On Wednesday evening, just before the 13th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that have shaped modern American history, President Obama gave a speech that outlined a plan for fighting the Islamic State extremist group.
Polls appear to show that the majority of Americans would generally support America's plan to further the fight against Islamic State extremists in Iraq, and perhaps even Syria.
But like the War on Terror that took came after 9/11, whatever America decides to do in the upcoming months will likely have a global impact, and the world knows it. Around the world, Obama's speech was watched with trepidation, and reaction from around the world has been more varied, and at times deeply skeptical of Obama's plan.
Here's some of the reaction from a selection of countries:
Many German newspapers – no matter whether they are right-wing, leftist or centrist – believe that Obama’s speech is an expression of the president’s overall failure in Iraq.
Die Zeit writes a “return to Iraq would also be a confession that the withdrawal from Iraq was premature and a mistake.” Its more conservative competitor Die Welt predicts a similar scenario: "The Anti-war President now wants to fight half a war because he is trapped in a more general dilemma. On the one side, by announcing air strikes Obama has reached the ceiling of what you can portray as an anti-terror operation." On the other side, Die Welt argues, the U.S. president's measures will still not be effective enough to really defeat the Islamic State militants.
Leftist daily taz goes even further by assessing that Obama's plan "is no strategy." In the best case, the paper argues, his Wednesday remarks could be counted as an ad-hoc catalog of measures. Der Spiegel draws a similar conclusion. According to the online edition of Germany's Hamburg-based news magazine, Obama did not answer three central questions: "Which rebels does he want to support? For which relationship to Assad is he striving for? And for which values does he stand?"
Obama's speech has also opened a debate about whether Germany should join the U.S. in its airstrikes against the Islamic State, forcing German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to deny any German involvement along those lines: "Neither were we asked to do this, nor will we do it," he said Thursday.
France is itself involved in several similar military operations abroad and has been attacked by terror groups in Mali or the Central African Republic over the past few years. Nevertheless, leftist French newspaper Liberation draws a conclusion similar to the one of its German equivalents: "Considering all the contradictions of Obama's speech, it is easy to notice his inconsistency. Obama only reacts after being tossed from crisis to crisis."
French experts are also concerned with the technical aspects of the operation. Military analyst Jean Guisnel told Paris-based news channel BFMTV: "It is important to include Arab countries in the fight against the Islamic State, as well." If this search for other allies in the region fails, Guisnel says, the U.S. will find itself in the strange situation of not only being "allied to Assad, but also being allied to Iran at the same time."
Britain is likely to be a key ally in America's fight against Islamic State, and the British press has been largely reserved in its response to Obama's speech. "It remains to be seen if the country's feuding politicians can resist politicizing the war on Isil," the center right Daily Telegraph noted, "but for now, polls show that the public supports him, with more than 70 per cent in favor of further strikes following the beheading of two US journalists."
An editorial from the BBC offered more skepticism, with diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus wondering what the final outcome of the plan is supposed to be. "What is needed more than ever is a clear strategic sense of what the end-game in Syria should be," Marcus writes, noting that it would have to be "one shared by the key regional players along with Washington."
From the political world, the strongest criticism came from Kenneth Clarke, a popular Conservative politician, who said that the 2003 invasion of Iraq had been “disastrous” and a “catastrophe” and that lessons must be learned from it today.
In remarks from officials, Russia has chided Obama's policy on the Islamic State. "The US president has spoken directly about the possibility of strikes by the US armed forces against Islamic State positions in Syria without the consent of the legitimate government," foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich was quoted as saying by the Russian press. "This step, in the absence of a UN Security Council decision, would be an act of aggression, a gross violation of international law."
Russia Today, the foreign wing of Moscow's state media that is typically critical of American foreign policy, published a interview with anti-war activist Brian Becker that concluded that Obama's strategy would be a "violation of the international law."
"U.S. government has no right whatsoever to arrogate itself to use force in Syria, a country that is technically at peace with the U.S.," Becker said.
However, there are some more positive voices are also being aired in the Russian press. Kommersant, a daily newspaper that focuses on business and politics, interviewed Georgy Mirsky of Moscow's Institute of World Economy and International Relations, who expressed broad support for Obama's plan. "I do not remember ever saying a kind word about Barack Obama," Mirsky said, before adding, "but now I am, with all my heart I say, 'Bravo, Obama, so be it, that's what.' "
During Susan Rice's recent trip to China, Obama's top national security adviser urged Beijing to help in the fight against Islamic State.
Perhaps because of this, China's official reaction to Obama's speech has been cautious. “China opposes all forms of terrorism, and upholds that the international community must jointly cooperate to strike against terrorism, including supporting efforts by relevant countries to maintain domestic security and stability,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Thursday.
China Daily's English edition published an op-ed that called for the U.S. to consider its relationship with Russia and Iran when fighting Islamic State.
"When attempting to forge a lasting alliance against the IS, the American people must remember that allies are not servants and will continue to have their own goals," American Charles Gray wrote for the state newspaper. "Working together does not mean that the US, Iran and Russia have ceased to have any other conflicts, but simply that they all recognize the common threat posed by the IS.
Analysts have wondered if their shared opposition to Islamic State could result in some kind of detente between the United States and Iran, a potential Shia ally against Sunni extremism. Obama's speech largely ignored that possibility, however.
Officially, however, Iran expressed skepticism of Obama's plan. “The so-called international coalition to fight the Islamic State group, which came into existence following a NATO summit in Wales and is taking shape, is shrouded in serious ambiguities and there are severe misgivings about its determination to sincerely fight the root causes of terrorism,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was reported to have said Tuesday.
"The recent moves by the U.S. are theatrical," Brigadier Gen. Vahidi, who is now the head of the Iranian Armed Forces' Strategic Studies Center, said, according to the Fars News Agency.
Benjamin Netanyahu has welcomed Obama's strategy. "Israel fully supports Obama's call for a united action against ISIS," the Israeli Prime Minister said at a conference held by the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism. Later, he added, "As a result of [the threat of Islamic terrorism] they are reevaluating their relationships with Israel and realizing that Israel is not their enemy, but their ally."
"U.S. President Barack Obama wasn't Rambo or Captain America on Wednesday night, but his speech on fighting the Islamic State got the job done," Chemi Shalev of liberal daily Ha'aretz writes, before criticizing another U.S. president: "Though he didn't mention him by name, Obama took pains to remind everyone that despite his combative message, he was not George Bush the cowboy who sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers to Iraq and managed to isolate America in the process."
Perhaps in response to Obama's speech, Egypt's Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri called Thursday for a global strategy for dealing with extremists. However, when a diplomat was asked whether Egypt would cooperate with Obama's strategy against Islamic State, they offered a vague reassurance. "Cairo will discuss every effort which can be made by the alliance to eradicate the phenomenon of extremist groups in the region,” the unnamed diplomat told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Despite this muted official reaction, one of the most startling press reactions has come from Ahram Online, majority owned by the Egyptian government. "It's 9/11 again," the article notes, before spelling out the similarities in the conflict 13 years later.