Full Text Political Transcripts April 6, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Statement on Syria Military Action

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Statement by President Trump on Syria

Source: WH, 4-6-17

Mar-a-Lago, Florida

9:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  My fellow Americans:  On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.  Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children.  It was a slow and brutal death for so many.  Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack.  No child of God should ever suffer such horror.

Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched.  It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.  There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.

Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically.  As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.

Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.  We ask for God’s wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world.  We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed.  And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.

Goodnight.  And God bless America and the entire world.  Thank you.

END
9:43 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts February 9, 2017: 9th Circuit of Appeal Denies Reinstatement of President Donald Trump’s Travel Ban Washington v Trump Opinion

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump

02/09/2017

Published Order Denying Stay PD

FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
STATE OF WASHINGTON; STATE OF    No. 17-35105
MINNESOTA,    D.C. No.
Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.    2:17-cv-00141

DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the    ORDER
United States; U.S. DEPARTMENT OF
HOMELAND SECURITY; REX W.
TILLERSON, Secretary of State; JOHN
F. KELLY, Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security;
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Defendants-Appellants.

Motion for Stay of an Order of the
United States District Court for the
Western District of Washington
James L. Robart, District Judge, Presiding
Argued and Submitted February 7, 2017

Filed February 9, 2017
Before: William C. Canby, Richard R. Clifton, and
Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges
Per Curiam Order

COUNSEL
August E. Flentje (argued), Special Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General; Douglas N. Letter, Sharon Swingle, H. Thomas Byron, Lowell V. Sturgill Jr., and Catherine Dorsey, Attorneys, Appellate Staff; Chad A. Readler, Acting Assistant Attorney General; Noel J. Francisco, Acting Solicitor General; Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellants.
Noah G. Purcell (argued), Solicitor General; Marsha Chien and Patricio A. Marquez, Assistant Attorneys General; Colleen M. Melody, Civil Rights Unit Chief; Anne E. Egeler, Deputy Solicitor General; Robert W. Ferguson, Attorney General; Attorney General’s Office, Seattle, Washington; for Plaintiff-Appellee State of Washington.
Jacob Campion, Assistant Attorney General; Alan I. Gilbert, Solicitor General; Lori Swanson, Attorney General; Office of the Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; for Plaintiff-Appellee State of Minnesota.

ORDER
PER CURIAM:
At issue in this emergency proceeding is Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States,” which, among other changes to immigration policies and procedures, bans for 90 days the entry into the United States of individuals from seven countries. Two States challenged the Executive Order as unconstitutional and violative of federal law, and a federal district court preliminarily ruled in their favor and
temporarily enjoined enforcement of the Executive Order. The Government now moves for an emergency stay of the district court’s temporary restraining order while its appeal of that order proceeds.
To rule on the Government’s motion, we must consider several factors, including whether the Government has shown that it is likely to succeed on the merits of its appeal, the degree of hardship caused by a stay or its denial, and the public interest in granting or denying a stay. We assess those factors in light of the limited evidence put forward by both parties at this very preliminary stage and are mindful that our analysis of the hardships and public interest in this case involves particularly sensitive and weighty concerns on both sides. Nevertheless, we hold that the Government has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal, nor has it shown that failure to enter a stay would cause irreparable injury, and we therefore deny its emergency motion for a stay.
Background
On January 27, 2017, the President issued Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States” (the “Executive Order”). 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977. Citing the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and stating that “numerous foreign-born individuals have been convicted or implicated in terrorism-related crimes” since then, the Executive Order declares that “the United States must ensure that those admitted to this country do not bear hostile attitudes toward it and its founding principles.” Id. It asserts, “Deteriorating conditions in certain countries due to war, strife, disaster, and civil unrest increase the likelihood that terrorists will use any means possible to enter the United States. The United States must be vigilant during the visa-issuance process to ensure that those approved for admission do not intend to harm Americans and that they have no ties to terrorism.” Id.
The Executive Order makes several changes to the policies and procedures by which non-citizens may enter the United States. Three are at issue here. First, section 3(c) of the Executive Order suspends for 90 days the entry of aliens from seven countries: Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977- 78 (citing the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) § 217(a)(12), codified at 8 U.S.C. § 1187(a)(12)). Second, section 5(a) of the Executive Order suspends for 120 days the United States Refugee Admissions Program. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,979. Upon resumption of the refugee program, section 5(b) of the Executive Order directs the Secretary of State to prioritize refugee claims based on religious persecution where a refugee’s religion is the minority religion in the country of his or her nationality. Id. Third, section 5(c) of the Executive Order suspends indefinitely the entry of all Syrian refugees. Id. Sections 3(g) and 5(e) of the Executive Order allow the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security to make case-by-case exceptions to these provisions “when in the national interest.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8,978- 80. Section 5(e) states that situations that would be in the national interest include “when the person is a religious minority in his country of nationality facing religious persecution.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8,979. The Executive Order requires the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence to evaluate the United States’ visa, admission, and refugee programs during the periods in which entry is suspended. 82 Fed. Reg. 8,977-80.

