Full Text Political Transcripts November 13, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Paris Terror Attacks Statement Transcript



Statement by the President on the Situation in Paris

Source: WH, 11-13-15

5:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.  I just want to make a few brief comments about the attacks across Paris tonight.  Once again, we’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.  This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.

We stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond.  France is our oldest ally.  The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.  And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

Paris itself represents the timeless values of human progress.  Those who think that they can terrorize the people of France or the values that they stand for are wrong.  The American people draw strength from the French people’s commitment to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness.  We are reminded in this time of tragedy that the bonds of liberté and égalité and fraternité are not only values that the French people care so deeply about, but they are values that we share.  And those values are going to endure far beyond any act of terrorism or the hateful vision of those who perpetrated the crimes this evening.

We’re going to do whatever it takes to work with the French people and with nations around the world to bring these terrorists to justice, and to go after any terrorist networks that go after our people.

We don’t yet know all the details of what has happened.  We have been in contact with French officials to communicate our deepest condolences to the families of those who have been killed, to offer our prayers and thoughts to those who have been wounded.  We have offered our full support to them.  The situation is still unfolding.  I’ve chosen not to call President Hollande at this time, because my expectation is that he’s very busy at the moment.  I actually, by coincidence, was talking to him earlier today in preparation for the G20 meeting.  But I am confident that I’ll be in direct communications with him in the next few days, and we’ll be coordinating in any ways that they think are helpful in the investigation of what’s happened.

This is a heartbreaking situation.  And obviously those of us here in the United States know what it’s like.  We’ve gone through these kinds of episodes ourselves.  And whenever these kinds of attacks happened, we’ve always been able to count on the French people to stand with us.  They have been an extraordinary counterterrorism partner, and we intend to be there with them in that same fashion.

I’m sure that in the days ahead we’ll learn more about exactly what happened, and my teams will make sure that we are in communication with the press to provide you accurate information.  I don’t want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible for this.  It appears that there may still be live activity and dangers that are taking place as we speak.  And so until we know from French officials that the situation is under control, and we have for more information about it, I don’t want to speculate.

Thank you very much.

                                  END            5:50 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts November 9, 2015: President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Statement before their White House Meeting Transcript



Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting

Source: WH, 11-9-15

Oval Office

10:34 A.M. EST

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, it is very good to welcome once again Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to the Oval Office.  There’s no foreign leader who I’ve met with more frequently, and I think that’s a testimony to the extraordinary bond between the United States and Israel.

Before I get started, I just want to say a brief word about the Jordanian attack that we discovered earlier — the fact that someone dressed in military uniform carried out an attack at a training facility in which it appears that there may have been two or three U.S. citizens killed, and a number of other individuals injured.  Obviously, a full investigation is taking place.  We take this very seriously, and we’ll be working closely with the Jordanians to determine exactly what happened.  But at this stage, I want to just let everyone know that this is something we’re paying close attention to.  And at the point where the families have been notified, obviously our deepest condolences will be going out to them.

I also want to extend my condolences to the Israeli people on the passing of former President Navon.  Obviously, he was an important figure in Israeli politics.  And we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family.

This is going to be an opportunity for the Prime Minister and myself to engage in a wide-ranging discussion on some of the most pressing security issues that both our countries face.  It’s no secret that the security environment in the Middle East has deteriorated in many areas.  And as I’ve said repeatedly, the security of Israel is one of my top foreign policy priorities.  And that has expressed itself not only in words, but in deeds.

We have closer military and intelligence cooperation than any two administrations in history.  The military assistance that we provide we consider not only an important part of our obligation to the security of the state of Israel, but also an important part of U.S. security infrastructure in the region, as we make sure that one of our closest allies cannot only protect itself but can also work with us in deterring terrorism and other security threats.

In light of what continues to be a chaotic situation in Syria, this will give us an opportunity to discuss what’s happening there.  We’ll have an opportunity to discuss how we can blunt the activities of ISIL, Hezbollah and other organizations in the region that carry out terrorist attacks.  A lot of our time will be spent on a memorandum of understanding that we can potentially negotiate.  It will be expiring in a couple of years, but we want to get a head start on that to make sure that both the United States and Israel can plan effectively for our defense needs going forward.

We’ll also have a chance to talk about how implementation of the Iran nuclear agreement is going.  It’s no secret that the Prime Minister and I have had a strong disagreement on this narrow issue, but we don’t have a disagreement on the need to making sure that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, and we don’t have a disagreement about the importance of us blunting and destabilizing activities that Iran may be taking place.  And so we’re going to be looking to make sure that we find common ground there.

And we will also have an opportunity to discuss some of the concerns that both of us have around violence in the Palestinian Territories.  I want to be very clear that we condemn in the strongest terms Palestinian violence against its and Israeli citizens.  And I want to repeat once again, it is my strong belief that Israel has not just the right, but the obligation to protect itself.

I also will discuss with the Prime Minister his thoughts on how we can lower the temperature between Israelis and Palestinians, how we can get back on a path towards peace, and how we can make sure that legitimate Palestinian aspirations are met through a political process, even as we make sure that Israel is able to secure itself.

And so this is going to be a lot of work to do, with too little time, which is why I will stop here and just once again say, welcome.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.  Mr. President, first let me express the condolences of the people of Israel for the loss of American lives.  We are with you.  We’re with each other in more ways than one.  And I want to thank you for this opportunity to strengthen our friendship, which is strong; strengthen our alliance, which is strong.  I think it’s rooted in shared values.  It’s buttressed by shared interests.  It’s driven forward by a sense of a shared destiny.

We are obviously tested today in the instability and insecurity in the Middle East, as you described it.  I think everybody can see it — with the savagery of ISIS, with the aggression and terror by Iran’s proxies and by Iran itself.  And the combination of turbulence has now displaced millions of people, has butchered hundreds of thousands.  And we don’t know what will transpire.

And I think this is a tremendously important opportunity for us to work together to see how we can defend ourselves against this aggression and this terror; how we can roll back.  It’s a daunting task.

Equally, I want to make it clear that we have not given up our hope for peace.  We’ll never give up the hope for peace.  And I remain committed to a vision of peace of two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.

I don’t think that anyone should doubt Israel’s determination to defend itself against terror and destruction, and neither should anyone doubt Israel’s willingness to make peace with any of its neighbors that genuinely want to achieve peace with us.  And I look forward to discussing with you practical ways in which we can lower the tension, increase stability, and move towards peace.

And finally, Mr. President, I want to thank you for your commitment to further bolstering Israel’s security in the memorandum of understanding that we’re discussing.  Israel has shouldered a tremendous defense burden over the years, and we’ve done it with the generous assistance of the United States of America.  And I want to express my appreciation to you and express the appreciation of the people of Israel to you for your efforts in this regard during our years of common service and what you’re engaging in right now — how to bolster Israel’s security, how to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge so that Israel can, as you’ve often said, defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

So for all these reasons, I want to thank you again for your hospitality, but even more so for sustaining and strengthening the tremendous friendship and alliance between Israel and the United States of America.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

10:43 A.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement at Veto Signing of Defense Spending Bill National Defense Authorization Act Transcript



Remarks by the President at Veto Signing of National Defense Authorization Act

Source: WH, 10-22-15

Oval Office

3:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  As President and Commander-in-Chief, my first and most important responsibility is keeping the American people safe.  And that means that we make sure that our military is properly funded, and that our men and women in uniform get the support, the equipment, the support for their families that they need and deserve when they protect our freedom and our safety.

The bill that has been presented to me authorizing our defense — excuse me — the bill that’s before me, authorizing our defense spending for this year, does a number of good things.  It makes sure that our military is funded.  It has some important provisions around reform for our military retirement system, which is necessary to make sure that it is stable and effective.  It’s got some cybersecurity provisions that are necessary for an increasing threat.

Unfortunately, it falls woefully short in three areas.  Number one, it keeps in place the sequester that is inadequate for us to properly fund our military in a stable, sustained way and allows all of our armed forces to plan properly.  I have repeatedly called on Congress to eliminate the sequester and make sure that we’re providing certainty to our military so they can do out-year planning, ensure military readiness, ensure our troops are getting what they need.  This bill instead resorts to gimmicks that does not allow the Pentagon to do what it needs to do.

Number two, unfortunately it prevents a wide range of reforms that are necessary for us to get our military modernized and able to deal with the many threats that are presenting themselves in the 21st century.  We have repeatedly put forward a series of reforms eliminating programs that the Pentagon does not want — Congress keeps on stepping back in, and we end up wasting money.  We end up diverting resources from things that we do need to have the kind of equipment and training and readiness that are necessary for us to meet all potential threats.

And the third thing is that this legislation specifically impeded our ability to close Guantanamo in a way that I have repeatedly argued is counterproductive to our efforts to defeat terrorism around the world.  Guantanamo is one of the premiere mechanisms for jihadists to recruit.  It’s time for us to close it.  It is outdated; it’s expensive; it’s been there for years. And we can do better in terms of keeping our people safe while making sure that we are consistent with our values.

So I’m going to be vetoing this authorization bill.  I’m going to be sending it back to Congress.  And my message to them is very simple:  Let’s do this right.  We’re in the midst of budget discussions — let’s have a budget that properly funds our national security as well as economic security.  Let’s make sure that we’re able, in a constructive way, to reform our military spending to make it sustainable over the long term, and let’s make sure that, in a responsible way, we can draw down the populations in Guantanamo, make sure that the American people are safe, and make sure that we’re not providing the kinds of recruitment tools to terrorists that are so dangerous.

3:57 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Resignation Transcript



President Barack Obama’s Statement on Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Resignation

Source: WH, 9-25-15

On John Boehner, I just heard the news as I was coming out of the meeting here, so it took me by surprise.  And I took the time prior to this press conference to call John directly and talk to him.

John Boehner is a good man.  He is a patriot.  He cares deeply about the House, an institution in which he served for a long time.  He cares about his constituents, and he cares about America.  We have obviously had a lot of disagreements, and politically we’re at different ends of the spectrum.  But I will tell you, he has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me.  He has kept his word when he made a commitment.  He is somebody who has been gracious.

And I think maybe most importantly, he’s somebody who understands that in government, in governance, you don’t get 100 percent of what you want, but you have to work with people who you disagree with — sometimes strongly — in order to do the people’s business.

I’m not going to prejudge who the next Speaker will be.  That’s something that will have to be worked through in the House.  And I will certainly reach out immediately to whoever is the new Speaker to see what his or her ideas are, and how we can make progress in the important issues that America faces.

