It is true that Barack Obama remains the president, and he remains in the White House; however the challenges that he will face will not remain the same. In fact, these challenges will grow faster than his own children. I believe that Obama will face greater foreign challenges than those he faced during his first term in office, and these will even outstrip the challenges faced by his predecessors since the era of George H. W. Bush.
During such difficult times it is good that we do not have to break in a new president who would requires a course in Middle Eastern politics; this is something that Obama has done every day over the past four years along with his morning coffee. It is almost certain that regional politics will remain a big part of his breakfast routine over the next four years, although perhaps the only difference is that Obama’s morning coffee will taste bitterer in light of expected developments. This includes the threat represented by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, for example. This is an issue that each president left for their successor to deal with until we have reached this point where President Obama cannot afford to postpone dealing with this, particularly as Iran’s nuclear program is on the cusp of inception.
Therefore Obama has no choice but to confront Iran, whether militarily or across the negotiations table. Within the next four years, Iran will either have obtained nuclear arms, or have withdrawn from seeking to possess such weapons. As such, we are confronted with two possible scenarios a massive American war or a more ferocious Iran.
Assad’s Syria often served as an irritating stumbling block; however this ultimately represented a small obstacle in international and regional accounts. Over the next four years, Syria could be the most dangerous country in the region-even greater than the dangers posed by Iraq and Afghanistan combined-if control is not imposed on the ground early and there is no smooth transition of power to the civilian forces within the borders of a unified and stable country.
Al-Qaeda is present in the on-going conflict with Iran and Syria. President Obama is aware that most Al-Qaeda leaders have been killed but thousands of its followers are working tirelessly for the next phase of the war on terror. This will be a bloodier period for the world as the terrorist organization has becomes multinational, more skillful, and present in more locations around the world despite the blows it received in battlefronts from Iraq to Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda’s extremist ideology is spreading and establishing itself in new areas, whilst our governments-following the Arab Spring revolutions-are less capable, or perhaps less willing and prepared, to confront this. The current conflict in Mali represents a small military exercise compared to what we may see in other regions that are more attractive to terrorists.
The repercussions of the political earthquakes that shook Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen are still being felt two year later. Who knows how long this will continue and what problems within and beyond the Arab Spring countries remain.
Obama’s second term will possibly be conciliatory, particularly after John Kerry and Chuck Hagel join his administration. This is positive, but who can tell if the region will be in a conciliatory mood?