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World Hot Spots

U.S. Foreign Policy's Main Agenda


Updated March 21, 2008

America's interests - and reach - are global. Therefore, a crisis anywhere on the planet has a good chance of being on the agenda at the White House, State Department, and Pentagon as well. Here are the top hot spots consuming U.S. foreign policy efforts today.


Pakistan's regional position - and the U.S. relationship with Pakistan - have always been fragile. But the situation seems especially brittle and scary right now. America's chief ally in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf, is in deep political trouble. A national intelligence report says al-Qaeda is getting stronger and using the unruly tribal areas of Pakistan as its stronghold. Expert consensus in the intelligence community says Osama bin Laden himself is hiding somewhere in Pakistan. And don't forget that Pakistan is a nuclear power. The International Crisis Group has this summary of the situation. U.S. State Department information on Pakistan is here.


U.S. soldiers prepare to remove a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad
Photo: Getty/Khuzaie
The war in Iraq continues to be both a central focus of U.S. foreign policy and a factor (to varying degrees) in almost all American relations elsewhere in the world. See all About Guide to U.S. Foreign Policy resources on the war here. U.S. State Department information on Iraq is here.


Flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Efforts to enrich weapons-grade uranium and meddling inside Iraq make Iran one of the top foreign policy priorities for the Bush Administration. The uranium issue is being pursued through the United Nations Security Council, but the United States is engaging in direct talks with Iran on Iraqi security issues. See my timeline and profile of U.S.-Iranian relations. U.S. State Department information on Iran is here. The situation in Iran and potential U.S. responses were nicely summarized in a November, 2007 speech by Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE). A surprising December, 2007 National Intelligence Report said Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

North Korea

Flag of North Korea
North Korea seems to always find a way to get the world's attention. Efforts to end North Koreas nuclear weapons program have led the United States to engage North Korea as part of a broader regional dialogue. See my timeline and profile of U.S.-North Korean relations. See the Council on Foreign Relations' "crisis guide" to the Korean Peninsula. U.S. State Department information on North Korea is here. Diplomatic breakthroughs in 2007 appear to indicate an easing of tensions. Perhaps even a path toward peace.

Arab-Israeli Conflict

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and President George Bush
Photo: Getty/Somodevilla
Ensuring security for Israel and securing peace among its neighbors has been a prime part of U.S. foreign policy for over 50 years. U.S. State Department information on the conflict is here.


The war in Afghanistan often gets overshadowed by Iraq. But there are over 25,000 American forces still there. And many, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, say Afghanistan is still the "front line against terror." U.S. State Department information on Afghanistan is here.


Darfur is a region of western Sudan where government forces and militias have been involved in a violent conflict with rebels causing enormous casualties and displacement. Calling the government actions in Darfur a genocide, the United States is supporting both renewed United Nations/African Union peacekeeping forces in the region and a political settlement to the crisis. See the Council on Foreign Relations' "crisis guide" to Darfur. U.S. State Department information on Sudan and Darfur is here.
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