Topeka A Kansas State University political science professor says that foreign policy issues regarding counterterrorism and Iran will remain a challenge for the next president's administration.
Dale Herspring, who spent more than 20 years in the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service, said Friday that issues remain even as the Iraq war winds down, most notably Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"The Middle East remains volatile and unpredictable," Herspring said.
He said the United States should lead the way in an international response should Iran establish a nuclear arsenal. And though both presidential candidates have said they would push Iran through diplomatic channels, the next course of action may be beyond diplomacy.
"If there is an attack on Iran, the future is totally unpredictable," Herspring said.
Recently, the International Atomic Energy Agency cited difficulties investigating Iran's nuclear activities and renewed suspicions that the country is enriching uranium to be used for military purposes. Iran maintains its nuclear program is intended to provide energy for the nation, not weapons.
"As leader of the free world, the next president will be charged with restoring political stability to a region that has been in turmoil for centuries," Herspring said. "That's challenge enough without throwing nuclear weapons into the mix."
On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that Iran's leaders are watching the U.S. presidential race closely and anticipating changes in the White House. He said both Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama would have to make "fundamental changes" in American foreign policy, seeking to engage more nations, particularly in the Middle East.
McCain supports placing tougher sanctions on Iran to halt its nuclear ambitions, but he opposes direct high-level talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Obama initially supported direct talks with the Iranian president but has backed off that position. He says direct diplomacy with Tehran would give the U.S. more credibility to push for sanctions.
Obama also would pressure Iran diplomatically before Israel feels threatened and takes unilateral military actions against Iranian nuclear facilities, similar to what it did to Saddam Hussein's nuclear development in 1981.
Herspring is a retired Navy officer who has written more than 80 articles and 12 books, including "Rumfeld's Wars: The Arrogance of Power."