American hesitancy on Syria meets Arab criticism
Arabic media review

American hesitancy on Syria meets Arab criticism

'Why won't Obama tell Assad how long the attack will last so he can book his vacation after it?' asks one sarcastic columnist

Elhanan Miller is the former Arab affairs reporter for The Times of Israel

A Syrian immigrant who lives in Bulgaria observes a minute of silence during a demonstration in front of the European Commission Representation office in Sofia, Bulgaria, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Valentina Petrova)
A Syrian immigrant who lives in Bulgaria observes a minute of silence during a demonstration in front of the European Commission Representation office in Sofia, Bulgaria, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 (photo credit: AP/Valentina Petrova)

An American decision to postpone its strike on Syria until Congress approves it leads the news in Arab dailies Sunday.

“Syrian strike awaits a vote from Congress,” reads the headline of Saudi-owned daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring an image of President Barack Obama standing next to his deputy Joe Biden and explaining the administration’s decision on Syria at the White House.

“US President Barack Obama threw the ‘ball’ of an American attack in Syria into the court of Congress, asking the latter to vote on any military action, despite his assurance that he maintains the authority to carry out a strike,” reads the article.

Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera points to an apparent inconsistency in Russia’s policy on Syria. While President Vladimir Putin called the accusations against the Syrian regime “pure nonsense,” Russia nevertheless decided to postpone an arms deal with Syria, which “raises questions regarding a Russian contradiction in supporting Syria between the political level and battles on the ground.”

Meanwhile, London-based daily Al-Hayat reports that Putin is trying to convince Obama to postpone the strike on Syria.

“Moscow has thrown its entire weight yesterday behind an attempt to thwart a possible military strike against the Syrian regime outside the framework of the Security Council. President Vladimir Putin entered the fray, calling on Washington to expose its ‘secret’ evidence and claiming that failure to do so means it’s nonexistent,” writes the daily’s correspondent in Moscow.

“It seemed as though developments within the ‘Western camp’ have increased Moscow’s appetite to place more pressure on its allies in a bid to curb the tendency to strike before international investigations are completed and discussed at the Security Council,” reads the article.

Columnists in mainstream Arab media are critical of the hesitancy of the American administration towards Syria, and many express cynicism at the inaction.

“Obama continues to try and understate the strike against the Assad forces, saying it is limited, measured and quick. He further claims it is not a war and not intended to topple the regime. The only thing left for him is to inform Bashar of the coordinates of the sites being targeted so that he can vacate them and of the length of the attack so that Bashar and Maher and the other pillars of the regime can take their summer vacation as soon as it ends!” writes A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Mushari Al-Thaidy.

“Obama is wading in water he hates wading in. The worst news his men informed him of was the news that Assad’s forces used banned chemical weapons. By doing so, the Assad forces will have stepped on Obama’s ‘red line,’ leaving Obama no choice but to prove the seriousness of the American warning,” he continued.

“Relax, it’s a ‘limited’ strike,” reads the headline of an op-ed by Elias Harfoush in Al-Hayat, claiming that an American attack in Syria is inevitable, even if long overdue.

“Obama didn’t wish for a predicament like this. He avoided it until the moment when avoiding it would mean a defeat for America itself, unparalleled by any defeat but the one America may face in the actual war,” writes Harfoush.

“Obama sat in his oval office for two and a half years, counting the tens of thousands of Syrian victims… What has the US president done in this period? Nothing! Until last August with a slip of the tongue he made the ‘mistake’ of warning Bashar Assad against crossing the ‘red line’ of using chemical weapons against his people.”

“The Syrian regime could only understand this as a message of truce by Obama, implying: ‘kill as many of them as you like, and in numbers that will not plague your conscience. Use only weapons that will not embarrass me in the eyes of the world, showing me as a weak leader of a strong United States.”

Al-Jazeera’s new America channel irks ‘Israelis’ and ‘Jews’

Al-Jazeera dedicates an article on its website to Israeli and “Jewish” reactions to the recent launch of the new channel “Al-Jazeera America.”

In the article, titled “Israeli researches open fire on ‘Al-Jazeera America,’ reporter Salah Al-Naami in Gaza reviews three editorials in Israeli newspapers and news websites critical of the new channel and considering it “a service to Islamic extremism.”

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