President Obama signs autographs after the State of the Union address. Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP
President Obama signs autographs after the State of the Union address. Photo: Mandel Ngan / AFP

No change for American foreign policy



Despite his boasts that the US has turned a page, Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech underlined that we can expect talk rather than change when it comes to foreign policy challenges such as those in Syria. In his years in office, Mr Obama has failed to make good even on his campaign promises: remember the pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp? Think back to the “new beginning” he promised the Muslim world in Cairo in 2009. Consider the parlous state of the non-peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. In foreign policy terms then, almost the only real achievement of the Obama administration is the thawing of more than half-a-century of cold war frost with Cuba.

Here in this region, the continuation of Mr Obama’s policy in Syria is troublesome. He appears to be fixated on defeating ISIL at the expense of directly confronting the murderous regime of Bashar Al Assad. This has led America into a dangerous alliance with various extremist groups. Not only does this policy give rise to the possibility of blowback when the Syrian conflict finally ends, it also plays directly into the hands of the Assad regime. The refusal to change course suggests that the escalating conflict that has left nearly 200,000 Syrians dead, triggered one of the largest refugee crises in recent history and drawn in regional and world powers, will outlast the Obama presidency.

One of the traditional measures of the success (or otherwise) of an American president’s State of the Union address is how much it reframes the debate.

Domestically, Mr Obama seems to have done just that, taking a combative position on taxing the rich and tackling America’s spiralling economic inequality. It is fitting that this is the centrepiece of his domestic agenda because he once described the widening gap between rich and poor as the “defining challenge of our time”. But what about foreign policy and the promise to rewrite America’s relationship with the Muslim world?

Far from starting a new chapter, the United States seems doomed to a stilted, strategically limited role on the world stage. Even if as Mr Obama said, America really has turned a page, it’s still on the same old storyline – and that’s not a very good way to close the book on his legacy.

Correspondents

By Tim Murphy

(Grove Press)

The specs

Engine: 2-litre 4-cylinder and 3.6-litre 6-cylinder

Power: 220 and 280 horsepower

Torque: 350 and 360Nm

Transmission: eight-speed automatic

Price: from Dh136,521 + VAT and Dh166,464 + VAT 

On sale: now

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

The Details

Article 15
Produced by: Carnival Cinemas, Zee Studios
Directed by: Anubhav Sinha
Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Kumud Mishra, Manoj Pahwa, Sayani Gupta, Zeeshan Ayyub
Our rating: 4/5 

The five pillars of Islam

1. Fasting

2. Prayer

3. Hajj

4. Shahada

5. Zakat 

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2