As late as a week ago, US President Barack Obama continued to shy away from a closer American involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war. He relied on a United Nations peace plan that was repeatedly stymied by Russia and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council. He is aware that the American public does not want to get entangled in yet another war in the Middle East. And in an election year, he has to be particularly careful. This may be the reason the US played second-fiddle to NATO, France and Britain in the overthrow of the Khaddafi regime in Libya.
The most recent poll figures released by CBSNEWS (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57475178-503544/obama-romney-in-dead-heat-in-presidential-race/) should give Obama cause to pause and ponder.
The story reads: “President Obama and Mitt Romney are effectively tied in the race for the presidency, according to a new CBS News/New York Times survey.
Forty-seven percent of registered voters nationwide who lean towards a candidate back Romney, while 46 percent support the president. Four percent are undecided. The 1 percentage point difference iss within the survey’s three-point margin of error.
Romney leads by eight points among men; the president leads by five points among women.
The president’s supporters are more likely to strongly back their candidate. Fifty-two percent strongly favor Mr. Obama, while just 29 percent of Romney voters strongly back the presumptive Republican nominee”.
While the polled voters considered Obama to be better than Romney in foreign policy (47 percent to 40 percent), a less complicated international environment would be best for a president seeking the voters’ approval anew. One other thing, this is the first time Romney caught up in the surveys despite weeks of blistering ads against his personal wealth, his role in Bain Capital, a private equity firm that supposedly outsourced jobs overseas at a time when Americans were suffering from severe unemployment, and his reluctance to reveal tax returns on any year while he supposedly was making hay at Bain. For more details on the Bain issue, read this story from Time magazine
We remember Obama’s efforts earlier this year to cool Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s readiness to attack Iran’s nuclear reactors. Any ratcheting up of the Iran situation will, among other things, cause a global spike in oil prices–endangering the tentative US economic recovery and torpedoing his chances at re-election.
Recent developments in Syria, including the strengthening of the Syrian rebel forces and the death of four of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad’s closest associates (including his brother-in-law), may have persuaded Obama to change tack. Heckling from the Republicans and the American right may also have had some effect. For one, Romney declared he will arm the Syrian rebels.
It looks like the Syrian rebels now have a better chance to prevail in the ongoing Syrian civil war. Up to this writing, they have been contemptuous of American caution and were praising Turkey and Qatar as their reliable allies. They may yet change their opinions about the US.
A new US policy on the Syrian crisis was publicly announced in a news article published by the New York Times last 21 July 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/world/middleeast/us-to-focus-on-forcibly-toppling-syrian-government.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=middleeast). A truncated version of the article is in today’s issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
A summary: abandonment of the diplomatic tack and the formation of a coalition of like-minded countries to forcibly bring down Assad’s government.
The named coalition members: US, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
- Syria’s chemical weapons
- Negative reaction to Israel’s participation in Assad’s ouster
- Broad representation in post-Assad government (Alawites, Sunnis, and Christians)
Will Obama’s gamble pay off? Will Assad’s ouster insure his return to the White House?
The same NYT story quotes Andrew J. Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who said: “We’re looking at the controlled demolition of the Assad regime. But like any controlled demolition, anything can go wrong.”
Even a victory in Syria might not convince American voters grappling with an unemployment rate that remained flat at 8% for several months to date to vote for Obama.