. Some argued that U.S. policy on some issues vital to the Arab world will remain unchanged no matter who is elected. In one article, in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat¸ the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Ghassan Charbel, noted that although some Arabs yearn for renewed U.S. influence in the region, it was likely not going to happen.

Following are excerpts from some of the editorials:


Image: Globalcitizen.org

Online Daily Raialyoum.com: Most Arabs Prefer Trump

The online daily Raialyoum.com, founded and edited by senior journalist 'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, stated in its November 2, 2016 editorial that the initial impression seems to be  that the majority of Arabs prefer a  Trump victory in the U. S. elections, in hope that he will lead the U.S. to destruction and disintegration. The editorial also expressed regret that the Arab world is in bad shape and lacks any influence on the U.S. elections, a situation that has turned the Arabs and Muslims into a punching bag for both candidates. The editorial stated:

"While no public opinion polls [have been conducted] in the Arab world regarding the U.S. presidential election, the responses of Arabs to the race give the initial impression that a large portion of them prefers a Trump victory. However, this is not due to their love of [Trump] or hatred of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Rather, it is because they have no sympathy for the U.S. and would like to see Obama replaced by a president who will lead it to collapse and disintegration, out of their belief that [the U.S.] is behind the bloody wars and chaos in the region.

"Republican nominee Donald Trump, who is portrayed as a racist populist, has based the agenda of his campaign on hostility towards Muslims and on the building of a wall on the Mexican border to stem the flow of immigrants. He [also] threatens to deport eight million illegal immigrants [from the U.S.] if elected...

"It seems that Miss Clinton is even more hostile to Arabs and Muslims than Trump, and many believe she will continue the policy adopted by President Obama during his two terms...

"As a result, the question prevailing in major Arab capitals is not which [candidate] is better or worse for the Arabs, but rather who is the least harmful. Herein lies the major problem that exposes the fragility of the Arabs' situation and their complete lack of influence on the elections in the U.S. or anywhere else. This is clearly reflected in the candidates' positions regarding our region and in the fact that their stances are similar, characterized mainly by hostility, extortion, and contempt [for the Arab world].

"The Jewish lobby staunchly backs Clinton, throws its full financial and political weight behind her, and utilizes its media outlets to support her out of the belief that she support its interests, namely Israel's military and political superiority - and the results and benefits [of such conduct by the Jewish lobby] are known in advance. It is sad that Arabs, who suffer the most from American policy, are completely out of the equation, and have become the 'punching bag' at which the presidential candidates direct the full force of their aggressive punches." [1]

Saudi Dailies Al-Riyadh And Al-Sharq: The Arab World Doesn't Care Who Is Elected; The U.S. President Does Not Make Decisions On His Own

The official Saudi press stated numerous times that the U.S. president cannot make unilateral policy decisions, that the U.S. Congress and other governmental bodies are also involved in them, and that it will therefore make no difference to the Arab world whether Trump or Clinton is president.  In an editorial, the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh stated: "We in the Arab and Islamic countries are very interested in the ramifications of the election's outcome, because the U.S. is involved in all issues in the Arab region, which is far more volatile than other areas of the world. [Opinion] polls show that most of the Arabs believe that Hillary Clinton is better suited to handle pressing Arab matters, because she was recently secretary of state and because she is familiar with the situation in the region and with its political, economic, and geographic importance. Trump, on the other hand, has no Arab or Muslim support, especially after expressing his positions about them, which are very nearly racist.

"Clinton is likely to be more empathetic to our problems than Trump will be, but this does not necessarily mean that she is on our side any more [than he is]. This is because U.S. foreign policy is not based on a president's personal initiatives, but on complex long-term considerations that are implemented in stages without deviation from what was set out [in the beginning]. Therefore, the U.S. president has little room to maneuver, and he can make no decisions on his own.

"We hope that the 45th [U.S.] president will know how to handle our Arab problems - which are likely to be a major issue on his desk at the White House."[2]

Similarly, the Saudi daily Al-Sharq stated in its editorial: "The [U.S.] presidency is nothing but a position that complements the [country's other] constitutional institutions, which are responsible for the general administration of the U.S. The scope of the president's [authority] in both foreign and domestic matters is very limited, and he cannot pass any law or resolution without the consent of the Senate and the members of Congress...

