Full Text Political Transcripts December 29, 2016: President Barack Obama issues sanctions against Russia over election interference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Executive Order — Taking Additional Steps to Address the National Emergency with Respect to Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities

Source: WH, 12-29-16

EXECUTIVE ORDER

– – – – – – –

TAKING ADDITIONAL STEPS TO ADDRESS THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY WITH RESPECT TO SIGNIFICANT MALICIOUS CYBER-ENABLED ACTIVITIES

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.) (IEEPA), the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) (NEA), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code,

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, in order to take additional steps to deal with the national emergency with respect to significant malicious cyber-enabled activities declared in Executive Order 13694 of April 1, 2015, and in view of the increasing use of such activities to undermine democratic processes or institutions, hereby order:

Section 1. Section 1(a) of Executive Order 13694 is hereby amended to read as follows:

“Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in:

(i) the persons listed in the Annex to this order;

(ii) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, directly or indirectly, cyber-enabled activities originating from, or directed by persons located, in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States that are reasonably likely to result in, or have materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States and that have the purpose or effect of:

(A) harming, or otherwise significantly compromising the provision of services by, a computer or network of computers that support one or more entities in a critical infrastructure sector;

(B) significantly compromising the provision of services by one or more entities in a critical infrastructure sector;

(C) causing a significant disruption to the availability of a computer or network of computers;

(D) causing a significant misappropriation of funds or economic resources, trade secrets, personal identifiers, or financial information for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain; or

(E) tampering with, altering, or causing a misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions; and

(iii) any person determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State:

(A) to be responsible for or complicit in, or to have engaged in, the receipt or use for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain, or by a commercial entity, outside the United States of trade secrets misappropriated through cyber-enabled means, knowing they have been misappropriated, where the misappropriation of such trade secrets is reasonably likely to result in, or has materially contributed to, a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States;

(B) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity described in subsections (a)(ii) or (a)(iii)(A) of this section or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order;

(C) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or

(D) to have attempted to engage in any of the activities described in subsections (a)(ii) and (a)(iii)(A)-(C) of this section.”

Sec. 2. Executive Order 13694 is further amended by adding as an Annex to Executive Order 13694 the Annex to this order.

Sec. 3. Executive Order 13694 is further amended by redesignating section 10 as section 11 and adding a new section 10 to read as follows:

“Sec. 10. The Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General and the Secretary of State, is hereby authorized to determine that circumstances no longer warrant the blocking of the property and interests in property of a person listed in the Annex to this order, and to take necessary action to give effect to that determination.”

Sec. 4. This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 5. This order is effective at 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on December 29, 2016.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
December 28, 2016.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 17, 2014: Readout of the President Barack Obama’s Call with President Vladimir Putin of Russia

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Readout of the President’s Call with President Putin of Russia

Source: WH, 7-17-14

President Obama spoke with Russian President Putin today about the situation in Ukraine and the additional sanctions on Russian individuals and entities that the United States announced on July 16.  President Obama emphasized that he remains committed to a diplomatic solution and that sanctions were not his preferred course of action.  President Obama noted, however, that in the face of extensive evidence that Russia is significantly increasing the provision of heavy weapons to separatists in Ukraine and Russia’s failure to take other steps set out by the United States and Europe to de-escalate the crisis, it was necessary to impose additional sanctions, consistent with the clear statements from the United States and our allies following the G-7 meeting in Brussels.  President Obama also reiterated his concerns regarding the buildup of Russian forces near the Ukrainian border.  President Obama called on President Putin to take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation, including to press separatists to agree to a cease-fire, support a roadmap for negotiations, halt the flow of fighters and weapons into Ukraine, obtain the release of all hostages still held by the separatists, and work to establish an effective OSCE border-monitoring mechanism.  He noted that Russia would face continued costs and isolation unless it takes these concrete steps.  The President emphasized that Russia and the United States have a shared interest in supporting a stable and prosperous Ukraine.  President Obama and President Putin agreed on the need for a peaceful resolution to the Ukraine crisis achieved through diplomatic means.  During the call, President Putin noted the early reports of a downed passenger jet near the Russia-Ukraine border.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 16, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Froeign Policy Announcing Imposing More Sanctions on Russia

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on Foreign Policy

Source: WH, 7-16-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:44 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to briefly discuss the important actions we’re taking today in support of Ukraine.  Before I do, I want to take a few minutes to update the American people on some pressing foreign policy challenges that I reviewed with Secretary Kerry this afternoon.