The impact of the Executive Order was immediate and widespread. It was reported that thousands of visas were immediately canceled, hundreds of travelers with such visas were prevented from boarding airplanes bound for the United States or denied entry on arrival, and some travelers were detained. Three days later, on January 30, 2017, the State of Washington filed suit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, challenging sections 3(c), 5(a)-(c), and 5(e) of the Executive Order, naming as defendants the President, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, and the United States (collectively, “the Government”). Washington alleged that the Executive Order unconstitutionally and illegally stranded its residents abroad, split their families, restricted their travel, and damaged the State’s economy and public universities in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments, the INA, the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act. Washington also alleged that the Executive Order was not truly meant to protect against terror attacks by foreign nationals but rather was intended to enact a “Muslim ban” as the President had stated during his presidential campaign that he would do.
Washington asked the district court to declare that the challenged sections of the Executive Order are illegal and unconstitutional and to enjoin their enforcement nationwide. On the same day, Washington filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) seeking to enjoin the enforcement of sections 3(c), 5(a)-(c), and 5(e) of the Executive Order. Two days later, Washington’s Complaint was amended to add the State of Minnesota as a plaintiff and to add a claim under the Tenth Amendment. Washington and Minnesota (collectively, “the States”) jointly filed an amended motion for a TRO. The Government opposed the motion the next day, and the district court held a hearing the day after that.
That evening, the court entered a written order granting the TRO. Washington v. Trump, No. C17-0141-JLR, 2017 WL 462040 (W.D. Wash. Feb. 3, 2017) . The district court preliminarily concluded that significant and ongoing harm was being inflicted on substantial numbers of people, to the detriment of the States, by means of an Executive Order that the States were likely to be able to prove was unlawful. Id. at *2. The district court enjoined and restrained the nationwide enforcement of sections 3(c) and 5(a) -(c) in their entirety. Id. It enjoined section 5(e) to the extent that section “purports to prioritize refugee claims of certain religious minorities,” and prohibited the government from “proceeding with any action that prioritizes the refugee claims of certain religious minorities.” The court also directed the parties to propose a briefing schedule for the States’ request for a preliminary injunction and denied the Government’s motion to stay the TRO pending an emergency appeal. Id. at *3.
The Government filed a notice of appeal the next day and sought an emergency stay in this court, including an immediate stay while its emergency stay motion was under consideration. We denied the request for an immediate stay and set deadlines for the filing of responsive and reply briefs on the emergency stay motion over the next two days.1 Washington v. Trump, No. 17-35105, 2017 WL 469608 (9th Cir. Feb. 4, 2017). The motion was submitted after oral argument was conducted by telephone.
1 We have also received many amicus curiae briefs in support of both the Government and the States.

