8 years of foreign policy failure by an American president is coming to an end. Those years have seen red lines crossed without penalty, the abandonment of responsibility, and even the paying of a ransom.NI2

In August of this year Mr Obama denied the latter charge saying “We do not pay ransom. We didn’t here, and we won’t in the future.”

This was in response to a Wall St Journal story which said that in earlier in the year $400 million in cash had been put on pallets and flown to Iran as part of a deal to get 4 American prisoners released. The Administration admitted that the cash delivery had happened, but said it was not ransom money. Few believe this. What an ignoble end to an ignoble reign.

In 2009, President Obama’s eloquent and idealistic speech to the Arab world at Cairo University elevated expectations for quick action with clear and principled American leadership. Seven years later, the Obama administrations’ Middle East strategy has proven to be short-sighted, ambiguous, incoherent and contradictory.

In the Middle East and even in Europe Obama is perceived as a weak and dithering president. Writing in the Daily Telegraph last year Charles Krauthammer listed some of the most flagrant failures. “In October 2015, Iran test-fired a nuclear capable ballistic missile in violation of Security Council resolutions. Obama did nothing.”
The administration insisted that there would be no nuclear deal unless Iran accounted for its past nuclear activities. (It didn’t.) It said Iran must allow inspection of its Parchin nuclear testing facility. (It was allowed self-inspection and declared itself clean.)

On Iraqtalking

In his 2011 speech at Fort Bragg Obama said the US would leave behind “a sovereign, stable, and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.”

Events since the Iraqi withdrawal proved Obama wrong. Even the war against ISIS in Mosul is not going well. Ex-Prime Minister Maliki was a disaster, a corrupt bully who implemented divisive policies at the behest of Iran, whose sectarianism backfired dramatically in 2014 when the Iraqi military disintegrated as ISIS attacked Mosul. Obama failed to stand up to Maliki. Iran removed him and replaced him with Haider al-Abadi. Obama failed.

On Syria

Obama’s weakness was starkly reflected in his refusal to take a tough stance against the Assad regime which is Iran’s ally and client. According to Washington sources Obama was afraid action against the Syrian regime would alienate Iran and derail the nuclear talks.

Assad has been murdering, barrel-bombing, gassing and maiming the Syrian people since the eruptions of peaceful protests in 2011. Whilst Obama turns a blind eye, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi militias are providing military support to the Syrian regime.

Back in August 2011, the Washington Post reported that President Obama for the first time explicitly called on President Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure. He said “For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Obama has failed to follow up.Obama

Four years ago the Al Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front came to prominence, three years ago ISIS began to make headlines. Obama did little. The President’s Secretary of State John Kerry compared Assad with Hitler. Obama’s inaction encouraged Iran and Russia to step in to prop up Assad. When Assad imposed his “surrender or starve” sieges, Obama did nothing. When Russia intervened with its bombers in September 2015 to save Assad and bombed schools, hospital and markets, Obama sat like an impotent spectator at a football match.

On Iran

The Iran nuclear agreement, finally reached in July last year between and Iran and the great powers, was hailed by the administration as a landmark deal making the world a safer place. The deal is supposed to allow U.N. inspectors to press for visits to Iran’s military sites. The IAEA suspected that a decade ago Iran may have carried out explosives tests at Parchin that could be relevant to the development of nuclear weapons capability.

Many analysts believe Iran was the winner. The US negotiating team had been the weakest link giving away concessions whilst the Iranian team remained firm. The Iranians were aware that both President Obama and John Kerry were desperate to sign. In June 2015 news leaked that Obama had written letters to Iranian President Rouhani virtually begging him to sign a deal.

The Iranian leaders celebrated by announcing that the world super powers had acknowledged Iran’s right to become a nuclear power. Obama’s pro-Iran advisors told him that such rhetoric was for local consumption.

In the meantime, America’s allies in the Gulf had interpreted U.S acquiescence to a nuclear armed Iran as a de facto acceptance of growing Iranian hegemony in the Middle East in general and the Gulf in particular.

Last week Obama was said to show toughness when he apparently told President Vladimir Putin to “cut it out” following allegations that Russia conducted cyber-attacks against the United States. In my book this is a mild telling off.

Over the 8 years President Obama became increasingly irrelevant. Few take him seriously anymore.

Nehad Ismail is Senior Analyst at Wikistrat

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10 Comments on "The Humiliation Of A Do Nothing President"

  1. Not so sure. On his watch his Police upped game totally to be paramilitary, black people continued to die, he seems to have enjoyed murdering people by drone warfare on a whole new level. He went after whistleblowers, but not his own (Hilary email server). Apparently he ran lists of Muslims, but has decided to take that apart before Donald ‘gets the list’.

    I’ve seen a lot of bitter complaints against Trump (I’m not a Trump fan) – who isn’t in power yet, and where Obama has done or did do the same its overlooked. The pipeline in Dakota has people raging against Trump, but the thing happened on Obam’s watch.

    Obama will go down as a president who got a Nobel for nothing, and then had a dismal, appalling 8 year presidency.

  2. Nehad, Obama seems to have taken note of Roosevelt’s big stick diplomacy and reversed it with his maxim being ‘talk loudly and carry a tiny twig’. I think a big part of his problem has been his inability to just keep his mouth shut on issues where he has no intention or interest in intervening, he therefore manages to effectively alienate everyone.

    If you were preparing a case for his defence you could say that he ran for president on a platform of disengagement from the middle east and a reversal of the policy of the Bush years (which let’s face it did the region no favours). Even after the chemical attacks US public opinion was against military action by a 2-1 ratio. As it turned out, and I know we disagree on this, with regards to Syria I do believe the least worst path was chosen given the nature of the rebels who would otherwise now be in control of that country, but it certainly felt like a decision that the US reached by accident rather than design.

    I do think that whatever happens during the Trump presidency that this sort of hands off approach will become increasingly the norm in the long term as the US becomes ever less dependent on Gulf oil and becomes increasingly fixated with the Asia-Pacific region.

  3. And let’s not forget how ineffective Obama was after the abduction and enslavement of those Nigerian girls.

  4. Thank you Dominic, AdmV0rl0n and Rob for your feedback. I don’t really disagree with the sentiments expressed. As for Dominic’s comment about the present Iranian regime being better than the Shah. In certain respect yes, but the Iranian opposition disputes this and they want to be the Iranian clergy to go. I agree with AdmV0rl0n that Obama got the Nobel prize for nothing. It actually devalued the Nobel prize. Rob I am still laughing at the remark “talk loudly and carry a tiny twig”.

  5. Thank you Dominic and I respectfully disagree.

  6. The political context deliberately omitted, Obama’s Post-Bush legacy.

  7. Well, George W was decisive, looked strong and invaded Iraq … then what happened? Do nothing Obama in the Middle East had achieved one huge thing in the best interests of the USA … he kept America out of a mess that all major powers have stakes to be involved but none of them willing to get involved militarily. Seriously … thousands of American troops in the Middle East fighting on behalf of Wahhabism Saudi cannot produce a good outcome. Anyway, the Obama era is coming to the end … the writer may get a stronger, more decisive and take action US President soon.

  8. Now, about the Presidency, which last we looked was what the post was about…

  9. Thank you David and Tim. I agree the debate should focus on the subject of the article.

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