Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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Just days after President Barack Obama's first inauguration, he made a pledge to extend a "hand of friendship" to the broader Arab world and usher in a new era of cooperation.
"If we are looking at the region as a whole, and communicating a message to the Arab world and the Muslim world that we are ready to initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest, then I think that we can make significant progress," he said in an interview with the Arab TV network al Arabiya in January 2009.
Four years later, all hell is breaking loose in Syria and it seems the countless threats from the administration about crossing red lines, and possible strikes and interventions, don't appear to have much clout.
Arab allies now view Obama as "wobbly, indecisive, not strong enough," said Washington bureau chief of al Arabiya television Hisham Melhem, who also conducted that interview with Obama back in 2009.
Senators John McCain and Lindsay GRaham stood in the president's own driveway, and slammed his leadership on Syria. After a meeting at the White House Monday, the senators were very clear about the fact that they want to see more action, more planning, and more clarity from the administration.
"We don't want endless war," said Graham. "We want sustainable security. Syria is a cancer that's growing in the region, and for two years the president has allowed this to become, quite frankly, a debacle."
The Republican bashing of the president that will happen over the next four or five days "will coalesce Democrats around the president," said Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Hilary Rosen.
One of the fiercest critics of the president's decision on Syria may be Frederic Hof, former Ambassador to Syria under the Obama administration.
“The events of the past ten days suggest that there was no administration forethought to the possibility of a major chemical incident in Syria; there was no plan in place to respond to a major chemical attack by a regime that had already demonstrated its deep and abiding contempt for the president and his red lines. The results of this mystifying lack of preparedness have been abysmal,” Hof said Sunday.
"Mr. Hof is making a silly argument here," said Jeremy Bash, who was chief of staff to former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta. "From the get-go the president has been clear: Assad's use of chemical weapons on a large scale is a hideous crime, it crosses a red line, and we've got to respond."
Asking for congressional authorization further clarifies Obama's position.
"He's being very clear, he's saying look, 'Here's where I stand, this is my view, this is what I think we ought to do, who's going to stand with me?'" said Bash.
President Barack Obama surprised even many on his own national security team when he decided he would seek congressional authorization to carry out strikes against the Syrian regime, even though he does not believe he needs it.
"After careful deliberation, I have decided that the U.S. should take military action against Syrian targets," Obama said Saturday. "Our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
The statement seemed at odds with the fierce urgency conveyed just a day before by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said, "History will judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turn a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings."
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad spoke to French newspaper Le Figaro, and when asked how his country would respond to a military strike, he said, "The Middle East is a powder keg, and the fire is approaching today ... everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists."
But is the Aasad regime threatening "a regional war," or is this a message on behalf of its ally, Iran?
"We want it to be one and done, the president's made that very clear: Very limited strikes, very limited objectives – deterring, degrading the potential use of chemical weapons. He's doing it, our president, to show resolve," said former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now a principal with the Chertoff Group, a risk-management and security firm.
"But guess what – Assad, and his Iranian and Hezbollah allies are going to want to show resolve, too, they're not going to want to give the United States a free ride for this kind of action," said Hayden, who added he expects "the Iranians engineering some kind of response."
The Lead with Jake Tapper draws not only on Tapper’s deep knowledge of politics and national issues, but also seeks to examine and advance stories across a wide range of topics that demonstrate his own curiosities and interests. Compelling headlines come from around the country and the globe, from politics to money, sports to popular culture, based on news drivers of the day.
The Lead with Jake Tapper airs weekdays at 4 p.m. ET.
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