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Which world hot spots will clamor for Obama's attention in second term?

Obama is unequivocal about his intent to refocus on US domestic issues during his second term. But the world is not likely to cooperate. Here are seven foreign-policy challenges already bearing down on him.

President Obama consulted by phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month from the president's hotel suite in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Pete Souza/White House

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During his campaign for reelection, President Obama spoke repeatedly of a need to refocus attention and energy on US domestic issues. After more than a decade of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said, "It's time to do some nation-building here at home."

And White House policy experts agree: Mr. Obama likely does want to keep his focus domestic in his second term.

"Obama's first, second, third, and fourth priorities will be to put America's house in order," says Charles Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service. That's true both because Obama "ran on that platform," he adds, and because he "understands that our strength abroad ultimately rests on our strength at home."

But the world is not likely to cooperate by retreating to the background. Challenges ranging from Iran's advancing nuclear program and a destabilizing civil war in Syria to China's economic rise and growing regional assertiveness are certain to push their way onto Obama's agenda – some even before he takes the oath of office for a second term Jan. 21.


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