As President Obama prepared to address the greater Muslim world from Egypt, understanding the mood and opinions of the Arab public is a critical challenge. As the people of the region respond to a wide range of dynamics—including American efforts to jump-start the Middle East peace process, stabilize Iraq and halt extremist gains in Pakistan and Afghanistan—accurately gauging Arab public opinion is vital.
On May 19, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings hosted the release of a new 2009 University of Maryland/Zogby International public opinion poll which reveals long-term trends and surprising revelations about perceptions of the United States and President Barack Obama in the Middle East. Shibley Telhami, Saban Center nonresident senior fellow and principal investigator of the poll, and the Anwar Sadat professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, presented his latest polling research and key findings. He was joined for a discussion of the poll results by James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute and Marc Lynch, associate professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University.
Saban Center Director Martin Indyk provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, panelists took audience questions.
My biggest concern is that Washington is signaling to Russia that it’s OK to meddle in the politics of sovereign nations which are your neighbors. Meddling is going on from Paris to Ukraine, from east to west and north to south, within Europe and at its borders, and always with the intent of undermining the credibility and effectiveness of democratic institutions. And it is being either denied or downplayed.