President Barack Obama gave the State of the Union address on January 28th, during which he laid out US foreign policy in 2014. Below are the top ten foreign policy takeaways from his speech:
On Iraq and Afghanistan
- Today, all our troops are out of Iraq. More than 60,000 of our troops have already come home from Afghanistan.
- After 2014, we will support a unified Afghanistan as it takes responsibility for its own future. If the Afghan government signs a security agreement that we have negotiated, a small force of Americans could remain in Afghanistan with NATO allies to carry out two narrow missions: training and assisting Afghan forces, and counterterrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda.
On Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations abroad
- While we have put al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world.
- In Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and Mali, we have to keep working with partners to disrupt and disable these networks.
On Drones and Surveillance
- America must move off a permanent war footing. That’s why I’ve imposed prudent limits on the use of drones – for we will not be safer if people abroad believe we strike within their countries without regard for the consequence.
- Working with this Congress, I will reform our surveillance programs – because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated
- In Syria, we’ll support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks.
- American diplomacy, backed by the threat of force, is why Syria’s chemical weapons are being eliminated, and we will continue to work with the international community to usher in the future the Syrian people deserve – a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear.
- American diplomacy is supporting Israelis and Palestinians as they engage in difficult but necessary talks to end the conflict there; to achieve dignity and an independent state for Palestinians, and lasting peace and security for the State of Israel – a Jewish state that knows America will always be at their side.
On Iran/Nuclear Negotiations
- American diplomacy, backed by pressure, has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program – and rolled parts of that program back – for the very first time in a decade.
- Iran has begun to eliminate its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium. It is not installing advanced centrifuges. Unprecedented inspections help the world verify, every day, that Iran is not building a bomb.
- These negotiations will be difficult. They may not succeed. We are clear-eyed about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, which threaten our allies; and the mistrust between our nations cannot be wished away.
- Let me be clear: if this Congress sends me a new sanctions bill now that threatens to derail these talks, I will veto it. For the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.
- If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions, and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.
- But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance, then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war.
On Democratic Transition
- From Tunisia to Burma, we’re supporting those who are willing to do the hard work of building democracy.
- In Ukraine, we stand for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and have a say in their country’s future.
- Across Africa, we’re bringing together businesses and governments to double access to electricity and help end extreme poverty.
On Using Military Force
- As Commander-in-Chief, I have used force when needed to protect the American people, and I will never hesitate to do so as long as I hold this office.
- I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary; nor will I allow our sons and daughters to be mired in open-ended conflicts.
- We must fight the battles that need to be fought, not those that terrorists prefer from us – large-scale deployments that drain our strength and may ultimately feed extremism.