The one thing I will say is that my hope is there’s a recognition on the part of the next Speaker — something I think John understood, even though at times it was challenging to bring his caucus along — that we can have significant differences on issues, but that doesn’t mean you shut down the government.  That doesn’t mean you risk the full faith and credit of the United States.  You don’t invite potential financial crises.  You build roads and pass transportation bills.  And you do the basic work of governance that ensures that our military is operating and that our national parks are open and that our kids are learning.

And there’s no weakness in that.  That’s what government is in our democracy.  You don’t get what you want 100 percent of the time.  And so sometimes you take half a loaf; sometimes you take a quarter loaf.  And that’s certainly something that I’ve learned here in this office.

So I’m looking forward to working with the next Speaker.  In the meantime, John is not going to leave for another 30 days, so hopefully he feels like getting as much stuff done as he possibly can.  And I’ll certainly be looking forward to working with him on that.

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on House Speaker Boehner’s Resignation: ‘Country and Institution before Self’



McConnell on House Speaker Boehner: ‘Country and Institution before Self’

Source: McConnell.Senate.gov, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, D.C.U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the retirement of Speaker Boehner:

“Grace under pressure.

“Country and institution before self.

“These are the first things that come to mind when I think of John Boehner.

“He is an ally. He is a friend. And he took over as Republican Leader at a difficult time for his party.

“When some said Republicans could never recover, he never gave up.

“When some gave in to defeatism, he kept up the fight.

“Because he did, Speaker Boehner was able to transform a broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920s.

“That’s a legacy few can match.

“He flew across the country more times than he can count to support members of his conference, and to recruit new members to the cause. As leader of a new majority, he turned the tide in Congress and brought conservative reform in many areas. He worked tirelessly to provide hope to those who dreamed of a better life and to middle-class families who struggled under the weight of this Administration.

“John knows what it’s like to struggle and to dream of something better. He’s lived it.

“That a young man from Reading, Ohio wielding a bar towel could one day wield the gavel of the U.S. House of Representatives — it reminds us of the continuing promise of this country.

“I know yesterday was an incredibly important event for the Speaker. It was his aim to bring the same spirit of grace that has always guided his life, to others. You only had to look out onto the Capitol lawn to see what he achieved. And that he chose this moment to make this decision, means he will be leaving us in a similar spirit.

“I know we’ll all have more to say in the weeks to come. But for now, thank you, my friend.”

Full Text Political Transcripts September 25, 2015: House Speaker John Boehner’s Statement Announcing Resignation Transcript



Statement by House Speaker John Boehner

Source: Speaker Boehner’s Press Office, 9-25-15

WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement:

“My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished.

“The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30.

“Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District. God bless this great country that has given me – the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati – the chance to serve.”
– See more at: http://www.speaker.gov/press-release/statement-house-speaker-john-boehner#sthash.RpczjQCa.dpuf

Full Text Political Transcripts September 24, 2015: Speaker John Boehner’s Statement upon meeting Pope Francis before his address to Congress



WASHINGTON, DC – House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) today welcomed Pope Francis to the United States Capitol, where he became the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress.  After the Pope’s visit, Boehner issued the following statement:

“What a day.  What a moment for our country.  I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy.  The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us.  With great blessings, of course, come great responsibility.  Let us all go forth with gratitude and reflect on how we can better serve one another.  Let us all go forth and live up to the words, God bless America.”

Full Text Obama Presidency July 14, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Iran Nuclear Deal Transcript



Statement by the President on Iran

Source: WH, 7-14-15

State Floor

**Please see below for a correction, marked with an asterisk.

7:02 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Today, after two years of negotiations, the United States, together with our international partners, has achieved something that decades of animosity has not — a comprehensive, long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change — change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure.  This deal is also in line with a tradition of American leadership.  It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”  He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.

In those days, the risk was a catastrophic nuclear war between two super powers.  In our time, the risk is that nuclear weapons will spread to more and more countries, particularly in the Middle East, the most volatile region in our world.

Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.  Because of this deal, the international community will be able to verify that the Islamic Republic of Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

This deal meets every single one of the bottom lines that we established when we achieved a framework earlier this spring.  Every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off.  And the inspection and transparency regime necessary to verify that objective will be put in place.  Because of this deal, Iran will not produce the highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium that form the raw materials necessary for a nuclear bomb.

Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision.  Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade.  Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

To put that in perspective, Iran currently has a stockpile that could produce up to 10 nuclear weapons.  Because of this deal, that stockpile will be reduced to a fraction of what would be required for a single weapon.  This stockpile limitation will last for 15 years.

Because of this deal, Iran will modify the core of its reactor in Arak so that it will not produce weapons-grade plutonium.  And it has agreed to ship the spent fuel from the reactor out of the country for the lifetime of the reactor.  For at least the next 15 years, Iran will not build any new heavy-water reactors.

Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of these commitments.  That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification.  Inspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran’s key nuclear facilities.

*Iran [Inspectors] will have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain — its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility, and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities.  This ensures that Iran will not be able to divert materials from known facilities to covert ones.  Some of these transparency measures will be in place for 25 years.

Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location.  Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary.  That arrangement is permanent.  And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.

Finally, Iran is permanently prohibited from pursuing a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which provided the basis for the international community’s efforts to apply pressure on Iran.

As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program — both America’s own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.  This relief will be phased in.  Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive new sanctions relief.  And over the course of the next decade, Iran must abide by the deal before additional sanctions are lifted, including five years for restrictions related to arms, and eight years for restrictions related to ballistic missiles.

All of this will be memorialized and endorsed in a new United Nations Security Council resolution.  And if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place.  So there’s a very clear incentive for Iran to follow through, and there are very real consequences for a violation.

That’s the deal.  It has the full backing of the international community.  Congress will now have an opportunity to review the details, and my administration stands ready to provide extensive briefings on how this will move forward.

As the American people and Congress review the deal, it will be important to consider the alternative.  Consider what happens in a world without this deal.  Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program.  Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure.  And the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.  We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution, and that is what we have done.

Without this deal, there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program.  Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges.  Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb.  And we would not have any of the inspections that allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program.  In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.

Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.  It would also present the United States with fewer and less effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

I’ve been President and Commander-in-Chief for over six years now.  Time and again, I have faced decisions about whether or not to use military force.  It’s the gravest decision that any President has to make.  Many times, in multiple countries, I have decided to use force.  And I will never hesitate to do so when it is in our national security interest.  I strongly believe that our national security interest now depends upon preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon — which means that without a diplomatic resolution, either I or a future U.S. President would face a decision about whether or not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon or whether to use our military to stop it.

Put simply, no deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East.  Moreover, we give nothing up by testing whether or not this problem can be solved peacefully.  If, in a worst-case scenario, Iran violates the deal, the same options that are available to me today will be available to any U.S. President in the future.  And I have no doubt that 10 or 15 years from now, the person who holds this office will be in a far stronger position with Iran further away from a weapon and with the inspections and transparency that allow us to monitor the Iranian program.

For this reason, I believe it would be irresponsible to walk away from this deal.  But on such a tough issue, it is important that the American people and their representatives in Congress get a full opportunity to review the deal.  After all, the details matter.  And we’ve had some of the finest nuclear scientists in the world working through those details.  And we’re dealing with a country — Iran — that has been a sworn adversary of the United States for over 35 years.  So I welcome a robust debate in Congress on this issue, and I welcome scrutiny of the details of this agreement.

But I will remind Congress that you don’t make deals like this with your friends.  We negotiated arms control agreements with the Soviet Union when that nation was committed to our destruction.  And those agreements ultimately made us safer.

I am confident that this deal will meet the national security interest of the United States and our allies.  So I will veto any legislation that prevents the successful implementation of this deal.

We do not have to accept an inevitable spiral into conflict. And we certainly shouldn’t seek it.  And precisely because the stakes are so high, this is not the time for politics or posturing.  Tough talk from Washington does not solve problems.  Hard-nosed diplomacy, leadership that has united the world’s major powers offers a more effective way to verify that Iran is not pursuing a nuclear weapon.

Now, that doesn’t mean that this deal will resolve all of our differences with Iran.  We share the concerns expressed by many of our friends in the Middle East, including Israel and the Gulf States, about Iran’s support for terrorism and its use of proxies to destabilize the region.  But that is precisely why we are taking this step — because an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world.

Meanwhile, we will maintain our own sanctions related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program, and its human rights violations.  We will continue our unprecedented efforts to strengthen Israel’s security — efforts that go beyond what any American administration has done before.  And we will continue the work we began at Camp David to elevate our partnership with the Gulf States to strengthen their capabilities to counter threats from Iran or terrorist groups like ISIL.

However, I believe that we must continue to test whether or not this region, which has known so much suffering, so much bloodshed, can move in a different direction.

Time and again, I have made clear to the Iranian people that we will always be open to engagement on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect.  Our differences are real and the difficult history between our nations cannot be ignored.  But it is possible to change.  The path of violence and rigid ideology, a foreign policy based on threats to attack your neighbors or eradicate Israel — that’s a dead end.  A different path, one of tolerance and peaceful resolution of conflict, leads to more integration into the global economy, more engagement with the international community, and the ability of the Iranian people to prosper and thrive.

This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction.  We should seize it.

We have come a long way to reach this point — decades of an Iranian nuclear program, many years of sanctions, and many months of intense negotiation.  Today, I want to thank the members of Congress from both parties who helped us put in place the sanctions that have proven so effective, as well as the other countries who joined us in that effort.

I want to thank our negotiating partners — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, as well as the European Union — for our unity in this effort, which showed that the world can do remarkable things when we share a vision of peacefully addressing conflicts.  We showed what we can do when we do not split apart.

And finally, I want to thank the American negotiating team.  We had a team of experts working for several weeks straight on this, including our Secretary of Energy, Ernie Moniz.  And I want to particularly thank John Kerry, our Secretary of State, who began his service to this country more than four decades ago when he put on our uniform and went off to war.  He’s now making this country safer through his commitment to strong, principled American diplomacy.

History shows that America must lead not just with our might, but with our principles.  It shows we are stronger not when we are alone, but when we bring the world together.  Today’s announcement marks one more chapter in this pursuit of a safer and more helpful and more hopeful world.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.

7:17 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba and Reopening Embassies Transcript



Statement by the President on the Re-Establishment of Diplomatic Relations with Cuba

Source: WH, 7-1-15

Rose Garden

11:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Please have a seat.

More than 54 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, the United States closed its embassy in Havana.  Today, I can announce that the United States has agreed to formally re-establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba, and re-open embassies in our respective countries.  This is a historic step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with the Cuban government and people, and begin a new chapter with our neighbors in the Americas.

