Riyadh/Dammam: Saudis dismissed US
President Barrack Obama's much-anticipated "Arab Spring address"
as meaningless, predictable drivel while Egyptians and other
Arabs, to whom Obama offered some sops, also did not find anything
new in the speech, which according to them focused on US
"He did not say anything of consequence," Arab News quoted Riyadh-based
historian Hatoon Al-Fassi as saying. "It was a long speech and what I
remember the most is his defense of Israel. Till he uttered this
sentence, 'US commitment to Israel's security is unshakable', I
had some hope, but when he said that I lost all interest. All his
words after and before just rang hollow."
Al-Fassi said people in the Arab world had high hopes after his
speech in Cairo two years ago, "but when it came to action he
turned out to be a hypocrite like all previous American
presidents. So I did not have any expectations anyway. His words
did not move me because they were all couched in diplomacy and
hypocrisy, and nothing more."
"Katheeran min kalaam khalil min al-amal." That is how Dammam-based
political analyst Mutlaq Al-Anazi described Obama's speech: "Too
much talk and no action."
"There was nothing in his speech except a robust defense of
Israel," said Anazi. "When you support Israel then you lose the
moral high ground that we expect American presidents to take when
dealing with the Palestinian-Israeli issue."
Anazi said Obama has the gift of gab.
"But you cannot impress everybody all the time with your words,"
he said. "You have to deliver and act upon your words. We have
seen what has happened in the two years since he gave that speech
in Cairo. America supported Israel every which way. The
settlements in Israel continued to expand and Obama continued to
veto any action against Israel at the United Nations. We have seen
it all. Nobody believes Obama anymore."
Meanwhile, Egyptians and other Arabs also expressed their
disappointment, saying the US president has not brought any
concrete solutions to existing problems, such as the Arab-Israeli
“Obama’s speech contained both positive and negative points,” said
Imam Yousuf Suleiman, an Egyptian engineer. “It was a photocopy of
his previous speeches, and he did not give any solutions for the
crises that triggered the revolution in Egypt, which was actually
caused by lack of social justice and sustainable development.”
He emphasized the need for modernizing economic infrastructure and
building an economic civil society to reduce unemployment in Arab
Jamal Yusri, another Egyptian worker, said Obama’s speech did not
rise to his expectations. “We were expecting that he would launch
a new policy toward Egypt in order to support the country, which
currently faces a decline in production and tourist inflow," he
said. "He spoke about plans to strengthen economic relations, but
he did not mention any specific project that would help boost our
Palestinian writer Suleiman Namir said Obama’s talk about Middle
East peace without occupation could make the Arab public happy,
"but the Arab Street is awaiting action rather than talk.”
Abdul Nasser Abdul Ghani, an investor in the Gulf, said the speech
contained many important things and reiterated US support for
“It also reflected America’s double standard,” he said.
He said the revolution in Egypt was created by not only the call
for democracy but also issues like unemployment and poverty.
While the speech itself was slated for its lack of depth,
journalist Hadi Fakihi said nobody knew Obama was going to speak.
"There was no adequate publicity and many Saudi youngsters were
out enjoying a sultry weekend or watching football," he said. "I
watched Obama live and I think it was unimpressive. For us, the
most important issue is Palestine. He kept talking about the
revolution in the Arab world but people want to know what is
happening to Palestinians. They deserve freedom as well, don't
they? Nothing has happened on that front. We acknowledge his
happiness and support for the freedom and democracy in the many
nations of Arab world, but then why should Palestinians be left
behind? They are oppressed people, too."
Fakihi said the US president would be judged on the actions that
he takes on the ground rather than the empty rhetoric.
"In any case America did not play any role in the changes that
have or are taking place in the region. We all know it. This is
our script. What is your contribution? Nothing," he added.
Saudi Toastmaster Suleiman Al-Osaimi described Obama as a good
"He acts really well. He would make a good Hollywood actor. I like
the way he speaks. What he says, however, is of little interest.
When he speaks he casts a spell on his listeners but when you go
back to the speech to find out what exactly he has said you will
soon realize that he has said nothing of consequence. They are
mere words stringed in a nice way. He no longer impresses me. It
is like our Toastmaster speeches where we rehearse so well that
every word is delivered smoothly and there is lot of clapping at
the end. Mere clapping nothing more, nothing else."
Political science professor Saleh Al-Khatlan, who is deputy chief
of the National Society for Human Rights in Riyadh said the speech
was, "a good start but it will be long before the US restores its
He added: "It is hard to make consistent policies and the big
question is how this new vision presented by President Obama in
his speech will be translated into action. We will have to see
whether the US policy and the approach of its policy-making
institutions remain consistent or vary from one region to
Businessman Hamad Nour Eddine said he supports Obama on the
question of Syria and Yemen for whom the US president used the
words "get out of the way.” Hamad, however, said that he is
doubtful that the speech made by Obama will bring any tangible
outcome to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"In his first comprehensive response to the crisis sweeping the
Arab world, Obama merely stressed the need for change without
suggesting remedies to the post-change era," said Essam Sadiq, a
sales and marketing manager working for Hala Al-Dayar Company. He
said that most of the countries from where rulers have been ousted
because of the US and EU pressure are in "very vulnerable and
volatile situations even today."
Sadiq called on the US government "to look at Egypt, Tunisia,
Afghanistan, Iraq and many more countries where US has been
involved in regime change. The monarchies in several countries of
the region are better than the perverted forms of democracies in
many parts of the world."
The speech, which was aimed at audiences in the US and the Middle
East, showed little signs of "commitment on issues of regional
"The US can go to any extent, when its interests are at stake,"
said Ameer Siddiqui, a local Pakistani banker, adding that the
future of the US is bound to the Middle East and North Africa. The
two regions have shared economic and security interests, Siddiqui
President Obama's speech seems to be more directed toward his own
constituency and his political fortunes than the problems in the
Middle East, said Naif Al-Hazmi, a Saudi teacher. He said that
Obama must understand the real problems that plague the Middle
East region instead of trying to act like a "super cop."