First of all, I thanked Secretary Kerry and our outstanding civilian and military leaders in Afghanistan for their success in helping to break the impasse over the presidential election there.  Thanks to their efforts and, of course, thanks to the Afghans and the courage of the two candidates, both of whom I spoke to last week, the candidates have agreed to abide by the results of a comprehensive and internationally supervised audit that will review all the ballots, and to form a unity government.  If they keep their commitments, Afghanistan will witness the first democratic transfer of power in the history of that nation.

This progress will honor both candidates who have put the interests of a united Afghanistan first, the millions of Afghans who defied threats in order to vote, and the service of our troops and civilians who have sacrificed so much.  This progress reminds us that even as our combat mission in Afghanistan ends this year, America’s commitment to a sovereign, united, and democratic Afghanistan will endure –- along with our determination that Americans are never again threatened by terrorists inside of Afghanistan.

Second, John updated me on the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program.  Over the last six months, Iran has met its commitments under the interim deal we reached last year — halting the progress of its nuclear program, allowing more inspections and rolling back its more dangerous stockpile of nuclear material.  Meanwhile, we are working with our P5-plus-1 partners and Iran to reach a comprehensive agreement that assures us that Iran’s program will, in fact, be peaceful and that they won’t obtain a nuclear weapon.

Based on consultations with Secretary Kerry and my national security team, it’s clear to me that we have made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward.  But as we approach a deadline of July 20th under the interim deal, there are still some significant gaps between the international community and Iran, and we have more work to do.  So over the next few days, we’ll continue consulting with Congress — and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners –- as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations.

Third, we continue to support diplomatic efforts to end the violence between Israel and Hamas.  As I’ve said repeatedly, Israel has a right to defend itself from rocket attacks that terrorize the Israeli people.  There is no country on Earth that can be expected to live under a daily barrage of rockets.  And I’m proud that the Iron Dome system that Americans helped Israel develop and fund has saved many Israeli lives.

But over the past two weeks, we’ve all been heartbroken by the violence, especially the death and injury of so many innocent civilians in Gaza —- men, women and children who were caught in the crossfire.  That’s why we have been working with our partners in the region to pursue a cease-fire — to protect civilians on both sides.  Yesterday, Israel did agree to a cease-fire.  Unfortunately, Hamas continued to fire rockets at civilians, thereby prolonging the conflict.

But the Israeli people and the Palestinian people don’t want to live like this.  They deserve to live in peace and security, free from fear.  And that’s why we are going to continue to encourage diplomatic efforts to restore the cease-fire, and we support Egypt’s continued efforts to bring this about.  Over the next 24 hours we’ll continue to stay in close contact with our friends and parties in the region, and we will use all of our diplomatic resources and relationships to support efforts of closing a deal on a cease-fire.  In the meantime, we’re going to continue to stress the need to protect civilians — in Gaza and in Israel –- and to avoid further escalation.

Finally, given its continued provocations in Ukraine, today I have approved a new set of sanctions on some of Russia’s largest companies and financial institutions. Along with our allies, with whom I’ve been coordinating closely the last several days and weeks, I’ve repeatedly made it clear that Russia must halt the flow of weapons and fighters across the border into Ukraine; that Russia must urge separatists to release their hostages and support a cease-fire; that Russia needs to pursue internationally-mediated talks and agree to meaningful monitors on the border.  I’ve made this clear directly to Mr. Putin.  Many of our European partners have made this clear directly to Mr. Putin.  We have emphasized our preference to resolve this issue diplomatically but that we have to see concrete actions and not just words that Russia, in fact, is committed to trying to end this conflict along the Russia-Ukraine border.  So far, Russia has failed to take any of the steps that I mentioned.  In fact, Russia’s support for the separatists and violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty has continued.

On top of the sanctions we have already imposed, we are therefore designating selected sectors of the Russian economy as eligible for sanctions.  We are freezing the assets of several Russian defense companies.  And we are blocking new financing of some of Russia’s most important banks and energy companies.  These sanctions are significant, but they are also targeted — designed to have the maximum impact on Russia while limiting any spillover effects on American companies or those of our allies.

Now, we are taking these actions in close consultation with our European allies, who are meeting in Brussels to agree on their next steps.  And what we are expecting is that the Russian leadership will see, once again, that its actions in Ukraine have consequences, including a weakening Russian economy and increasing diplomatic isolation.

