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FadingUSmideast mystique

  • by & Newspapers  "It was clear that America is neither loved nor feared," said one activist. (Reuters) US President George W. Bush's Middle East tour has proven that his administration lost whatever mystique left even among its closest regional allies, analysts agreed on Monday, May 19.

"This trip was an exclamation point on the fact that the mystique about American power is no longer there," Steve Clemons, an analyst at the Washington-based New America Foundation, told the US Today.

Bush concluded on Sunday, May 18, a five-day Mideast tour, which aimed to tackle two main issues; rising oil prices and the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.

But the American president, who will leave office in January, was dealt a blow on both issues.

Saudi Arabia rebuffed his request to increase oil production to curb soaring prices.

Bush also came under criticism from his closest allies after a biased speech he gave in Israel on the 6oth anniversary of its creation on the rubble of Palestine.

"What the president said at the Knesset made us angry, and to be honest, we don't accept it," Abbas said.

"We had many things to say about it, and we told him this when we met him yesterday, because we speak with him openly, honestly and transparently. We have asked him to maintain a balanced position."

US-backed Lebanese Premier Fouad Seniora also skipped a face-to-face meeting with Bush in Egypt to meet political rivals, including from Hizbullah, in Qatar.

He criticized Bush for not doing enough to support his government.

Even ceremonially, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak greeted Bush with a half-dozen soldiers and none of the usual pomp of previous visits.

Instead, state-controlled newspapers scolded Bush in stinging front-page editorials.

"It was clear that America is neither loved nor feared," said Hisham Qassem, a prominent Egyptian newspaper editor and democracy activist.


Analysts believe Washington's Arab allies have grown very frustrated with its policies.

"Our Arab allies feel they've overinvested in us and we haven't delivered," said Clemons, the New America Foundation analyst.

"So now these states are putting distance between themselves and the US."

Analysts believe that America's reputation has been shattered over its failing policies.

"The image of weakness, which I think America is giving, is because that despite all the tough talk we're not confronting Iran," argues Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Middle East program at the Hudson Institute.

Washington's Arab allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been wary of the rising role of Shiite Iran in the region since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.

Even Bush's attempt to use his Davos speech to advance a reform agenda failed to impress Arabs, after he expected democracy to prevail in the region by 2068.

"Sixty years! Is he kidding?" said Qassem, the Egyptian editor and democracy activist.

"I had hoped to see some movement in my lifetime."