When the United States shuttered our embassy in 1961, I don’t think anyone expected that it would be more than half a century before it re-opened.  After all, our nations are separated by only 90 miles, and there are deep bonds of family and friendship between our people.  But there have been very real, profound differences between our governments, and sometimes we allow ourselves to be trapped by a certain way of doing things.

For the United States, that meant clinging to a policy that was not working.  Instead of supporting democracy and opportunity for the Cuban people, our efforts to isolate Cuba despite good intentions increasingly had the opposite effect -– cementing the status quo and isolating the United States from our neighbors in this hemisphere.  The progress that we mark today is yet another demonstration that we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past. When something isn’t working, we can -– and will –- change.

Last December, I announced that the United States and Cuba had decided to take steps to normalize our relationship.  As part of that effort, President Raul Castro and I directed our teams to negotiate the re-establishment of embassies.  Since then, our State Department has worked hard with their Cuban counterparts to achieve that goal.  And later this summer, Secretary Kerry will travel to Havana formally to proudly raise the American flag over our embassy once more.

This is not merely symbolic.  With this change, we will be able to substantially increase our contacts with the Cuban people.  We’ll have more personnel at our embassy.  And our diplomats will have the ability to engage more broadly across the island.  That will include the Cuban government, civil society, and ordinary Cubans who are reaching for a better life.

On issues of common interest –- like counterterrorism, disaster response, and development -– we will find new ways to cooperate with Cuba.  And I’ve been clear that we will also continue to have some very serious differences.  That will include America’s enduring support for universal values, like freedom of speech and assembly, and the ability to access information.  And we will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict those values.

However, I strongly believe that the best way for America to support our values is through engagement.  That’s why we’ve already taken steps to allow for greater travel, people-to-people and commercial ties between the United States and Cuba.  And we will continue to do so going forward.

Since December, we’ve already seen enormous enthusiasm for this new approach. Leaders across the Americas have expressed support for our change in policy; you heard that expressed by President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil yesterday.  Public opinion surveys in both our countries show broad support for this engagement.  One Cuban said, “I have prepared for this all my life.”  Another said that that, “this is like a shot of oxygen.”  One Cuban teacher put it simply:  “We are neighbors.  Now we can be friends.”

Here in the United States, we’ve seen that same enthusiasm.  There are Americans who want to travel to Cuba and American businesses who want to invest in Cuba.  American colleges and universities that want to partner with Cuba.  Above all, Americans who want to get to know their neighbors to the south. And through that engagement, we can also help the Cuban people improve their own lives.  One Cuban American looked forward to “reuniting families and opening lines of communications.”  Another put it bluntly:  “You can’t hold the future of Cuba hostage to what happened in the past.”

And that’s what this is about:  a choice between the future and the past.

Americans and Cubans alike are ready to move forward.  I believe it’s time for Congress to do the same.  I’ve called on Congress to take steps to lift the embargo that prevents Americans from travelling or doing business in Cuba.  We’ve already seen members from both parties begin that work.  After all, why should Washington stand in the way of our own people?

Yes, there are those who want to turn back the clock and double down on a policy of isolation.  But it’s long past time for us to realize that this approach doesn’t work.  It hasn’t worked for 50 years.  It shuts America out of Cuba’s future, and it only makes life worse for the Cuban people.

So I’d ask Congress to listen to the Cuban people.  Listen to the American people.  Listen to the words of a proud Cuban American, Carlos Gutierrez, who recently came out against the policy of the past, saying, “I wonder if the Cubans who have to stand in line for the most basic necessities for hours in the hot Havana sun feel that this approach is helpful to them.”

Of course, nobody expects Cuba to be transformed overnight. But I believe that American engagement — through our embassy, our businesses, and most of all, through our people — is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and human rights.  Time and again, America has demonstrated that part of our leadership in the world is our capacity to change.  It’s what inspires the world to reach for something better.

A year ago, it might have seemed impossible that the United States would once again be raising our flag, the stars and stripes, over an embassy in Havana.  This is what change looks like.

In January of 1961, the year I was born, when President Eisenhower announced the termination of our relations with Cuba, he said:  It is my hope and my conviction that it is “in the not-too-distant future it will be possible for the historic friendship between us once again to find its reflection in normal relations of every sort.”  Well, it took a while, but I believe that time has come.  And a better future lies ahead.

Thank you very much.  And I want to thank some of my team who worked diligently to make this happen.  They’re here.  They don’t always get acknowledged.  We’re really proud of them.  Good work.

11:15 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 24, 2015: President Barack Obama, White House shifts hostage policy



FACT SHEET: U.S. Government Hostage Policy

Source: WH, 6-24-15

Over the past decade, we have witnessed a significant shift in hostage-takings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups that has challenged the ability of the U.S. Government to secure the safe recovery of U.S. nationals taken captive.  The wanton and brutal murder of several Americans held hostage over the past year lays bare the magnitude of this challenge.  Other less publicized cases of Americans held hostage overseas, including several who remain in captivity, are no less tragic and have presented the U.S. Government with a similar set of difficult choices.  The Government’s response to hostage-takings must therefore evolve to account for this new reality.  Moreover, the Government’s handling of these hostage cases – and in particular its interaction and communication with families whose loved ones have been taken hostage – must improve.  To that end, in December 2014 President Obama directed a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward overseas hostage-takings.

Based on the recommendations resulting from this review, the President approved Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 29, U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts and issued an Executive Order on the recovery of U.S. hostages taken abroad, which directs key organizational changes to ensure that the U.S. Government is doing all that it can to safely recover Americans taken hostage overseas and is being responsive to the needs of their families.  The key findings and recommendations set forth by the review can be found in the Report on U.S. Hostage Policy at the following link.  PPD-29 and the Executive Order can be found on WhiteHouse.gov….READ MORE

Presidential Policy Directive — Hostage Recovery Activities

Source: WH, 6-24-15


SUBJECT:      U.S. Nationals Taken Hostage Abroad and Personnel Recovery Efforts

The 21st century has witnessed a significant shift in hostagetakings by terrorist organizations and criminal groups abroad.  Hostage-takers frequently operate in unstable environments that challenge the ability of the United States Government and its partners and allies to operate effectively.  Increasingly, hostage-takers target private citizens — including journalists and aid workers — as well as Government officials.  They also utilize sophisticated networks and tactics to derive financial, propaganda, and recruitment benefits from hostage-taking operations.  The United States Government’s response to hostage-takings must evolve with this ever-changing landscape.

This Presidential Policy Directive (PPD), including its classified annex, supersedes and revokes NSPD-12, United States Citizens Taken Hostage Abroad, dated February 18, 2002, along with Annex 1 and Appendix A to NSPD-12, dated December 4, 2008.  The policy directs a renewed, more agile United States Government response to hostage-takings of U.S. nationals and other specified individuals abroad.  It establishes processes to enable consistent implementation of the policies set forth in this directive, to ensure close interagency coordination in order to employ all appropriate means to recover U.S. hostages held abroad, and to significantly enhance engagement with hostages’ families.  It also reaffirms the United States Government’s personnel recovery policy, which seeks to prevent, prepare for, and respond to hostage-takings and other circumstances in which U.S. nationals are isolated from friendly support.  This policy will thereby further important national security and foreign policy interests by strengthening the protections for U.S. nationals outside the United States….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change Transcript



Statement by the President on Pope Francis’s Encyclical

Source: WH, 6-18-15

I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis’s encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope’s decision to make the case – clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position – for action on global climate change.

As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children’s children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources. We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.

I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders–and all God’s children–will reflect on Pope Francis’s call to come together to care for our common home.

Full Text Obama Presidency June 18, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Charleston Church Shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina Transcript



Statement by the President on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina

Source: WH, 6-18-15

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  This morning, I spoke with, and Vice President Biden spoke with, Mayor Joe Riley and other leaders of Charleston to express our deep sorrow over the senseless murders that took place last night.

Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church.  We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night.  And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families, and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.

Any death of this sort is a tragedy.  Any shooting involving multiple victims is a tragedy.  There is something particularly heartbreaking about the death happening in a place in which we seek solace and we seek peace, in a place of worship.

Mother Emanuel is, in fact, more than a church.  This is a place of worship that was founded by African Americans seeking liberty.  This is a church that was burned to the ground because its worshipers worked to end slavery.  When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, they conducted services in secret.  When there was a nonviolent movement to bring our country closer in line with our highest ideals, some of our brightest leaders spoke and led marches from this church’s steps.  This is a sacred place in the history of Charleston and in the history of America.

The FBI is now on the scene with local police, and more of the Bureau’s best are on the way to join them.  The Attorney General has announced plans for the FBI to open a hate crime investigation.  We understand that the suspect is in custody.  And I’ll let the best of law enforcement do its work to make sure that justice is served.

Until the investigation is complete, I’m necessarily constrained in terms of talking about the details of the case.  But I don’t need to be constrained about the emotions that tragedies like this raise.  I’ve had to make statements like this too many times.  Communities like this have had to endure tragedies like this too many times.  We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that, once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.  Now is the time for mourning and for healing.

But let’s be clear:  At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.  It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.  And it is in our power to do something about it.  I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now.  But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it.  And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history.  This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked.  And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.

The good news is I am confident that the outpouring of unity and strength and fellowship and love across Charleston today, from all races, from all faiths, from all places of worship indicates the degree to which those old vestiges of hatred can be overcome.  That, certainly, was Dr. King’s hope just over 50 years ago, after four little girls were killed in a bombing in a black church in Birmingham, Alabama.

He said they lived meaningful lives, and they died nobly.  “They say to each of us,” Dr. King said, “black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.  They say to us that we must be concerned not merely with [about] who murdered them, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.  Their death says to us that we must work passionately and unrelentingly for the realization of the American Dream.

“And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him, and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace.”

Reverend Pinckney and his congregation understood that spirit.  Their Christian faith compelled them to reach out not just to members of their congregation, or to members of their own communities, but to all in need.  They opened their doors to strangers who might enter a church in search of healing or redemption.

Mother Emanuel church and its congregation have risen before –- from flames, from an earthquake, from other dark times -– to give hope to generations of Charlestonians.  And with our prayers and our love, and the buoyancy of hope, it will rise again now as a place of peace.

Thank you.

12:28 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 2, 2015: President Barack Obama’s on the Passage of the USA FREEDOM Act



Statement by the President on the USA FREEDOM Act

Source: WH, 6-2-15

For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe.  That is why, today, I welcome the Senate’s passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which I will sign when it reaches my desk.