Meanwhile, we’re going to continue to stand with the Ukrainian people as they seek to determine their own future.  Even in the midst of this crisis, they have made remarkable progress these past few months.  They held democratic elections, they elected a new president, they’re pursuing important reforms, and they signed a new association agreement with the European Union.  And the United States will continue to offer our strong support to Ukraine to help stabilize its economy and defend its territorial integrity because — like any people — Ukrainians deserve the right to forge their own destiny.

So in closing, I’ll point out the obvious.  We live in a complex world and at a challenging time.  And none of these challenges lend themselves to quick or easy solutions, but all of them require American leadership.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m confident that if we stay patient and determined, that we will, in fact, meet these challenges.

Thanks very much.

END
5:53 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Honoring the Pledge of ‘never again’ & Saying ‘I’ll be there for Israel’ — Issues New Tech Sanctions on Syria, Iran

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama at Holocaust museum: ‘I’ll be there for Israel’

Source: JTA, 4-23-12

President Obama in an address at a Holocaust remembrance event said he would “always be there for Israel” and defended his administration’s record on preventing atrocities.

Obama spoke Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a few days after Holocaust Remembrance Day. Prior to his address, he took a tour of the museum guided by Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace laureate.

He recounted meeting with a woman at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, when he was a presidential candidate in 2008, who told him that the Jews only had one state.

“I said I would always be there for Israel,” Obama said, and he cited the steps he has taken to isolate Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Obama also recounted steps taken by his administration through military and diplomatic action to prevent atrocities in Sudan, Libya, Uganda and Ivory Coast.

The president has come under pressure in recent months for not doing more to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose crackdown on opponents has killed thousands. Obama pledged to keep working with allies to bring about “the end of the Assad regime.”

Elsewhere in his address, however, he said that his commitment to preventing atrocities “does not mean we intervene militarily every time there is an injustice in the world.”

Obama levies new tech sanctions on Syria, Iran:

Source: AP, 4-23-12

Under pressure to stop the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown, President Barack Obama on Monday levied new sanctions on people and entities in Syria and Iran that use technology to target their citizens and perpetrate human rights abuses.
Obama’s announcement underscored the degree to which technology, from cellphones to social media, has fueled popular uprisings in countries throughout the Arab world and at the same time has given autocratic regimes new ways to track dissidents and suppress political dissent.

“These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” said Obama, as he announced the sanctions during a solemn speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Surrounded by the haunting memories of the Holocaust, Obama spoke broadly about the international community’s obligation to prevent the “madness” of mass killings. And he issued a sharp warning to governments that launch violent crackdowns on civilians.

“National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people,” he said….READ MORE

 

President Obama Speaks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Musuem

Source: WH, 4-23-12

Today, President Obama spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about honoring the pledge of “never again” by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities and save lives.

After being introduced by Professor Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, the President spoke of the importance of telling our children—and all future generations—about that dark and evil time in human history when six million innocent men, women, and children were murdered just because they were Jewish.

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

President Obama has made it clear that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.” Last year he issued a Presidential Directive to make sure that the U.S.  has the neccesary structures and mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to mass atrocities. He also established an Atrocities Prevention Board to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  And there’s more work to be done:

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we’ll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We’re going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, “alert channels” will ensure that information about unfolding crises — and dissenting opinions — quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared — because this is a global responsibility.

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities — because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.

President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Light Candles
President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel light candles in the Hall of Remembrance during a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Washington, D.C.

10:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everyone.  It is a great honor to be with you here today.  Of course, it is a truly humbling moment to be introduced by Elie Wiesel.  Along with Sara Bloomfield, the outstanding director here, we just spent some time among the exhibits, and this is now the second visit I’ve had here.  My daughters have come here.  It is a searing occasion whenever you visit.  And as we walked, I was taken back to the visit that Elie mentioned, the time that we traveled together to Buchenwald.

And I recall how he showed me the barbed-wire fences and the guard towers.  And we walked the rows where the barracks once stood, where so many left this Earth — including Elie’s father, Shlomo.  We stopped at an old photo — men and boys lying in their wooden bunks, barely more than skeletons.  And if you look closely, you can see a 16-year old boy, looking right at the camera, right into your eyes.  You can see Elie.

