WASHINGTON - As the clock ticks towards the November election, the Middle East has dominated the American electoral race, with the two main contenders are trading barbs over the US policy in the vital region.
"If Governor [Mitt] Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so," US President Barack Obama said in CBS's "60 Minutes" interview late Sunday, September 23.
Republican contender Mitt Romney has accused Obama of not doing enough to curb Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran says is a civilian energy program, but the West suspects of masking a nuclear bomb.
He also heaped the blame on the Democrat leader of failing to rally opposition to unseat the regime of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad over the ongoing bloodshed, which left more than 20,000 people dead.
Dismissing Romney's criticism, Obama boasted his foreign policy successes in bringing back American soldiers from Iraq as well as the end of the so-called war on terror'.
"Let's see what I've done since I came into office: I said I'd end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we'd go after Al-Qaeda. They've been decimated in the FATA," Obama said, referring to Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas, along the remote border with Afghanistan.
"That we'd go after bin Laden. He's gone. So I've executed on my foreign policy. And it's one that the American people largely agree with."
Obama accused Romney of following a Bush-era style war on the Middle East, a message echoed by White House officials.
Some advisers to Obama have earlier accused Romney of relying on so-called "neoconservative" advisers like those who championed the war in Iraq under Bush.
Obama, whose lofty oratory and vision of multilateralism helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize after 11 months in office, is widely credited with improving the tone of US foreign policy after what was perceived as Bush's go-it-alone approach.
"It's clear that the United States is in a stronger position than we were when he took office," White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said in previewing the themes of Obama's UN speech.
High Marks The Middle East is also expected to dominate Obama's speech at the United Nations, following protests against a US-made film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
"There are going to be bumps in the road," Obama told the 60 Minutes program.
"There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiments.
"There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements, but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests," he said.
Obama's speech at the UN General Assembly falls exactly six weeks before Election Day.
Taking higher marks from the American public on foreign policy than on other issues, economy remained the dominant issue on voters' minds.
Yet, the past days saw Obama taking advantage over Romney who shrank notably.
Last week, a video of Romney has surfaced in which he makes disparaging remarks about Americans who support Obama.
The comments by the Republican candidate were recorded at a private fundraiser after the primary season ended in which he described almost half of Americans as people who pay no income tax and are dependent upon government.Those voters, he said, would probably support President Obama because they believe they are victims who are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.