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The White House Tuesday argued President Barack Obama’s “steady diplomacy” had made America stronger and renewed its moral authority despite “unprecedented challenges” in his first year in office.
But the assessment, posted on the White House website, did not dwell on the lack of success garnered by one of Obama’s top priority foreign policy drives, peace moves in the Middle East, and reflected a tougher tone on Iran.
“A year later, America is stronger because of the president’s leadership,” said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, in a White House blog post.
“The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of catastrophe. We are responsibly winding down the war in Iraq, and increasing our focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
Rhodes argued Obama that had quickly got to work refocusing the fight against Al-Qaeda, restoring US alliances, committing the United States to confronting climate change and nuclear proliferation.
He said Obama’s 30,000 strong troop surge in Afghanistan proved the strategy and resources were now in place “that this urgent challenge demands” and noted Obama was on track to get combat troops out of Iraq by the end of August.
“By prohibiting torture and working to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, we are denying Al-Qaeda a recruiting tool,” said Rhodes, who has played an instrumental role in many of Obama’s biggest foreign policy speeches.
He said domestic terror plots had been disrupted and terrorists had been caught, but added in a reference to the thwarted bid to blow up a US airliner “as we learned over Christmas, more work has to be done.”
When he came to office in January 2009, Obama offered a hand of dialogue to Iran but has been rebuffed and now the administration is working with international partners on a toughened sanctions regime over a nuclear showdown.
“After a year of American engagement, the international community is more united than ever before in calling on Iran to live up to its obligations, while Iran is more isolated,” he said.
It remains unclear however if permanent five UN Security Council members Russia and China will sign up to tough sanctions being developed for Tehran.
Rhodes drew an analogy between the Iranian and North Korean nuclear crises.
“President Obama continues to present a clear choice: if nations abide by their obligations, the door is open to a better relationship with the international community; if they don’t, they will be isolated.”
The Obama administration is currently trying to revive its efforts to open peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, but so far has seen little success, a factor on which Rhodes did not chose to comment.
But he said that Obama’s decision to “reset” ties with Russia had enabled the two former Cold War foes to work towards a new nuclear arms reduction treaty.
He also said that Obama’s “steady diplomacy” with nations like China and India had helped to convince nations to embrace their responsibilities to cut greenhouse gas emissions at the Copenhagen summit last month.
The treaty however did not forge an agreement for binding deal with legal force.