KUSA - ISIS is adding terror groups to its network while engaged in battle on its home turf, Iran has Republicans and Democrats in a war of words in this country, and Hillary Clinton is fending of critics over her exclusive use of a personal email account while serving as the nation's top diplomat in the Obama administration.
All of which makes propels foreign policy into an usually prominent position in the early run-up to the 2016 election.
On today's show, former US ambassador to Iraq, Cristopher Hill (now dean of international studies at the University of Denver) and 9NEWS political analyst Floyd Ciruli share their thoughts on how it's all shaping up.
Balance of Power airs every Sunday at 8:50 a.m. on 9NEWS, right before NBC's Meet the Press. Episodes and extended interviews are posted on Sundays to 9NEWS.com.
The self-declared "Islamic State" accepted a pledge of allegiance from Boko Haram, the militant group which became a household name after kidnapping hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls.
Hill doubts the union will bring some of the violent displays ISIS has put on into Africa.
"I think what's been going on in Africa has been going on for several months, even years," Hill said. "The fact that they have pledge allegiance to ISIS, I don't think changes the equation. The real issue is what's going on locally."
Ciruli said the bigger impact of the story may be in the US.
"The spreading does affect American public opinion," Ciruli said. "You can see the public is just getting more and more concerned about foreign policy. It's become the topic."
IRAN & THE GOP LETTER
47 Republican members of the US Senate signed a letter to Iran with the intent of casting doubt on a possible nuclear deal being negotiated by the White House.
While some of the signers have tried to soften the backlash, Democrats have pounced on the signers with some liberals calling them "traitors."
"It's pretty close to unprecedented," Hill said.
The ambassador said he doesn't see the letter having a major impact on the nuclear talks, but added that "to some extent I think it makes us all look weak."
Politically, Ciruli thinks it could be a mixed bag for the GOP signers.
"I think short-term there was some damage, and you saw the Republicans playing some defense. But I think the long term is a little less clear," Ciruli said. "I think the public is a cynical about whether we're going to stop Iran from getting the bomb. I also think the President's own foreign policy credentials have kind of gone down."
The issue has touched off over-the-top rhetoric that Ciruli argues makes no one look good.
"We all feel that Washington is so dysfunctional that it would be hard to label one party worse than the other," Ciruli said.
The controversy of Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account during her tenure as secretary of state hasn't died down much.
When 9NEWS political reporter asked Hill why someone in Clinton's position might choose to do that, Hill replied, "I think a lot of people who came in with her had been together during the campaign, they're kind of used to what each other's emails were, so I think they kind of kept that campaign email group of people."
Hill did stress that more serious matters were typically not handled via email in his experience with the state department.
9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark asked Ciruli to weigh in on the prospects of the email controversy sticking in the minds of average voters.
"Her not handling it for the first week or so has actually hurt her," Ciruli said. "It's probably going to be the first question she gets when she announces. What about the emails?"
Clinton's public response so far has been insufficient, Ciruli argued, and it's not going to die down in the short term.
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