He skipped the customary one-on-one meetings with foreign counterparts but went ahead with the taping of a campaign-style appearance on the US television talkshow The View – a trade-off that drew Republican criticism. Despite his international woes, White House officials are heartened by Mitt Romney’s own recent foreign policy stumbles and doubt Mr Obama’s critics will gain traction in a campaign focused on the economy.
In addition, the White House never tires of touting the killing of Osama bin Laden and the ending of the Iraq war as Mr Obama’s foreign policy accomplishments – points the president made in his UN speech. Nevertheless, the unsettled climate surrounding his UN visit was a stark reminder that the optimism that greeted him when he took office – and being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – has now cooled. His early overtures to Iran were rejected, and the expansion of its nuclear programme has created tension between Washington and Israel. Israel sees a nuclear Iran as a threat to its existence. Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated impatience over Mr Obama’s entreaties to hold off on attacking Iran’s nuclear sites to give sanctions and diplomacy more time to work. The spat has been exacerbated by Mr Obama’s decision not to meet Mr Netanyahu on his US visit this week. Signalling resentment at Mr Netanyahu’s tactics, Mr Obama told US TV he would ignore “noise that’s out there.” Mark Felsenthal