US President Barack Obama sought on Saturday to cast himself as a strong leader on foreign policy, highlighting a US pullout from Iraq and the death of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi as success stories.
In a message Obama is likely to push in his re-election campaign, he said his leadership had made it possible to turn the page on a decade of war and refocus on bolstering the US economy and paying down the national debt.
Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address that Qaddafi’s death and the announcement that all US troops would be removed from Iraq this year were “powerful reminders of how we’ve renewed American leadership in the world.”
The emphasis on foreign policy comes as confidence in Obama’s stewardship of the economy has fallen sharply, causing his overall approval ratings to slide to about 42 percent, the lowest of his presidency.
With the economy’s woes weighing heavily on Americans’ minds, Obama may have trouble gaining political traction from his message on foreign policy.
The killing in May of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by a US Navy Seal team in Pakistan brought only a temporary boost to Obama’s poll numbers.
Obama mentioned bin Laden in the radio speech and said victories against al-Qaeda — along with the policies toward Iraq and Libya — were “part of a larger story” of success.
“In Libya, the death of Muammar Qaddafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do,” he said. “In Iraq, we’ve succeeded in our strategy to end the war.”
Obama said on Friday that all US troops would leave Iraq as scheduled by the end of this year, after the two governments failed to reach an agreement over giving US soldiers legal immunity.
Prominent Republicans have criticized the decision to fully withdraw US troops from Iraq, saying it would embolden neighboring Iran.
Republicans also contend that Obama has hurt the US’ image by pursuing a “leading from behind” strategy on the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a front-runner in the Republican race to challenge Obama next year, accused the president earlier this month of pulling back from the view that the US should be the “strongest nation on Earth.”
Independent Senator Joseph Lieberman was also critical of the move to withdraw from Iraq.
“The announcement by President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki yesterday was a statement of failure, not success,” the former Democratic vice presidential nominee said in a statement.
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