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With only a few days left for the US presidential elections, President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney are in a tight battle after three rounds of debates aimed at outlining their plans for America and the rest of the world. Both candidates were aggressive during the debates, Romney in the first and Obama in the second, attacking each other on their weaknesses, which often confused us what their real score was on a certain issue.
Though the final presidential debate held on Monday on foreign policy had less impact on Americans, it is of great importance to the international audience, who sees the debate as a way to assess how the next US president will handle tough foreign policy issues, particularly in the Middle East.
Romney earlier was under pressure to restore his campaign after a video was leaked showing him describing the 47 percent of Americans as being dependent on the government, who believed they are victims. In the same footage he mentioned that peace in the Middle East might not be possible when he was asked about a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The Republican candidate said he believed in the US policy in the region, though he questions its viability. He added that Palestinians were not interested in peace and were committed to destroying Israel and when they establish their own state, Iran will send more weapons to the West Bank, which will be used against Israel and the world has to learn to coexist with this type of situation.
Romney’s reckless remarks did not contribute to the efforts of the United States to win back its credibility in the Muslim world, which is an utmost priority of any US presidential candidate.
In the three debates, Romney criticised Obama for failing to reduce the deficit as well as to generate jobs to help the economy. As for his rival’s role in foreign affairs, he said Obama mishandled the Middle East issues, saying his policies were naïve and he failed to give enough support to its long-standing ally, Israel. Romney’s attacks backfired after Obama said that the governor was suggesting the US should start another war in the region.
Romney’s plan for Middle East is all about boosting the economy which he considers essential in establishing leadership in the region. His goal is to support groups and governments to promote democracy, create economic opportunities, prioritise humanitarian rights, and oppose Iranian or jihadist influence.
Often criticised for his lack of experience, Romney wanted to prove that he is not lacking in foreign policy expertise. If elected president, he plans to reform the Middle East by increasing US naval vessels, deploying hundreds of troops and enhancing the missile defence in the region, so as to help allies in the Arab world and Israel. Some of his policies on the region are similar to Obama’s. On Iran, Romney deems its nuclear programme a threat to regional and national security. He said the US should tighten sanctions to prevent the country from reaching its ambitious goal. Romney also backed the current administration in withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan, ending completely its combat operations by 2014, though it still depends on the situation on the ground.
On Syria, Romney wants President Bashar Al Assad to be ousted from power. He pledged to continuously support the opposition groups who seek an end to the oppressive Assad regime.
As for its closest ally, Israel, the governor said he would restore the US-Israel ties to their previous stature, unlike Obama, who is keeping a distance from Tel Aviv. Romney expressed his intention of making Israel his first foreign destination if he becomes president. He guaranteed the ally increased military assistance and political support if Palestine pursues statehood. He even urged Egypt to become a US ally and honour its peace agreement with Israel.
On Arab Spring, Romney has a different view from his rival. He criticised Obama for his failure to promote democracy in the region, saying the latter did not prioritise human rights, which risked many lives, like the bloodbath that occurred during the Arab Spring in Libya and Syria.
Romney believes in Ronald Reagan’s march of freedom, which states that we cannot control the pace of freedom; however, its ultimate goal is for all people to be equally free.
Crafting an effective foreign policy is significant in the elections as it will define how the future president will lead the country, and deal with other nations and international organisations. The US policies aim at bringing together countries to end war and terrorism, increasing economic interest, promoting democracy and freedom, and addressing humanitarian needs. These concerns are vital in building strong ties with allies which will help the US boost its economy while ensuring national stability.
The question of who will be the next president remains unanswered. Romney may have used Obama’s failures to gain a firm footing, but the shift of events in the Middle East has actually put Obama back on his unfinished mission. May the best candidate win the November 6 elections.