After a needless delay and inexcusable lapse in important national security authorities, my Administration will work expeditiously to ensure our national security professionals again have the full set of vital tools they need to continue protecting the country. Just as important, enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs, including by prohibiting bulk collection through the use of Section 215, FISA pen registers, and National Security Letters and by providing the American people with additional transparency measures.

I am gratified that Congress has finally moved forward with this sensible reform legislation. I particularly applaud Senators Leahy and Lee as well as Representatives Goodlatte, Sensenbrenner, Conyers, and Nadler for their leadership and tireless efforts to pass this important bipartisan legislative achievement.

Full Text Political Transcripts October 22, 2014: Speaker of the House John Boehner’s Statement on the Attacks at Canada’s Parliament Hill



Full Text Obama Presidency October 22, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Parliament Hill Shooting in Canada — Transcript



Remarks by the President on the Shooting Incident in Canada

Source: WH, 10-22-14 

Oval Office

4:00 P.M. EDT

Q    Can you say something about Canada?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, thank you very much.  I appreciate — thank you.  I had a chance to talk with Prime Minister Harper this afternoon.  Obviously, the situation there is tragic.  Just two days ago, a Canadian soldier had been killed in an attack.  We now know that another young man was killed today.  And I expressed on behalf of the American people our condolences to the family and to the Canadian people as a whole.

We don’t yet have all the information about what motivated the shooting.  We don’t yet have all the information about whether this was part of a broader network or plan, or whether this was an individual or series of individuals who decided to take these actions.  But it emphasizes the degree to which we have to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with these kinds of acts of senseless violence or terrorism.  And I pledged, as always, to make sure that our national security teams are coordinating very closely, given not only is Canada one of our closest allies in the world but they’re our neighbors and our friends, and obviously there’s a lot of interaction between Canadians and the United States, where we have such a long border.

And it’s very important I think for us to recognize that when it comes to dealing with terrorist activity, that Canada and the United States has to be entirely in sync.  We have in the past; I’m confident we will continue to do so in the future.  And Prime Minister Harper was very appreciative of the expressions of concern by the American people.

I had a chance to travel to the Parliament in Ottawa.  I’m very familiar with that area and am reminded of how warmly I was received and how wonderful the people there were.  And so obviously we’re all shaken by it, but we’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we’re standing side by side with Canada during this difficult time.

Q    What does the Canadian attack mean to U.S. security, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we don’t have enough information yet.  So as we understand better exactly what happened, this obviously is something that we’ll make sure to factor in, in the ongoing efforts that we have to counter terrorist attacks in our country.

Every single day we have a whole lot of really smart, really dedicated, really hardworking people — including a couple in this room — who are monitoring risks and making sure that we’re doing everything we need to do to protect the American people.  And they don’t get a lot of fanfare, they don’t get a lot of attention.  There are a lot of possible threats that are foiled or disrupted that don’t always get reported on.  And the work of our military, our intelligence teams, the Central Intelligence Agency, the intelligence community more broadly, our local law enforcement and state law enforcement officials who coordinate closely with us — we owe them all a great deal of thanks.

Thank you, guys.  Appreciate you.

4:16 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 22, 2014: Readout of US President Barack Obama’s Call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada — Transcript



Readout of US President Barack Obama’s Call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada

Source: WH, 10-22-14 

President Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express the American people’s solidarity with Canada in the wake of attacks on Canadian Forces in Quebec on October 20 and in Ottawa on October 22. President Obama condemned these outrageous attacks, reaffirmed the close friendship and alliance between our people. The President offered any assistance Canada needed in responding to these attacks. Prime Minister Harper thanked the President and the two leaders discussed the assault and agreed to continue coordination between our governments moving forward.

Full Text Obama Presidency September 23, 2014: President Barack Obama Wishes The American Jewish Community a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year



Wishing You a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

Shanah Tovah from the White House! On Wednesday evening, Jews in the United States and around the world will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The High Holidays offer the Jewish community a moment of pause, a time to reflect on the previous year and recommit to the unending task of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Together, working with people of all faiths, we can bring greater peace and prosperity to the world in 5775.

In his 2014 video message for the High Holidays, President Obama extends his wishes for a sweet new year and discusses why this time of year is so significant.

Watch on YouTube

Read the remarks:

Hello. As Jews across America, Israel, and the world gather together for the High Holidays, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to you and your families for a sweet and happy new year.

My good friend Elie Wiesel once said that God gave human beings a secret, and that secret was not how to begin but how to begin again. These days of awe are a chance to celebrate that gift, to give thanks for the secret, the miracle of renewal.

In synagogues and homes over the coming days, Jews will reflect on a year that carried its shares of challenges. We’ve been reminded many times that our world still needs repair. So here at home we continue the hard work of rebuilding our economy and restoring our American dream of opportunity for all. Around the world, we continue to stand for the dignity of every human being, and against the scourge of anti-Semitism, and we reaffirm the friendships and bonds that keep us strong, including our unshakeable alliance with the State of Israel.

So let’s approach this new year with new confidence and new hope. Let’s recommit ourselves to living out the values we share as individuals and as a country. Above all, let’s embrace this God-given miracle of renewal, this extraordinary opportunity to begin again in pursuit of justice, prosperity, and peace. From my family to yours, shanah tovah.

Full Text Obama Presidency September 18, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Congressional Authorization to Train Syrian Opposition — Transcript



Statement By the President on Congressional Authorization to Train Syrian Opposition

Source: WH, 9-18-14

State Dining Room

THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Today, the United States continues to build a broad international coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL. As part of the air campaign, France will join in strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq. And as one of our oldest and closest allies, France is a strong partner in our efforts against terrorism, and we’re pleased that French and American servicemembers will once again work together on behalf of our shared security and our shared values.

More broadly, more than 40 countries — including Arab nations — have now offered assistance as part of this coalition. This includes support for Iraqi forces, strengthening the Iraqi government, providing humanitarian aid to Iraqi civilians, and doing their part in the fight against ISIL.

Here at home, I’m pleased that Congress — a majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans, in both the House and the Senate — have now voted to support a key element of our strategy: our plan to train and equip the opposition in Syria so they can help push back these terrorists. As I said last week, I believe that we’re strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together. And I want to thank leaders in Congress for the speed and seriousness with which they approached this urgent issue — in keeping with the bipartisanship that is the hallmark of American foreign policy at its best.

These Syrian opposition forces are fighting both the brutality of ISIL terrorists and the tyranny of the Assad regime. We had already ramped up our assistance, including military assistance, to the Syrian opposition. With this new effort, we’ll provide training and equipment to help them grow stronger and take on ISIL terrorists inside Syria. This program will be hosted outside of Syria, in partnership with Arab countries, and it will be matched by our increasing support for Iraqi government and Kurdish forces in Iraq.

This is in keeping with a key principle of our strategy: The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission; their mission is to advise and assist our partners on the ground. As I told our troops yesterday, we can join with allies and partners to destroy ISIL without American troops fighting another ground war in the Middle East.

The strong bipartisan support in Congress for this new training effort shows the world that Americans are united in confronting the threat from ISIL, which has slaughtered so many innocent civilians. With their barbaric murder of two Americans, these terrorists thought they could frighten us, or intimidate us, or cause us to shrink from the world, but today they’re learning the same hard lesson of petty tyrants and terrorists who have gone before.

As Americans, we do not give in to fear. And when you harm our citizens, when you threaten the United States, when you threaten our allies — it doesn’t divide us, it unites us. We pull together, we stand together — to defend this country that we love and to make sure justice is done, as well as to join with those who seek a better future of dignity and opportunity for all people.

Today, our strikes against these terrorists continue. We’re taking out their terrorists. We’re destroying their vehicles and equipment and stockpiles. And we salute our dedicated pilots and crews who are carrying out these missions with great courage and skill.

As Commander-in-Chief, I could not be more proud of their service. As I told some of our troops yesterday, the American people are united in our support for them and for their families. And as we go forward, as one nation, I’d ask all Americans to keep our forces and their families in their thoughts and prayers. Thanks very much.

Full Text Obama Presidency September 3, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Murder of Steven Sotloff



President Obama Gives a Statement on the Murder of Steven Sotloff

Source: WH, 9-3-14

Finally, I want to say that today the prayers of the American people are with the family of a devoted and courageous journalist, Steven Sotloff. Overnight, our government determined that, tragically, Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence. We cannot even begin to imagine the agony that everyone who loved Steven is feeling right now, especially his mother, his father and his younger sister. So today, our country grieves with them.

Like Jim Foley before him, Steve’s life stood in sharp contrast to those who have murdered him so brutally. They make the absurd claim that they kill in the name of religion, but it was Steven, his friends say, who deeply loved the Islamic world. His killers try to claim that they defend the oppressed, but it was Steven who traveled across the Middle East, risking his life to tell the story of Muslim men and women demanding justice and dignity.

Whatever these murderers think they’ll achieve by killing innocent Americans like Steven, they have already failed. They have failed because, like people around the world, Americans are repulsed by their barbarism. We will not be intimidated. Their horrific acts only unite us as a country and stiffen our resolve to take the fight against these terrorists. And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.

Full Text Obama Presidency August 20, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the execution of journalist James Foley by Islamic State ISIS — Transcript



Statement by the President

Source: WH, 8-20-14

The Edgartown School
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

12:52 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Today, the entire world is appalled by the brutal murder of Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL.

Jim was a journalist, a son, a brother, and a friend.  He reported from difficult and dangerous places, bearing witness to the lives of people a world away.  He was taken hostage nearly two years ago in Syria, and he was courageously reporting at the time on the conflict there.

Jim was taken from us in an act of violence that shocks the conscience of the entire world.  He was 40 years old — one of five siblings, the son of a mom and dad who worked tirelessly for his release.  Earlier today, I spoke to the Foleys and told them that we are all heartbroken at their loss, and join them in honoring Jim and all that he did.

Jim Foley’s life stands in stark contrast to his killers.  Let’s be clear about ISIL.  They have rampaged across cities and villages — killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence.  They abduct women and children, and subject them to torture and rape and slavery.  They have murdered Muslims — both Sunni and Shia — by the thousands.  They target Christians and religious minorities, driving them from their homes, murdering them when they can for no other reason than they practice a different religion.  They declared their ambition to commit genocide against an ancient people.

So ISIL speaks for no religion.  Their victims are overwhelmingly Muslim, and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.  No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day.  ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings.  Their ideology is bankrupt.  They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.

And people like this ultimately fail.  They fail, because the future is won by those who build and not destroy and the world is shaped by people like Jim Foley, and the overwhelming majority of humanity who are appalled by those who killed him.