And at the end of our visit that day, Elie spoke of his father.  “I thought one day I will come back and speak to him,” he said, “of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.”  Elie, you’ve devoted your life to upholding that sacred duty.  You’ve challenged us all — as individuals, and as nations — to do the same, with the power of your example, the eloquence of your words, as you did again just now.  And so to you and Marion, we are extraordinarily grateful.

To Sara, to Tom Bernstein, to Josh Bolten, members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and everyone who sustains this living memorial — thank you for welcoming us here today.  To the members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel, we are glad to be with you.

And most of all, we are honored to be in the presence of men and women whose lives are a testament to the endurance and the strength of the human spirit — the inspiring survivors.  It is a privilege to be with you, on a very personal level.  As I’ve told some of you before, I grew up hearing stories about my great uncle — a soldier in the 89th Infantry Division who was stunned and shaken by what he saw when he helped to liberate Ordruf, part of Buchenwald.   And I’ll never forget what I saw at Buchenwald, where so many perished with the words of Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil on their lips.

I’ve stood with survivors, in the old Warsaw ghettos, where a monument honors heroes who said we will not go quietly; we will stand up, we will fight back.  And I’ve walked those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem, with its lesson for all nations — the Shoah cannot be denied.

During my visit to Yad Vashem I was given a gift, inscribed with those words from the Book of Joel:  “Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers?  Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation.”  That’s why we’re here.  Not simply to remember, but to speak.

I say this as a President, and I say it as a father.  We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history.  The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish.  We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten.  Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived — as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.  Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations.  Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.

Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago.  But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

“Never again” is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms — including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.  And today, just steps from where he gave his life protecting this place, we honor the memory of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, whose family joins us today.

“Never again” is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security — and that includes the State of Israel.  And on my visit to the old Warsaw Ghetto, a woman looked me in the eye, and she wanted to make sure America stood with Israel.  She said, “It’s the only Jewish state we have.”  And I made her a promise in that solemn place.  I said I will always be there for Israel.

So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them.  When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them.  When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them.  When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“Never again” is a challenge to societies.  We’re joined today by communities who’ve made it your mission to prevent mass atrocities in our time.  This museum’s Committee of Conscience, NGOs, faith groups, college students, you’ve harnessed the tools of the digital age — online maps and satellites and a video and social media campaign seen by millions.  You understand that change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  You understand — to quote the task force convened by this museum — “preventing genocide is an achievable goal.”  It is an achievable goal.  It is one that does not start from the top; it starts from the bottom up.

It’s remarkable — as we walked through this exhibit, Elie and I were talking as we looked at the unhappy record of the State Department and so many officials here in the United States during those years.  And he asked, “What would you do?”  But what you all understand is you don’t just count on officials, you don’t just count on governments.  You count on people — and mobilizing their consciences.

And finally, “never again” is a challenge to nations.  It’s a bitter truth — too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale.  And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.

Three years ago today, I joined many of you for a ceremony of remembrance at the U.S. Capitol.  And I said that we had to do “everything we can to prevent and end atrocities.”  And so I want to report back to some of you today to let you know that as President I’ve done my utmost to back up those words with deeds.  Last year, in the first-ever presidential directive on this challenge, I made it clear that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.”

That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world.  We cannot and should not.  It does mean we possess many tools — diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion — and using these tools over the past three years, I believe — I know — that we have saved countless lives.

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate — because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

When the incumbent in Côte D’Ivoire lost an election but refused to give it up — give up power, it threatened to unleash untold ethnic and religious killings.  But with regional and international diplomacy, and U.N. peacekeepers who stood their ground and protected civilians, the former leader is now in The Hague, and Côte D’Ivoire is governed by its rightful leader — and lives were saved.

When the Libyan people demanded their rights and Muammar Qaddafi’s forces bore down on Benghazi, a city of 700,000, and threatened to hunt down its people like rats, we forged with allies and partners a coalition that stopped his troops in their tracks.  And today, the Libyan people are forging their own future, and the world can take pride in the innocent lives that we saved.

And when the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony continued its atrocities in Central Africa, I ordered a small number of American advisors to help Uganda and its neighbors pursue the LRA.  And when I made that announcement, I directed my National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days.  We have done so, and today I can announce that our advisors will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice, and to save lives.  (Applause.)  It is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA, and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.

We’ve stepped up our efforts in other ways.  We’re doing more to protect women and girls from the horror of wartime sexual violence.  With the arrest of fugitives like Ratko Mladic, charged with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the world sent a message to war criminals everywhere:  We will not relent in bringing you to justice.  Be on notice.  And for the first time, we explicitly barred entry into the United States of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now we’re doing something more.  We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities.  So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task.  It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  This is not an afterthought.  This is not a sideline in our foreign policy.  The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House.  And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations — citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch.

