At U.N., Obama to weigh options

Faces openings for diplomacy

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WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama arrives at the United Nations today with diplomatic openings, the result of help from unexpected partners, on three fronts: Iran, Syria, and elusive peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

All three pathways are fraught with potential pitfalls and hinge on cooperation from often unreliable nations. Mr. Obama also risks being branded as naive and misguided if the efforts fail, particularly in Syria, where he's used the prospect of diplomacy to put off a military strike in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack.

Still, the recent developments mark a significant shift on a trio of issues that have long proved problematic for Mr. Obama at the United Nations. His former Iranian counterpart used the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings, which open Monday, as a venue for fiery, anti-American speeches. Failed Middle East peace talks led the Palestinians to seek statehood recognition at the U.N. despite staunch American objections. And the Obama administration has been stymied on Syria at the U.N. Security Council due to intractable Russian opposition.

But this year, Iran has a new leader who is making friendly overtures toward Mr. Obama, raising the prospect of a meeting at the United Nations. U.S.-brokered peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have resumed -- though on an uncertain course. And Russia has joined with the U.S. on a diplomatic deal to strip Syria of its chemical weapons.

Mr. Obama's advisers cast the sudden signs of progress as an outgrowth of the president's long-standing preference for resolving disputes through diplomacy and, in the case of Iran and Syria, with pressure built up through economic sanctions and the threat of military action.

Aides say Mr. Obama will address developments on Iran, Syria and Middle East peace in his speech to the U.N. on Tuesday.

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