The United States of America will continue to do what we must do to protect our people.  We will be vigilant and we will be relentless.  When people harm Americans, anywhere, we do what’s necessary to see that justice is done.  And we act against ISIL, standing alongside others.

The people of Iraq, who with our support are taking the fight to ISIL, must continue coming together to expel these terrorists from their communities.  The people of Syria, whose story Jim Foley told, do not deserve to live under the shadow of a tyrant or terrorists.  They have our support in their pursuit of a future rooted in dignity.

From governments and peoples across the Middle East there has to be a common effort to extract this cancer, so that it does not spread.  There has to be a clear rejection of these kind of nihilistic ideologies.  One thing we can all agree on is that a group like ISIL has no place in the 21st century.

Friends and allies around the world, we share a common security and a common set of values that are rooted in the opposite of what we saw yesterday.  And we will continue to confront this hateful terrorism, and replace it with a sense of hope and civility.  And that’s what Jim Foley stood for, a man who lived his work; who courageously told the stories of his fellow human beings; who was liked and loved by friends and family.

Today, the American people will all say a prayer for those who loved Jim.  All of us feel the ache of his absence.  All of us mourn his loss.  We keep in our prayers those other Americans who are separated from their families.  We will do everything that we can to protect our people and the timeless values that we stand for.

May God bless and keep Jim’s memory, and may God bless the United States of America.

12:57 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement Updating in the Situations in Iraq and Ferguson, Missouri



Statement by the President

Source: WH, 8-14-14

Edgartown, Massachusetts

12:49 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody. This sound system is really powerful.  Today, I’d like to update the American people on two issues that I’ve been monitoring closely these last several days.

First of all, we continue to make progress in carrying out our targeted military operations in Iraq.  Last week, I authorized two limited missions:  protecting our people and facilities inside of Iraq, and a humanitarian operation to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians stranded on a mountain.

A week ago, we assessed that many thousands of Yezidi men, women and children had abandoned their possessions to take refuge on Mount Sinjar in a desperate attempt to avoid slaughter.  We also knew that ISIL terrorists were killing and enslaving Yezidi civilians in their custody, and laying siege to the mountain. Without food or water, they faced a terrible choice — starve on the mountain, or be slaughtered on the ground.  That’s when America came to help.

Over the last week, the U.S. military conducted humanitarian air drops every night –- delivering more than 114,000 meals and 35,000 gallons of fresh water.  We were joined in that effort by the United Kingdom, and other allies pledged support. Our military was able to successfully strike ISIL targets around the mountain, which improved conditions for civilians to evacuate the mountain safely.

Yesterday, a small team of Americans -– military and civilian -– completed their review of the conditions on the mountain.  They found that food and water have been reaching those in need, and that thousands of people have been evacuating safely each and every night.  The civilians who remain continue to leave, aided by Kurdish forces and Yezidis who are helping to facilitate the safe passage of their families.  So the bottom line is, is that the situation on the mountain has greatly improved and Americans should be very proud of our efforts.

Because of the skill and professionalism of our military –- and the generosity of our people –- we broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar; we helped vulnerable people reach safety; and we helped save many innocent lives.  Because of these efforts, we do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it’s unlikely that we’re going to need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain.  The majority of the military personnel who conducted the assessment will be leaving Iraq in the coming days.  And I just want to say that as Commander-in-Chief, I could not be prouder of the men and women of our military who carried out this humanitarian operation almost flawlessly.  I’m very grateful to them and I know that those who were trapped on that mountain are extraordinarily grateful as well.

Now, the situation remains dire for Iraqis subjected to ISIL’s terror throughout the country, and this includes minorities like Yezidis and Iraqi Christians; it also includes Sunnis, Shia and Kurds.  We’re going to be working with our international partners to provide humanitarian assistance to those who are suffering in northern Iraq wherever we have capabilities and we can carry out effective missions like the one we carried out on Mount Sinjar without committing combat troops on the ground.

We obviously feel a great urge to provide some humanitarian relief to the situation and I’ve been very encouraged by the interest of our international partners in helping on these kinds of efforts as well.  We will continue air strikes to protect our people and facilities in Iraq.  We have increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting ISIL on the front lines.

And, perhaps most importantly, we are urging Iraqis to come together to turn the tide against ISIL –- above all, by seizing the enormous opportunity of forming a new, inclusive government under the leadership of Prime Minister-designate Abadi.  I had a chance to speak to Prime Minister-designate Abadi a few days ago, and he spoke about the need for the kind of inclusive government — a government that speaks to all the people of Iraq — that is needed right now.  He still has a challenging task in putting a government together, but we are modestly hopeful that the Iraqi government situation is moving in the right direction.

Now, second, I want to address something that’s been in the news over the last couple of days and that’s the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.  I know that many Americans have been deeply disturbed by the images we’ve seen in the heartland of our country, as police have clashed with people protesting.  Today, I’d like us all to take a step back and think about how we’re going to be moving forward.

This morning, I received a thorough update on the situation from Attorney General Eric Holder, who has been following it and been in communication with his team.  I’ve already tasked the Department of Justice and the FBI to independently investigate the death of Michael Brown, along with local officials on the ground.

The Department of Justice is also consulting with local authorities about ways that they can maintain public safety without restricting the right of peaceful protest and while avoiding unnecessary escalation.  I made clear to the Attorney General that we should do what is necessary to help determine exactly what happened, and to see that justice is done.

I also just spoke with Governor Jay Nixon of Missouri.  I expressed my concern over the violent turn that events have taken on the ground, and underscored that now is the time for all of us to reflect on what’s happened, and to find a way to come together going forward.  He is going to be traveling to Ferguson.  He is a good man and a fine governor, and I’m confident that, working together, he is going to be able to communicate his desire to make sure that justice is done and his desire to make sure that public safety is maintained in an appropriate way.

Of course, it’s important to remember how this started.  We lost a young man, Michael Brown, in heartbreaking and tragic circumstances.  He was 18 years old.  His family will never hold Michael in their arms again.  And when something like this happens, the local authorities –- including the police -– have a responsibility to be open and transparent about how they are investigating that death, and how they are protecting the people in their communities.

There is never an excuse for violence against police, or for those who would use this tragedy as a cover for vandalism or looting.  There’s also no excuse for police to use excessive force against peaceful protests, or to throw protestors in jail for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights.  And here, in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their jobs and report to the American people on what they see on the ground.  Put simply, we all need to hold ourselves to a high standard, particularly those of us in positions of authority.

I know that emotions are raw right now in Ferguson and there are certainly passionate differences about what has happened.  There are going to be different accounts of how this tragedy occurred.  There are going to be differences in terms of what needs to happen going forward.  That’s part of our democracy.  But let’s remember that we’re all part of one American family.  We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government.

So now is the time for healing.  Now is the time for peace and calm on the streets of Ferguson.  Now is the time for an open and transparent process to see that justice is done.  And I’ve asked that the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney on the scene continue to work with local officials to move that process forward.  They will be reporting to me in the coming days about what’s being done to make sure that happens.

Thanks very much, everybody.

12:58 P.M. EDT

White House Shareables

Full Text Obama Presidency August 9, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement and Update on the Iraq Airstrikes, Military and Humanitarian Intervention



Statement by the President on Iraq

Source: WH, 8-9-14

South Lawn

10:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Over the past two days, American pilots and crews have served with courage and skill in the skies over Iraq.

First, American forces have conducted targeted airstrikes against terrorist forces outside the city of Erbil to prevent them from advancing on the city and to protect our American diplomats and military personnel. So far, these strikes have successfully destroyed arms and equipment that ISIL terrorists could have used against Erbil. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces on the ground continue to defend the city, and the United States and the Iraqi government have stepped up our military assistance to Kurdish forces as they wage their fight.

Second, our humanitarian effort continues to help the men, women and children stranded on Mount Sinjar. American forces have so far conducted two successful airdrops — delivering thousands of meals and gallons of water to these desperate men, women and children. And American aircraft are positioned to strike ISIL terrorists around the mountain to help forces in Iraq break the siege and rescue those who are trapped there.

Now, even as we deal with these immediate situations, we continue to pursue a broader strategy in Iraq. We will protect our American citizens in Iraq, whether they’re diplomats, civilians or military. If these terrorists threaten our facilities or our personnel, we will take action to protect our people.

We will continue to provide military assistance and advice to the Iraqi government and Kurdish forces as they battle these terrorists, so that the terrorists cannot establish a permanent safe haven.

We will continue to work with the international community to deal with the growing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. Even as our attention is focused on preventing an act of genocide and helping the men and women and children on the mountain, countless Iraqis have been driven or fled from their homes, including many Christians.

This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom and President Hollande of France. I’m pleased that both leaders expressed their strong support for our actions and have agreed to join us in providing humanitarian assistance to Iraqi civilians who are suffering so much. Once again, America is proud to act alongside our closest friends and allies.

More broadly, the United Nations in Iraq is working urgently to help respond to the needs of those Iraqis fleeing from areas under threat. The U.N. Security Council has called on the international community to do everything it can to provide food, water and shelter. And in my calls with allies and partners around the world, I’ll continue to urge them to join us in this humanitarian effort.

Finally, we continue to call on Iraqis to come together and form the inclusive government that Iraq needs right now. Vice President Biden has been speaking to Iraqi leaders, and our team in Baghdad is in close touch with the Iraqi government. All Iraqi communities are ultimately threatened by these barbaric terrorists and all Iraqi communities need to unite to defend their country.

Just as we are focused on the situation in the north affecting Kurds and Iraqi minorities, Sunnis and Shia in different parts of Iraq have suffered mightily at the hands of ISIL. Once an inclusive government is in place, I’m confident it will be easier to mobilize all Iraqis against ISIL, and to mobilize greater support from our friends and allies. Ultimately, only Iraqis can ensure the security and stability of Iraq. The United States can’t do it for them, but we can and will be partners in that effort.

One final thing — as we go forward, we’ll continue to consult with Congress and coordinate closely with our allies and partners. And as Americans, we will continue to show gratitude to our men and women in uniform who are conducting our operations there. When called, they were ready — as they always are. When given their mission, they’ve performed with distinction — as they always do. And when we see them serving with such honor and compassion, defending our fellow citizens and saving the lives of people they’ve never met, it makes us proud to be Americans — as we always will be.

So with that, let me take a couple questions.

Q Mr. President, for how long a period of time do you see these airstrikes continuing for? And is your goal there to contain ISIS or to destroy it?

