The traffic flowed through Damascus last Thursday, peaking as always in the early afternoon. There was little buzz about President Obama in Cairo, and given all the packed taxis and microbuses clogging the street, it was a typical day in Damascus – and no special arrangements to watch the speech.
“Of course I know,” taxi driver Adnan replied when asked about Obama’s visit to Cairo University. “He was in Saudi yesterday.”
The oil-rich kingdom is hardly popular here, owing to its mass accumulation of crude cash, its support for Sunni fundamentalism, and its closeness with America.
“Obama goes to Saudi, he goes to Egypt. He goes to Turkey and soon enough he’ll go to Israel,” Adnan complained. “But he doesn’t come here.”
Before an American ambassador returns to Damascus, before US sanctions are lifted, average Syrians will likely continue to ignore gestures of American oratory and reconciliation.