Appellate Jurisdiction
The States argue that we lack jurisdiction over the Government’s stay motion because the Government’s appeal is premature. A TRO is not ordinarily appealable.
See Bennett v. Medtronic, Inc., 285 F.3d 801, 804 (9th Cir. 2002). We may nonetheless review an order styled as a TRO if it “possesses the qualities of a preliminary injunction.”
Serv. Emps. Int’l Union v. Nat’l Union of Healthcare Workers, 598 F.3d 1061, 1067 (9th Cir. 2010). This rule has ordinarily required the would-be appellant to show that the TRO was strongly challenged in adversarial proceedings before the district court and that it has or will remain in force for longer than the fourteen-day period identified in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(b). See, e.g., id.
We are satisfied that in the extraordinary circumstances of this case, the district court’s order possesses the qualities of an appealable preliminary injunction. The parties vigorously contested the legal basis for the TRO in written briefs and oral arguments before the district court. The district court’s order has no expiration date, and no hearing has been scheduled. Although the district court has recently scheduled briefing on the States’ motion for a preliminary injunction, it is apparent from the district court’s scheduling order that the TRO will remain in effect for longer than fourteen days. In light of the unusual circumstances of this case, in which the Government has argued that emergency relief is necessary to support its efforts to prevent terrorism, we believe that this period is long enough that the TRO should be considered to have the qualities of a reviewable preliminary injunction.
Standing
The Government argues that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the States have no standing to sue. We have an independent obligation to ascertain our jurisdiction, Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 514 (2006), and we consider the Government’s argument de novo, see, e.g., Hajro v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Servs., 811 F.3d 1086, 1098 (9th Cir. 2016). We conclude that the States have made a sufficient showing to support standing, at least at this preliminary stage of the proceedings.
Article III, section 2 of the Constitution allows federal courts to consider only “Cases” and “Controversies.” Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497, 516 (2007). “Those two words confine ‘the business of federal courts to questions presented in an adversary context and in a form historically viewed as capable of resolution through the judicial process.’” Id. (quoting Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 95 (1968)). ”Standing is an essential and unchanging part of the case-or-controversy requirement” and is therefore a prerequisite to our jurisdiction. See Lujan v. Defs. of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992). The “gist of the question of standing” is whether the plaintiff has a sufficiently “personal stake in the outcome of the controversy” to ensure that the parties will be truly adverse and their legal presentations sharpened. Massachusetts, 549 U.S. at 517 (quoting Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204 (1962)).
To establish Article III standing, a plaintiff must demonstrate “that it has suffered a concrete and particularized injury that is either actual or imminent, that the injury is fairly traceable to the defendant, and that it is likely that a favorable decision will redress that injury.” Id. (citing Lujan, 504 U.S. at 560-61).
Because standing is “an indispensable part of the plaintiff’s case,” it “must be supported in the same way as any other matter on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive stages of the litigation.” Lujan, 504 U.S. at 561. At this very preliminary stage of the litigation, the States may rely on the allegations in their Complaint and whatever other evidence they submitted in support of their TRO motion to meet their burden. See id. With these allegations and evidence, the States must make a “clear showing of each element of standing.” Townley v. Miller, 722 F.3d 1128, 1133 (9th Cir. 2013).3
The States argue that the Executive Order causes a concrete and particularized injury to their public universities, which the parties do not dispute are branches of the States under state law. See, e.g., Hontz v. State, 714 P.2d 1176, 1180 (Wash. 1986) (en banc); Univ. of Minn. v. Raygor, 620 N.W.2d 680, 683 (Minn. 2001).
Specifically, the States allege that the teaching and research missions of their universities are harmed by the Executive Order’s effect on their faculty and students who are nationals of the seven affected countries. These students and faculty cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or for personal reasons, and their families abroad cannot visit. Some have been stranded outside the country, unable to return to the universities at all. The schools cannot consider attractive student candidates and cannot hire faculty from the seven affected countries, which they have done in the past.
