IRAQ: In a Baghdad cafe, Obama’s speech gets thumbs-down


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President Obama’s speech on Mideast policy was greeted mostly with derision Thursday in Sahara, a Baghdad cafe where people drink coffee and smoke flavored tobacco in water pipes. Many in the audience mocked the U.S. president’s words.

‘America is like a theater. They all wear different faces, but eventually they are following the same scheme and policy,’ said Ahmed Qoraishi, 23, a university art student. ‘Don’t tell me the ‘Arab Spring’ is due to his efforts. On the contrary, I can tell that, deep inside, the Americans prefer a dictator here or there if they take care of the American national interests.’


Other cafe patrons expressed similar vitriol for Obama and the United States: ‘Obama’s speech is like a joke for me,’ said Numan Qadis, 47, as he smoked his water pipe. He mocked Obama’s calls for Israel to give up land in the Palestinian territories based on the Jewish state’s pre-1967 war borders. ‘That is funny, there are tens of U.N. Security Council resolutions that call for that, and Israel is ignoring them all,’ Qadis said. ‘He has done nothing for poor Palestinians who die every day in Gaza. He will do nothing for them or for us. Rather, he talks in mere slogans seeking to increase his popularity. I think his only achievement was killing Bin Laden, that is all, man.’

Then Qadis inhaled on his pipe and puffed out a cloud of smoke. ‘Look at this smoke ... it is like Obama’s speech. Both vanish within seconds!’ he said, letting out a big laugh.

There were a few people in the cafe that Obama won over. Abu Natheer, 40, said he viewed the president with pride. ‘At least he has Islamic origins. We should support him. He is like our representative over there. When I hear him talk, he is like one of our citizens,’ Natheer said. ‘I am supportive of whatever he says. Obama is the only hope for Arabs in the White House.’


Obama see ‘moment of opportunity’ in Middle East

-- Salar Jaff and Ned Parker in Baghdad