An isolationist Obama on Syria

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Barack Obama has been compared to former president Jimmy Carter ever since he was elected US president about five years ago. He’s been described as an exact copy of Carter. The description was often made during the disturbances in Egypt and Tunisia because he repeated Carter's stance during Tehran's disturbances which toppled the Shah and brought Khomeini to power.

It is fair to say however that Obama took the right stance. He was neutral when it came to Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen. He was even neutral when he chose to participate in the war with France and Britain in Libya to topple Muammar Qaddafi's regime because the revolution in Libya was against a regime that failed to develop itself and was thus hard to save from its mistakes.

Obama, however, chose the wrong stance on Syria - a stance that has future dangerous repercussions on the region and the world. He let Bashar al-Assad's regime, Iran and Hezbollah besiege the popular revolution until it became one threatening the region.

Obama’s silence

Senator John McCain is more aware about what's going on. Syria is full of future threats, and the US is supposed to have a leadership role. He said: “The Middle East has always been more important than oil and it still is. … The US has friends and allies in the Middle East who count on the US for their security and who contribute to US security and stability a lot more than the Americans actually know. Believe me, they will realize this role if navigation in the Suez Canal is affected or we if we lose important partners like Jordan."

Obama has lost everything he's built because despite the massacres committed in Syria and despite the use of heavy arms and prohibited chemical weapons, he has failed them in Syria.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Obama's administration is currently pursuing Iranian ships across the world to prevent them from selling oil or to search their cargo to prevent the transfer of arms. The paradox is that this American government itself is silent about the participation of thousands of Iranian fighters in Syria. This flagrant contradiction is what confuses many. We have not known of a prominent role for Moscow in the region since 1972. And Iran could not work in the region except in Lebanon and Gaza in a limited manner.

Does Obama's policy announce the end of Eisenhower's principle that has become US policy since 1957? Does it announce exiting the Middle East to leave it for the Russians and the Iranians? As McCain said, the threats of the Middle East on the world's security have always been grave. What the Iranians are doing in Syria is transforming it into an arena to launch terrorist projects that will threaten everyone.

President Obama is pretty much the only American president who gained the love of many Arabs because he came to their region, spoke their language, echoed their aspirations and supported their revolutions. Today, however, he has lost everything he's built because despite the massacres committed in Syria and despite the use of heavy arms and prohibited chemical weapons, he has failed them in Syria.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 9, 2013.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

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