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Election Results Could Force Changes in US Foreign Policy

President Barack Obama may have less power to negotiate with other countries beginning in January. That is because his political opponents will control both houses of Congress for the first time in his presidency. And, many of them disagree with his foreign policies.

Republicans won control of the United States Senate in elections Tuesday. They also strengthened their control of the House of Representatives.

Guy Ziv is a professor at American University in Washington, D.C. He says Republican control of Congress will limit the president’s power to negotiate on two important foreign policy issues.

“This will create much more difficulty for President Obama to make the kind of progress that he’s wanted to see in both the Iranian negotiations -- Iran’s nuclear negotiations -- and the Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Both of those issues have regrettably been used over the years as a partisan football on Capitol Hill.”

Negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program are to end later this month. International negotiators have been trying to get Iran to limit its nuclear activities. In exchange, some economic limits on the country would be eased.

Many Senate Republicans say they will not support an agreement that permits Iran to continue enriching any uranium. Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear weapons. However, President Obama already has the power to end, or waive, sanctions without approval from Congress. Justin Logan is a foreign policy expert at the Cato Institute, a research group. He says Republicans could take that power from the president.

“There’s some prospect that a large Republican wave and takeover of the Senate could raise the prospect of sanctions bills against Iran without that waiver authority. But that requires Congress to sort of take responsibility for the policy and leave its fingerprints on the policy. And historically they’ve been very wary of doing that.”

Republican Senator John McCain has led his party’s criticism of the administration’s support for moderate rebels in Syria. Atlantic Council expert Robert Manning says Senator McCain may pressure the administration to take a more active military role.

“I think on the security side, you're likely to see Senator McCain taking over the Armed Forces Committee in the Senate, and I think that that may be contentious in terms of defense spending and, and some of our military activities in the Middle East and elsewhere.”

The U.S. has started to train the Syrian rebels and give them military equipment. But Mr. Logan says Republicans want the Obama administration to do more.

“There’s a program in place. It's not being conducted the way Senator McCain would like it to be conducted. So I think the, the change here might really be how the conversation goes, what sorts of hearings happen, and how Republicans in the Senate can affect, sort of, the press coverage -- what's said about the president’s policies.”

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki says American diplomats will work with whoever controls Congress.

“The State Department is a nonpartisan building and one where we work with Democrats and Republicans, so we will continue to move forward with that in mind.”

I’m Christopher Cruise.

VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reported this story. Christopher Cruise wrote it for Learning English, narrated it and produced it. Jeri Watson was the editor.


Words in This Story

partisan - adj. strongly supportive of a particular cause

sanctions - n. actions that are taken or orders give to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country

wary - adj. not having or showing complete trust in someone or something that could be dangerous or cause trouble

contentious - adj. involving a lot of arguing

conversation - n. a talk, observation of feelings, opinions or ideas

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