Arabs and Muslims love leaders who talk tough and do not hesitate to use force. In the Arab world, compromise is a sign of weakness.
Until recently, Trump was anathema to many Arabs and Muslims. So what happened? U.S. President Donald Trump did something Arab leaders have failed to do: he helped the Syrian civilians who were being gassed by their ruler.
Arabs and Muslims have long lost faith in their leaders' ability to deal with the crises plaguing Arab and Islamic countries. The civil war in Syria, which has been raging for more than five years and which has claimed the lives of more than half a million people, is seen as a shining best example of Arab and Muslim leaders' incompetence and apathy.
The most recent Arab League summit in Jordan, which brought together many Arab heads of state and monarchs, will be best remembered for the photos of leaders falling asleep during the discussions. These pictures, which have been circulating widely in the Arab media, feel like salt in the festering wound of Arab leaders' indifference to their peoples' plights.
The summit, which utterly failed to find a solution to the ongoing killings in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other Arab countries, is now being sarcastically referred to by many Arabs as the "Sleep Summit."
The recent Arab League summit in Jordan, which brought together many Arab heads of state and monarchs, will be best remembered for the photos of leaders falling asleep during the discussions. Pictured above: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abba (left) and the Emir of Kuwait, Sabah Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah (right) snooze during the summit proceedings.
Few Arabs, of course, were expecting their leaders to step up. As far as many Arabs are concerned, their leaders are "traitors" and "puppets" in the hands of the U.S. (and sometimes Israel), and interested only in preserving their seats and enriching themselves and their families on the backs of their constituents.
Even gassing civilians in Syria did not surprise the Arab people. Scenes of children and other civilians suffocating from poisonous gas are not new to the Arab world. Similar atrocities have already taken place in Iraq and other Arab countries in the past few decades.
Desperate for a leader who is willing to send a strong message to the Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, many Arabs and Muslims are now looking at Trump as their "savior." His recent action in Syria stands in sharp and positive relief to the treacherous inactivity of the corrupt Arab heads of state who have turned their backs on their own people.
The missile strike that Trump ordered in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons in Syria has earned him unprecedented appreciation and respect throughout Arab and Islamic countries. The last time a U.S. president won such praise was when George W. Bush liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein's army.
Now, Arab leaders can only sit on the side and watch with envy as their constituents heap praise on Trump for ordering the military strike against Assad's forces. Thousands of Arabs have taken to social media to express their admiration and gratitude for Trump after the U.S. missile strike. Many are affectionately referring to Trump as "Abu Ivanka al-Amriki."
Others are calling Trump "Lion of the Sunnis", "Caliph of the Muslims" and "Defender of the Islamic Holy Sites." Some wrote: "Blessed be the hands of Abu Ivanka al-Amiriki (Trump)," and expressed hope that he would do more to rid the Syrian people of their dictator. "We love you Trump" and "Trump is our hope" are two of many hashtags that have become extremely popular on social media, especially Twitter. Many of the writers are Syrians, Egyptians and Gulf citizens.
Arabs are replacing their profile photos on Facebook and Twitter with an image of Trump. "Trump did in a few months what Obama was unable to do in eight years," many of them commented. "For the first time in six years, the Assad regime is being held accountable for its atrocities."
Lebanese journalist Maria Maaloof wrote: "Thank you Mr. President for not ignoring the cries of the (Syrian) children."
By striking Syria, Trump seems to have made America great again, at least in the eyes of many Arabs and Muslims.
Many Arabs and Muslims perceive themselves to have been betrayed by the Obama administration. They felt, rightly, that the Obama administration turned its back on Washington's friends and allies in the Arab world in favor of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood. It is no surprise, therefore, that Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries were among the first to voice support for the U.S. strike against Syria.
For now, Trump's military strike in Syria has partially restored U.S. credibility among Arabs and Muslims. Moreover, it has broadcast that the days of the Obama administration's appeasement and inaction are over. Arabs love world leaders who stand up to oppression and injustice; his swift and strong response accounts for the about-face on Trump in the Arab world. The U.S. strike is a first step towards restoring the U.S. role as a true leader. It remains to be seen whether Trump will demonstrate the same determination in dealing with the duplicity and malevolence of other Arabs and Muslims.
Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.