Israel, Arabs baffled by Obama's wavering on Syria
By Ryan Jones
Whatever the political benefits US President Barack Obama hopes to gain at home with his wavering approach to the Syria crisis, across the Middle East there is near consensus that the American leader is showing his serious lack of inexperience.
Following a chemical weapons attack that killed over 1,000 people, Obama began making preparations for US military action to punish the regime of embattled Syrian dictator Bashar Assad.
In a speech to the American people on Sunday, Obama stated plainly that he had "decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets" as a deterrent to any similar use of chemical weapons by Syria or other regional forces in the future.
However, in the same speech, Obama announced a second decision: "I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."
As noble as that may sound, Congress is not due to reconvene until September 9, and even then the two houses of the American legislature will begin by debating the issue, a process that could take days or even weeks before a decision is reached.
In the meantime, both Israel and its Arab neighbors say Obama is making the US appear weaker than ever in this very volatile part of the world.
"Obama is full of talk. He's so weak and useless," a Syrian woman told The New York Times.
Hisham Melhem, Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya, warned that the entire fiasco threatens to "expose the US to charges of weakness and fecklessness reflecting its diminishing influence in the region."
Unsurprisingly, Syrian officials hailed Obama's perceived flip-flop as a victory over the "Great Satan."
"Obama backed off of his decision. He must admit the victory of Syria," declared the Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Badr Al-Din Hassoun.
A leading member of the Syrian rebel groups told Israel's Ynet news portal that "if there is a postponement of (military) action, it will be an insult to the West in general and the US specifically."
Israelis are likewise none too impressed with Obama's hesitant and indecisive approach to the situation. Unnamed government officials noted that in every peace process Israel is told it can make dangerous concessions for peace because the West will ensure its security. But the veracity of such promises is now very much in question.
Summing up the feeling in the Middle East, Israeli commentator and activist David Ha'ivri posted to his Twitter account:
"Obama has a big mouth and is more likely of getting us in trouble than of solving any real problems ... Today people all over the Middle East are united in pity for the people of America."