I wish US President Barack Obama’s stormy interview with Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic magazine took place five years ago. Perhaps back then its implications would have been different.
This time his frankness has angered his friends, and very little can be done in the remainder of his presidency to convince him of his mistake or make them change their opinion.
After seven years in office, they have discovered that Obama has a different view previously unrevealed to them. He succeeded in angering his friends only: Saudi Arabia, the UK, Turkey and Israel.
His answers were well thought out. They were not excuses given to the media, but principles he believes in. Goldberg described them as “the Obama doctrine,” which is why these important views should have been revealed in the first interview between the two in 2008.
Ironically, history bears witness that the same president who killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden saw the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Obama does not consider terrorism a serious issue. He believes Earth’s ecological problems are far more dangerous to the world. This is an illogical trade-off, because a leading nation can tackle both challenges at the same time.
US retreats from the Middle East were key focuses during the interview. Obama did not deny them, and mentioned his predecessor Ronald Reagan’s decision to immediately pull US forces out of Lebanon after Hezbollah’s bombing of a marine barracks in 1983. However, Reagan was simultaneously fighting the Soviets in various parts of the world through a network of alliances.
The real mistake Washington committed in Syria was not that it did not fight the regime, but its lack of military support to the moderate opposition. Obama was right to refuse to send American troops to Syria and Libya, but wrong to let the war in Syria worsen until it became one of the biggest tragedies since World War II.
All the main US allies were ready to assume their responsibilities, despite Obama talking about “those who took advantage of the situation.” These allies were shocked when he abandoned his “red line” of the regime using chemical weapons against the Syrian people. Their shock increased when Washington confirmed the horrific deaths of thousands of prisoners in Syria - all documented with photos - and when millions of people fled.
Syria is a milestone in the history of the region, turning into a source of unprecedented tension despite many other crises in the Middle East. Ironically, history bears witness that the same president who killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden saw the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Mar. 17, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former 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.