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Obama's foreign policy challenges

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Obama's foreign policy challenges


The American mid-term elections take place on Tuesday but how, if at all, will Obama’s foreign policy choices affect the results?

euronews’ Fariba Mavaddat spoke to Steven Erlanger, the Paris bureau chief of the New York Times.

euronews: “Mr. Erlanger, things don’t seem so bright for President Obama. Iraq is more or less left in a limbo, Afghanistan is a huge challenge, and the Middle East peace process is almost dead. How do you see the situation?”

Steven Erlanger: “Generally, Americans don’t vote on foreign policy and I think you are being slightly unfair. Obama was against the war in Iraq from the beginning and voted against it. His job was to get out of Iraq. He has done that. Most Americans just wanted (the country) to be stable otherwise they don’t really care about it.

“In Afghanistan, he has been clear about his aims and goals and about the need to get out and leave a stable Afghan government behind.”

euronews: “Mr Obama made a lot of noise about the Iranian nuclear stand off. He said he left the door open for Iran to pass through, but it seems to me at least that he has left the door open and gone. Nothing has happened and the latest round of sanctions have been mostly symbolic. How do you think he is going to justify the lack of action in the field?”

Erlanger: “But the last round of sanctions are not quite as empty as you suggest. The pain in Iran is serious and as the Iranians just announced today, they are going to come back to discussions with the EU3 + 3 in the middle of November.

“Obama’s held out hope for another round of talks, but the sanctions are there and the qualifications are there. I think the Americans believe that there is more time on Iran. Iran has had a lot of trouble with its centrifuges – partly through espionage and sabotage – and that there is more time to negotiate.

“My guess is that this new round of talks will follow the pattern of the old one with Iran stalling, stalling, stalling. Things will get a little harder and will get a little harder for the Russians and the Chinese to say no to more serious sanctions.

euronews: “But we have heard all this before: Iran buys time by agreeing to new rounds of negotiations, and in the meantime, gets on with their policies and their nuclear programme. Do you think this time would be any different?”

Erlanger: “Well, I don’t know, and I agree with you. As Nicolas Sarkozy said at the UN General Assembly, we keep talking, talking, and the centrifuges keep spinning.

“I am a little pessimistic about the ability of the West to stop Iran from enriching enough uranium to make a serious nuclear bomb.

“They deny that’s what they are doing. I think the west has to get a great deal more serious. That’s a personal view.

“I do think the US has kept the Israelis from doing anything right now that might be considered stupid.

“There is time, but there is not a lot of time, and I don’t know if the Iranian behaviour will change. My own view is that they intend to become a nuclear weapon state, and so far there is very little the West has done to stop them from reaching that goal.”

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