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Obama’s new hardball with China, Iran

The White House shifts from conciliatory diplomacy to get-tough actions, notably in arms sales to Taiwan and in stiffer sanctions on Iran for its nuclear deceit. Obama can no longer appear to be weak, but then again, there are risks to adopting a confrontational style.

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After a year of trying to talk softly with Iran and China – only to be perceived as weak – President Obama has now decided he must carry a big stick. 

Among several steps, he’s selling $6.4 billion of arms to Taiwan, seeking tougher sanctions on Iran, inviting the Dalai Lama to the White House, and beefing up Arab defenses against Iranian missiles. And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has also escalated her rhetoric, just as defending Google against Beijing’s censorship of the Internet and Chinese hacking attacks. 

Obama’s new get-tough actions, however, come with two risks: They could easily escalate into unintended confrontations and they appear to end the Obama strategy of approaching adversaries with an outstretched hand of cooperation.

In recent months, Obama has been openly snubbed by leaders of China and Iran despite gestures of conciliation. The most noticeable snub was the cold shoulder that the Chinese prime minister, Wen Jiabao, personally gave to Obama at recent international talks on climate change. 

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