Obama has turned his attention to Afghanistan, sending an additional 30,000 troops to the country. But even that measure was announced and then withdrawn in the same speech. The troops were deployed in 2009, but their withdrawal is set to begin by mid-2011. By announcing his plans for the deployment and withdrawal of the troops at the same time, Obama didn't exactly create the impression of supreme decisiveness among America's enemies in Afghanistan.
Despite having promised, in his inaugural speech, that he would not sacrifice principles for security, this is precisely what his opponents say Obama is doing today. He is making compromises, which has upset even his supporters. He hasn't brought himself to back the protest movement in Iran, he has voiced only timid support for human rights in China, and he did not agree to meet with the Dalai Lama until after a second request had been made. In Saudi Arabia, he bows down before King Abdullah instead of championing democracy and women's rights. And in Africa, he looked on as a State Department backtracked after having referred to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's criticism of a Swiss vote to ban the construction of minarets as "lots of words ... not necessarily a lot of sense."
Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn't pay much attention to them. The American president doesn't have a single strong ally among European heads of state. "The president is said to be reluctant to take time to build relationships with foreign leaders," writes the Washington Post.
This approach has its consequences. When Obama was campaigning for his vision of a nuclear-free world, French President Nicolas Sarkozy put him in his place before the United Nations Security Council. "We live in a real world," the Frenchman said derisively, "not a virtual world."
In the Middle East, the irresolute Obama is missing an opportunity to bring about peace that he -- and probably a number of his successors -- will not be offered in its current form anytime soon. Never before in Israeli history have Jews and Arabs been as united as they are today, in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat. Indeed, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister has spoken openly of the need for a military strike against Iran.
SPIEGEL has learned that Western intelligence services believe that the Saudis would even provide the Israelis with access to their airspace for such a strike. This stands in contrast to the Americans, who -- with good reason -- are unwilling to allow them to fly over Iraq.
In the face of the pressure from Iran, Arab regimes are more willing to compromise than they have been in a long time. Before Biden's visit, they unanimously called upon the Palestinians to enter into a new round of negotiations with Israel. Today, many Arab leaders support peace in the Middle East, their earlier positions on the issue notwithstanding.
The Arab states are no longer the ones who benefit from the Middle East conflict. Instead, it is the Iranian leadership, whose ruthless rhetoric and nuclear program has the Arabs just as nervous as the Israelis.