U.S. ‘Gaining Ground’ on Arab Street

President Barack Obama’s overtures to the Arab world are working.

That, according to an important new report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a powerful D.C.-based think tank devoted to a strong U.S.-Israel alliance.

Several new polls suggest that the United States is gaining ground in the Arab street, and that President Barack Obama’s latest overtures, specifically his June 4 speech in Cairo, were well received by some important Arab constituencies … Students of Arab public opinion would regard these numbers as surprisingly encouraging. In contrast, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinezhad’s popularity has slipped dramatically in the Arab world … Approximately half of the Arabs questioned even agree that “if Iran does not accept new restrictions and more international oversight of its nuclear program, the Arabs should support stronger sanctions against Iran around the end of this year.”

(You can read the full report here.)

The report notes that these marked shifts in public attitudes provide a “window of opportunity,” in which Arab governments, fearful of a dominant Iran, will be increasingly receptive to cooperating with the United States. It argues that the Obama administration “should accelerate and publicize defensive military cooperation with friendly Arab countries.” And it concludes that the U.S. should continue trying to engage Iran, while at the same time actively enlisting broader Arab support for sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Which is to say that, despite the loud naysayers on the right, President Obama’s bold outreach to the Arab world is already paying crucial dividends.

It should be noted that the Washington Institute is not by any means a left-leaning think tank. Its board members range across the political spectrum (from former secretaries of state Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Eagleburger and Warren Christopher, to Martin Peretz, editor in chief of the New Republic, a staunch pro-Israel hawk). According to SourceWatch, the Institute burst on the scene in 1988 with a paper urging that the U.S. “resist pressures for a procedural breakthrough (on Palestinian-Israeli peace issues) until conditions have ripened” — a report that was extremely influential in the George H.W. Bush administration.

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