"Therefore, whoever the next president [actually] is interests the Arab world less than how [U.S.] foreign policy will continue - and [the Arab world also wants this policy to] make firm decisions about the situation [in the region] which, during this Democratic era, represented by Obama, was shaky. In contrast, during the [recent] Republican era, represented by George [W.] Bush, there were the most wars. Only a few more hours remain until the map of [which party will] control the U.S. for the next era comes into focus. Then it will be clear whether [control] goes to the Democrats or the Republicans, to Hillary Clinton or to Donald John Trump."[3]

Editor Of Qatari Daily: Regarding Pressing Arab Issues, We Predict No Substantial Difference If Either Trump Or Clinton Are Elected

In the London-based daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid , which is close to the Qatari regime, an op-ed by the newspaper's editor, Houssam Kanafani, argued that the apprehensions that a Trump victory will bring far-reaching change to U.S. foreign policy are exaggerated, because no U.S. president can do that: "There is much commentary and many warnings about what will happen if this candidate or that one becomes U.S. president. The commentary deals primarily with what will happen in the event of a surprise Donald Trump [win] - assuming that a Clinton [presidency] would be a direct continuation of U.S. President Obama's two terms, and that any change in U.S. attitudes towards the countries in the region, and in its foreign policy overall, would be a mere formality. But under Trump things will undoubtedly be different - or so the commentary is saying, especially [since he] does not hesitate to make racist proclamations. Furthermore, his scant political experience, especially in foreign policy, is driving the betting on what he might do, since he is the one who has threatened wars, conflicts, and policies that are not in line with American policies in general.

"But it is certain that things will not happen like this, because regardless of which resides in the White House, American policy is not subject to change on the whims of this or that person. Changing [U.S. policy] can be done only in accordance with a strategy planned long ago, and it is the presidency that implements it - it can tweak it, but not blow it up entirely. Is it conceivable that if Donald Trump enters the White House, he will be able to implement all the slogans he voiced during his election campaign...? Things are undoubtedly far more complex than that, even if the president has absolute authority as part of the U.S. presidential system - because [this authority] is connected to the U.S.'s status as a superpower that influences the global arena. One of the president's tasks is to preserve this status, and while he might be able to make course corrections [to U.S. policy], he cannot harm its essence, which is based on alliances and strategies that guide most American administrations.

"However, this does not mean that Trump's arrival at the White House would be the same as Clinton's. It is certain that the insanity of the Republican candidate will impact American presidential conduct, especially on the domestic level, and particularly with regard to the economy. This is because candidate [Trump's] background is that of a businessman who sees politics through the prism of profits, and this will shape what changes Trump can implement, especially in policies regarding social services, oil, and other things that could affect economic relations with [U.S.] allies, but not the alliances themselves. The same goes for Clinton, who will follow in Obama's footsteps on these matters.

"With regard to the Arab countries, especially those that are burning like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, no one expects a substantial change in American policy, whether Trump or Clinton [wins] - because the president does not determine regional trends, or whether the U.S. will clash directly with Russia or Iran at this stage. Such decisions are made behind closed doors, and in the decision-making centers that formulate American policy. These centers have so far shown no intention of changing [regional trends]. Based on this, and at least vis-à-vis issues concerning us [Arabs], there will be no major difference between Trump and Clinton."[4]

London-Based Saudi Daily: Arabs Yearn For A Renewed American Role In The Middle East

An op-ed in the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, by editor-in-chief Ghassan Charbel, noted that while some Arabs yearn for a renewed U.S. role in the Middle East because of the growing Iranian and Russian presence in the region, this would not happen: "It is difficult to assume that after the U.S. presidential election we will see a restored U.S. role in the Middle East - that is, as policeman, or as the [element] that either deters [threats] or guarantees [regional stability]... The absence of an American policeman figured strongly in the upsetting of the historic balances in the Middle East. Old dreams of empire have reawakened, especially on the part of countries that slumbered for a long time, believing that history was constricting their expansion... This context frames the Iranian aggression in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, as well as recent statements by [Turkish] President Erdogan regarding Aleppo, Mosul, and Tal Afar. International borders have lost their solidity, armies have combined with newly established militias, and the discourse about countries has taken a back seat to the discourse about entities.

"Once, Middle Eastern countries secretly complained that they were sick of the U.S. ambassador, whom [they perceived as] dictating his wishes and interfering with matters that the capitals considered none of his business. He would direct [attention to a particular issue], advise, warn, and write to his government. [But] following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia itself began to act all the time just like the U.S. ambassador... Today, Middle Eastern countries feel the absence of the role that the U.S. used to play - never mind that they complained about it at the time. The U.S. has withdrawn unprecedentedly from [from the Middle East]. Russia receives legitimacy for its military bases on Syrian soil, and attacks oppositionists before it attacks terrorists. The [Russian] warships gather, signs of [coming] wrath, and Emperor [Putin] bathes in the blood and warm waters [of the Mediterranean]...

"There is no sign that the American policeman is returning to the Middle East. If she wins, Hillary Clinton might slightly slow the withdrawal, but if Trump wins, there will be more of a global problem than a Middle East problem. The U.S. is the U.S., even if its halo and its greed to run the world are on the wane...

"Today, the Arabs feel that America is distant and that the region will be abandoned, until further notice, to regional battles, wars among the elements of society, and civil wars that spill over national borders. Some [Arabs] are betting that Emperor [Putin's] greed will remind the White House that America has withdrawn too far from [influencing] the fate of the Middle East."[5]

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Raialyoum.com, November 2, 2016.

[2] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), November 6, 2016.

[3] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), November 7, 2016.

[4] Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), November 7, 2016.

[5] Al-Hayat (London), November 7, 2016.