What to expect from President Barack Obama's second term on foreign policy issues

Barack Obama went to Cairo in June of 2009 and spoke of "a new beginning" and "mutual respect" in U.S. relations with Middle East countries.

Two years later, the world experienced the Arab Spring.

Obama doesn't claim to have sparked it off but his administration's behind-the-scenes actions helped fell longtime tyrants. Nonetheless, Obama now is under fire by dissidents in Syria and elsewhere for doing little to back up his rhetoric with action.

A second Obama administration can be expected to continue to encourage democratization and an end to ethnic strife around the world with a projection of an Obama Doctrine that combines a sober assessment of a changing world and America's restraint in seeking to shape its future.

But he'll likely do it with a new secretary of state, with Hillary Clinton expected to step down.

Obama will continue the phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and continue to confront Iran over its nuclear weapons capability. He'll also have to calm the nuclear-powered Pakistan-India rift and deal with North Korea's missiles.

Relations with Israel will remain close and unquestioned even as Obama continues to have disagreements with right-wing Likud Party leader and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

One almost-certain policy shift is a lowered priority for missile defense, hinted at when Obama was caught on a "hot mic" in Korea earlier this year telling outgoing Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that he would have "more flexibility" in dealing with Russian objections to U.S. missile defense plans once he was re-elected.

It's probable that U.S. relations with President Vladimir Putin will remain strained, but Obama is not likely, unlike his campaign opponent, to call Russia "our No. 1 geopolitical foe." But Obama is also certain to face criticism for giving little support to dissidents who say free speech and fair elections are disappearing in a country sliding back towards totalitarianism .

With regard to China, Obama is likely to try to encourage America's a major creditor nation to end or limit its currency manipulation, which affects both imports and American unemployment. But it's likely trade policy would remain the same as under previous administrations, with multinational corporations and Chinese state-owned companies dictating terms.

In addition to the U.S. troop presence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, estimates are that U.S. special operations and other secretive commando forces are operating in at least 70 other undeclared conflicts. Drone strikes in Yemen and elsewhere show Obama is determined to fight potential terrorists abroad on national security grounds, despite criticism from civil liberties and humanitarian groups.


(Bartholomew Sullivan coordinates political coverage for the Scripps Howard News Service. Reach him at SullivanB@shns.com .)

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