Coverage of Syria deal highlights
America’s second-fiddle status
President Obama has not boosted American influence in the Middle East with the deal on Syria. Click image to enlarge.
TEL AVIV, Israel – As Americans try to assess the short- and long-term implications of the deal on Syria, those most affected by the crisis (excluding the Syrians themselves) seem to have already made up their minds.
Russia won. The U.S. lost.
It’s perhaps not quite as simple as that. But there can be no mistaking the tone of the coverage here on Monday, and it is hardly reflected in U.S. media at all.
The influence of the United States, which took a mortal blow with George Bush’s ill-fated Iraq war and its aftermath 10 years ago, is at its lowest ebb in generations here.
The Syrian deal, widely seen as initiated by Russia, simply put a slammer on the point. (For the uninitiated, a “slammer” is an exclamation mark!)
THE WAY THE AGREEMENT that prevented – for now – a U.S. military attack on Syria has played out in media here is undeniably underpinning Russia as the main actor on the Middle East stage, while the relevance of the U.S. is fading.
Take the first sentence in the Monday editorial in the Jerusalem Post as Exhibit A.
Headlined Israel and the Syria deal the editorial begins: “Is the Russian-led agreement with the United States to do away with Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons good for the Jews?”
The Jerusalem Post editorial on Monday which takes declining U.S. influence for granted. Click image to enlarge.
This is typical of all the stories (and television coverage) I have seen over the past few days. It is the “Russian-initiated” or “Russian-brokered” deal; the U.S. is seen as just a silent partner.
The Jerusalem Post just takes for granted that America plays second fiddle to Putin’s ascendant Russia.
“Still, the decline of US influence in the Middle East is worrying,” says the editorial as if this has been decided long since.
Did I miss the discussion in America?
“The US is, after all, Israel’s biggest and strongest ally and the Jewish state is heavily dependent on America, particularly regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the Jerusalem Post continues.
It ends almost where it began, with Putin ascendant.
“The Russian-negotiated deal to destroy Assad’s chemical weapons, if implemented, would be a boon to Israeli interests. It is too early, however, to assess the implications for the Jewish state of an increasingly assertive Russia and a more hesitant US, particularly with regard to Iran.”
OK, so they use “more hesitant” instead of weaker-by-the-minute.
But you don’t have to look far to find more evidence to buttress the conclusion that the reaction to the deal is far more favorable to Russian interests in the region.
In a comprehensive roundup of Middle East reaction published on Page 3 of the Jerusalem Post, the most significant portions concern those who had little or no reaction at all.
In Reactions in Middle East to deal on Syria by Russia, US are mixed the sub-headline tells it all: “Kuwait professor says Moscow is ‘calling the shots.”
The round-up of reaction to the Middle East deal published on Page 3 of the Jerusalem Post on Monday. Click image to enlarge.
Ariel Ben Solomon reports that America’s staunchest allies in the region – like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and even Egypt – are not happy with the outcome.
Quoting a local blogger, Ben Solomon writes “ … the Saudis are quietly trembling about the repercussions this may have for dealing with Iran.
“Saudi Arabia, which is increasing its aid to the rebels … is keeping relatively quiet,” he added.
In addition, staunch U.S. ally and potential European Union member Turkey is also not happy.
“Turkey, which has strongly backed the Syrian rebels, was reserved in its response to the deal, saying that the killing by the Syrian regime still needed to be stopped,” Ben Solomon writes.
What this amounts to is that American allies in the region perceive the diplomatic “solution” as weakness. Arabs and Israelis alike.
It has been a decade of decline. The U.S. lost all moral authority as an arbiter of peace in the Middle East after Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, aided an abetted by Colin Powell, sold the world a bill of goods and then invaded Iraq – with disastrous consequences that are well known by everyone today.
The Russian-initiated deal that leaves Syria’s president intact after he gassed his own people is just another nail in the coffin of waning U.S. ability to influence events in this troubled region.
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