Obama’s chaotic legacy

The US imperatively needs a president who truly understands its role and spreads its values.

BOYS WALK near a damaged building on the first day of Eid al-Adha celebrations in rebel-held Douma. (photo credit: REUTERS)
BOYS WALK near a damaged building on the first day of Eid al-Adha celebrations in rebel-held Douma.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In stark contrast with the scene of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rebuking her Russian counterpart Sergi Lavrov more than once, John Kerry appears as no more than a shadow of Lavrov.
The difference between Rice’s open strong comments criticizing Moscow and Kerry’s meek appearances, is only a reflection of many fall backs resulting from the current US administration’s policies, that have left the Middle East in tatters.
Much of the chaos, terrorism and massacres the “Arab Spring” has left behind, is due to Washington’s confounded approach towards these countries.
The current administration failed to anticipate the outcome of Tunisia’s protests and seemed highly disorganized as events there unfolded. It rushed to press former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down, before Islamists rose to power and events later led to cold relations with the current leadership.
Obama sufficed with a couple of drone strikes every now and then in Yemen. He refrained from backing the Arab military intervention last year which aimed to curb Tehran’s increasing influence there. In Libya, the US president led the war “from behind” before leaving the country to warring militias.
Syria was undoubtedly “Obama’s Rwanda” where he scored many historic firsts.
It was the first time a US president backtracks on a “red line” he drew against a regime and hands over control of a crisis to an adversary (Russia).
It was also unprecedented that a terrorist organization turns into a fully functioning state governing territory equal to the size of Ireland, while creating an economy with an estimated budget of two billion dollars.
Elsewhere, Iraq became an Iranian protectorate instead of virtually turning into the 51st state, after Obama chose to dust his hands off.
He left sectarian militias to lead the fight against ISIS instead of mobilizing the local Sunni population.
This widened the sectarian gap and the so-called “People’s Mobilization” militia gradually morphed into an Iraqi version of Iran’s “Revolutionary Guard”.
Even Turkey moved a step closer to Russia and steps away from the United States. Frosty relations reached an extent that Ankara openly accused its former key ally of facilitating the failed July 15 coup attempt.
Obama assumed he could merely abandon longtime pillars of the American policy in the MENA region: Securing energy resources and Israel’s security.
He justified the shift by undermining those two cornerstones of the US policy in the region and later claimed that they have lost their importance. Even if the US had more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia, this should not necessarily mean dismissing strategic relations with Arab states of the Gulf.
Gulf Arab countries are not just oil and the MENA region as a whole bears significant historic, religious and geo-strategic importance.
The rapprochement with Iran, ruled by a regime that combines chauvinistic nationalism from the Industrial Revolution-era with medieval religious myths, is not a logical alternative and indicates the current administration’s improvident policy.
In Israel, feelings of bitter disappointment are growingly deepening over Obama’s negligence. Relations have reached a critical level of suspicion, at a time when Iran’s existential threats to Israel never halted, pushing the Israelis and most MENA states that have grown wary of Washington into Moscow’s arms.
Obama has dealt with international affairs with the mentality of a lawyer, not that of a statesman or the president of the world’s most powerful country.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who had initially promoted a conflict-free world, is leaving his post with a heavy legacy of four wars raging in the MENA region – a situation unprecedented since World War II.
The US imperatively needs a president who truly understands its role and spreads its values. Being closer to the conservative dogma, the Republican Party is more capable of tackling MENA problems which mostly come from ideological backgrounds, than the Democratic Party whose leaders are more occupied with gay marriages or services issues.
The author is a journalist and researcher with expertise in the Middle East.