From New York, US President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that he advocates a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear conflict and condemns the anti-Islamic film that has sparked violent protests overseas.
Tuesday morning’s speech before the General Assembly marked President Obama’s last scheduled international address before he is up for re-election in November, and he used the opportunity to solidify the United States’ stance on several foreign policy issues while also clarifying his take on the Iranian nuclear conflict and the American-made movie that continues to fuel fiery rallies across the Muslim world.
President Obama began his address with words of admiration for Chris Stevens, the US ambassador slain earlier this month at a consulate building in Benghazi, and told the United Nations that while Mr. Steven’s diplomatic work represented America’s ideals as a whole, his execution has also affected those tied to not just the United States, but the United Nations as well.
“He acted with humility, but stood up for a set of principles,” President Obama said of Mr. Stevens, “– a belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice and opportunity.”
President Obama vowed to bring the ambassador’s killers to justice, and called the other outbursts that have happened overseas in the two week since to cease. The White House had originally considered Mr. Steven’s death a result of just one localized demonstration in a wave of violent protests that have swept the Arab World in recent weeks in response to “Innocence of Muslims,” an American-made film that mocks and ridicules the Islam prophet Mohammed. Although testimonies made since Mr. Steven’s September 11 execution have suggested that his death was perhaps the result of a planned terrorist attack and not a spontaneous, violent protest, President Obama nonetheless attempted to distance himself from the movie and said the continuing protests put the ideals of the United Nations at risk as well.
“I have made it clear that the United States government had nothing to do with this video, and I believe its message must be rejected by all who respect our common humanity,” President Obama said. “It is an insult not only to Muslims, but to America as well – for as the city outside these walls makes clear, we are a country that has welcomed people of every race and religion. We are home to Muslims who worship across our country. We not only respect the freedom of religion – we have laws that protect individuals from being harmed because of how they look or what they believe. We understand why people take offense to this video because millions of our citizens are among them.”
Elsewhere in his address, President Obama said the attacks at embassies and consulates across the world in response to the film and since Mr. Steven’s death “are not simply an assault on America” but “also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded – the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world.”
President Obama later advocated diplomacy once again, asking Iran to consider peacefully reconciling with America and their allies as the two sides try to come to terms with a rumored Iranian nuclear warhead procurement program. Although Iran claims that their energy facilities are researching peaceful uses for nuclear science, Israel insists that a bomb is in the works and that they will be among the first ones hit. Despite persistent pandering from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama has refused to take military action against Iran.
A day earlier on Monday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad commented on the issue with reporters in New York and hinted that Israel wants to provoke a war between Iran and the US, saying simply that “a few occupying Zionists are threatening the government of the United States.”
Before the General Assembly, President Obama acknowledged that an Iranian nuclear program may very well put the lives of allies in Israel at risk, and called a nuclear-armed Iran “not a challenge that can be contained” that has the potential to “threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy.”
“That is why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” the president added.
Even though Obama said that he believes in peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear crisis, he also underscored that the time is not “unlimited.” And if diplomacy doesn’t succeed, the US “will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” The Nobel Peace Prize laureate didn’t say the word “war” but his intentions — and the urging from Israel — are all too apparent.