Politics

Diplomacy 2009 Style

President Obama is spending Christmas Day relaxing in Hawaii, but his Ambassador to the UN says his diplomatic work this past year has shown promising results.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, told the Associated Press that even though major challenges still exist, President Obama's approach has made other countries respond differently and in a more positive way to the United States.

"The change in the nature and tone of our relationships ... is yielding concrete and tangible benefits here at the United Nations -- benefits that advance U.S. interests," Rice said.

President Obama traveled extensively in 2009, making speeches about nuclear disarmament in Prague, religious tolerance in Cairo, Russian-US relations in Moscow and democracy in Accra, Ghana.

But critics of the President say the key to accomplishments in diplomacy has one word: Iran.

"The question is does pres Obama say, you know the UN is very nice, engagement is very nice, but we have to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons," Executive Editor of the Weekly Standard Bill Kristol told Fox. "Are we going to get serious about sanctions, get serious about working with dissidents, putting much more pressure on the regime, possibility of military force? That's the test for 2010 and in 2009 we did not make progress in dealing with this greatest threat."

For her part, Rice acknowledged certain things need to change in regards to Iran, including the possibility of new sanctions.

"In the new year, absent some significant changes in the posture of Iran, I think we believe that the time will be ripe for serious consideration of additional pressures," she said.

But, in regards to another nuclear threat, Rice says the achievements this year in progress over nuclear issues with North Korea and the implementation of sanctions by the UN member nations shows the administration is making progress in tough areas.

"They [the sanctions] have been actively and forcibly implemented by member states all over the world," Rice said. "So North Korea is feeling far greater pressure to halt its nuclear weapons program than it has in the past, and it is indeed giving various indications that it is feeling that pressure and perhaps responding to it."

Kristol says even though Iran casts a large shadow over the foreign policy of the administration, the overall likability of the President has been helpful, but cautions in the end it could also be harmful. "It's important the American president be liked, but it's very important he be respected. I think people like president Obama and wish him well, I worry they don't fear him a little and I think the key for president Obama this next year is not just that he's likeable but that people say, whoa, the American president says this, he means it."