In the spring of 2007, Israeli intelligence brought to Washington proof that the Assad regime in Syria was building a nuclear reactor along the Euphrates - with North Korean help. This reactor was a copy of the Yongbyon reactor the North Koreans had built, and was part of a Syrian nuclear weapons program.
The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home.