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21 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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An Israeli police officer secures the scene after a suspected terrorist attack on a bus in Tel Aviv

An Israeli police officer secures the scene after a suspected terrorist attack on a bus in Tel Aviv. Photograph: Oded Balilty/AP

Tel Aviv bus knife attack: four seriously injured

Israeli police arrest Palestinian man reported to have stabbed commuters in suspected terrorist attack in centre of city

At least nine people have been injured on a bus in central Tel Aviv – four seriously – in a knife attack by a Palestinian man who was then shot and arrested while trying to escape.

The attack – which police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said was being treated as a terrorist incident – took place at about 7.15am on a No 40 bus crowded with commuters during the rush-hour………………….

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Analysis

US troops in Afghanistan

US soldiers from Dragon Troop of the 3rd Cavalry Regiment near operating base Gamberi in the Laghman province of Afghanistan on January 1. Photograph: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Obama’s State of the Union sidesteps mounting foreign policy setbacks

By Spencer Ackerman

President said ‘we turn the page’ on foreign policy and national security, but setbacks are accumulating in the Middle East, Moscow and elsewhere

Since Barack Obama’s previous State of the Union address, the US president has relaunched the Iraq war – this time with a Syrian appendix – ensured the presence of US troops in Afghanistan through 2024 and continued drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan. Yet if Obama’s 2015 State of the Union is to be believed, “tonight, we turn the page”.

On foreign policy and national security, Obama cannot be blamed for wanting the page turned. Unlike in his previous States of the Union, there is no dead Osama bin Laden or Muammar Gaddafi to tout. His strongest foreign achievement in 2014 – an admittedly historic one – has been to normalize relations with Cuba, though, as with all things Obama does, congressional Republicans vow opposition.

Beyond Cuba, setbacks are accumulating for what Obama on Tuesday called his “smarter kind of American leadership”………………..

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Editorial

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama. ‘He looks to have his eyes on the 2016 election and the post-Obama political battle. If this is indeed his approach, it is both realistic and right. Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/PA

The Guardian view on the State of the Union address: talk big

In spite of gridlock in Washington, Barack Obama can still shape America’s debate about the big issues

Politicians always like to think that their speeches make the political weather. This belief explains why, in most modern democracies, politicians conventionally devote so much time and sweat to their big set-piece orations. Nevertheless, many observers these days are more sceptical. True, big speeches need to be made, and they need to be competent. But the evidence of the opinion polls often suggests that big speeches are more important for party morale – and for the morale of their opponents – than in changing the wider mood. More often than not, big speeches actually have a very limited impact on the voters.An American president traditionally has no bigger platform than the annual State of the Union address, which Barack Obama will deliver on Tuesday night in Washington. In time-honoured fashion, Mr Obama’s speechwriters will have been honing the draft for many weeks. As usual, the speech will be carried on all the TV networks and will be intensively parsed and analysed afterwards. The occasion will involve all the usual Capitol Hill choreography and razzmatazz.

But a watershed seems to have been crossed since the midterm elections two months ago. Mr Obama seems not to be banking on Tuesday’s speech to transform his standing in the way he might have wanted to do in the past. Instead he looks to have his eyes on the 2016 election and the post-Obama political battle. If this is indeed his approach, it is both realistic and right.

When he was first elected in 2008, Mr Obama took relations with Congress very seriously. He tried to forge consensus with Republicans, notably on healthcare. He was repeatedly rebuffed on a range of issues. Last November Americans elected a wholly Republican Congress for the first time in Mr Obama’s presidency. Facing two years of gridlock, he has even less hope now of crafting the big legislative deals that eluded him in apparently more favourable times……………

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