According to declarations filed by the States, for example, two visiting scholars who had planned to spend time at Washington State University were not permitted to enter the United States; one was informed he would be unable to obtain a visa. Similarly, the University of Washington was in the process of sponsoring three prospective employees from countries covered by the Executive Order for visas; it had made plans for their arrival beginning in February 2017, but they have been unable to enter the United States. The University of Washington also sponsored two medicine and science interns who have been prevented by the Executive Order from coming to the University of Washington. The University of Washington has already incurred the costs of visa applications for those interns and will lose its investment if they are not admitted. Both schools have a mission of “global engagement” and rely on such visiting students, scholars, and faculty to advance their educational goals. Students and faculty at Minnesota’s public universities were similarly restricted from traveling for academic and personal reasons.
Under the “third party standing” doctrine, these injuries to the state universities give the States standing to assert the rights of the students, scholars, and faculty affected by the Executive Order. See Singleton v. Wulff, 428 U.S. 106, 114-16 (1976) (explaining that third-party standing is allowed when the third party’s interests are “inextricably bound up with the activity the litigant wishes to pursue”; when the litigant is “fully, or very nearly, as effective a proponent of the right” as the third party; or when the third party is less able to assert her own rights). Vendors, for example, “have been uniformly permitted to resist efforts at restricting their operations by acting as advocates of the rights of third parties who seek access to their market or function.” Craig v. Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 195 (1976). Likewise, doctors have been permitted to assert the rights of their patients. See, e.g., Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). And advocacy organizations such as the NAACP have been permitted to assert the constitutional rights of their members.
Most relevant for our purposes, schools have been permitted to assert the rights of their students. See, e.g., Runyon v. McCrary, 427 U.S. 160, 175 & n.13 (1976) (“It is clear that the schools have standing to assert these arguments [asserting free-association rights, privacy rights, and ‘a parent’s right to direct the education of his children’] on behalf of their patrons.”); Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 536 (1925) (allowing a school to assert the “right of parents to choose schools where their children will receive appropriate mental and religious training [and] the right of the child to influence the parents’ choice of a school”); Parks Sch. of Bus., Inc. v. Symington, 51 F.3d 1480, 1487-88 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Pierce and rejecting the argument that the plaintiff school had no standing to assert claims of discrimination against its minority students); see also Ohio Ass’n of Indep. Sch. v. Goff, 92 F.3d 419, 422 (6th Cir. 1996) (citing similar authorities). As in those cases, the interests of the States’ universities here are aligned with their students. The students’ educational success is “inextricably bound up” in the universities’ capacity to teach them. Singleton, 428 U.S. at 115. And the universities’ reputations depend on the success of their professors’ research. Thus, as the operators of state universities, the States may assert not only their own rights to the extent affected by the Executive Order but may also assert the rights of their students and faculty members.
We therefore conclude that the States have alleged harms to their proprietary interests traceable to the Executive Order. The necessary connection can be drawn in at most two logical steps: (1) the Executive Order prevents nationals of seven countries from entering Washington and Minnesota; (2) as a result, some of these people will not enter state universities, some will not join those universities as faculty, some will be prevented from performing research, and some will not be permitted to return if they leave. And we have no difficulty concluding that the States’ injuries would be redressed if they could obtain the relief they ask for: a declaration that the Executive Order violates the Constitution and an injunction barring its enforcement. The Government does not argue otherwise.
We therefore hold that the States have standing.
Reviewability of the Executive Order
The Government contends that the district court lacked authority to enjoin enforcement of the Executive Order because the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend the admission of any class of aliens.” The Government does not merely argue that courts owe substantial deference to the immigration and national security policy determinations of the political branches—an uncontroversial principle that is well-grounded in our jurisprudence. See, e.g., Cardenas v. United States, 826 F.3d 1164, 1169 (9th Cir. 2016) (recognizing that “the power to expel or exclude aliens [is] a fundamental sovereign attribute exercised by the Government’s political departments largely immune from judicial control” (quoting Fiallo v. Bell, 430 U.S. 787, 792 (1977))); see also Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 33-34 (2010) (explaining that courts should defer to the political branches with respect to national security and foreign relations). Instead, the Government has taken the position that the President’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections. The Government indeed asserts that it violates separation of powers for the judiciary to entertain a constitutional challenge to executive actions such as this one.
