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The Arabs and President 'Two-Face' Obama: what went wrong?

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 29/03/2016 Faisal J. Abbas

Much has already been written in response to the collection of interviews with President Obama recently penned by Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic.
Given the unexpected criticism Obama directed towards almost all of his country's historic allies, it was no surprise that his remarks were received by a mixture of astonishment and severe disappointment.
This was the case not just in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan, but even in countries like France, Israel and the United Kingdom.
Of course, the dispute here isn't about criticisms such as the ones on women's rights in Saudi Arabia (which many in the kingdom agree with, by the way), but to the unjust comments questioning the efforts of key US allies in fighting terrorism and stabilizing the region.
However - since actions speak louder than words - one could argue that the best response, so far, to Obama's "free-riders" accusations was yesterday's Riyadh meeting of military chiefs from over 30 Muslim countries.
The meeting - which is part of the efforts of the newly-established Saudi-led Islamic Military Alliance - discussed a new framework for combating terrorism through armed, financial, media and intellectual efforts.
Now, Obama - or indeed anyone who believes in "leading from behind" (if such a thing even exists!) - may not grasp the sheer magnitude and importance of this step.
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However, given that the US president is due to visit Riyadh next month, one hopes that he would have at least read recent comments made by his own defense secretary, state department, treasury department and Centcom commander on the "crucial" relationship the US enjoys with Saudi Arabia, particularly in areas of security, counter-terrorism and defense.
As for the Saudis, it is perhaps too late - and futile - to try and fix this so-called "Obama Doctrine" during the upcoming visit.
Indeed, nothing said can bring over 200 thousand Syrians back to life, undo the creation of ISIS, or contain the danger which Tehran now imposes on the region (thanks to the divisive nuclear deal which has left Iran - which Obama himself describes as a "state sponsor of terror" - totally unshackled).
To add to this, come January next year, we will have to deal with a new White House anyway. This means that whoever ends up becoming the next US president will have to deal with the harsh realities of our region.
By default, this also means that the next occupant of the White House will need the support and advice of America's longtime regional allies.
As such, it is more useful for the US's Arab allies to figure out how they will win the next president's support in restoring balance to our region. Naturally, having this new Saudi-led Islamic coalition will definitely be helpful on that front.
But what went wrong?
As Obama's two terms near their end, it is definitely worth finding out how and why we lost his ear.
After all, with a name like Barack Hussein Obama, his family history, upbringing and cultural sensitivity, one could argue that there couldn't have been a U.S. partner who understands our region better.
We should also remember that the relationship with this current administration wasn't always so tense. Indeed, Obama is the same American president who - near the beginning of his tenure - bowed to the late Saudi King Abdullah.
Furthermore, according to two sources close to the former monarch, Obama is also said to have kissed King Abdullah's hand on a later occasion (reportedly telling him that he did so in response to Fox News's criticism of his bow).

One has to wonder if the waters were poisoned by those in the current administration who are for Iran, or are Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers. This would be incredibly hard to grasp given President Obama's undisputed intellect and shrewdness.
Or was abandoning the US's regional allies Obama's hidden agenda from the beginning?
This could be a possibility; after all, since he was already awarded a Nobel Peace Prize (for no apparent reason, one should add), the argument here would be why bother with a region which will put you at risk, exhaust your resources and where people will still curse you for doing the right thing?
I of course intended for this last set of questions to sound like those that would cross the mind of a reluctant comic book superhero. After all, what we recently discovered about the US president is that he apparently draws his Middle East policy from the 2008 Batman film, The Dark Knight.
According to his interview with the Atlantic, Obama sees the Middle East as the corrupt, crumbling Gotham City. Its leaders are like gang bosses and ISIS are like the sadistic, impetuous Joker, determined to watch the whole world burn.
As such, Obama could have easily ended his presidency as a Batman-like hero, particularly given the support he enjoyed after his 2009 Cairo Speech.
Unfortunately, given the transformation in his stance since then, it is a shame he ended up becoming Harvey 'Two-Face' Dent!
Since we're talking in comic-book comparisons, I'm not sure if Obama has ever been a fan of Spiderman.
However, all I can say is that it's regrettable that the 44th president of the United States will go down as the commander-in-chief who forgot that "with great power, comes great responsibility!"
*This blog was originally published in Al Arabiya English.

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