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After election, US mulls foreign-policy changes

Published: Wed, November 14, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Chicago Tribune


The Obama administration has begun to reassess its foreign policy on such topics as Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and missile defense, which were viewed as too politically sensitive for any substantial shifts during the presidential campaign.

For months, these issues had what some U.S. officials called “AE” status, meaning any policy changes would be put off until after the election.

But with Obama winning a second term last week, top administration officials say they are considering whether to deepen U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war, accelerate the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, and offer Iran a compromise deal to curb its enrichment of uranium.

They also are considering how to work out new cooperation with China, an undertaking that Obama campaign operatives had feared might alienate swing-state voters anxious about Chinese trade policies and competition.

The administration already is taking a new direction on the worsening Syrian conflict, which threatens to spread turmoil and refugees across the Middle East. After months of trying to limit the U.S. role, administration officials said they have begun trying to help reshape the civilian-led rebel movement so it can better defend itself against heavily armed military forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.

The opposition formed a new umbrella group over the weekend that was recognized Monday by six Persian Gulf states as the “legitimate representative” of the rebels.

Since the conflict began early last year, the Obama administration has resisted pressure to deepen collaboration with the opposition and has refused to supply heavy weapons to its fighters. Advocates of that approach, including some top U.S. officials, argue that unless Washington and its allies strengthen and better organize the insurgents, the administration could see Syria taken over by dangerous militants, or a victory by Assad that would strengthen his Iranian allies.

International talks about Iran’s disputed nuclear program were suspended last summer by mutual consent. Now both sides are signaling a willingness to talk one-on-one, or as part of the six-nation negotiating group that held three meetings with Iran this year. Negotiations could resume as soon as this month.

In Afghanistan, the administration is embroiled in deliberations on whether to front-load the departure of the 68,000 remaining U.S. combat troops.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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