There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy. See Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723, 765 (2008) (rejecting the idea that, even by congressional statute, Congress and the Executive could eliminate federal court habeas jurisdiction over enemy combatants, because the “political branches” lack “the power to switch the Constitution on or off at will”). Within our system, it is the role of the judiciary to interpret the law, a duty that will sometimes require the “[r]esolution of litigation challenging the constitutional authority of one of the three branches.” Zivotofsky ex rel. Zivotofsky v. Clinton, 566 U.S. 189, 196 (2012) (quoting INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 943 (1983)). We are called upon to perform that duty in this case.
Although our jurisprudence has long counseled deference to the political branches on matters of immigration and national security, neither the Supreme Court nor our court has ever held that courts lack the authority to review executive action in those arenas for compliance with the Constitution. To the contrary, the Supreme Court has repeatedly and explicitly rejected the notion that the political branches have unreviewable authority over immigration or are not subject to the Constitution when policymaking in that context. See Zadvydas v. Davis , 533 U.S. 678, 695 (2001) (emphasizing that the power of the political branches over immigration “is subject to important constitutional limitations”); Chadha, 462 U.S. at 940-41 (rejecting the argument that Congress has “unreviewable authority over the regulation of aliens,” and affirming that courts can review “whether Congress has chosen a constitutionally permissible means of implementing that power”).6 Our court has likewise made clear that “[a]lthough alienage classifications are closely connected to matters of foreign policy and national security,” courts “can and do review foreign policy arguments that are offered to justify legislative or executive action when constitutional rights are at stake.” American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm. v. Reno, 70 F.3d 1045, 1056 (9th Cir. 1995).
Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753 (1972), does not compel a different conclusion. The Government cites Mandel for the proposition that “‘when the Executive exercises’ immigration authority ‘on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason, the courts will [not] look behind the exercise of that discretion.’” The Government omits portions of the quoted language to imply that this standard governs judicial review of all executive exercises of immigration authority. In fact, the Mandel standard applies to lawsuits challenging an executive branch official’s decision to issue or deny an individual visa based on the application of a congressionally enumerated standard to the particular facts presented by that visa application. The present case, by contrast, is not about the application of a specifically enumerated congressional policy to the particular facts presented in an individual visa application. Rather, the States are challenging the President’s promulgation of sweeping immigration policy. Such exercises of policymaking authority at the highest levels of the political branches are plainly not subject to the Mandel standard; as cases like Zadvydas and Chadha make clear, courts can and do review constitutional challenges to the substance and implementation of immigration policy. See Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 695; Chadha, 462 U.S. at 940-41.
This is no less true when the challenged immigration action implicates national security concerns. See Ex parte Quirin, 317 U.S. 1, 19 (1942) (stating that courts have a duty, “in time of war as well as in time of peace, to preserve unimpaired the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty”); Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2, 120-21 (1866) (“The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace . . . under all circumstances.”). We are mindful that deference to the political branches is particularly appropriate with respect to national security and foreign affairs, given the relative institutional capacity, informational access, and expertise of the courts. See Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. at 33-34.
Nonetheless, “courts are not powerless to review the political branches’ actions” with respect to matters of national security. Alperin v. Vatican Bank, 410 F.3d 532, 559 n.17 (9th Cir. 2005). To the contrary, while counseling deference to the national security determinations of the political branches, the Supreme Court has made clear that the Government’s “authority and expertise in [such] matters do not automatically trump the Court’s own obligation to secure the protection that the Constitution grants to individuals,” even in times of war. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. at 34 (quoting id. at 61 (Breyer, J., dissenting)); see also United States v. Robel , 389 U.S. 258, 264 (1967) (“‘[N]ational defense’ cannot be deemed an end in itself, justifying any exercise of legislative power designed to promote such a goal. . . . It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of those liberties . . . which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”); Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 17 (1965) (“[S]imply because a statute deals with foreign relations [does not mean that] it can grant the Executive totally unrestricted freedom of choice.”).
