President Barack Obama praised the democratic “season of progress” in the Middle East, denounced political violence and extremism, and issued a stern warning to the Iranian regime in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly this morning.
Obama began his speech by hailing Chris Stevens, the late ambassador to Libya, as an example of American values due to his “belief that individuals should be free to determine their own destiny, and live with liberty, dignity, justice, and opportunity.”
The president went on to reiterate the United States’ support for the “Arab Spring” democratic movements in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya — and warned that “the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.”
“Around the globe, people are making their voices heard, insisting on their innate dignity and the right to determine their future,” Obama said.
“We believe that freedom and self-determination are not unique to one culture,” President Obama argued. “These are not simply American values or Western values — they are universal values. And even as there will be huge challenges that come with a transition to democracy, I am convinced that ultimately government of the people, by the people and for the people is more likely to bring about the stability, prosperity, and individual opportunity that serve as a basis for peace in our world.”
Obama went on to call on regimes around the world to stand up against the type of extremism that resulted in attacks on American embassies in the Middle East. “I do believe that it is the obligation of all leaders in all countries to speak out forcefully against violence and extremism,” the president declared. In Obama’s view, “the attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.”
Obama also used the big stage to warn that “the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
“So let me be clear: America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so,” he said. “But that time is not unlimited.”
“Make no mistake: A nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” he continued. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
Although the president’s address was not political in nature, it implicitly rebuked many of Mitt Romney’s criticisms of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. By honoring Ambassador Stevens at both the beginning and the end of his speech, Obama countered Romney’s claim that he hasn’t taken the tragedy seriously enough. Similarly, Obama’s clear declaration that “America will never retreat from the world” doesn’t mesh with Romney’s frequent accusations that the United States is voluntarily ceding its position as a global leader.
Obama also took time to reiterate his support for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine — something that Romney called “almost unthinkable” during his secretly videotaped fundraiser in May.
Video of Obama’s entire address is below: