On Thursday, President Obama will deliver a speech on the Mideast uprisings in which he'll highlight the protesters' quest for freedom rather than Islamic extremism and explain that while the U.S. can't impose change in the region, it can and will uphold democratic principles. "I can say safely the President will make news" in the speech, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters today. But will he make friends in the Arab world? It won't be easy. In fact, a Pew report today suggests that while many people in the region are excited about the so-called "Arab Spring" and its promise of democracy, the popular protests haven't done a thing to improve America's image in the region.
The Pew Global Attitudes Survey, conducted in March and April (before Osama bin Laden's death), found that, with the exception of Indonesia, views of the U.S. in the predominantly Muslim countries surveyed (which, granted, are but a sampling) "remain negative, as they have been for nearly a decade. Indeed, in Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan, views are even more negative than they were one year ago."
Pew also found that majorities or pluralities in almost all the Muslim countries surveyed disapprove of Obama's handling of four pressing issues in the Muslim world, including the protest movements in the region and especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which came to a head on Sunday with border violence and which Obama will address in his speech on Thursday: