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.


Hezbollah names Beirut street after Rafiq Hariri assassin

Rafiq Hariri was assassinated in a blast in Beirut on Feb. 14, 2005. (AFP)
Updated 44 min 3 sec ago
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Hezbollah names Beirut street after Rafiq Hariri assassin

  • The decision to name the street after him was “unconstitutional” and “an unnecessary act of provocation,” a source at the Interior Ministry told Arab News

BEIRUT: Pro-Hezbollah politicians in south Beirut were accused of provocation on Tuesday for naming a street after the assassin who plotted the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

To rub salt in the wound, the street is adjacent to the city’s Rafiq Hariri University Hospital. Hariri’s son, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, described the decision by Ghobeiry municipality as “sedition.” 

Hezbollah commander and bomb-maker Mustafa Badreddine was described last week by the prosecution at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in The Hague as “the main conspirer” in the assassination of Hariri, who died when his motorcade was blown up in central Beirut in February 2005. Badreddine himself was murdered in Damascus in 2016.

The decision to name the street after him was “unconstitutional” and “an unnecessary act of provocation,” a source at the Interior Ministry told Arab News.

“There is no precedent for resorting to these methods in naming streets, especially when the name is the subject of political and sectarian dispute between the people of Lebanon and may pose a threat to security and public order.”

A Future Movement official said: “What has happened proves that Hezbollah has an absurd mentality. There are people in Lebanon who care about the country, and others who don’t. This group considers the murderers of Rafiq Hariri its heroes, but they are illusory heroes.”