US & Canada

Obama's new security strategy stresses diplomacy

The Obama administration has unveiled a new national security strategy, saying armed conflict should be a last resort when diplomacy is exhausted.

The document puts constraints on ex-President Bush's concept of pre-emptive war and calls for better co-operation with China and India.

It maintains the desire to destroy al-Qaeda, but also highlights home-grown terrorism for the first time.

It offers Iran and North Korea "a clear choice" on their nuclear programmes.

The document also advocates innovation, economic stability and prosperity as essential to America's wider security aims.

'No less powerful'

"To succeed, we must face the world as it is," says the document, in what is seen as a formal break from the go-it-alone Bush era.

The Obama administration's new doctrine also reiterates the Obama's determination to try to engage with countries like Iran and North Korea, but warns that they face deepening isolation if they do not respond to international pressure to come clean on their controversial nuclear programmes.

Other key initiatives outlined in Mr Obama's strategy include the dismantling of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The document describes the security of Israel and peaceful Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side as among the main interests of the US.

Discussing the strategy at the Brookings Institution later on Thursday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "We are no less powerful, but we need to apply our power in different ways.

"We are shifting from mostly direct exercise and application of power to a more sophisticated and difficult mix of indirect power and influence," America's top diplomat said.

On the Iran issue, Mrs Clinton admitted that there were "very serious" disagreements with Brazil and Turkey over how to tackle its controversial nuclear programme.

She referred to last week's deal brokered by Brasilia and Ankara with Tehran. The agreement would see Iran trade uranium for ready-enriched reactor fuel.

Mrs Clinton added that the deal would only serve to buy time for Iran to pursue its nuclear ambitions.

In her speech, Mrs Clinton also reiterated that democracy, human rights and development remained central to American foreign policy.

Terror 'at home'

Earlier, John Brennan, Mr Obama's counter-terrorism adviser, said the new strategy also explicitly recognised the threat posed by "individuals radicalised here at home".

"We've seen an increasing number of individuals here in the United States become captivated by extremist activities or causes," he said.

"We've seen individuals, including US citizens, armed with their US passport, travel easily to terrorist safe havens and return to America, their deadly plans disrupted by co-ordinated intelligence and law enforcement," Mr Brennan added.

The issue has grabbed headlines since the Fort Hood shooting last year and the Times Square bombing attempt.

Domestic terrorism did not feature highly in previous strategies.

Bill Clinton did not mention the domestic terrorism issue in his 1998 strategy, despite the Oklahoma City bombing three years earlier, while George W Bush made only passing reference to the issue in his 2006 document.

A gunman killed 13 soldiers and wounded dozens more at the Fort Hood army base in Texas in November 2009. Army psychiatrist Maj Nidal Hasan, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, has been charged with murder in the attacks.

In May this year, New York City police defused a car bomb parked in Times Square, one of the city's busiest tourist areas.

The main suspect, Pakistan-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad, was arrested two days after the failed attempt.

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