Tension has again been bubbling to the surface in the Arab world, with several recent outbreaks of violence expressing heavy anti-American sentiment. Protests in the region in reaction to an offensive anti-Muslim video culminated with the death of three American diplomats in Libya, including the ambassador. President Barack Obama has been criticized for his handling of these events and strained relations with other Middle Eastern leaders.
The so-called Arab Spring began with government overthrows in Tunisia and Egypt in early 2011, and sparked uprisings against other regimes in the region including Lebanon, Yemen, Libya, and Syria. The United States has largely refrained from taking military action in the region, although it did support intervention by NATO forces in Libya, which ultimately led to the end of the revolution and death of leader Muammar Qadhafi at the hands of his people.
Obama is believed to have a solid foreign policy record, with his crowning accomplishment the killing by U.S. soldiers of Osama bin Laden. Polls have shown voters preferring the president to Mitt Romney on matters of national security, which is news, as Republicans usually have the advantage on the topic. In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama harshly criticized the perpetrators of the recent attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, and talked tough on Syria and Iran.
Yet Republicans have said Obama's reaction to the recent events in the Middle East projects weakness, and that he is not properly standing up to foreign leaders. Romney criticized the Obama administration's handling of the diplomatic murders in Libya, and says he also disapproves of the president's policy toward Iran. Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu has called for the United States to take a stronger stance against a nuclear Iran, but Obama has not made time to meet with the prime minister.
Has Obama properly handled the Arab Spring? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Brian Katulis Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress
Michael Rubin Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute
Charles Dunne Scholar at the Middle East Institute
Raymond Tanter Founder of the Iran Policy Committee
Jamie M. Fly Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Initiative
Elizabeth H. Prodromou Affiliate Scholar at Harvard University
Marc Lynch Director of the Institute for Middle East Studies at the George Washington University
Marina Ottaway Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace