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Foreign policy

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GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney gave a much-noted speech on foreign policy Monday, attempting to differentiate between his policy ideas and President Barack Obama’s record.

Mr. Romney said the United States must do more to influence governments created by the Arab Spring. He would take a harder line on Iran and patch up relations with Israel. The former Massachusetts governor would increase spending on the military and alter conditions on foreign aid.

Speaking at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., the Republican declared, “It is time to change course in the Middle East. The president has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need.”

Yet most analysts noted that while Mr. Romney’s tone was tough, his policies did not contrast much with the president’s.

The challenger favors the two-state solution to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians, and would “recommit America” to a Palestinian state. Mr. Romney wants stricter sanctions imposed on Iran, as does President Obama. The president has “failed to lead” on the Syrian conflict, said Gov. Romney, but he offered no direct support to arm the rebels.

In Afghanistan, a Romney government would hand over security to the Afghans, but would draw down troops slower than the president is doing.

The two strategies are fairly similar.

“There isn’t much differentiation between what he would do and what Obama is already doing, or said he would do,” Karl Inderfurth of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Wall Street Journal.

Henry Kissinger, a former secretary of state and policy expert, noted: “You can’t reinvent foreign policy from administration to administration. But I think there’s an emphasis on coherence.”

Mr. Romney said President Obama has responded inadequately to the Syrian crisis. He criticized the White House’s response to the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed four Americans.

There are legitimate grounds for criticism, but the Republican must show how a Romney White House would improve on the Obama foreign policy performance.

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