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we’ll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We’re going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, “alert channels” will ensure that information about unfolding crises — and dissenting opinions — quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared — because this is a global responsibility.

In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities — because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people.  (Applause.)

We recognize that, even as we do all we can, we cannot control every event.  And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience.  Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights.  And we have to do everything we can.  And as we do, we have to remember that despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets.  They still demand to be heard.  They still seek their dignity.  The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up.

And so with allies and partners, we will keep increasing the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime, so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.  We’ll keep increasing sanctions to cut off the regime from the money it needs to survive.  We’ll sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine to the Syrian people.  And we’ll keep working with the “Friends of Syria” to increase support for the Syrian opposition as it grows stronger.

Indeed, today we’re taking another step.  I’ve signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence.  These technologies should not empower — these technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them.  And it’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come — the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people — and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.

Even with all the efforts I’ve described today, even with everything that hopefully we have learned, even with the incredible power of museums like this one, even with everything that we do to try to teach our children about our own responsibilities, we know that our work will never be done. There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved.  There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented.  There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience.  And in such moments it can be hard to imagine a more just world.

It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty.  It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.  And all of us have those doubts.  All of us have those moments — perhaps especially those who work most ardently in these fields.

So in the end, I come back to something Elie said that day we visited Buchenwald together.  Reflecting on all that he had endured, he said, “We had the right to give up.”  “We had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one’s life with dignity, in a world that has no place for dignity.”  They had that right.  Imagine what they went through.  They had the right to give up.  Nobody would begrudge them that.  Who’d question someone giving up in such circumstances?

But, Elie said, “We rejected that possibility, and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future.”  To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future — to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice.

To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up.  You show us the way.  (Applause.)  You show us the way.  If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe.  If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being.  That has been the cause of your lives.  It must be the work of our nation and of all nations.

So God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:27 A.M. EDT

Fact Sheet: Sanctions Against Those Complicit in Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology in Syria and Iran

“Cyberspace, and the technologies that enable it, allow people of every nationality, race, faith and point of view to communicate, cooperate, and prosper like never before.  We encourage people all over the world to use digital media…and denounce those who harass, unfairly arrest, threaten, or commit violent acts against the people who use these technologies.
-President Obama, International Strategy for Cyberspace, May 2011
Twenty-first century threats to human rights require twenty-first century tools to combat them.  This Administration recognizes that some oppressive governments seek to target their citizens for grave human rights abuses through the use of information and communications technology.  In an Executive Order signed today, President Obama authorized a new program of sanctions, aimed at those who facilitate serious human rights abuses in Syria and Iran through such means.

The same Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite communications, mobile phone, and Internet technology employed by activists across the Middle East and North Africa and around the world is being used against them in Syria and Iran, as the world has witnessed particularly clearly in Syria in recent weeks.  The Syrian and Iranian governments are rapidly increasing their capabilities to disrupt, monitor, and track communications networks that are essential to the ability of Syrians and Iranians to communicate with each other and the outside world.

The Executive Order announced today by President Obama establishes financial and travel sanctions against those who perpetrate or facilitate “Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology” in Syria and Iran (or “GHRAVITY sanctions”) and will:

• Degrade the ability of the Syrian and Iranian governments to acquire and utilize such technology to oppress their people;
• Hold accountable those government officials, companies, and individuals committing or facilitating human rights abuses.
• Send a clear message that the United States recognizes and is committed to combating this new and growing human rights threat;
• Further isolate the regimes in Damascus and Tehran;
• Strengthen international norms against using information and communications technology to commit human rights abuses;
The order authorizes sanctions against persons determined:

• To have operated, or to have directed the operation of, information and communications technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria;
• To have sold, leased, or otherwise provided, directly or indirectly, goods, services, or technology to Iran or Syria likely to be used to facilitate computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria;
• To have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, those activities; or
• To be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order.
We will implement this sanctions instrument consistent with our strong belief in the need to ensure that the citizens of Syria and Iran have access to information and communications technology that facilitates their access to information and ability to protect and organize themselves in the face of oppression.  This order underscores our efforts to help the Syrian and Iranian people pierce through the “electronic curtain” that the Syrian and Iranian regimes have put in place.  The Administration recognizes the importance of preserving the global telecommunications supply chains for essential products and services, and will take great care to ensure the utilization of sanctions does not disrupt transactions necessary to enable the Syrian and Iranian people to communicate.