Indeed, federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of—and even invalidate—actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict. See, e.g., Boumediene, 553 U.S. 723 (striking down a federal statute purporting to deprive federal courts of jurisdiction over habeas petitions filed by non-citizens being held as “enemy combatants” after being captured in Afghanistan or elsewhere and accused of authorizing, planning, committing, or aiding the terrorist attacks perpetrated on September 11, 2001); Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500 (1964) (holding unconstitutional a statute denying passports to American members of the Communist Party despite national security concerns); Ex parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944) (holding unconstitutional the detention of a law-abiding and loyal American of Japanese ancestry during World War II and affirming federal court jurisdiction over habeas petitions by such individuals). As a plurality of the Supreme Court cautioned in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S. 507 (2004), “Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in its exchanges with other nations or with enemy organizations in times of conflict, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.” Id. at 536 (plurality opinion).
In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President’s policy determinations with respect to immigration and national security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action.
Legal Standard
The Government moves to stay the district court’s order pending this appeal. “A stay is not a matter of right, even if irreparable injury might otherwise result.” Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 433 (2009) (quoting Virginian Ry. Co. v. United States, 272 U.S. 658, 672 (1926)). “It is instead ‘an exercise of judicial discretion,’ and ‘the propriety of its issue is dependent upon the circumstances of the particular case.’” Id. (quoting Virginian, 272 U.S. at 672-73) (alterations omitted) . “The party requesting a stay bears the burden of showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that discretion.” Id. at 433-34.
Our decision is guided by four questions: “(1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the public interest lies.” Lair v. Bullock , 697 F.3d 1200, 1203 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Nken, 556 U.S. at 434). “The first two factors . . . are the most critical,” Nken, 556 U.S. at 434, and the last two steps are reached “[o]nce an applicant satisfies the first two factors,” id. at 435. We conclude that the Government has failed to clear each of the first two critical steps. We also conclude that the final two factors do not militate in favor of a stay. We emphasize, however, that our analysis is a preliminary one. We are tasked here with deciding only whether the Government has made a strong showing of its likely success in this appeal and whether the district court’s TRO should be stayed in light of the relative hardships and the public interest.
The Government has not shown that it is likely to succeed on appeal on its arguments about, at least, the States’ Due Process Clause claim, and we also note the serious nature of the allegations the States have raised with respect to their religious discrimination claims. We express no view as to any of the States’ other claims.
Likelihood of Success—Due Process
The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution prohibits the Government from depriving individuals of their “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. V. The Government may not deprive a person of one of these protected interests without providing “notice and an opportunity to respond,” or, in other words, the opportunity to present reasons not to proceed with the deprivation and have them considered. United States v. Raya-Vaca, 771 F.3d 1195, 1204 (9th Cir. 2014); accord Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 542 (1985); ASSE Int’l, Inc. v. Kerry, 803 F.3d 1059, 1073 (9th Cir. 2015).
The Government has not shown that the Executive Order provides what due process requires, such as notice and a hearing prior to restricting an individual’s ability to travel. Indeed, the Government does not contend that the Executive Order provides for such process. Rather, in addition to the arguments addressed in other parts of this opinion, the Government argues that most or all of the individuals affected by the Executive Order have no rights under the Due Process Clause.
In the district court, the States argued that the Executive Order violates the procedural due process rights of various aliens in at least three independent ways. First, section 3(c) denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3(c) prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re- entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States. The district court held generally in the TRO that the States were likely to prevail on the merits of their due process claims, without discussing or offering analysis as to any specific alleged violation.
At this stage of the proceedings, it is the Government’s burden to make “a strong showing that [it] is likely to” prevail against the States’ procedural due process claims. Lair v. Bullock , 697 F.3d 1200, 1203 (9th Cir. 2012) (quoting Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 426 (2009)). We are not persuaded that the Government has carried its burden for a stay pending appeal.
