The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY JAMES MOR­RI­SON

Pres­i­dent Obama is los­ing re­spect in Saudi Ara­bia and risks U.S. in­flu­ence in the en­tire Mid­dle East, where Rus­sia is posed to pounce, the head of an in­de­pen­dent Saudi-based think tank warned Thurs­day.

Ab­du­laziz Sager, di­rec­tor of the Gulf Re­search Center, ar­gued that the visit to Saudi Ara­bia this week by Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry did noth­ing to di­min­ish Saudi anger over a range of Obama poli­cies in the re­gion.

Mr. Sager noted that Mr. Obama’s pop­u­lar­ity in the Mid­dle East has sunk as low as Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s ap­proval rat­ing af­ter the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

In an ar­ti­cle in the Arab News, Mr. Sager called Mr. Obama a “pa­per tiger pres­i­dent” for threat­en­ing to pun­ish Syr­ian Pres­i­dent Bashar As­sad for de­ploy­ing chem­i­cal weapons against his op­po­nents and then al­low­ing Rus­sia to bro­ker a deal to get Mr. As­sad to al­low the de­struc­tion of his stock­piles of poi­son gas.

Mr. Sager said Mr. Obama failed a “cru­cial test” of his “re­solve and over­all U.S. cred­i­bil­ity” af­ter he failed to re­tal­i­ate against Mr. As­sad’s regime for the Aug. 21 chem­i­cal weapons at­tack in rebel-con­trolled ar­eas around the Syr­ian cap­i­tal, Damascus.

“In­stead of tak­ing a de­ci­sive stand that un­der­lined the se­ri­ous­ness of the crime and mak­ing it clear that the ac­tions by the Syr­ian regime would not be tol­er­ated, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion wa­vered and quickly backed out on its con­sid­er­a­tions of a mil­i­tary re­sponse,” Mr. Sager wrote.

Mr. Obama had warned Mr. As­sad that he would cross a “red line” if he used chem­i­cal weapons in Syria’s 2 1⁄2-year-old civil war. But Mr. Obama dam­aged his re­la­tions with Saudi Ara­bia, a foe of the Syr­ian regime, with his hes­i­ta­tion to act quickly and his later de­ci­sion to al­low Rus­sia to take the diplo­matic lead.

“What is at stake here is not only the fu­ture of the Syr­ian regime and the po­ten­tial dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences a con­tin­ued Syr­ian civil war has for the Mid­dle East as a whole, but also the role of the U.S. in a fu­ture Mideast,” Mr. Sager warned.

“With its de­ci­sion to erase the red lines that it it­self had an­nounced, the U.S. has af­fected its own moral standings and left huge ques­tions marks about its abil­ity and will­ing­ness to up­hold in­ter­na­tional or­der and en­force re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law.”

Mr. Sager added that Saudi King Ab­dul­lah and his gov­ern­ment re­main up­set with Mr. Obama for “bend­ing too far and too fast” to re­pair re­la­tions with Iran, a Saudi ri­val for in­flu­ence in the Is­lamic world. Saudi Ara­bia, a Sunni Mus­lim na­tion, is the cus­to­dian of Is­lam’s holi­est cities, while the regime in Iran is try­ing to spread the Shi­ite sect of the re­li­gion.

King Ab­dul­lah also is dis­pleased with Mr. Obama’s fail­ure to press Is­rael harder to make con­ces­sions to the Pales­tini­ans and his sup­port for the Shi­iteled Iraqi gov­ern­ment, Mr. Sager said.


A lone Kash­miri man ex­tin­guishes a fire on the roof of a build­ing in Sri­na­gar, In­dia on Thurs­day. At least three build­ings hous­ing dozens of ware­houses in a busy shop­ping area were dam­aged. Win­ter in Kash­mir of­ten brings wide­spread in­ci­dents of fire blamed mainly on ac­ci­den­tal ig­ni­tion of char­coal, usu­ally stored for fight­ing cold and cook­ing pur­poses on the top floors of Kash­miri homes.


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