Posted on June 05, 2014 in Countdown

New ZRS Poll: Do No Harm

Let the pontificating begin. Some say that Arab countries have "warmed to President Obama." Others are saying Arabs have given the President a "negative 2014 report card." This can only mean one thing – a new Zogby Research Services poll is out. This week, ZRS released a comprehensive poll conducted in 7 Arab countries that looks at how Arabs view President Obama and U.S. policy in the region. Unsurprisingly, the poll, “Five Years After the Cairo Speech: How Arabs View President Obama and America,” is both complex and nuanced, and is therefore facing a similar fate as some of our previous polls. Several experts gave their own interpretations of the diverse results at the poll’s release on Tuesday. So what do we know? Barbara Slavin noted that the main takeaway seems to be that Obama's "do no harm" policy is supported throughout the region. Despite negative attitudes toward several U.S. policies in the Arab world, there has been an uptick in U.S. favorable ratings in some Arab countries and an increase in Arab support for President Obama in all countries. Even though there is a sharp decline in confidence that the United States is committed to democracy across the Middle East, general attitudes toward the United States are back to where they were in 2009. One crucial finding is on Syria, where strong majorities in every country favor U.S. policies that support a negotiated solution to the conflict, coupled with more support for Syrian refugees. You can read the full poll and parse your own results here.

Welcome to the Jungle: The 2014 Primary Season

Democratic and Republican parties in eight states held primaries on Tuesday to select their nominees for the U.S. House and Senate elections later this year. In what was the busiest Tuesday of this month’s primaries, two particularly notable races served as early Rorschach tests for November's general election. A heated race for Mississippi's Senate seat will require a runoff on June 24th between incumbent Republican Senator Thad Cochran and Tea Party-backed candidate Chris McDaniel. McDaniel's strong showing is garnering national attention as it demonstrates that Tea Party candidates are not necessarily down and out. Still, Republicans are not the only ones facing interparty divisions. We’re keeping an eye out for California’s 17th District, which covers most of Silicon Valley. California's “jungle primary” system will force Incumbent Democratic Representative Mike Honda to take on fellow Democrat and former Obama administration official Ro Khanna in the general election. Honda garnered more votes on Tuesday and is backed by several prominent Democrats including Senator Dianne Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and the President himself, while Khanna has gained support from Silicon Valley powerhouse players like Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Sean Parker. Talk about “The Social Network” – the two candidates have raised around $6 million combined for the race (with Khanna leading the way).

#WelcomeUS: Celebrate Immigrant Heritage Month

This month marks the first ever Immigrant Heritage Month, an initiative spearheaded by to underscore how our country’s heritage is built on the sacrifices and contributions of immigrants. AAI is proud to work with other immigrant communities and organizations throughout the month to help amplify our voices to become a catalyst for comprehensive immigration reform. Throughout the month, AAI will highlight narratives of Arab Americans and the significant impact they have on American society. As we’ve pointed out, Arab Americans are grocers and governors, physicians and farmers, Indy 500 champs and taxicab drivers, financiers and factory workers, bakers and bankers, salesmen and senators, TV stars and TV repairmen, teachers and preachers, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks and neighborhood sandlot heroes. You name it, and an Arab American has probably done it. How can you help celebrate? Share your own “Welcome” story, change your profile pictures, and be a part of this exciting national conversation to press national leaders on comprehensive immigration reform. From creating the first artificial heart to sending the first shuttle into space, we Arab Americans are proud of our achievements and those who paved the way for us and we want to make sure those ahead of us have an opportunity to be a part of the American success story.

Netanyahu Becomes Even More Predictable

Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced a new unity government between rivaling factions Fatah and Hamas. On cue, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu created new attempts to isolate the Palestinians: he threatened to not allow East Jerusalem to vote in upcoming elections, advocated an international boycott of the new unity government, and has prevented members of the new government from moving between Gaza and the West Bank. Do we even need to mention the reports of new settlements? Netanyahu - and many members of the U.S. Congress - claim the new unity government that includes Hamas would not be a "partner for peace nor a legitimate recipient of aid," but Secretary of State John Kerry is refusing to play Netanyahu's games. Kerry declared during a trip to Lebanon that the United States intends to continue working with the new interim Palestinian cabinet. Attempts to prematurely delegitimize a fully representative Palestinian government before it is given the chance to succeed would be detrimental to the future of the peace process and a viable two-state solution. Palestinians undoubtedly need a unified government that can effectively govern all of Palestine and build the international credibility needed to secure a stable future in both the West Bank and Gaza. We expect these antics from Netanyahu, but hey Congress: this isn’t the time to jump the gun.

Is West Point a Turning Point?

In his commencement speech at West Point Academy last Wednesday, President Obama employed a well-known metaphor that effectively summarized his foreign policy approach for the remainder of his term—“just because the United State has the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” As the U.S. reduces its military presence in Afghanistan, ending America’s lengthy courtship with war, President Obama advocated a new way for U.S. international leadership propelled by diplomacy rather than military strength. This emphasis on global partnership embodies a reevaluation of the President’s foreign policy doctrine, especially in light of growing criticism that the administration’s international aims are incoherent and abstract. President Obama acknowledged the crisis in Syria not as a nail destined for the force of the American military hammer, but as a conflict that requires an enduring political solution (which Arabs seem to agree with). The president positioned Syria as the focus of a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, an effort that would reallocate $5 billion toward training and building the capacity of partner countries in the Middle East. What remains uncertain is whether President Obama can transform his lofty foreign policy promises into tangible realities.

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