The procedural protections provided by the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause are not limited to citizens. Rather, they “appl[y] to all ‘persons’ within the United States, including aliens,” regardless of “whether their presence here is lawful, unlawful, temporary, or permanent.” Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678, 693 (2001). These rights also apply to certain aliens attempting to reenter the United States after travelling abroad. Landon v. Plasencia, 459 U.S. 21, 33-34 (1982). The Government has provided no affirmative argument showing that the States’ procedural due process claims fail as to these categories of aliens. For example, the Government has failed to establish that lawful permanent residents have no due process rights when seeking to re-enter the United States. See id. (“[T]he returning resident alien is entitled as a matter of due process to a hearing on the charges underlying any attempt to exclude him.” (quoting Rosenberg v. Fleuti, 374 U.S. 449, 460 (1963))). Nor has the Government established that the Executive Order provides lawful permanent residents with constitutionally sufficient process to challenge their denial of re-entry. See id. at 35 (“[T]he courts must evaluate the particular circumstances and determine what procedures would satisfy the minimum requirements of due process on the re-entry of a permanent resident alien.”).
The Government has argued that, even if lawful permanent residents have due process rights, the States’ challenge to section 3(c) based on its application to lawful permanent residents is moot because several days after the Executive Order was issued, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II issued “[a]uthoritative [g]uidance” stating that sections 3(c) and 3(e) of the Executive Order do not apply to lawful permanent residents. At this point, however, we cannot rely upon the Government’s contention that the Executive Order no longer applies to lawful permanent residents. The Government has offered no authority establishing that the White House counsel is empowered to issue an amended order superseding the Executive Order signed by the President and now challenged by the States, and that proposition seems unlikely.
Nor has the Government established that the White House counsel’s interpretation of the Executive Order is binding on all executive branch officials responsible for enforcing the Executive Order. The White House counsel is not the President, and he is not known to be in the chain of command for any of the Executive Departments. Moreover, in light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings. On this record, therefore, we cannot conclude that the Government has shown that it is “absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.” Friends of the Earth, Inc., v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs., Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 189 (2000) (emphasis added).
Even if the claims based on the due process rights of lawful permanent residents were no longer part of this case, the States would continue to have potential claims regarding possible due process rights of other persons who are in the United States, even if unlawfully, see Zadvydas, 533 U.S. 693; non-immigrant visaholders who have been in the United States but temporarily departed or wish to temporarily depart, see Landon, 459 U.S. 33- 34; refugees, see 8 U.S.C. § 1231 note 8; and applicants who have a relationship with a U.S. resident or an institution that might have rights of its own to assert, see Kerry v. Din, 135 S. Ct. 2128, 2139 (2015) (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); id. at 2142 (Breyer, J., dissenting); Kleindienst v. Mandel, 408 U.S. 753, 762-65 (1972). Accordingly, the Government has not demonstrated that the States lack viable claims based on the due process rights of persons who will suffer injuries to protected interests due to the Executive Order. Indeed, the existence of such persons is obvious.
The Government argues that, even if the States have shown that they will likely succeed on some of their procedural due process claims, the district court nevertheless erred by issuing an “overbroad” TRO. Specifically, the Government argues that the TRO is overbroad in two independent respects: (1) the TRO extends beyond lawful permanent residents, and covers aliens who cannot assert cognizable liberty interests in connection with travelling into and out of the United States, and (2) the TRO applies nationwide, and enjoins application of the Executive Order outside Washington and Minnesota. We decline to modify the scope of the TRO in either respect.
First, we decline to limit the scope of the TRO to lawful permanent residents and the additional category more recently suggested by the Government, in its reply memorandum, “previously admitted aliens who are temporarily abroad now or who wish to travel and return to the United States in the future.” That limitation on its face omits aliens who are in the United States unlawfully, and those individuals have due process rights as well. Zadvydas, 533 U.S. at 693. That would also omit claims by citizens who have an interest in specific non-citizens’ ability to travel to the United States. See Din, 135 S. Ct. at 2139 (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment); id. at 2142 (Breyer, J., dissenting) (six Justices declining to adopt a rule that would categorically bar U.S. citizens from asserting cognizable liberty interests in the receipt of visas by alien spouses). There might be persons covered by the TRO who do not have viable due process claims, but the Government’s proposed revision leaves out at least some who do.

