Former Secretary of State Colin Powell's endorsement of Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama was one of the top stories on Al-Jazeera on Monday morning — yet another sign of just how closely the Middle East is watching the U.S. presidential election.
The Arabic-language news network has extensively covered every single primary and is gearing up with "everything we have" to cover the rest of the election, Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief for Al-Jazeera Arabic, tells Alex Chadwick.
"We have tried to come at it from every single, possible angle," he says. "The general idea is to cover not just the event itself, but to explain the American political system."
In the Middle East, there is a lot of interest in the fact that an African-American candidate is running for the presidency, he says.
"Large chunks of the audience find it fascinating that Barack Obama is not only ahead in the polls, but may actually become president of the United States," he says.
That said, a number of people cannot believe that the United States is ready to elect a black candidate, he says.
"There is a part of the audience in the Middle East that still cannot believe that Barack Obama is a genuine force in the U.S. political system, and that he's in it with a real chance of becoming president."
Most viewers in the Middle East don't grasp the nuanced policy differences between Republican nominee John McCain and Obama, Foukara says. Nonetheless, he adds, there's an assumption in the region that Obama will bring a shift in the dynamics of the debate about Middle East issues in the United States.