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not going to give a particular timetable, because as I’ve said from the start, wherever and whenever U.S. personnel and facilities are threatened, it’s my obligation, my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief, to make sure that they are protected. And we’re not moving our embassy anytime soon. We’re not moving our consulate anytime soon. And that means that, given the challenging security environment, we’re going to maintain vigilance and ensure that our people are safe.

Our initial goal is to not only make sure Americans are protected, but also to deal with this humanitarian situation in Sinjar. We feel confident that we can prevent ISIL from going up a mountain and slaughtering the people who are there. But the next step, which is going to be complicated logistically, is how do we give safe passage for people down from the mountain, and where can we ultimately relocate them so that they are safe. That’s the kind of coordination that we need to do internationally.

I was very pleased to get the cooperation of both Prime Minister Cameron and President Hollande in addressing some of the immediate needs in terms of airdrops and some of the assets and logistical support that they’re providing. But there’s a broader set of questions that our experts now are engaged in with the United Nations and our allies and partners, and that is how do we potentially create a safe corridor or some other mechanism so that these people can move. That may take some time — because there are varying estimates of how many people are up there, but they’re in the thousands, and moving them is not simple in this kind of security environment.

Just to give people a sense, though, of a timetable — that the most important timetable that I’m focused on right now is the Iraqi government getting formed and finalized. Because in the absence of an Iraqi government, it is very hard to get a unified effort by Iraqis against ISIL. We can conduct airstrikes, but ultimately there’s not going to be an American military solution to this problem. There’s going to have to be an Iraqi solution that America and other countries and allies support. And that can’t happen effectively until you have a legitimate Iraqi government.

So right now we have a president, we have a speaker. What we don’t yet have is a prime minister and a cabinet that is formed that can go ahead and move forward, and then start reaching out to all the various groups and factions inside of Iraq, and can give confidence to populations in the Sunni areas that ISIL is not the only game in town. It also then allows us to take those Iraqi security forces that are able and functional, and they understand who they’re reporting to and what they’re fighting for, and what the chain of command is. And it provides a structure in which better cooperation is taking place between the Kurdish region and Baghdad.

So we’re going to be pushing very hard to encourage Iraqis to get their government together. Until we do that, it is going to be hard to get the unity of effort that allows us to not just play defense, but also engage in some offense.

Q Mr. President, the United States has fought long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq with uncertain outcomes. How do you assure the American people that we’re not getting dragged into another war in Iraq? Have you underestimated the power of ISIS? And finally, you said that you involved international partners in humanitarian efforts. Is there any thought to talking to international partners as far as military actions to prevent the spread of ISIS?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, a couple of things I would say. Number one, I’ve been very clear that we’re not going to have U.S. combat troops in Iraq again. And we are going to maintain that, because we should have learned a lesson from our long and immensely costly incursion in Iraq. And that is that our military is so effective that we can keep a lid on problems wherever we are, if we put enough personnel and resources into it. But it can only last if the people in these countries themselves are able to arrive at the kinds of political accommodations and compromise that any civilized society requires.

And so it would be, I think, a big mistake for us to think that we can, on the cheap, simply go in, tamp everything down again, restart without some fundamental shift in attitudes among the various Iraqi factions. That’s why it is so important to have an Iraqi government on the ground that is taking responsibility that we can help, that we can partner with, that has the capacity to get alliances in the region. And once that’s in place, then I think we end up being one of many countries that can work together to deal with the broader crisis that ISIL poses.

What were your other questions? Did we underestimate ISIL? I think that there is no doubt that their advance, their movement over the last several months has been more rapid than the intelligence estimates and I think the expectations of policymakers both in and outside of Iraq. And part of that is I think not a full appreciation of the degree to which the Iraqi security forces, when they’re far away from Baghdad, did not have the incentive or the capacity to hold ground against an aggressive adversary. And so that’s one more reason why Iraqi government formation is so important — because there has to be a rebuilding and an understanding of who it is that the Iraqi security forces are reporting to, what they are fighting for. And there has to be some investment by Sunnis in pushing back against ISIL.

I think we’re already seeing — and we will see even further — the degree to which those territories under ISIL control alienated populations, because of the barbarity and brutality with which they operate. But in order to ensure that Sunni populations reject outright these kinds of incursions, they’ve got to feel like they’re invested in a broader national government. And right now, they don’t feel that.

So the upshot is that what we’ve seen over the last several months indicates the weaknesses in an Iraqi government. But what we’ve also seen I think is a wake-up call for a lot of Iraqis inside of Baghdad recognizing that we’re going to have to rethink how we do business if we’re going to hold our country together. And, hopefully, that change in attitude supplemented by improved security efforts in which we can assist and help, that can make a difference.

Q You just expressed confidence that the Iraqi government can eventually prevent a safe haven. But you’ve also just described the complications with the Iraqi government and the sophistication of ISIL. So is it possible that what you’ve described and your ambitions there could take years, not months?

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks, if that’s what you mean. I think this is going to take some time. The Iraqi security forces, in order to mount an offensive and be able to operate effectively with the support of populations in Sunni areas, are going to have to revamp, get resupplied — have a clearer strategy. That’s all going to be dependent on a government that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi military have confidence in. We can help in all those efforts.

I think part of what we’re able to do right now is to preserve a space for them to do the hard work that’s necessary. If they do that, the one thing that I also think has changed is that many of the Sunni countries in the region who have been generally suspicious or wary of the Iraqi government are more likely to join in, in the fight against ISIS, and that can be extremely helpful. But this is going to be a long-term project.

Part of what we’ve seen is that a minority Sunni population in Iraq, as well as a majority Sunni population in Syria, has felt dissatisfied and detached and alienated from their respective governments. And that has been a ripe territory for these jihadists and extremists to operate. And rebuilding governance in those areas, and legitimacy for stable, moderate governing in those areas is going to take time.

Now, there are some immediate concerns that we have to worry about. We have to make sure that ISIL is not engaging in the actions that could cripple a country permanently. There’s key infrastructure inside of Iraq that we have to be concerned about. My team has been vigilant, even before ISIL went into Mosul, about foreign fighters and jihadists gathering in Syria, and now in Iraq, who might potentially launch attacks outside the region against Western targets and U.S. targets. So there’s going to be a counterterrorism element that we are already preparing for and have been working diligently on for a long time now.

There is going to be a military element in protecting our people, but the long-term campaign of changing that environment so that the millions of Sunnis who live in these areas feel connected to and well-served by a national government, that’s a long-term process. And that’s something that the United States cannot do, only the Iraqi people themselves can do. We can help, we can advise, but we can’t do it for them. And the U.S. military cannot do it for them.

And so this goes back to the earlier question about U.S. military involvement. The nature of this problem is not one that a U.S. military can solve. We can assist and our military obviously can play an extraordinarily important role in bolstering efforts of an Iraqi partner as they make the right steps to keep their country together, but we can’t do it for them.

Last question.

Q America has spent $800 billion in Iraq. Do you anticipate having to ask Congress for additional funds to support this mission?

THE PRESIDENT: Currently, we are operating within the budget constraints that we already have. And we’ll have to evaluate what happens over time. We already have a lot of assets in the region. We anticipate, when we make our preliminary budgets, that there may be things that come up requiring us to engage. And right now, at least, I think we are okay.

If and when we need additional dollars to make sure that American personnel and American facilities are protected, then we will certainly make that request. But right now, that’s not our primary concern.

Last question.

Q Mr. President, do you have any second thoughts about pulling all ground troops out of Iraq? And does it give you pause as the U.S. — is it doing the same thing in Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT: What I just find interesting is the degree to which this issue keeps on coming up, as if this was my decision. Under the previous administration, we had turned over the country to a sovereign, democratically elected Iraqi government. In order for us to maintain troops in Iraq, we needed the invitation of the Iraqi government and we needed assurances that our personnel would be immune from prosecution if, for example, they were protecting themselves and ended up getting in a firefight with Iraqis, that they wouldn’t be hauled before an Iraqi judicial system.

And the Iraqi government, based on its political considerations, in part because Iraqis were tired of a U.S. occupation, declined to provide us those assurances. And on that basis, we left. We had offered to leave additional troops. So when you hear people say, do you regret, Mr. President, not leaving more troops, that presupposes that I would have overridden this sovereign government that we had turned the keys back over to and said, you know what, you’re democratic, you’re sovereign, except if I decide that it’s good for you to keep 10,000 or 15,000 or 25,000 Marines in your country, you don’t have a choice — which would have kind of run contrary to the entire argument we were making about turning over the country back to Iraqis, an argument not just made by me, but made by the previous administration.

So let’s just be clear: The reason that we did not have a follow-on force in Iraq was because the Iraqis were — a majority of Iraqis did not want U.S. troops there, and politically they could not pass the kind of laws that would be required to protect our troops in Iraq.

Having said all that, if in fact the Iraqi government behaved the way it did over the last five, six years, where it failed to pass legislation that would reincorporate Sunnis and give them a sense of ownership; if it had targeted certain Sunni leaders and jailed them; if it had alienated some of the Sunni tribes that we had brought back in during the so-called Awakening that helped us turn the tide in 2006 — if they had done all those things and we had had troops there, the country wouldn’t be holding together either. The only difference would be we’d have a bunch of troops on the ground that would be vulnerable. And however many troops we had, we would have to now be reinforcing, I’d have to be protecting them, and we’d have a much bigger job. And probably, we would end up having to go up again in terms of the number of grounds troops to make sure that those forces were not vulnerable.

So that entire analysis is bogus and is wrong. But it gets frequently peddled around here by folks who oftentimes are trying to defend previous policies that they themselves made.

Going forward with respect to Afghanistan, we are leaving the follow-on force there. I think the lesson for Afghanistan is not the fact that we’ve got a follow-on force that will be capable of training and supporting Afghan security efforts. I think the real lesson in Afghanistan is that if factions in a country after a long period of civil war do not find a way to come up with a political accommodation; if they take maximalist positions and their attitude is, I want 100 percent of what I want and the other side gets nothing, then the center doesn’t hold.

And the good news is, is that in part thanks to the excellent work of John Kerry and others, we now are seeing the two candidates in the recent presidential election start coming together and agreeing not only to move forward on the audit to be able to finally certify a winner in the election, but also the kinds of political accommodations that are going to be required to keep democracy moving.

So that’s a real lesson I think for Afghanistan coming out of Iraq is, if you want this thing to work, then whether it’s different ethnicities, different religions, different regions, they’ve got to accommodate each other, otherwise you start tipping back into old patterns of violence. And it doesn’t matter how many U.S. troops are there — if that happens, you end up having a mess.

Thanks a lot, guys.

