War with Iran? 5 ways events overseas could shape Obama's second term.

The threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program is the most urgent example of the foreign-policy challenges that face President Obama in his second term. Here are four others.

2. Syria

Mustafa Karali/AP
Free Syrian Army fighters carry a wounded comrade to cover in the town of Harem, Syria.

Some Middle East experts believe that, the election out of the way, Obama will shift quickly to a more supportive stance toward the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They base their hunch on the assumption that Obama, despite being preoccupied with winning reelection, has kept abreast of how Syria’s civil war has shown signs of spilling into neighboring countries and threatens to engulf what is already the world’s most dangerous region.

But signals out of the White House suggest a continuing reluctance to provide US arms to the rebels. Up to now the Obama administration has largely limited its involvement in Syria to working with the political opposition not directly involved in fighting the war, while limiting support to fighters to nonlethal supplies such as communications equipment.

Concerns linger over whether weapons might fall into the hands of radical Islamists, who seem to be growing in numbers and influence among the rebels. Yet some analysts suggest that Obama might be forced to shift toward more overt cooperation with rebel forces to gain a measure of influence. Otherwise, Syria might fall entirely into the hands of Islamists.

The US has indeed been discussing with NATO allies including Turkey what it would take to impose a no-fly zone over all or part of Syria, but the Pentagon continues to oppose such a step. (Some analysts note that the Pentagon also opposed intervention in Libya that included a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over but was overruled).

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