The unrelenting global troubles confronting Barack Obama are about to converge on him all at once, providing a stern test of leadership for a first-year president who has pledged to “change the world.”
In a span of four days, Obama will plunge into the politics of the United Nations and host a summit in Pittsburgh on the world's wobbling economy.
The international stage is coming to him, and no one standing on it with him will have higher stakes.
Obama is under pressure to push along stalled Mideast peace, prove the US is serious about climate change and rally allies against the nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea.
Restless leaders in Europe and elsewhere are pressing Obama to reform risky US financial behavior and get Congress on board. He also bears the load of two inherited wars that now bear his imprint — the one he's winding down in Iraq and the one that's widening in Afghanistan.
Obama’s first speech to the 192-member General Assembly will outline his view of leadership, emphasizing a new brand of cooperation as if to underline he is not Bush. He will be the first US president to be chairman of the Security Council, whose rotating presidency happens to be in US hands this month during the annual meeting of the General Assembly.
He expects to emerge from that special summit on arms control with a resolution that advances his goals of a nuclear-weapons free world. The measure will try to put heat on Iran and North Korea without singling out any country.
He just scuttled Bush-era plans for a missile defense system in Eastern Europe, swapping it for a more mobile system aimed at a changing threat from Iran. That change has pleased Russia, which Obama said had no reason to worry in the first place, while causing consternation in the region.
And then there's the shadow of Iran. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday again questioned the Holocaust That set an ominous tone for the U.N. — Ahmadinejad will be there — just as the United States and five other nations head toward an Oct. 1 conference with Iran.