Despite election defeat, foreign policy is not ‘game over’ for Obama
By Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – From marauding jihadists in Iraq to pro-Russian
separatists in Ukraine and beheadings of Americans in Syria, a world in
crisis has fanned perceptions of an overwhelmed U.S. president and
contributed to a Republican sweep of U.S. midterm elections.
But the slide of public confidence in President Barack Obama and the
takeover of U.S. Congress by resurgent Republicans will complicate,
though not seriously undermine, U.S. foreign policy that is grappling
with wars in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and a more aggressive
China in Asia.
Republicans rode to victory with a boost from the widespread view of an
Obama White House beset by perpetual crisis. Broadcasts of black-clad
Islamic State militants advancing in Syria or medical teams in white
hazmat suits grappling with the Ebola epidemic played endlessly on TV
news broadcasts, badly damaging Democrats at Tuesday’s mid-term elections.
Obama’s opponents will now wield greater power on Capitol Hill in the
final two years of his tenure. But the president will still possess
broad constitutional powers to conduct foreign policy and could decide
to focus more of his attention abroad, taking his cue from the second
terms of past presidents, if Congress stymies his domestic ambitions.
Whether he wants to make more of a mark internationally or not, Obama
will have a long list of formidable challenges.
“The world sees a lame-duck with his authority undermined,” said Aaron
David Miller, a former Middle East adviser to both Republican and
“It will be the perception of a diminished president who will have a
difficult time sailing the already difficult waters of Washington.”
FOREIGN POLICY INTRUDES ON MIDTERMS
Republicans have long accused Obama of weakening America’s global
leadership by failing to act more forcefully in the world’s crises.
Obama and his aides have pushed back against critics they say are
promoting reckless military action.
Having taken over the Senate and increased their majority in the House
of Representatives, Republicans will be in a stronger position to push
for a harder line in talks between world powers and Iran aimed at
curbing its nuclear program and preventing it from developing an atomic
bomb, which Tehran denies seeking.
With a Nov. 24 deadline looming for a comprehensive deal, Republicans
fear that Obama will make too many concessions for easing sanctions that
have crippled Iran’s economy. He could suspend some sanctions on his own
but would eventually need a congressional vote to lift the measures
An accord with Iran after decades of estrangement with the United States
would be a big boost to Obama’s international legacy, which so far has
lacked a signature major success.
New York Republican Rep. Peter King said that with his party’s control
of the Senate, Republicans would be able to retaliate with new
legislation if Obama tries to bypass them on Iran.
“If he tries to be cute and sneak something through, there may be a
backlash,” King told Reuters.
Another source of continuing friction will be Obama’s handling of the
battle against Islamic State, which is also known as ISIL and has seized
large swathes of Syria and Iraq.
Leading Republicans insist that Obama’s objective to “degrade and
ultimately destroy” Islamic State will fail unless he goes beyond the
current bombing campaign and limited assistance to moderate Syrian rebels.
On the heels of the mid-term outcome, some are demanding a reversal of
Obama’s refusal to send more U.S. forces to Iraq, a reflection of his
reluctance for large-scale use of U.S. military power, especially in the
volatile Middle East.
“That seems to me to be physically impossible to stop ISIL without boots
on the ground,” said Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee, a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee.
AT ODDS OVER UKRAINE AND GUANTANAMO
Obama will also likely face Republican pressure for a stronger stand
against Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s role in Ukraine,
which has sent U.S.-Russian relations to a post-Cold War low. Obama has
mobilized European cooperation on sanctions, but many Republicans want
Another issue likely to create friction could be the fate of the
internationally condemned prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the
U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Obama inherited the prison
from his predecessor, George W. Bush, and has repeatedly vowed, and
failed, to close it.
Most Republicans vehemently oppose emptying the jail. The Republican
takeover of the Senate would seem to cast even further doubt on Obama’s
ability to shutter it.
A Republican Congress, however, may take a more favorable view of a
landmark trans-Pacific trade deal that Washington is negotiating. It
will be high on the agenda when Obama attends an Asia-Pacific summit in
Beijing next week.
If Obama is seeking another legacy achievement, he may look to ease the
Cold War-era embargo on communist Cuba after loosening some restrictions
in his first term. But Republicans would be expected to oppose such a move.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder and Krista Hughes. Editing by
Jason Szep and Ken Wills)
Source: Despite election defeat, foreign policy is not ‘game over’ for
Obama – Yahoo News –