The world's most powerful man decides to threaten Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We will strike with all our might," says U.S. President Barack Obama, depicted in a cartoon in Saudi newspaper Alsharq.
Wearing a dreamy smile, Obama replies: "In a day, a week, a month, a year, 10 years - or however many years you can count."
The implicit mockery reflects a suspicion among both friends and foes of Washington in the Middle East that Obama's move to refer military action to Congress is a sure sign of weakness - and one that places unprecedented strains on the credibility of his administration in its standoff with Syria and Iran.
Obama's abrupt decision on Saturday to halt plans to punish Assad for using poison gas and instead wait for congressional approval momentarily united a fractious region in astonishment.
Reflecting a widespread view voiced in interviews by Reuters across the region, Algeria's El Watan newspaper said Assad's foes seemed riven with doubt in their confrontation with the embattled Syrian leader, fearing intervention would be a "flop".
At the same time, sentiment across the Middle East often differentiates between Obama's deliberative - some critics say hesitant - leadership style, and an abiding perception of the United States as a superpower bent on policing the region on behalf of its friend Israel and of oil-rich Gulf Arab allies.
Used to the uncompromising approach of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who proclaimed "You are either with us or you are with the terrorists" in the wake of the 9/11 attacks of 2001 and went on to invade Iraq in 2003, many Arabs tend to see Obama's apparent distaste for war as unusual, even exceptional.
Wathiq al-Hashimi of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies, said Arabs associated wars in the region with Republicans rather than Obama's Democrats; the end of the Cold War gave Washington scope to attack former proteges of Moscow, notably in Iraq, in conflicts launched by Bush and by his father a decade earlier.
At the same time, Hashimi said, Obama's move was confusing for many in the region and represented "a retreat".
Mohammed Yassin, a 45-year-old Palestinian in Gaza said