Obama’s Final Pivot Away From the Middle East

President Obama with Kuwait's Amir

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

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President Obama with Kuwait's Amir

The administration's reluctance to intervene in Syria may be the beginning of a permanent shift away from the region. By David Rohde

It started as “a new beginning” and ended as “America is not the world’s policeman.”

Between President Barack Obama’s historic 2009 address to the Islamic world in Cairo to his address to the American people on Syria last week, Obama has zigged and zagged on Mideast policy, angering supporters and detractors alike.

But he has stuck to a clear pattern: reduce American engagement, defer to regional players and rely on covert operations to counter terrorism.

The administration has had its achievements. It revived Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and its new agreement with Russia will likely remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal. To the delight of Americans outside the Beltway and dismay of mandarins inside it, Obama is testing the premise that the United States can walk away from the Middle East.

The agreement with Russia is the latest example. In a chaotic 24-day period recounted in this Wall Street Journal piece, the administration’s de facto policy in Syria has shifted from “Assad must go” to “Assad’s chemical weapons must go.”

There will be ups and downs in the implementation of the agreement but Assad will likely carry it out. After narrowly avoiding American strikes, he will not want to risk attack again. Throughout the two-and-a-half-year war, the Syrian leader has proven adept at increasing or decreasing the level of brutality he employs, depending on the international outcry it provokes.

Read more at The Atlantic.

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