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

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"I just don't see him pushing any new initiative in terms of Middle East peace, not right away," he adds. "And he certainly won't be launching any kind of military involvement in Syria or Iran."

Nevertheless, Obama is likely to face several major foreign-policy challenges in his second term. Many international affairs analysts place Iran – and the looming threat of war over its nuclear program – at the top of the list.

IRAN: How will its nuclear advance be stopped?

Dormant international negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program seem likely to resume early next year, as Iran hints at a willingness to return to the table. But the progress Iran continues to make in the processing and stockpiling of 20-percent-enriched uranium – a critical step in the process for building a nuclear weapon – also means that 2013 is almost certain to be a make-or-break year for stopping Iran's advance – either through diplomacy or war.

"Iran is the most likely place where conflict and the projection of American power could get in the way of [Obama's] domestic agenda," says Kupchan, also a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. "A window of opportunity opened for the diplomatic front with Obama's reelection," he adds, "but that window will only remain open through the spring." If no deal is forthcoming, "There's a reasonably high likelihood of an American air war against Iran in the second half of 2013."

What might a deal that avoids the need for airstrikes on Iranian nuclear facilities look like?

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