Could an Obama Win Restore America's Global Image?

Al Ghwell and others say the Arab world is watching with caution, even as the widely popular candidate commands a broad lead over the Arizona senator in domestic polls.

"There's a fear that the majority of American whites aren't ready for a black president, this notion of will they 'let' him win?" said Emile Hokayem, political editor of The National newspaper in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. "Could a black man really get to the very top? People are pretty puzzled by it." .

Hokayem said that in the Arab world, the election invokes a conspiratorial view of U.S. politics, one he thinks will be reinforced if Obama loses.

"Middle-Easterners have a very dark image of the policy system in Washington," Hokayem said. "Somehow you have big players -- mostly white guys, a couple of them part of the Zionist lobby, and a few others, defense contractors and the oil industry -- who determine the outcome."

Bush Foes, Future Friends?

Iran and Venezuela, two foreign policy bogeymen of the Bush administration, recognize that a President Obama could drastically reroute the U.S. approach to their governments. Obama has said that as president he would engage in talks with both countries, fueling excitement for the prospect of normalized relations.

"Most of my relatives say they're sick of the old Washington system," said Sina Tabesh, 24, who follows U.S. politics from his home in Tehran. "They're very optimistic about Obama."

In a show of support, Tabesh changed his facebook profile picture to a portrait of Obama.

Others in Iran have seen enthusiasm tempered as Obama filled out his platform on Middle East policy.

"People thought most highly of him when his first biography was translated into Persian," said Mohammad Marandi, Professor of American Studies at Tehran University. "The AIPAC talk changed the way Iranians thought of him."

In that speech at the June policy conference of AIPAC, or the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobby, Obama called Iran the greatest threat to Israel and to the peace and stability of the region.

Still, said Nader Talebzadeh, a filmmaker and public intellectual in Tehran, there's a "preference toward Obama, because of the hawkish attitudes of McCain and Palin.

"They hope that he'll be a rational man who won't be swayed by irrational pressure, pressures that would push countries and the world into war. If Obama doesn't become president, then we're going to gear up for turbulent waters."

Talebzadeh points to a racial ripple in Iranian public opinion: Many in the Islamic Republic identify with black Americans and the civil rights movement, its symbolism of an oppressed minority pushing back against the mainstream.

"There's great respect for figures like Martin Luther King Jr.," Talebzadeh said. "There's great sympathy for African-Americans in Iran. During the hostage crisis, they were among the first released," a reference to the U.S. Embassy takeover in 1979.

Obama vs. Osama

The most lethal form of anti-Americanism that has grown up during the Bush era is the form that lives in pockets of the Muslim world, fueling violent jihad. The next four years of battle for hearts and minds will pit the U.S. president against the ideologues of al Qaeda, inspired by but not necessarily under the direct command of Osama bin Laden.

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