News / USA

Pundits Weigh In: Reaction to Obama's Syria Speech

World Reacts Cautiously to Obama Syria Speechi
X
September 11, 2013 6:40 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama's cautious endorsement of a Russian diplomatic initiative to get Syria to surrender its chemical weapons was met with mixed reaction around the world. Some world leaders back Mr. Obama while others are saying he is not going far enough. VOA's Jeff Seldin reports.
World Reacts Cautiously to Obama Syria Speech
Cecily Hilleary
Today is Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s 48th birthday, but he has more to celebrate today than his age.  Last night, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that Congress would delay its vote on a military strike against Syria and consider Russia’s proposal that Syria hand over its chemical weapons arsenal to the international community. But judging from headlines and editorials across the globe, not everyone is celebrating America’s decision.

Here at home in the U.S. capital, The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin calls the decision a “debacle."

“Gone is the demand that Assad ‘must go.’ Gone is any penalty for using chemical weapons. Gone is the demonstration of resolve meant to signal seriousness about chemical weapons. Gone is the notion that we care about the plight of Syrians or that 100,000 dead stir something beyond empty rhetoric. Gone is any deterrent effect to Iran.” 


Marina Ottaway, senior scholar at the the Wilson Center, says that chemical weapons diplomacy is a win for everyone except the Syrians themselves.
 
“All but a couple of thousand of the 100,000 victims of the war so far were killed by conventional weapons. The millions of refugees and internally displaced persons did not move to escape clouds of nerve gas. Unless international diplomacy makes a serious effort to also tackle the conflict between a regime determined to remain in power at all cost and a large section of the population determined to get rid of him although divided about what should come next Syrians will become the victims of the international effort to bring the country’s chemical weapons under control.”

Meanwhile, from London, in an editorial titled, “Obama's Syria Address: Do We Look That Dumb?, The Guardian’s Michael Cohen comments on inconsistencies in Obama's speech: 

“On the one hand, he argues that ‘if fighting spills beyond Syria's borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan and Israel’, but then said later that ‘neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force.’ Well, which is it?"


In France, which among U.S. allies has been most supportive of a U.S. strike on Syria, Le Figaro’s Phillipe Gelie criticizes both U.S. and French leaders.


“The art of diplomacy sometimes resembles that of saving face.  With remarkable swiftness, the warlike Barack Obama and [French president] Francois Hollande have seized on the outstretched hand that the Russians have proffered to them.  Who can blame them?  Even if it were eventually to prove less than solid, it could suffice to extricate them from the mire into which they have placed themselves…Obama and Hollande have the opportunity to backtrack with their heads held high.”

Qatar strongly supports the Syrian opposition, so it is not surprising that its media is disappointed with Obama’s latest move.  In an editorial called, “Stop Dithering,” Qatar’s Peninsula online describes Obama as “confused, uncertain, wobbly and timid” on Syria.

“There is no wonder that the president’s latest decision has caused huge disappointment among Arabs and Syrians who have been expecting the president to take a firm step and punish Bashar Al-Assad for crossing not just the red line on chemical weapons, but all lines on everything else…Assad will feel emboldened, and even if he doesn’t use chemical weapons again on his people, he will kill in larger numbers and not rest until every opponent is decimated. The West will continue to fiddle.”
 


Meanwhile, noted political analyst Rami Khouri writes in Lebanon’s Daily Star that despite Obama’s earlier claims that diplomatic solutions had been exhausted, in fact, they were not. 

“The many conflicts playing themselves out in Syria these days essentially mean that four main actors shape the fighting today, and therefore can resolve it politically: Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. The governments of these four countries must meet and negotiate regularly with the same diligence that they now apply in sending arms to fighters on both sides in Syria.”

And Khouri adds, “…we may be witnessing a historic transition in the United States in which ordinary citizens start to debate their country’s place and role in the world in a sensible, rational and, above all, humble manner."

Former Egyptian Ambassador to Washington Abdel Rauf El-Ridi spoke by phone to Cairo ON TV’s Amani al-Khayat, host of the “Morning” talk show. 

"Syria has always refused to sign the treaty without Israel joining the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Now, Syria breaks that condition. This means it agrees that the international inspectors will have to assume responsibility for searching for chemical weapons."

He added, "That is what Putin is selling the Americans. He [Putin] seizes the opportunity to turn a problem into an advantage. If achieved, the international community will secure an acceptance that has always been far-fetched."

The former ambassador described the Syrian acceptance as "the keyword" of putting an end to what he calls a "dilemma."

"When this happens [Syria signs the convention], Obama will appear to announce to the world in his rhetorical language that the US has made a significant diplomatic achievement that serves the US national, as well as global, security."
 
 
Herb Keinon writes in The Jerusalem Post Online, that Obama’s decision is a mixed blessing.

“The good news is that if Syrian President Bashar Assad honors the deal -- a huge 'if,' considering that Assad is a butcher who has killed tens of thousands of his own people to stay in power -- then a very deadly weapon will be removed from Israel's doorstep. Israel will no longer have to worry about chemical warfare with its bitter enemy to the north...The bad news in the Russian-brokered deal currently under discussion is that Assad remains at the helm. This is bad not only because a man who murdered so many will remain standing to kill another day, but also because Iran will retain a vital strategic ally."


 

In Iran, one of Syria’s closest allies, a Resalat Online editorial by Sa'id Sobhani subtitled, “The Lose-Lose Gamble of Uncle Sam in Damascus," celebrates the American "defeat."

"The United States of America has turned into the all-out loser in the Syrian war...China and Russia are still supporters of the Bashar al-Assad government and are also opposed to any sort of attack on Syrian soil by the White House. While Germany and England, as two of the White House's European allies, have abandoned Obama due to public opinion pressures, the continuation of the support of Damascus by Russia and China has caused fresh defeats for Washington."

China, along with Russia, has staunchly opposed a strike in Syria.  China's official Xinhua website says Obama’s move heralds changing times.

“The sharp turn from military action to multilateral diplomacy signifies the changing times in which Americans are ready to look inward.

Obama surprised many when he decided to seek Congressional approval for his planned strike to punish Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons, as it reversed decades of precedents in which the decision for overseas military ventures remained a presidential prerogative.

But the political climate in the United States is fast changing, and the public are weary from years of military interventions in distant lands and the state of perpetual war they bring, including thousands of American soldiers killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Bhim Niroula from: UK
September 11, 2013 3:46 PM
More than hundred thousand people are killed already in Syria.
If there is any military attack from USA to Syria, there could be another hundred thousand deaths. The decision made by president of the United states Barak Obama seems to be the most wise decision in comparison to his predecessors, The Bush senior,The Bush junior and Mr Clinton.

If the goal of this military intervention is simply to deter Mr Basar Al Assad,from using these deadly chemical weapons best idea is to destroy all of his chemical weapons and verify him continuously to prevent from making new Chemical weapon.

The greatest man of the Earth Nobel peace Prize winner, Mr Obama has done the best decision.


Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs