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Trump has to undo Obama’s Mideast legacy

Ahmad al-Farraj

Published: Updated:

Ever since Donald Trump became president, I have come to realize how bad the situation was during Barack Obama’s term. The latter served two terms which were mostly lean years on the level of America’s historical relations with the Saudi Kingdom.

I have repeatedly written that an intellectual is not fit to become a political leader as politics is the art of the possible and a mixture of innate guile, courage and resolution. Most politicians who changed the world did not belong to the category of intellectuals.

What is strange is that Obama’s role model was Abraham Lincoln who made one of the greatest decisions in history – the decision to end slavery. This decision led to a violent civil war in America resulting in many fatalities. It ended with the sweeping victory of America’s best presidents. A great leader is a man who bravely makes difficult decisions no matter how impossible they seem.

Historical surprise

When Obama won the elections, it was a historical surprise. Muslims and Arabs rejoiced as they thought he will be the savoir faire to their causes. You probably remember the articles written about him in Arab dailies.

However, Obama later turned his back on everyone, including on the historical legacy of America’s relations with the Saudi Kingdom. He did so for ideological and personal reasons.

And why else would Obama turn his back on America’s historical allies in favor of a fascist Islamist regime that has always declared hostility against America, supported all terrorist activities in the Middle East and targeted American interests? According to some reports, statements and leaks, Obama is stubborn and he does not care about the opinions of his advisors.

This contradicts the “American decision making mechanism” which relies on an ancient institutional system and on studies carried out by respectable academic institutions.

Obama, as a well-informed intellectual, believed he could resolve the Middle East problems according to ideological theories and not realistic political ones.

And why else would Obama turn his back on America’s historical allies in favor of a fascist Islamist regime that has always declared hostility against America, supported all terrorist activities in the Middle East and targeted American interests? According to some reports, statements and leaks, Obama is stubborn and he does not care about the opinions of his advisors.

Ahmad al-Farraj


I was asked a lot whether there was contradiction between the fact that some American presidents make decisions on their own and my statements that the American system is an ancient institutional system which formulates plans for decades. The answer is easy.

America’s foreign policies have clear objectives which all presidents abide by. However, a strong president can still make a decision that does not go against the grain.

For example, America’s general political line is that Iran, under the governance of mullahs, represents a threat that must be dealt with. However, dealing with Iran differs according to the president’s character and political ideology. America’s presidents have strictly dealt with Tehran since 1979 and they resorted to sanctions and siege.

However, Obama thought he could peacefully resolve this problem without resorting to military power or siege. He strongly followed this path and fulfilled his wish of making an achievement. However, he did this at the expense of America’s most important allies. He therefore reshuffled the cards in this disturbed area and then left office leaving a burdensome legacy for Trump.

President Trump launched a campaign to rectify all this since day one and he did so by restoring back America’s relations with Saudi Arabia on the right path. He then struck at the Assad regime.

Trump, however, still has a lot to do to correct Obama’s political legacy in the Middle East.

This article was first published in Arabic on April 17, 2017

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Dr Ahmad al-Farraj is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah daily. He holds a Masters degree in literature from the University of Indiana and a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. He was the Dean of the Arabic Language Institute in King Saud University and a member of the university’s council. He tweets under @amhfarraj

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.