American Delays and Israeli Nightmares

During the past years of Barack Obama’s presidency I’ve learned to never underestimate him – both in positive and negative terms. He deserves credit for being the second US President after Abraham Lincoln to have ordered the extra – judicial killing of an American citizen who also happened to be a terrorist in Yemen. He deserves credit for going after Osama bin Laden and ordering the assassination of a mass murderer. And he deserves the strongest criticism for letting Iranian democrats as well as Syria’s peaceful revolution down.

Never in the history of the United States has a President thrown human rights under the bus as much as Barack Obama has. The newest episode of a series of disappointments was his reaction to the abhorrent use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria. In his major delay to come to a decision about military action and in the decision to delay the delay again by taking this to Congress the President has made a farce of his own Presidency and of American leadership.

Let me get this straight: I honestly believe that Congressional support for this kind of military intervention is vital and an admirable goal. But here’s the problem: Obama could have achieved this support two years ago when Assad began the vicious killing of his own people or then at the latest when Obama draw his red line about the use of chemical weapons. That would have been a good time to reach out to Congressional leaders and set a consensus on how to move forward in case the butcher Assad decides to ignore this red line – which he did. But reaching out has never been one of the assets of Barack Obama.

Instead what he decided upon on Saturday is to abdicate his responsibility as an American leader to Congress. A move that buys him time and possibly helps him to backpedal his own rhetoric about a red line. No matter what the outcome of the Congressional vote will be this political move of delay after delay has already ramifications that have the gravity of an political earthquake. It sends a crystal clear message to America’s allies and partners: don’t count on us.

The US’s staunchest partner in the Middle East is Israel, a country with a direct border to Syria. Where by the inaction of President Obama in a nightmare scenario Iran backed Hizbollah fighters might attack Israel with missiles at the Golan Heights. As if the trouble by Hezbollah coming from the Lebanese border isn’t already enough for Israel. Then there are all the innocent children, women and men in Syria. Who is going to protect them now when Assad basically has a carte blanche? Until this moment Assad has been left unpunished for the crimes against humanity he has committed and nothing indicates at this point that he’ll ever be brought to justice.

These days I’m thinking of Barack Obama’s life on campus at one of America’s finest Universities: before being elected as US President he was elected President of Harvard Law Review. We know from his tenure there that he only came very slowly to decisions. This seems to have continued in the White House – only with far graver consequences.

About the Author
Saba Farzan is a German-Iranian journalist and Executive Director at Foreign Policy Circle, a strategy think tank in Berlin.