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Obama Foreign Policy Changes: World Reactions

Huffington Post   First Posted: 02/22/09 05:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 02:00 PM ET

Obama Rice

President Obama is using his second day in office to focus on changing many of former President Bush's foreign policies (read more here from AP). Obama is taking a correction pen to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, CIA black sites, interrogation policies, Mideast peace planning and other programs that large numbers of Americans and foreigners believe have hurt the country and its image over the last eight years.

HuffPost is gathering world reactions to see what the global community is saying about Obama's foreign policy moves. Keep checking back for more...

An analysis in Euronews expresses skepticism that Obama will be able to enact his foreign policy promises as swiftly or completely as the international community would like.

With huge expectations in the US and around the world, and with complicated conflicts to deal with, how will Obama avoid disappointing people? Already, his silence during Israel's offensive in Gaza provoked criticism and calls for urgent action.


Shibley Telhami, a Middle East analyst, said: "President Obama may be the last President in the United States to have the option of dealing with it, and that makes it urgent, because if we don't have a two-state solution there aren't any good options on the table that are viable, that are credible, that could work, that people will accept."

Numerous publications in the Arab world, including this from Arab News, took note of Obama's mention of the United States' relationship with Muslim nations.

Obama made international news during his inaugural address Tuesday when he told the world's Muslims that his administration will be looking for a "new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."


Obama underscored that his foreign policy approach toward Muslim nations will be firm on leaders "who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West" but that "we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

The New Straits Times reports that Malaysia's prime minister welcomed Obama's "enlightened attitude."

"The Malaysian government hopes that America's foreign policy will move towards engaging in talks, instead of confrontation.


"He has said all the right things but we have to wait and see how fast the changes will take place," [Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi] Abdullah told foreign journalists covering his two-day visit here yesterday.

Robert Fisk of the Independent in London says Obama did not show great courage by talking about ending the war in Iraq or closing the Guantanamo detention facility. What Obama should have done during his inaugural address, Fisk says, is address the crisis in Gaza.

It would have helped if Obama had the courage to talk about what everyone in the Middle East was talking about. No, it wasn't the US withdrawal from Iraq. They knew about that. They expected the beginning of the end of Guantanamo and the probable appointment of George Mitchell as a Middle East envoy was the least that was expected. Of course, Obama did refer to "slaughtered innocents", but these were not quite the "slaughtered innocents" the Arabs had in mind.


There was the phone call yesterday to Mahmoud Abbas. Maybe Obama thinks he's the leader of the Palestinians, but as every Arab knows, except perhaps Mr Abbas, he is the leader of a ghost government, a near-corpse only kept alive with the blood transfusion of international support and the "full partnership" Obama has apparently offered him, whatever "full" means. And it was no surprise to anyone that Obama also made the obligatory call to the Israelis.

But for the people of the Middle East, the absence of the word "Gaza" - indeed, the word "Israel" as well - was the dark shadow over Obama's inaugural address. Didn't he care? Was he frightened? Did Obama's young speech-writer not realise that talking about black rights - why a black man's father might not have been served in a restaurant 60 years ago - would concentrate Arab minds on the fate of a people who gained the vote only three years ago but were then punished because they voted for the wrong people? It wasn't a question of the elephant in the china shop. It was the sheer amount of corpses heaped up on the floor of the china shop.

An article in Al Jazeera reports that Obama has been under tremendous pressure to address the crisis in Gaza and focus on the Middle East.

Alastair Crooke, a former EU adviser on the Middle East, told Al Jazeera that the war on Gaza had probably forced the new administration to focus on the issue earlier than it probably wanted.


"I think the new administration has shown all the signs of being very cautious, the last thing they wanted was to dive into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at the first point," he said.


China's People's Daily focuses on Obama's indication that his administration will take a more multilateral approach than the Bush administration. Quoting Obama's inaugural address, the report states:

Obama said the United States would seek "even greater cooperation and understanding between nations."


"With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat," he said, hinting that he would seek to resolve issues of nuclear proliferation, such as the Iranian nuclear issue, through cooperation and diplomatic engagement.

The Indian Express reports that Obama's immigration policies are likely to help Indians seeking to come to the United States.

In what could be seen as a boon to Indians wishing to come to the US, the new Obama Administration's proposed immigration policy favours increase in the number of the legal immigrants in the country.


Governmental statistics in the past have indicated that Indians are mostly legal immigrants.

A report from Abuja on allAfrica.com says Obama's emphasis on using alternative energy sources threatens to hurt Nigeria's economy.

[The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Professor Chukwuma Soludo said:] "With the Obama government proposing to invest heavily on alternative energy sources, there is a permanent threat to oil as mainstay of the Nigerian economy. Unless we take urgent steps to address the situation by also finding an alternative to oil as the mainstay of our economy, we might be back to the similar crisis we witnessed in 1982 when the price of oil crashed, government revenue declined and it became difficult for government at all levels to pay salaries. There was also the abandoned projects syndrome, increased import of almost anything until government was forced to place a ban on foreign currency trafficking because it was being abused," he said.

And, in closing, you can watch this super cute video from ABC News on what children around the world have to say about the new American president.

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