Given the deplorable and deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and Iran, our urgent priority is to pursue sanctions against those two governments and entities and individuals in those countries helping them to commit human rights abuses.  The order also authorizes sanctions against third-country entities or individuals where they meet the criteria in the order.

Political Buzz August 18, 2011: President Obama Calls for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s Resignation — Republicans Approve — Candidates Perry, Romney, Bachmann Criticize Why Obama Waited So Long

 POLITICAL BUZZ

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: WORLD LEADERS, US PRESIDENT OBAMA, CANADIAN PM HARPER, EUROPE UNION CALL FOR SYRIAN PRESIDENT ASSAD TO RESIGN

Obama calls on Syrian President Assad to resign: President Obama on Thursday for the first time explicitly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure on the government five months after the start of the uprising in that country. The president also issued an executive order expanding sanctions against Syrian government officials.

The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people. We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.
The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community. — President Barack Obama

“The Obama Administration’s call for Syrian President Assad to step down is long overdue. President Assad threatens the safety and security not only of the Syrian people, but the entire Middle East. He also supports terrorist organizations Hezbollah and Hamas. Every diplomatic option should be brought to bear to prevent President Assad from wreaking further violence on his people and the region.” — Statement by Gov. Rick Perry on Syria

“America must show leadership on the world stage and work to move these developing nations toward modernity. This means using the bullhorn of the presidency and not remaining silent for too long while voices of freedom and dissent are under attack.” — Mitt Romney’s Statement on Syria

“The recent atrocities and Assad’s brutalization of his own people in Syria are extremely alarming and reflect a long history of anti-American hostility, and I join President Obama in calling for Mr. Assad’s resignation.” — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) Statement on Syria

U.S. and European Union Statements on Syria — NYT

  • How the US message on Assad shifted: It took about five months from the start of the Syrian uprising for the Obama administration to make the leap to saying President Assad should “step aside.” Here’s a look back at the long — and deliberate — buildup. … – WaPo, 8-18-11
  • Obama Calls for Syrian President to Step Down: President Obama for the first time on Thursday explicitly called for Bashar al-Assad to leave office, and European leaders followed him with a joint statement…. – NYT, 8-18-11
  • EU Calls On Syria’s Assad To Quit, Mulls Broad Energy Sanctions: The European Union for the first time called Thursday on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power as EU leaders also threatened “strong” new sanctions, which could include an embargo on imports of Syrian … – WSJ, 8-18-11
  • Syria: Assad must resign, says Obama: Bashar al-Assad is guilty of a brutal crackdown that leaves him with no legitimacy as president of Syria, Barack Obama and EU leaders have declared…. – The Guardian, UK, 8-18-11
  • Harper calls on Assad to quit: “Canada reiterates its strong condemnation of the ongoing violent military assault by the Assad regime against the Syrian people. This campaign of terror must stop. “The Assad regime has lost all legitimacy by killing its own people to stay in power.”… – National Post, 8-18-11
  • Canada calls for Syria’s Assad to resign: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Thursday joined the United States and the European Union in calling for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power. “Canada reiterates its strong condemnation of the ongoing violent military assault … – AFP, 8-18-11
  • Obama Calls For Syrian President To Resign: President Obama called on Thursday for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, marking the first time the US has demanded the leader’s resignation…. – Slate Magazine, 8-18-11
  • Obama almost wins over Hill on Syria: President Barack Obama almost caught a break on Capitol Hill Thursday, picking up bipartisan support for calling on Syrian President Bashar Assad to resign. But still one complaint of the president emerged: What took him so long? … – Politico, 8-18-11
  • Republicans agree, briefly, with Obama on Syria: It looked like it might never happen again. But Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has done the near-impossible: He got Republicans and President Obama to agree on something.
    After Obama demanded Thursday morning that Assad step down in the wake of his crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, some of the president’s fiercest critics jumped aboard with their own calls for Assad’s removal. That’s where the harmony ended.
    Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Perry also used the occasion to chide Obama for not having called for the ouster sooner…. – WaPo, 8-18-11
  • Why it took so long for Obama to say Syria’s Assad must go: Obama’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign was a long time coming. The US president didn’t wait as long after protests broke out in Egypt to say that Hosni Mubarak had to go…. – CS Monitor, 8-18-11
  • Obama finally tells Assad to go: After months of criticism for his inactivity from both sides of the political spectrum and international human rights groups President Obama today finally managed to call for Bashar al-Assad to leave…. – WaPo, 8-18-11
  • Romney hits Obama over Syria: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney lambasted President Barack Obama’s leadership Thursday saying his call for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to step down comes after too much blood has been shed in the country. … – CNN, 8-18-11
  • Perry: Obama overdue in call for Assad to quit: Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry says President Obama’s call for the resignation of the Syrian president is long overdue. The Texas governor says Syrian President Bashar Assad supports terrorist groups and has threatened the security of the Syrian people and the region. He says that every diplomatic option should be used to force Assad to step down…. – AP, 8-18-11
  • Bachmann criticizes Obama’s action on Syria: Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Thursday that President Barack Obama has moved too late and with too little force in response to Syria’s crackdown on dissent… – AP, 8-18-11
  • Report: U.S. to seek Assad’s ouster: President Barack Obama made the first explicit US call Thursday for Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave his post, saying the “time has come” for the leader to step aside for “the sake of the Syrian people.” The White House also imposed tough new sanctions… Politico, 8-18-11

