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.


Pentagon plans to send 5,000 more troops to Middle East amid Iran threat: US officials

Updated 23 May 2019
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Pentagon plans to send 5,000 more troops to Middle East amid Iran threat: US officials

  • Tehran and Washington have this month been escalating rhetoric against each other
  • The US military deployed a carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US Department of Defense is considering a US military request to send about 5,000 additional troops to the Middle East amid increasing tensions with Iran, two US officials told Reuters on Wednesday.
Tehran and Washington have this month been escalating rhetoric against each other, following US President Donald Trump’s decision to try to cut Iran’s oil exports to zero and beef up the US military presence in the Gulf in response to what he said were Iranian threats.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the request had been made by US Central Command, but added that it was not clear whether the Pentagon would approve the request.
The Pentagon regularly receives — and declines — requests for additional resources from US combatant commands throughout the world.
One of the officials said the requested troops would be defensive in nature.
This appeared to be the latest request for additional resources in the face of what US officials have said are credible threats from Iran against US forces and American interests in the Middle East.
The Pentagon declined to comment on future plans.
“As a matter of longstanding policy, we are not going to discuss or speculate on potential future plans and requests for forces,” Commander Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said on Wednesday.
Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said on Tuesday that while threats from Iran in the Middle East remained high, deterrence measures taken by the Pentagon had “put on hold” the potential for attacks on Americans.
The US military deployed a carrier strike group, bombers and Patriot missiles to the Middle East earlier this month in response to what Washington said were troubling indications of possible preparations for an attack by Iran.
Trump had warned on Monday that Iran would be met with “great force” if it attacked US interests in the Middle East.