END 10:54 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing Targeted Airstrikes and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq



Statement by the President

Source: WH, 8-7-14 

State Dining Room

9:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening.  Today I authorized two operations in Iraq — targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death.  Let me explain the actions we’re taking and why.

First, I said in June — as the terrorist group ISIL began an advance across Iraq — that the United States would be prepared to take targeted military action in Iraq if and when we determined that the situation required it.  In recent days, these terrorists have continued to move across Iraq, and have neared the city of Erbil, where American diplomats and civilians serve at our consulate and American military personnel advise Iraqi forces.

To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL terrorist convoys should they move toward the city.  We intend to stay vigilant, and take action if these terrorist forces threaten our personnel or facilities anywhere in Iraq, including our consulate in Erbil and our embassy in Baghdad.  We’re also providing urgent assistance to Iraqi government and Kurdish forces so they can more effectively wage the fight against ISIL.

Second, at the request of the Iraqi government — we’ve begun operations to help save Iraqi civilians stranded on the mountain.  As ISIL has marched across Iraq, it has waged a ruthless campaign against innocent Iraqis.  And these terrorists have been especially barbaric towards religious minorities, including Christian and Yezidis, a small and ancient religious sect.  Countless Iraqis have been displaced.  And chilling reports describe ISIL militants rounding up families, conducting mass executions, and enslaving Yezidi women.

In recent days, Yezidi women, men and children from the area of Sinjar have fled for their lives.  And thousands — perhaps tens of thousands — are now hiding high up on the mountain, with little but the clothes on their backs.  They’re without food, they’re without water.  People are starving.  And children are dying of thirst.  Meanwhile, ISIL forces below have called for the systematic destruction of the entire Yezidi people, which would constitute genocide.  So these innocent families are faced with a horrible choice:  descend the mountain and be slaughtered, or stay and slowly die of thirst and hunger.

I’ve said before, the United States cannot and should not intervene every time there’s a crisis in the world.  So let me be clear about why we must act, and act now.  When we face a situation like we do on that mountain — with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale, when we have a mandate to help — in this case, a request from the Iraqi government — and when we have the unique capabilities to help avert a massacre, then I believe the United States of America cannot turn a blind eye.  We can act, carefully and responsibly, to prevent a potential act of genocide.  That’s what we’re doing on that mountain.

I’ve, therefore, authorized targeted airstrikes, if necessary, to help forces in Iraq as they fight to break the siege of Mount Sinjar and protect the civilians trapped there.  Already, American aircraft have begun conducting humanitarian airdrops of food and water to help these desperate men, women and children survive.  Earlier this week, one Iraqi in the area cried to the world, “There is no one coming to help.”  Well today, America is coming to help.  We’re also consulting with other countries — and the United Nations — who have called for action to address this humanitarian crisis.

I know that many of you are rightly concerned about any American military action in Iraq, even limited strikes like these.  I understand that.  I ran for this office in part to end our war in Iraq and welcome our troops home, and that’s what we’ve done.  As Commander-in-Chief, I will not allow the United States to be dragged into fighting another war in Iraq.  And so even as we support Iraqis as they take the fight to these terrorists, American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, because there’s no American military solution to the larger crisis in Iraq.  The only lasting solution is reconciliation among Iraqi communities and stronger Iraqi security forces.

However, we can and should support moderate forces who can bring stability to Iraq.  So even as we carry out these two missions, we will continue to pursue a broader strategy that empowers Iraqis to confront this crisis.  Iraqi leaders need to come together and forge a new government that represents the legitimate interests of all Iraqis, and that can fight back against the threats like ISIL.  Iraqis have named a new President, a new Speaker of Parliament, and are seeking consensus on a new Prime Minister.  This is the progress that needs to continue in order to reverse the momentum of the terrorists who prey on Iraq’s divisions.

Once Iraq has a new government, the United States will work with it and other countries in the region to provide increased support to deal with this humanitarian crisis and counterterrorism challenge.  None of Iraq’s neighbors have an interest in this terrible suffering or instability.

And so we’ll continue to work with our friends and allies to help refugees get the shelter and food and water they so desperately need, and to help Iraqis push back against ISIL.  The several hundred American advisors that I ordered to Iraq will continue to assess what more we can do to help train, advise and support Iraqi forces going forward.  And just as I consulted Congress on the decisions I made today, we will continue to do so going forward.

My fellow Americans, the world is confronted by many challenges.  And while America has never been able to right every wrong, America has made the world a more secure and prosperous place.  And our leadership is necessary to underwrite the global security and prosperity that our children and our grandchildren will depend upon.  We do so by adhering to a set of core principles.  We do whatever is necessary to protect our people.  We support our allies when they’re in danger.  We lead coalitions of countries to uphold international norms.  And we strive to stay true to the fundamental values — the desire to live with basic freedom and dignity — that is common to human beings wherever they are.  That’s why people all over the world look to the United States of America to lead.  And that’s why we do it.

So let me close by assuring you that there is no decision that I take more seriously than the use of military force.  Over the last several years, we have brought the vast majority of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And I’ve been careful to resist calls to turn time and again to our military, because America has other tools in our arsenal than our military.  We can also lead with the power of our diplomacy, our economy, and our ideals.

But when the lives of American citizens are at risk, we will take action.  That’s my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief.  And when many thousands of innocent civilians are faced with the danger of being wiped out, and we have the capacity to do something about it, we will take action.  That is our responsibility as Americans.  That’s a hallmark of American leadership.  That’s who we are.

So tonight, we give thanks to our men and women in uniform  -— especially our brave pilots and crews over Iraq who are protecting our fellow Americans and saving the lives of so many men, women and children that they will never meet.  They represent American leadership at its best.  As a nation, we should be proud of them, and of our country’s enduring commitment to uphold our own security and the dignity of our fellow human beings.

God bless our Armed Forces, and God bless the United States of America.


Full Text Obama Presidency July 21, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on the Situation in Ukraine, Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 and Israel’s Military Operation in Gaza




Statement by the President on the Situation in Ukraine and Gaza

Source: WH, 7-21-14 

South Lawn

11:16 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  I want to make a brief statement about the tragedy in Ukraine.  Before I do, though, I want to note that Secretary Kerry has departed for the Middle East.  As I’ve said many times, Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks from Hamas.  And as a result of its operations, Israel has already done significant damage to Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.  I’ve also said, however, that we have serious concerns about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives.  And that is why it now has to be our focus and the focus of the international community to bring about a cease-fire that ends the fighting and that can stop the deaths of innocent civilians, both in Gaza and in Israel.

So Secretary Kerry will meet with allies and partners.  I’ve instructed him to push for an immediate cessation of hostilities based on a return to the November 2012 cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.  The work will not be easy.  Obviously, there are enormous passions involved in this and some very difficult strategic issues involved.  Nevertheless, I’ve asked John to do everything he can to help facilitate a cessation to hostilities.  We don’t want to see any more civilians getting killed.

With respect to Ukraine, it’s now been four days since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.  Over the last several days, our hearts have been absolutely broken as we’ve learned more about the extraordinary and beautiful lives that were lost — men, women and children and infants who were killed so suddenly and so senselessly.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with their families around the world who are going through just unimaginable grief.  I’ve had the opportunity to speak to a number of leaders around the world whose citizens were lost on this flight, and all of them remain in a state of shock but, frankly, also in a state of outrage.

Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts.  We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists.

Now, international investigators are on the ground.  They have been organized.  I’ve sent teams; other countries have sent teams.  They are prepared, they are organized to conduct what should be the kinds of protocols and scouring and collecting of evidence that should follow any international incident like this.  And what they need right now is immediate and full access to the crash site.  They need to be able to conduct a prompt and full and unimpeded as well as transparent investigation.  And recovery personnel have to do the solemn and sacred work on recovering the remains of those who were lost.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko has declared a demilitarized zone around the crash site.  As I said before, you have international teams already in place prepared to conduct the investigation and recover the remains of those who have been lost.  But, unfortunately, the Russian-backed separatists who control the area continue to block the investigation.  They have repeatedly prevented international investigators from gaining full access to the wreckage.  As investigators approached, they fired their weapons into the air.  These separatists are removing evidence from the crash site, all of which begs the question — what exactly are they trying to hide?

Moreover, these Russian-backed separatists are removing bodies from the crash site, oftentimes without the care that we would normally expect from a tragedy like this.  And this is an insult to those who have lost loved ones.  This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations.

Now, Russia has extraordinary influence over these separatists.  No one denies that.  Russia has urged them on.  Russia has trained them.  We know that Russia has armed them with military equipment and weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons.  Key separatist leaders are Russian citizens.  So given its direct influence over the separatists, Russia and President Putin, in particular, has direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation.  That is the least that they can do.

President Putin says that he supports a full and fair investigation.  And I appreciate those words, but they have to be supported by actions.  The burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site.  The separatists and the Russian sponsors are responsible for the safety of the investigators doing their work.  And along with our allies and partners, we will be working this issue at the United Nations today.

More broadly, as I’ve said throughout this crisis and the crisis in Ukraine generally, and I’ve said this directly to President Putin, as well as publicly, my preference continues to be finding a diplomatic resolution within Ukraine.  I believe that can still happen.  That is my preference today, and it will continue to be my preference.

But if Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty and to back these separatists, and these separatists become more and more dangerous and now are risks not simply to the people inside of Ukraine but the broader international community, then Russia will only further isolate itself from the international community, and the costs for Russia’s behavior will only continue to increase.

Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy that they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine in a way that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and respects the right of the Ukrainian people to make their own decisions about their own lives.

And time is of the essence.  Our friends and allies need to be able to recover those who were lost.  That’s the least we can do.  That’s the least that decency demands.  Families deserve to be able to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity.  The world deserves to know exactly what happened.  And the people of Ukraine deserve to determine their own future.


11:25 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency July 18, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Ukraine and Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17



Statement by the President on Ukraine

Source: WH, 7-18-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

11:52 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.

Yesterday, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.  Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants — who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine.  Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

We know at least one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman, was killed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family for this terrible loss.

Yesterday, I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine, Malaysia, and the Netherlands.  I told them that our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time.  Later today, I’ll be speaking to Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, which also suffered a terrible loss.

By far, the country that lost the most people on board the plane was the Netherlands.  From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America.  And today, I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.

Here’s what we know so far.  Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine.  We also know that this is not the first time a plane has been shot down in eastern Ukraine.  Over the last several weeks, Russian-backed separatists have shot down a Ukrainian transport plane and a Ukrainian helicopter, and they claimed responsibility for shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet. Moreover, we know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia.  This includes arms and training.  It includes heavy weapons, and it includes anti-aircraft weapons.

