US & Canada

State of the Union: 'Combative' Obama rallies election support

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill - 20 January 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption News organisations across the world covered the State of the Union address by President Obama

Media around the world have reported widely on US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address, with sources picking up on themes relevant to their regions.

Most agree the speech was aimed at rallying support for the Democrats ahead of the 2016 election, and few see much chance of him getting ambitious tax proposals through the Republican-dominated Congress.

'Gestures matter'

The European media have a variety of takes on the speech. Gilles Paris, the Washington correspondent of France's liberal daily Le Monde, sees Mr Obama "calling for a fairer America" in an address marked by "firm certainty".

Mr Paris deems the speech a "lunge" at the Republican opposition, in which the president lists his administration's economic achievements "with evident satisfaction".

Ansgar Graw in Germany's conservative Die Welt describes a "more combative" President Obama, who "surprised his audience by making his political opponents a serious offer" of cooperation.

He highlights the president's call for avoiding "unnecessary conflict," in particular his opposition to committing ground forces against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq.

"The content of the speech will likely be soon forgotten, but Obama, who has regained a positive approval rating of just over 50%, had a good day," he concludes.

Silvia Ayuso in Spain's El Pais devotes more attention to President Obama's opening towards Cuba. Noting the "crucial role the legislators play in the process," Ms Ayuso describes the marshalling of prominent supporters for and against the president's Cuba policy in the audience for the speech.

"In politics, gestures matter a lot," she says.

'Lame duck'

Russian media coverage is largely dismissive, and the major state-run TV channels paid little attention to the speech.

Rossiya 24 TV casts doubt on the president's positive take on the US economy, accusing him of selecting "only the figures that back the administration". The channel's Washington correspondent says Mr Obama will find it "difficult" to achieve the goals he set out, and has a falling approval rating.

The RBK business channel highlights the president's comments on isolating Russia through sanctions. One presenter dismisses Mr Obama as a "lame duck whom many people no longer take seriously".

Some newspapers report the speech without much comment, focusing on Russian sanctions. NTV's website dubs the president's comments on Russia "dubious".

'Futility of sanctions'

Iran's state broadcasters focus on the president's remarks that talks with Iran halted the advance of that country's nuclear programme, and are sceptical of his optimism on the economy.

An analyst of US politics, Qavamoddin Mahdavi, appeared on a discussion programme on the IRINN rolling news channel to say Mr Obama's plans for the economy are a "pipe dream" aimed at boosting electoral support for the Democrats.

On Iran, the president has "realized the futility of sanctions," says Mr Mahdavi.

State radio criticises Mr Obama's "usual threatening remarks that all options remain on the table," adding that he also "confessed to the failure of the policy of sanctions against Cuba".

The speech is widely reported on the main pan-Arab satellite television channels, with particular emphasis on Iran, and on Iraqi TV, where the president's pledge to defeat Islamic State and his appeal to Congress to back further military measures led the news.

'Political theatre'

China's official media mainly focus on the president's positive assessment of the US economy, and his plans to counter the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq.

State television's Washington correspondent sees proposals to raise taxes on the rich as "political theatre" designed solely to rally support for the Democrats in the 2016 president election, given the unlikelihood of congressional approval.

South Asia

There was great interest in the speech on Pakistani television channels, with most carrying it live.

Geo News and Dunya News channels focused on his denunciation of terrorism from Pakistan to Paris, before the story dropped down the news agenda.

In India, which President Obama is due to visit shortly, some TV channels showed the speech live, with brief studio discussions on the US economy and the fight against Islamic State.

Newspaper websites like the Times of India, Deccan Herald and Hindustan Times highlight his efforts to win "sceptical Republicans" over to his policies to bolster the middle class.

The Hindu notes that some of his proposals to raise taxes "could have a ripple effect on economic ties with economic partner-nations" like India itself.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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