Obama still on Arab minds
Arabic media review

Obama still on Arab minds

Asma Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator, unsuccessfully searches for a European school for her son

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

President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama delivers remarks about the crisis in Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. (photo credit: AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Europe’s willingness to join an American military strike on Syria leads the Arab dailies on Sunday, with a European promise of a forceful strike against the Assad regime.

“Europe unites on Syria after Germany joins the G-20 statement,” reads the headline of Saudi daily A-Sharq Al-Awsat, featuring a photo of horse-riding smugglers crossing the Turkish-Syrian border on Saturday.

The daily reports that Europe has “overcome its differences” by agreeing on the need for a “forceful” action to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against civilians last month. Germany has also joined the G-20 declaration endorsing the use of force.

London-based daily Al-Hayat leads with US President Barack Obama’s efforts to convince Congress to back a US-led strike on Syria. In an article titled “European and Arab backing precedes a mandate from Congress,” the daily juxtaposes Europe’s support for the strike with an endorsement by the Gulf Cooperation Council which called for “immediate intervention.”

Qatari news channel Al-Jazeera quotes Syrian opposition activists as saying that the Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus was bombarded with “strange gases.” The Syrian Opposition Coalition reported on Saturday that the regime forces “have used strange materials with strange smells in targeting residential areas in the Qaboun neighborhood, attempting to create chaos and spread fear among the residents.” 

Arab dailies continue to focus on Obama, wondering whether he has what it takes to attack Syria.

Al-Hayat focuses on the economic constraints the US faces, claiming that Obama is reluctant to engage the US in yet another costly military operation in a country “where one can scarcely find one American citizen.”

“Regardless of Obama’s foreign policy priorities, Americans agree that states capable of utilizing maximum force need not bankrupt themselves domestically. Therefore, they are dismayed by Obama’s constant refusal to recognize the US’s inability to cover its debt at a time when the [American] defense spending exceeds the World War II average, even before a new bombing campaign in Syria which will cost billions of dollars.”

In a critique of Barack Obama’s hesitance on Syria, A-Sharq Al-Awsat columnist Tareq Homayed claims that if the US does not intervene in Syria now it will have to wage a much larger war in the region later.

“Barack Obama prides himself in being the president who rescued his country from wars. From this perspective we may understand why he left Iraq hastily, set a date for withdrawal from Afghanistan, argued with the Israeli prime minister while refusing to strike at Iran to stop its nuclear program, and settled for killing members of Al-Qaeda from afar, using drones,” writes Homayed.

“It is quite clear that [Obama] is experiencing a big problem in dealing with the Syrian crisis, which is the largest humanitarian crisis facing the world … in addition to the Syrian regime being in the clutches of the Iranian regime and supporting Hezbollah.”

“Knowing all this, Obama dallied and hesitated for two years despite the many reasons and opportunities to intervene. This has to do with his personality and his policy.”

Meanwhile, Saudi news website Elaph reports that Asma Assad, the wife of the Syrian president, is searching for a school for her son Hafez, who is being groomed to succeed his father.

Syrian defectors tell the site that Asma Assad, “after having lost her friends during the recent crisis in Syria and especially in Turkey and Qatar,” has decided to rescue her children from the plight of most Syrian children, and move them out of the country.

According to opposition daily Zaman Al-Wasl, Asma is searching for private or public schools in Switzerland or the UK for her 10-year-old son, but most schools are rejecting her request. 

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