In the “Can’t win for losing” department, President Obama’s abysmal popularity standings in Israeli public opinion polls may soon be matched by low scores across the Arab world.
The 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll, released today by the Brookings Institution, shows a precipitous drop in optimism about U.S. policy in six Arab countries – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates.
Obama’s outreach to the Islamic world in the early days of his administration resulted in 51 percent of those surveyed saying they were “optimistic” about U.S. policy in the region in 2009.
But not much has happened since then on the Israeli-Palestinian front – or any other Middle Eastern front, for that matter; in this year’s poll, only 16 percent say they are "hopeful," while 63 percent say they are "discouraged."
Another striking finding, according to the survey: there was a huge increase in the proportion of Arabs who see Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons as “positive” for the region – now 57 percent, up from 29 percent only last year.
Obviously, the U.S. argument that Iran’s nuclear quest represents a danger to the entire region, and not just Israel, is falling flat, with potentially huge implications as Washington works to toughen and tighten international economic sanctions on Tehran.
If winning the trust of the Middle East’s suspicious residents is the key to meeting U.S. goals in the region, the Obama administration seems to be in big trouble. Obama’s popularity in Israel is nearing the undetectable level, in part because of the perception that he’s more interested in making nice with the Islamic world. But across the Arab world, there’s a growing feeling he hasn’t lived up to his lofty promises.
Not a good sign for an administration that came to Washington with big plans for Middle East policy.