Arab youths see Russia as top foreign ally, says survey

Vladimir Putin’s country Russia — where he took office as President on Monday, May 7 — is viewed more positively than Donald Trump’s America in both the Arabian Gulf and North Africa too. (AFP)
Updated 08 May 2018
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Arab youths see Russia as top foreign ally, says survey

  • It is the first time the US has been outside the top five “friendly” countries in the survey, falling to 11th position
  • The survey showed that nearly three quarters of young people polled saw the election and presidency of Donald Trump as having a negative impact on the region

DUBAI: There has been a dramatic shift in the perception of America by young Arabs over the past two years, with a solid majority — some 57 percent — now regarding the US as an enemy rather than an ally.
Instead, Russia is increasingly regarded as the top non-Arab ally by young people in the region, with 20 percent seeing it as the region’s best friend outside the countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
That is one of the key findings to come out of a face-to-face survey of 3,500 Arabs between the ages of 18-24 across the region earlier this year. The ASDA’A Burston-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey, now in its 10th year, is the largest sample of public opinion among young people — the biggest demographic — in the Middle East and North Africa.
It is the first time the US has been outside the top five “friendly” countries in the survey, falling to 11th position.
Antipathy toward America is most pronounced in the Levant, with 31 percent favoring Russia compared to 15 percent for the US. But Vladimir Putin’s country is viewed more positively than Donald Trump’s America in both the Arabian Gulf and North Africa too.
In 2016, 25 percent of young Arabs surveyed said the US was their top non-Arab ally, compared with only 9 percent in favor of Russia.
The two years since then have been dominated by President Trump’s new focus on the region, in contrast to what many analysts saw as former President Obama’s withdrawal from involvement in Arab affairs.
The period has also witnessed the involvement of Russia in the military conflict in Syria on behalf of Iran-backed president Bashir Assad.
The survey showed that nearly three quarters of young people polled saw the election and presidency of Donald Trump as having a negative impact on the region. Only 7 percent saw it as positive. Trump’s election was more negatively regarded than the decline in oil prices and the war in Yemen.
The other developments seen as more negative for the region than the Trump presidency were the rise of the Sunni-Shiite divide, the civil war in Syria, the global financial crisis and the rise of Daesh.
The digital revolution and the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq were seen as the most positive.
Young Arabs increasingly believe that Daesh is getting weaker, with 78 percent agreeing with that proposition, and 68 percent confident in their government’s ability to deal with the terrorist organization.
Some 58 percent said that Daesh and its ideology would be fully defeated, while 18 percent thought that it would lose territory, but remain a significant terrorist threat.


Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

Pro-government forces stand in the destroyed Thalateen Street in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp on the southern outskirts of the capital Damascus on May 24, 2018, as civilians return to see their homes after the regime seized the camp and adjacent neighborhoods of Tadamun and Hajar al-Aswad earlier in the week from the Daesh group. (AFP / LOUAI BESHARA)
Updated 27 May 2018
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Assad accused of ‘using urban development law to carry out ethnic cleansing’

  • he so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property in which to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.
  • Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or may not learn of the legal requirements in time.

JEDDAH: The Assad regime in Syria was accused on Saturday of using a new law on urban development to rid the country of all political opposition.

The so-called “Law 10” allows the regime to acquire previously private property to create zoned developments, and to compensate the owners with shares in the new projects.

However property rights are in a state of confusion after a seven-year war that has created more than 5 million refugees and 6 million internally displaced people. Many of the displaced have lost the necessary paperwork, are struggling financially or not aware of the legal requirements in time.

The Assad regime is using the confusion to create a suitable environment for demographic change, Syrian opposition spokesman Yahya Al-Aridi told Arab News. 

“The regime has a two-fold goal,” he said. “First, terrorize the opposition and supporters of the Syrian revolution so that they lose the right to their properties.

“Second, there is talk of reconstruction in Syria now. This law sends out a message to investors that their interests lie with the regime. It is an attempt to tempt companies and business people to support the regime, because the regime is the only party that approves bids and gives grants and contracts. All this merely adds to the Syrians’ plight and misery.”

Al-Aridi said the attempted land grab was being resisted by European countries, especially France and Germany. “The Syrian Negotiating Committee is also exerting a very important effort so that such an evil act will not happen,” he said. 

Also on Saturday, the US warned Damascus it would take “firm action” if the regime violates a cease-fire deal, after Syrian aircraft dropped leaflets on a southern province in advance of an expected offensive.

Al-Aridi said any such offensive would be a breach of agreements between Russia and the US on de-escalation zones, and he warned the regime and Iran against “playing games” with the US. “Such threats are part of a response to the two unanswered Israeli attacks on Iran’s military positions in Syria,” he said.

“They area also meant to divert attention from the American-Israeli intent to kick Iranian militias and forces out of Syria.”

He said the regime and Iran could do nothing without Russian support. “We don’t think the Russians are willing to provide such support, or to mess with the US or Israel. Parallel to such threats, Assad is trying to make certain reconciliation agreements with what they call ‘Syrians in liberated areas.’ We believe that they cannot do anything of the sort.”