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How the Obama-Romney foreign-policy debate could determine the election

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You can be sure Romney will try to paint that as adding up to weakness and indecision – “leading from behind” is sure to be brought up – not to mention what he claims is a certain distancing from Israel.

“Unfortunately, this president’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East,” Romney said in his speech at the Virginia Military Institute earlier this month. “When we look at the Middle East today, with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region and with violent extremists on the march, and with an American ambassador and three others dead – likely at the hands of Al Qaeda affiliates – it’s clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the president took office.”

The terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya – which came on the anniversary of 9/11 at a time when much of the region was in turmoil over a crude anti-Islam YouTube video made in the United States – is particularly troublesome for Obama.

Washington Post foreign affairs columnist David Ignatius reports that initial CIA “talking points,” provided by a senior US intelligence official, supported UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s early contention that the attack in Benghazi was tied to protests against the YouTube video.

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