Here’s what must happen now.  This was a global tragedy.  An Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies, filled with citizens from many countries.  So there has to be a credible international investigation into what happened.  The U.N. Security Council has endorsed this investigation, and we will hold all its members — including Russia — to their word.  In order to facilitate that investigation, Russia, pro-Russian separatists, and Ukraine must adhere to an immediate cease-fire.  Evidence must not be tampered with.  Investigators need to access the crash site.  And the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.

The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that is necessary.  We’ve already offered the support of the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board, which has experience in working with international partners on these types of investigations.  They are on their way, personnel from the FBI and the National Transportation Safety Board.

In the coming hours and days, I’ll continue to be in close contact with leaders from around the world as we respond to this catastrophe.  Our immediate focus will be on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts.

I want to point out there will likely be misinformation as well.  I think it’s very important for folks to sift through what is factually based and what is simply speculation.  No one can deny the truth that is revealed in the awful images that we all have seen.  And the eyes of the world are on eastern Ukraine, and we are going to make sure that the truth is out.

More broadly, I think it’s important for us to recognize that this outrageous event underscores that it is time for peace and security to be restored in Ukraine.  For months, we’ve supported a pathway to peace, and the Ukrainian government has reached out to all Ukrainians, put forward a peace plan, and lived up to a cease-fire, despite repeated violations by the separatists — violations that took the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and personnel.

Moreover, time and again, Russia has refused to take the concrete steps necessary to deescalate the situation.  I spoke to President Putin yesterday in the wake of additional sanctions that we had imposed.  He said he wasn’t happy with them, and I told him that we have been very clear from the outset that we want Russia to take the path that would result in peace in Ukraine, but so far at least, Russia has failed to take that path.  Instead, it has continued to violate Ukrainian sovereignty and to support violent separatists.  It has also failed to use its influence to press the separatists to abide by a cease-fire.  That’s why, together with our allies, we’ve imposed growing costs on Russia.

So now is, I think, a somber and appropriate time for all of us to step back and take a hard look at what has happened.  Violence and conflict inevitably lead to unforeseen consequences.  Russia, these separatists, and Ukraine all have the capacity to put an end to the fighting.  Meanwhile, the United States is going to continue to lead efforts within the world community to de-escalate the situation; to stand up for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine; and to support the people of Ukraine as they courageously work to strengthen their democracy and make their own decisions about how they should move forward.

Before I take just a couple of questions let me remark on one other issue.  This morning, I spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel about the situation in Gaza.  We discussed Israel’s military operation in Gaza, including its efforts to stop the threat of terrorist infiltration through tunnels into Israel.  I reaffirmed my strong support for Israel’s right to defend itself.  No nation should accept rockets being fired into its borders, or terrorists tunneling into its territory.  In fact, while I was having the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, sirens went off in Tel Aviv.

I also made clear that the United States, and our friends and allies, are deeply concerned about the risks of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.  And that’s why we’ve indicated, although we support military efforts by the Israelis to make sure that rockets are not being fired into their territory, we also have said that our understanding is the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels, and we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties and that all of us are working hard to return to the cease-fire that was reached in November of 2012.

Secretary Kerry is working to support Egypt’s initiative to pursue that outcome.  I told Prime Minister Netanyahu that John is prepared to travel to the region following additional consultations.

Let me close by making one additional comment.  On board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, there were apparently nearly 100 researchers and advocates traveling to an international conference in Australia dedicated to combating AIDS/HIV.  These were men and women who had dedicated their own lives to saving the lives of others and they were taken from us in a senseless act of violence.

In this world today, we shouldn’t forget that in the midst of conflict and killing, there are people like these — people who are focused on what can be built rather than what can be destroyed; people who are focused on how they can help people that they’ve never met; people who define themselves not by what makes them different from other people but by the humanity that we hold in common.  It’s important for us to lift them up and to affirm their lives.  And it’s time for us to heed their example.

The United States of America is going to continue to stand for the basic principle that people have the right to live as they choose; that nations have the right to determine their own destiny; and that when terrible events like this occur, the international community stands on the side of justice and on the side of truth.

So with that, let me take just a couple questions.  I’ll start with you, Julie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Just on a technical matter, does the U.S. believe that this passenger jet was targeted, or that those people who shot it down may have been going after a military — thought they were going after a military aircraft?  And more broadly, this incident does seem to escalate the crisis in Ukraine to a level we haven’t seen before.  Does that change your calculus in terms of what the U.S. and perhaps Europe should be doing in terms of a response?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s too early for us to be able to guess what the intentions of those who might have launched this surface-to-air missile might have had.  The investigation is going to be ongoing, and I think what we’ll see is additional information surfacing over the next 24 hours, 72 hours, the next week, the next month.

What we know right now, what we have confidence in saying right now is that a surface-to-air missile was fired and that’s what brought the jet down.  We know — or we have confidence in saying that that shot was taken within a territory that is controlled by the Russian separatists.

But I think it’s very important for us to make sure that we don’t get out ahead of the facts.  And at this point, in terms of identifying specifically what individual or group of individuals or personnel ordered the strike, how it came about, those are things that I think are still going to be subject to additional information that we’re going to be gathering.  And we’re working with the entire international community to make sure that the focus is on getting to the bottom of this thing and being truthful.

And my concern is obviously that there’s been a lot of misinformation generated in eastern Ukraine generally.  This should snap everybody’s heads to attention and make sure that we don’t have time for propaganda, we don’t have time for games.  We need to know exactly what happened.  And everybody needs to make sure that we’re holding accountable those who committed this outrage.

With respect to the second question, as you’re aware, before this terrible incident happened we had already ratcheted up sanctions against Russia.  And I think the concern not just of Russian officials but of the markets about the impact that this could have on the Russian economy is there for all to see.

I made clear to President Putin that our preferred path is to resolve this diplomatically.  But that means that he and the Russian government have to make a strategic decision:  Are they going to continue to support violent separatists whose intent is to undermine the government of Ukraine?  Or are they prepared to work with the government of Ukraine to arrive at a cease-fire and a peace that takes into account the interests of all Ukrainians?

There has been some improved language at times over the last month coming from the Kremlin and coming from President Putin, but what we have not seen is an actual transition and different actions that would give us confidence that that’s the direction that they want to take.

And we will continue to make clear that as Russia engages in efforts that are supporting the separatists, that we have the capacity to increase the costs that we impose on them.  And we will do so.  Not because we’re interested in hurting Russia for the sake of hurting Russia, but because we believe in standing up for the basic principle that a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity has to be respected, and it is not the United States or Russia or Germany or any other country that should be deciding what happens in that country.

Q    At this point do you see any U.S. military role that could be effective?

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t see a U.S. military role beyond what we’ve already been doing in working with our NATO partners and some of the Baltic States, giving them reassurances that we are prepared to do whatever is required to meet our alliance obligations.

Steve Holland.

Q    Sir, thank you.  How much blame for this do you put on President Putin?  And will you use this incident now to push the Europeans for stronger action?

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t exactly know what happened yet, and I don’t want to, as I said before, get out ahead of the facts.  But what I do know is, is that we have seen a ticking up of violence in eastern Ukraine that, despite the efforts of the Ukrainian government to abide by a cease-fire and to reach out and agree to negotiations, including with the separatists, that has been rebuffed by these separatists.  We know that they are heavily armed and that they are trained.  And we know that that’s not an accident.  That is happening because of Russian support.

So it is not possible for these separatists to function the way they’re functioning, to have the equipment that they have — set aside what’s happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines — a group of separatists can’t shoot down military transport planes or, they claim, shoot down fighter jets without sophisticated equipment and sophisticated training.  And that is coming from Russia.

So we don’t yet know exactly what happened with respect to the Malaysian Airlines, although obviously we’re beginning to draw some conclusions given the nature of the shot that was fired.  There are only certain types of anti-aircraft missiles that can reach up 30,000 feet and shoot down a passenger jet.  We have increasing confidence that it came from areas controlled by the separatists.  But without having a definitive judgment on those issues yet, what we do know is, is that the violence that’s taking place there is facilitated in part — in large part — because of Russian support.  And they have the ability to move those separatists in a different direction.

If Mr. Putin makes a decision that we are not going to allow heavy armaments and the flow of fighters into Ukraine across the Ukrainian-Russian border, then it will stop.  And if it stops, then the separatists will still have the capacity to enter into negotiations and try to arrive at the sort of political accommodations that Mr. Putin himself says he wants to see.  He has the most control over that situation, and so far, at least, he has not exercised it.

Q    Tougher sanctions in Europe — will you push for them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think that this certainly will be a wake-up call for Europe and the world that there are consequences to an escalating conflict in eastern Ukraine; that it is not going to be localized, it is not going to be contained.  What we’ve seen here is — just in one country alone, our great allies, the Dutch, 150 or more of their citizens being killed.  And that, I think, sadly brings home the degree to which the stakes are high for Europe, not simply for the Ukrainian people, and that we have to be firm in our resolve in making sure that we are supporting Ukraine in its efforts to bring about a just cease-fire and that we can move towards a political solution to this.

I’m going to make this the last question.  Lisa Lerer, Bloomberg.

Q    Do we know yet if there were other Americans on board beyond the person you mentioned?  And how do you prevent stricter restrictions, economic sanctions from shocking the global economy and —

THE PRESIDENT:  We have been pretty methodical over the last 24 hours in working through the flight manifest and identifying which passengers might have had a U.S. passport.  At this point, the individual that I mentioned is the sole person that we can definitively say was a U.S. or dual citizen.

Because events are moving so quickly, I don’t want to say with absolute certainty that there might not be additional Americans, but at this stage, having worked through the list, been in contact with the Malaysian government, which processed the passports as folks were boarding, this is our best assessment of the number of Americans that were killed.  Obviously that does nothing to lessen our outrage about all those families.  Regardless of nationality, it is a heartbreaking event.

With respect to the effect of sanctions on the economy, we have consistently tried to tailor these sanctions in ways that would have an impact on Russia, on their economy, on their institutions or individuals that are aiding and abetting in the activities that are taking place in eastern Ukraine, while minimizing the impacts on not only the U.S. economy but the global economy.

It is a relevant consideration that we have to keep in mind.  The world economy is integrated; Russia is a large economy; there’s a lot of financial flows between Russia and the rest of the world.  But we feel confident that at this point the sanctions that we’ve put in place are imposing a cost on Russia, that their overall impact on the global economy is minimal.  It is something that we have to obviously pay close attention to, but I think Treasury, in consultation with our European partners, have done a good job so far on that issue.

Thank you very much, everybody.

12:15 P.M. EDT

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