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Arab states congratulate Trump as anxiety stalks region

GCC states and others wish Trump success, but polls suggest many in region believed Clinton offered better hopes for stability
US President-elect Donald Trump arrives with his son Baron at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York on 8 November, 2016 (AFP)

Leaders from across the Arab world congratulated Donald Trump on his American election success on Wednesday despite unease across the region about what the future may hold when the president-elect enters the White House in January.  

In a statement carried by Saudi Arabia’s state news agency, King Salman wished Trump "every success in your missions to achieve security and stability in the Middle East region and the world as a whole".

Saudi Arabia is considered the US's closest ally in the region and on Tuesday hosted General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for talks on Iranian influence in the Gulf and operations against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Yet according to a pre-election poll by the Arab Center for Research and Policy studies, Saudis overwhelmingly favoured Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.

More than two-thirds of Saudis polled supported Clinton with about the same number believing that a Clinton victory would have positively impacted the region. Forty-six percent also believed a Trump presidency would be bad for the Middle East.

Across Arab countries, 66 percent of those polled favoured Clinton, while just 11 percent said they supported Trump.

Kuwait Emir Sheikh al-Sabah also sent his congratulations to Trump and "expressed hopes that Kuwait and the US will continue their strong historic relations, working together for a brighter future for the world."

Before winning the presidency, Trump controversially said last April that Kuwait never paid the US back for expelling former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s forces from their country in 1991.

"If you look at these nations, they wouldn't be there except for us,” he said referring the wealthy Gulf states. “You take a look at Kuwait. I mean, we handed Kuwait back to the people that right now essentially own Kuwait, because it's really ownership more than anything else. We handed it back. They never paid us."

United Arab Emirates President Sheikh Khalifa wished Trump “success in his future tasks”, according to their state news agency.

Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, congratulated Trump on Twitter.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also took to Twitter to pass on his congratulations to the president-elect – who maintained throughout the campaign that he was opposed to the 2003 US-led invaion of Iraq.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was the first leader from the Arab world to congratulate Trump on Wednesday and said he hoped he would "pump new life" into Egyptian-American relations.

“The Arab Republic of Egypt is looking to see Donald Trump’s presidency pump new life into the course of Egyptian-American relations, and more cooperation and coordination that will benefit both the Egyptian and American peoples, and promote peace and stability and development in the Middle East region, especially in the face of the huge challenges that it faces,” the statement read.

Trump met with Sisi in New York last September at the United Nations; the first time a Republican presidential candidate had met a leader from the Muslim world.

Trump told Sisi that "under a Trump administration, the United States of America will be a loyal friend, not simply an ally, that Egypt can count on".

Non-state actors in the Middle East also chipped in on the prospects for coming Trump presidency with Abu Muhammad al-Maqsidi, a senior al-Qaeda ideologue, predicting that his election success marked "the start of America’s breakup."

Translation: “It may be that Trump’s state is the start of America’s breakup and its time of disintegration. The hot-headed man hurts the people closest to them thinking that this will benefit him according to what he said.”

Translation: Trump lays bare the real American mentality and their racism towards Muslims and Arab and everything. He exposes what his predecessors hid only for his victory to expose even more America and its lackeys.”

The Taliban, which has an office in Qatar, called on Trump to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan once he is in power.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told the Associated Press that a Trump administration "should allow Afghans to become a free nation and have relationships with other countries based on non-interference in each other's affairs."

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