It is true that U.S. President Barack Obama is the same and he is in the same White House. But the challenges he faces will not remain the same. They will grow faster than his children grow, and I imagine that he will face foreign challenges that are more critical than those he faced during his first term, and even greater than the challenges his predecessors, from the Bush the senior, ever encountered.
In these difficult conditions it is good that we do not have a new president who needs courses in Middle Eastern politics, which was one of Obama's activities almost every day with his morning coffee. This region's politics will likely continue to be part of Obama's breakfast for the next four years. The only difference is that he will be having coffee sour in the upcoming years.
When it comes to the Iranian nuclear issue, for example, Obama cannot afford to postpone it or hand it over to the next president. The Iranian nuclear program is about to give birth, and Obama has to face Iran with War or negotiations. Within four years, it is certain that Iran will either have a nuclear weapon or retract from seeking to have one. As such we are confronted with two possibilities, a massive American war or a more ferocious Iran.
Assad's Syria was often an irritating stumbling bloc, but it is a small one in international and regional accounts. During the next four years, Syria could be the most dangerous country in the region, even bigger than the dangers posed by Iraq and Afghanistan combined if it is not brought under control and if the power is not smoothly transferred to civilians within the borders of a united and stable country.
In the ongoing conflict with Iran and Syria, there exists al-Qaeda. President Obama is aware that most of its leaders were killed, but thousands of its followers are working tirelessly for the next phase of the war on terror. It will be a bloodier period for the world as the terrorist organization, becomes multinational, more skillful and widely spread, despite the blows it received in battle fronts in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.
The extremist ideology is spreading in new hotbeds, while governments, following the revolutions of the Arab Spring, are less capable or perhaps less willing and prepared for confrontation. The current confrontations in Mali are just a small exercise compared to what we may see in other regions that are more attractive to terrorists.
The repercussions of the political earthquakes in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen are continuing. Two years have elapsed, and who knows how many years, how much trouble within and outside the Arab Spring still remain.
Obama's second term will possibly be reconciliatory after John Kerry and Chuck Hagel join in his administration. This is positive, but who says the region will be in a reconciliatory mood?!
This article first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 22, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.