When it comes to foreign policy "not a lot of progress has been made" under President Obama, the Democratic co-chairman of the 9/11 commission said Monday.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (Ind.), who remains a well-respected figure in foreign policy circles, cited North Korea's nuclear capabilities and Iran's nuclear ambitions while arguing that Obama still has much to accomplish.


"I think President Obama has taken some different approaches to President Bush particularly in President Bush's first term. But you would have to say at the same time that on the big issues, the Obama foreign policy is very much a work in progress," Hamilton told NPR. "Iran is still building a nuclear weapon. North Korea still has the nuclear weapon and you kind of go down the list and see that not an awful lot of progress has been made.

Much of Obama's successful 2008 presidential campaign was rooted in his opposition to President George W. Bush's foreign policy, particularly the Iraq war. 

But some on the left have criticized Obama for not breaking with Bush's policies firmly enough during his presidency, especially with regards to winding down combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and closing the Guantanamo Bay military prison. 

Five months after taking office, Obama delivered a major address in Cairo, Egypt in which he called for a new beginning for the U.S.'s relationship with the Islamic world.

Asked what that says about the president, Hamilton replied that "It says the problems are very different when you're dealing with them in the Oval Office than they are when you're dealing with them on the campaign trail."

After serving on the 9/11 Commission, which made investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hamilton became president of the Woodrow Wilson International Center. The former House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman served on the Iraq Study group in 2006 and currently is a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

Obama, who won last year's Nobel Peace Prize, has taken on a myriad of foreign policy and national security issues during his 20 months in office. He drew down troops in Iraq to 50,000, the lowest level since the beginning to the war in 2003, and declared an end to combat operations.

He also facilitated the renewal of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians for the first time in over two years. Under his watch, Congress passed a new round of Iran sanctions and is poised to take up a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia during the lame-duck session. 

Obama also sent 30,000 troops to Afghanistan to help combat insurgents while declaring July 2011 as the date when the U.S. will begin to withdraw combat troops.

Hamilton, though expressed skepticism that the West could help "build a new nation" in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"We've got to get our ambition in line with our resources," he said, adding that the U.S. missions there offer "legitimate points for debate and discussion, but I have a sharp sense for limitations."