Full Text International Politics August 18, 2011: President Obama’s Statement Calling on Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad to Resign

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

INTERNATIONAL POLITICS: WORLD LEADERS, US PRESIDENT OBAMA, CANADIAN PM HARPER, EUROPE UNION CALL FOR SYRIAN PRESIDENT ASSAD TO RESIGN

Obama calls on Syrian President Assad to resign: President Obama on Thursday for the first time explicitly called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, a symbolically significant step intended to ratchet up pressure on the government five months after the start of the uprising in that country. The president also issued an executive order expanding sanctions against Syrian government officials.

Statement by President Obama on the Situation in Syria

The United States has been inspired by the Syrian peoples’ pursuit of a peaceful transition to democracy. They have braved ferocious brutality at the hands of their government. They have spoken with their peaceful marches, their silent shaming of the Syrian regime, and their courageous persistence in the face of brutality – day after day, week after week. The Syrian government has responded with a sustained onslaught. I strongly condemn this brutality, including the disgraceful attacks on Syrian civilians in cities like Hama and Deir al Zour, and the arrests of opposition figures who have been denied justice and subjected to torture at the hands of the regime. These violations of the universal rights of the Syrian people have revealed to Syria, the region, and the world the Assad government’s flagrant disrespect for the dignity of the Syrian people.

The United States opposes the use of violence against peaceful protesters in Syria, and we support the universal rights of the Syrian people. We have imposed sanctions on President Assad and his government.  The European Union has imposed sanctions as well.  We helped lead an effort at the UN Security Council to condemn Syria’s actions. We have coordinated closely with allies and partners from the region and around the world. The Assad government has now been condemned by countries in all parts of the globe, and can look only to Iran for support for its brutal and unjust crackdown.

The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing, and slaughtering his own people.  We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way.  He has not led.  For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.

The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians. We will support this outcome by pressuring President Assad to get out of the way of this transition, and standing up for the universal rights of the Syrian people along with others in the international community.

As a part of that effort, my Administration is announcing unprecedented sanctions to deepen the financial isolation of the Assad regime and further disrupt its ability to finance a campaign of violence against the Syrian people.  I have signed a new Executive Order requiring the immediate freeze of all assets of the Government of Syria subject to U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. persons from engaging in any transaction involving the Government of Syria.  This E.O. also bans U.S. imports of Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products; prohibits U.S. persons from having any dealings in or related to Syria’s petroleum or petroleum products; and prohibits U.S. persons from operating or investing in Syria. We expect today’s actions to be amplified by others.

We recognize that it will take time for the Syrian people to achieve the justice they deserve. There will be more struggle and sacrifice. It is clear that President Assad believes that he can silence the voices of his people by resorting to the repressive tactics of the past. But he is wrong. As we have learned these last several months, sometimes the way things have been is not the way that they will be. It is time for the Syrian people to determine their own destiny, and we will continue to stand firmly on their side.

 

FACT SHEET ON SYRIA

The United States has taken a series of steps and actions to work toward putting an end to the Syrian government’s violence, arrests, and torture, supporting the Syrian people’s universal rights, and pushing for a democratic transition.

