Barack Obama’s election as U.S. president cheered many Arabs and Iranians driven to anger or despair by George W. Bush’s policies over the past eight years.
But Obama’s choice of Rahm Emanuel, a combative, pro-Israeli political operator, as his White House chief of staff splashed cold water on some who hoped the next U.S. leader would be more even-handed and sensitive in grappling with the Middle East.
“For millions of Arabs who expressed jubilance at the monumental victory of Obama, (Emanuel’s) appointment has put a damper on a short-lived fiesta,” wrote Jordan-based commentator Osama al-Sharif in Saudi Arabia’s Arab News on Wednesday.
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In another common view, Morocco’s leading Arabic-language newspaper al Massa said Emanuel’s powerful new job indicated the “lengthy arm of Israeli clout inside the Obama administration.”
Iran’s hardline English-language Kayhan International also homed in on Emanuel, describing the Illinois Congressman as a “Zionist with deep-seated family ties to Israel.”
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It said that while Obama had said he favored dialogue, he had also advocated tougher sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program and, like Bush, had not ruled out military action.