Thursday, 18 February 2016



February 18, 2016, Cairo, Egypt— President Barack Obama’s actions and inactions in the Middle East have contributed to the “great unraveling” in the region, veteran Washington correspondent Hisham Melhem writes in the Winter 2016 edition of the Cairo Review of Global Affairs. Melhem, who was the first journalist to interview Obama after the president’s inauguration in 2009, delivers a devastating critique of the Obama administration’s policies on the Syria crisis, the Arab democratic movements, the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the Iran nuclear agreement.
“In the wider Middle East Obama had inherited a dysfunctional state system and fraying civil societies, not to mention two of the longest wars in American history—the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and then of Iraq in 2003 initiated by his predecessor, President George W. Bush,” writes Melhem, a columnist and analyst for Al Arabiya news channel in Washington and a correspondent for the Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar. “Yet, Obama will bequeath to his successor disintegrating political orders and smoldering societies stretching from North Africa to Yemen and beyond.”
What makes Obama’s failure salient, Melhem argues, is the disintegration and radicalization in Syria with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. “All of this was brought on in no small part by Obama’s indecisiveness, tepid actions, and about-turns,” Melhem writes. The author excoriates Obama for backing down from his threat to use military force against Syria after the Bashar Al-Assad regime’s poison gas attack on civilians in 2013.
Melhem concludes: “Historians in the future may differ in their assessments of the extent of Obama’s culpability in the region’s calamities, but he will not escape the harsh judgment that his actions and inactions contributed significantly to the great unraveling of the Middle East.”
Melhem’s essay appears in the Winter 2016 issue of the Cairo Review, which features “Special Report: American Politics 2016.”

To read the full essay and “Special Report: American Politics 2016,” go to

The Cairo Review of Global Affairs is the quarterly journal of AUC’s School of Global Affairs and Public Policy (GAPP). The journal is available online at

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