Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Biden May Expand His Foreign Policy Role

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Biden May Expand His Foreign Policy Role

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- When Secretary of State John Kerry was scrambling last week to prevent the leader of the Syrian opposition from boycotting a meeting with him in Rome -- a snub that could have spoiled his maiden voyage as the nation's chief diplomat -- he leaned on an old Senate colleague to help him out: Vice President Joe Biden.

After Mr. Kerry extracted an agreement from the Syrian opposition leader, Mouaz al-Khatib, to show up, Mr. Biden sealed the deal with a follow-up call. The vice president, who had met Mr. Khatib at a security conference in Munich, praised him for his courage, told him how important the meeting was and promised to stay in touch, according to the White House.

It was a classic example of how Mr. Biden has used personal relationships to amass influence in the Obama administration -- a talent that current and former officials predicted would allow him to further expand his influence on foreign policy during President Barack Obama's second term.

Mr. Biden will shift to another part of the Middle East today, when he will set the stage for Mr. Obama's first presidential trip to Israel later this month, in a speech to the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro- Israel lobbying group.

When Mr. Biden last spoke to the group in 2009, he warned them "you're not going to like this," before laying out Mr. Obama's demand, largely rebuffed, that Israel stop building Jewish settlements in the West Bank. This time, officials said, he will be more conciliatory, presaging a less confrontational approach during the president's visit.

Mr. Biden, officials said, used his ties on Capitol Hill to champion another unpopular cause: Chuck Hagel, also an old Senate friend. With Mr. Hagel under attack over his positions on Iran and remarks he made about Israel, officials said Mr. …

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