Thursday, April 9, 2009

Al Manar: Warming Up To Obama

While Al Manar's collection of op-ed stories writen by Western sources still include sharp critiques of American policy, Al Manar’s coverage of Obama’s recent actions indicate that Al Manar's approves of the changing direction of American foreign policy. The current links to op-eds on Al Manar’s news homepage include a story from Amnesty International criticizing American arms shipments to Israel as well as a sharp critique of America’s hypocrisy on nuclear capabilities, contrasting America’s stances on the nuclear capabilities of North Korea and Israel.However, Al Manar’s own coverage of the Obama administration indicates a thaw in Al Manar’s stance on the US. Al Manar’s coverage of Obama was favorable and at the same time, indicated that the Obama administration relations with Israel are deteriorating while its relations Middle Eastern nations improve.

On Television, Al Manar’s coverage of Obama’s visit to Iraq reported on Obama’s commitment to withdraw US forces as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s gratitude at Obama’s readiness to help Iraq. Online, Al Manar's coverage of Obama's visit to Turkey also had a positive tone, mentioning Obama's statements about improving relations with Muslim nations such as "we will listen carefully, bridge misunderstanding... We will be respectful, even when we do not agree." The article also mentioned Obama's strong support of Turkey's bid to join the EU as well as Obama's dedication to a two-state solution.

In addition to covering Obama's travels to Middle Eastern nations and suggesting improved relations with Muslim nations, Al Manar tried to emphasize the differences between Obama and the new Israeli government. Al Manar reported that the Obama administration is ready for a possible confrontation with Israeli leadership. While mentioning Obama’s commitment to the security of Israel, the article also reported that Obama has made it clear that his administration is dedicated to a two-state solution, despite statements made by Israeli officials. The article hinted that relations between the US and Israel are deteriorating by using words that evoke conflict: the title of the article is “Obama Team Readying for Clash with Netanyahu, Lieberman,” and the article also says that the “US hits back at Lieberman: the goal is two states.” Additionally, the article mentions that that neither Obama nor Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have made plans to visit one another.

Another article on Al Manar’s website reported on US Vice President Biden’s warning to Israel not to attack Iran, which featured Biden’s statement that Israel would be “ill-advised” to attack Iran and also mentioned the Obama administration’s willingness to launch a new dialogue with Iran. The stance of the Obama administration was contrasted with that of the Israeli government, as the article mentions that Biden’s warning to Israel was in response to Netanyahu referring to the Iranian government as "sophisticated and devious" in their ability to hide their nuclear program from the world. I believe that Al Manar's coverage emphasizes conflict and declining US-Israeli relations because this is important prerequisite to improved perceptions of Obama for Al Manar's audience.

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