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I was speechless For a brief moment after listening to Obama’s landmark speech about a new strategy against the Islamic State Group. 

Why, I wondered, after 154 airstrikes; after meager support for the “moderate” Syrian opposition and same towards the new Iraqi government; etc., the US President declares a new strategy that comprise the same menu?

Didn’t he say only a few days ago that he had no strategy? Is one to conclude that the Commander-in-Chief has concocted a strategy out of the already tried, ad-hoc, piecemeal policies that clearly didn’t work?

More importantly, why would he announce it at this time?

The commander-in-speech

When it comes to the greater Middle East, President Obama can talk the talk. He’s analytical, critical, and articulate, even professorial.

In the few interviews he’s given

I was speechless for a brief moment after listening to US President Barack Obama's landmark speech about a new strategy against the Islamic State group. 

Why, I wondered, after 154 air strikes; after meagre support for the "moderate" Syrian opposition and the same towards the new Iraqi government, the US president declares a new strategy that comprises the same menu?

Didn't he say only a few days ago that he had no strategy? Is one to conclude that the commander-in-chief has concocted a strategy out of the already tried, ad hoc, piecemeal policies that clearly didn't work?

More importantly, why would he announce it at this time?

The commander-in-speech

When it comes to the greater Middle East, Obama can talk the talk. He's analytical, critical, and articulate, even professorial.

In the few interviews he's given over the past few months, he's proven smarter, sharper and more importantly, more cool-headed than his critics in the Washington establishment, notably those who have been nudging him to expand the war effort in the region.

He clearly understands that the Middle East region is going through historic transformations - some triggered by US interventionism, others by regional factors - and recognises why foreign meddling and military solutions are counterproductive at best. 

He also insists that the historic record shows that direct foreign intervention in civil wars like the one in Syria, can be long and futile.

He even admitted mistakes, as in Libya, where there was no real follow up after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi by force.

And most importantly, he promised to "end the mindset" that brought about the Iraq war, the "stupid war" as he once called it. The mantra of the administration as understood by those close to him was: "Don't do stupid shit."

But as commander-in-chief of the world's hegemon, he cannot just talk; he also needs to walk the walk. And so he is, rather half-heartedly.

The pretender-in-chief

Obama knows all too well that a comprehensive Iraq/Syria strategy requires the participation of Iran and Russia, but that neither they nor the US are ready to cooperate considering the nuclear issue and Ukraine.

Until Iran stops meddling in Iraq, while financing, training and arming Shia militias; until Tehran and Riyadh stop their proxy sectarian Shia, Sunni conflicts; until Russia lifts the diplomatic and strategic cover of the Assad regime; little can be done outside the realm of limited and probably aggravating military strikes.

Until Iran stops meddling in Iraq, while financing, training and arming Shia militias; until Tehran and Riyadh stop their proxy sectarian Shia, Sunni conflicts; until Russia lifts the diplomatic and strategic cover of the Assad regime; little can be done outside the realm of limited and probably aggravating military strikes.

But since Obama is reminded each and every day that Washington is the Middle East and world hegemon, he's under increased political and international pressure to lead as the Islamic State group expands its control over large swaths of land in Syria and Iraq.

So he's come up with a half-baked strategy of half measures to fill a void, gain time, and look strong. A strategy that's supposed to stop the escalating crisis in Iraq from spilling over beyond Mesopotamia.

That's if he's lucky. Totally unconvincing and un-strategic, what Obama has done that's totally new, is to commit his administration and the United States to another long-term military involvement that he's tried hard to avoid.

He's clearly not enthused by it, but pragmatic enough to do what it takes. But in order to get away with it, he sets the new adventure in the context of his own brand of "war on terror", all the while insisting that he's not repeating George W Bush's mistakes by not deploying troops on the ground.

The commander ... in brief

Obama told the American people that the new strategy "is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year: To use force against anyone who threatens America's core interests".

But what are these core interests?

No such threat to "core interests" was invoked over the last three years, when Iraq was incapacitated by violence, and Syria destroyed with hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security has made it clear it was "unaware of any specific credible threat to the US homeland" from the Islamic State, as stated by Francis X Taylor, the undersecretary for intelligence and analysis.

In reality, Obama is continuing in his predecessor's footsteps - albeit reluctantly - by waging more of the same preventive wars against enemies in faraway sovereign states, regardless of the long-term consequences.

He's also embracing the same mindset of the Bush administration that he's long criticised, namely using military strikes and intervention to deal with complicated Arab and Middle Eastern issues. 

It won't take long before finding out, once again, that there's no military solution to the protracted problems facing the near and greater Middle East, certainly not without a comprehensive long-term strategy that accounts for friends and foes alike.

Marwan Bishara is the senior political analyst at Al Jazeera.

Source: Al Jazeera