Executive Orders, Sanctions, and other Financial Actions

Syria has been designated a State Sponsor of Terrorism since December 1979.  An additional layer of sanctions was added in May 2004 with the issuance of Executive Order 13338, which implemented the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 and imposed additional measures pursuant to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.  Subsequent Executive orders have imposed additional sanctions targeting, among others, the President of Syria.

Since the beginning of Syrian unrest, we have intensely pursued targeted financial measures to increase pressure on the Syrian regime.  We have specifically targeted those responsible for human rights abuses, senior officials of the Syrian government, and Syrian businessmen linked to the Syrian regime.  Our goal is to put an immediate stop to the Syrian government’s use of violence against civilians and its policies of mass arrests and torture, and to pressure the Syrian regime to allow for a democratic transition as per the demands of the Syrian people.  Our actions to date include:

  • Today, President Obama signed a new Executive Order taking additional steps pursuant to the national emergency with respect to Syria that blocks the property of the Syrian government, bans U.S. persons from new investments in or exporting services to Syria, and bans U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products.  This is the strongest financial action we have taken against the Syrian regime thus far.  This Executive Order is consistent with the remaining sanctions provisions of the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.
  • Since the unrest began in mid-March, we have designated 32 Syrian and Iranian individuals and entities, including Syrian businessmen and their companies.  These actions freeze the assets of and prohibit all U.S. persons from doing business with the identified individual or entity, thereby isolating them from the U.S. financial system.
  • On August 10, pursuant to E.O. 13382, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated the Commercial Bank of Syria for its involvement in proliferation activities, and also designated its subsidiary, Syrian-Lebanese Commercial Bank.  The Commercial Bank of Syria was identified by the Treasury Department as a financial institution of primary money laundering concern in 2004 and, pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, has been subject since 2006 to a final rule prohibiting U.S. financial institutions from maintaining correspondent accounts for the Commercial Bank of Syria.
  • On July 8, the Treasury Department issued a warning to U.S. financial institutions alerting them to the potential for increased illicit financial activities involving accounts held by or on behalf of senior political figures in Syria, as a result of the unrest in Syria.
  • On May 18, President Obama signed Executive Order 13573 targeting senior Syrian government officials due to their government’s continuing escalation of violence against the Syrian people.  President Assad and six other regime officials were listed in the Annex to this Order.
  • On May 18, the Department of Commerce suspended specific licenses related to Syrian Air’s Boeing 747 aircraft.
  • On April 29, President Obama signed Executive Order 13572 imposing sanctions on certain individuals and entities listed in the Annex to the Order and providing the authority to designate persons responsible for human rights abuses in Syria, including those related to repressing the Syrian people. Notably, President Assad’s brother Maher al-Asad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) were listed in the Annex to this Order.
  • On April 29, the Department of Commerce revoked commercial export licenses pertaining to Syrian official VIP aircraft.

Actions at the United Nations and Other Diplomatic Efforts

The United States has led an international effort at the United Nations (UN) to push for a UN Security Council Resolution that would increase pressure on the Syrian government to stop its brutal repression of the Syrian people.  Additional actions taken include:

  • On August 3, with strong U.S. leadership, the UN Security Council adopted by consensus a Presidential Statement condemning the Syrian government’s widespread human rights abuses and use of force against civilians.
  • The United States worked with allies to ensure that, after a protracted diplomatic struggle and in the face of significant opposition from the Syrian regime and other non-democratic governments, the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted UN accreditation on July 25 to the Syrian non-governmental organization the Center for Media and Freedom of Expression.  This was the first Syrian NGO ever to receive ECOSOC accreditation, which allows it to attend and take part in UN events.
  • On July 22, the State Department imposed travel restrictions on the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C., in response to Syrian efforts to restrict the movement of U.S. diplomats in Damascus.  Syrian diplomats now must request permission prior to leaving Washington, D.C.
  • On June 15 in Geneva, the United States and Canada drafted a statement signed by 54 UN member states that addressed the deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and urged the Syrian government to allow access to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ fact finding mission.
  • The United States led the call for a Special Session on Syria at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. On April 29, the Human Rights Council passed a strong resolution condemning the Syrian government and calling for an investigation by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  To date, Syria has refused access to the High Commissioner’s investigative team, despite calls from the Security Council and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
  • The United States actively lobbied to prevent Syria from being elected to the UN Human Rights Council.  Our lobbying efforts against Syria’s offensive campaign resulted in Syria withdrawing its candidacy on May 11.
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