Washington: President Donald Trump starts the new year knee-deep in daunting foreign policy challenges at the same time he'll have to deal with a likely impeachment trial in the Senate and the demands of a reelection campaign.
American troops are still engaged in America's longest war in Afghanistan. North Korea hasn't given up its nuclear weapons. Add to that simmering tensions with Iran, fallout from Trump's decision to pull troops from Syria, ongoing unease with Russia and Turkey, and erratic ties with European and other longtime Western allies.
Trump is not popular overseas, and being an impeached president who must simultaneously run for reelection could reduce the time, focus and political clout needed to resolve complex global issues like North Korea's nuclear provocations.
A deeper look at the state of play on three top foreign policy challenges on Trump's desk as 2020 begins: US-NORTH KOREA NUCLEAR TALKS LOSE TRACTION
The U.S. is watching North Korea closely for signs of a possible missile launch or nuclear test.
Pyongyang had threatened to spring a "Christmas surprise" if the U.S. failed to meet Kim Jong Un's year-end deadline for concessions to revive stalled nuclear talks.
Washington didn't accept Kim's end-of-year ultimatum, but Stephen Biegun, the top U.S. envoy to North Korea, said the window for talks with the U.S. remains open.
In 2017, Trump and Kim traded threats of destruction as North Korea carried out tests aimed at acquiring the ability to launch nuclear strikes on the U.S. mainland.
Trump said he would rain "fire and fury" on North Korea and derided Kim as "little rocket man." Kim questioned Trump's sanity and said he would "tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire."
Then the two made up and met three times in Singapore in 2018, in Vietnam last February and again in June when Trump became the first U.S. president to set foot into North Korea at the Demilitarized Zone.
While the get-togethers have made for good photo-ops, they've been devoid of substantive progress in getting Kim to get rid of his nuclear weapons.
Trump has held out North Korea's self-imposed moratorium on conducting nuclear tests and trials of long-range intercontinental missiles as a major foreign policy achievement. "Deal will happen!" he tweeted.
Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton doesn't think so.
US-IRAN TENSION ESCALATING
Tensions with Iran have been rising ever since Trump last year withdrew the U.S. from the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran had signed with the U.S. and five other nations. Trump said the deal was one-sided and gave Iran sanctions relief for rolling back, but not permanently dismantling, its nuclear program.
After pulling out of the deal, Trump began a "maximum pressure" campaign, reinstating sanctions and adding more that have crippled Iran's economy. His aim is to force Iran to renegotiate a deal more favorable to the U.S. and other nations that are still in the agreement.
In response, Iran has continued its efforts to destabilize the region, attacking targets in Saudi Arabia, interrupting commercial shipping through the critical Strait of Hormuz, shooting down an unmanned U.S. aircraft and financing militant proxy groups. Since May, nearly 14,000 U.S. military personnel have deployed to the region to deter Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said his country's nuclear experts are testing a new type of advanced centrifuge. Iran recently started exceeding the stockpiles of uranium and heavy water allowed by the nuclear deal and is enriching uranium at a purity level beyond what is permitted. Tehran's violations, which it says are reversible, are an attempt to get France, Germany, Britain, China and Russia the other nations that signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to offer new economic incentives to offset the American sanctions.
It's no secret that Trump wants U.S. engagement in Afghanistan to end, but critics have expressed concern about giving too many concessions to the Taliban or if they will honor any agreement that could end the fighting.
In what appeared to be a breakthrough Sunday, top Taliban leaders agreed to a temporary cease-fire nationwide, but didn't say when it would start or how long it would last. A cease-fire, however, could provide an opening for a Taliban peace agreement with the United States that would let Trump bring U.S. troops home from Afghanistan, where they have fought for more than 18 years.
The U.S. wants any deal to include a promise from the Taliban that Afghanistan would not be used as a base by terrorist groups. A key part of a pact would include the Taliban agreeing to participate in all-Afghan negotiations to decide what a post-war Afghanistan would look like. Such negotiations are expected to be contentious and touch on the rights of women, free speech and changes to the Afghan constitution. They also would determine the fate of tens of thousands o f Taliban fighters and heavily armed militias run by Afghan warlords who have amassed wealth and power since the Taliban was ousted from power after 9/11.
We'll see if they want to make a deal, Trump told U.S. troops on Thanksgiving Day when he visited Afghanistan for the first time. It's got to be a real deal, but we'll see. But they want to make a deal."