Second, we decline to limit the geographic scope of the TRO. The Fifth Circuit has held that such a fragmented immigration policy would run afoul of the constitutional and statutory requirement for uniform immigration law and policy. Texas v. United States, 809 F.3d 134, 187-88 (5th Cir. 2015), aff’d by an equally divided Court, 136 S. Ct. 2271 (2016) . At this stage of the litigation, we do not need to and do not reach such a legal conclusion for ourselves, but we cannot say that the Government has established that a contrary view is likely to prevail. Moreover, even if limiting the geographic scope of the injunction would be desirable, the Government has not proposed a workable alternative form of the TRO that accounts for the nation’s multiple ports of entry and interconnected transit system and that would protect the proprietary interests of the States at issue here while nevertheless applying only within the States’ borders.
More generally, even if the TRO might be overbroad in some respects, it is not our role to try, in effect, to rewrite the Executive Order. See United States v. Nat’l Treasury Emps. Union, 513 U.S. 454, 479 (1995) (declining to rewrite a statute to eliminate constitutional defects); cf. Aptheker v. Sec’y of State, 378 U.S. 500, 516 (1964) (invalidating a restriction on freedom of travel despite the existence of constitutional applications). The political branches are far better equipped to make appropriate distinctions. For now, it is enough for us to conclude that the Government has failed to establish that it will likely succeed on its due process argument in this appeal.
Likelihood of Success—Religious Discrimination
The First Amendment prohibits any “law respecting an establishment of religion.” U.S. Const. amend. I. A law that has a religious, not secular, purpose violates that clause, Lemon v. Kurtzman, 403 U.S. 602, 612-13 (1971), as does one that “officially prefer[s] [one religious denomination] over another,” Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 244 (1982). The Supreme Court has explained that this is because endorsement of a religion “sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community.’” Santa Fe Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Doe , 530 U.S. 290, 310 (2000) (quoting Lynch v. Donnelly, 465 U.S. 668, 688 (1984) (O’Connor, J., concurring)). The Equal Protection Clause likewise prohibits the Government from impermissibly discriminating among persons based on religion. De La Cruz v. Tormey, 582 F.2d 45, 50 (9th Cir. 1978).
The States argue that the Executive Order violates the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses because it was intended to disfavor Muslims. In support of this argument, the States have offered evidence of numerous statements by the President about his intent to implement a “Muslim ban” as well as evidence they claim suggests that the Executive Order was intended to be that ban, including sections 5(b) and 5(e) of the Order. It is well established that evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law may be considered in evaluating Establishment and Equal Protection Clause claims. See, e.g., Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 534 (1993) (“The Free Exercise Clause, like the Establishment Clause, extends beyond facial discrimination. . . . Official action that targets religious conduct for distinctive treatment cannot be shielded by mere compliance with the requirement of facial neutrality.”); Larson, 456 U.S. at 254-55 (holding that a facially neutral statute violated the Establishment Clause in light of legislative history demonstrating an intent to apply regulations only to minority religions); Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro. Housing Dev. Corp., 429 U.S. 252, 266-68 (1977) (explaining that circumstantial evidence of intent, including the historical background of the decision and statements by decisionmakers, may be considered in evaluating whether a governmental action was motivated by a discriminatory purpose).
The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions. In light of the sensitive interests involved, the pace of the current emergency proceedings, and our conclusion that the Government has not met its burden of showing likelihood of success on appeal on its arguments with respect to the due process claim, we reserve consideration of these claims until the merits of this appeal have been fully briefed.
The Balance of Hardships and the Public Interest
The Government has not shown that a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury. Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Although we agree that “the Government’s interest in combating terrorism is an urgent objective of the highest order,” Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, 561 U.S. 1, 28 (2010), the Government has done little more than reiterate that fact. Despite the district court’s and our own repeated invitations to explain the urgent need for the Executive Order to be placed immediately into effect, the Government submitted no evidence to rebut the States’ argument that the district court’s order merely returned the nation temporarily to the position it has occupied for many previous years.
The Government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.7 Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the Executive Order, the Government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.8 We disagree, as explained above.
To the extent that the Government claims that it has suffered an institutional injury by erosion of the separation of powers, that injury is not “irreparable.” It may yet pursue and vindicate its interests in the full course of this litigation.
See, e.g., Texas v. United States, 787 F.3d 733, 767- 68 (5th Cir. 2015) (“[I]t is the resolution of the case on the merits, not whether the injunction is stayed pending appeal, that will affect those principles.”).
By contrast, the States have offered ample evidence that if the Executive Order were reinstated even temporarily, it would substantially injure the States and multiple “other parties interested in the proceeding.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 434 (quoting Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987)). When the Executive Order was in effect, the States contend that the travel prohibitions harmed the States’ university employees and students, separated families, and stranded the States’ residents abroad. These are substantial injuries and even irreparable harms. See Melendres v. Arpaio, 695 F.3d 990, 1002 (9th Cir. 2012) (“It is well established that the deprivation of constitutional rights ‘unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.’” (quoting Elrod v. Burns, 427 U.S. 347, 373 (1976))).
The Government suggests that the Executive Order’s discretionary waiver provisions are a sufficient safety valve for those who would suffer unnecessarily, but it has offered no explanation for how these provisions would function in practice: how would the “national interest” be determined, who would make that determination, and when? Moreover, as we have explained above, the Government has not otherwise explained how the Executive Order could realistically be administered only in parts such that the injuries listed above would be avoided.
Finally, in evaluating the need for a stay, we must consider the public interest generally. See Nken, 556 U.S. at 434. Aspects of the public interest favor both sides, as evidenced by the massive attention this case has garnered at even the most preliminary stages. On the one hand, the public has a powerful interest in national security and in the ability of an elected president to enact policies. And on the other, the public also has an interest in free flow of travel, in avoiding separation of families, and in freedom from
discrimination. We need not characterize the public interest more definitely than this; when considered alongside the hardships discussed above, these competing public interests do not justify a stay.
Conclusion
For the foregoing reasons, the emergency motion for a stay pending appeal is DENIED.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 16, 2016: President Barack Obama’s last end-of-year press conference

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama’s last end-of-year news conference

Source: WaPo, 12-16-16

OBAMA: All right, everybody. Good afternoon. This is the most wonderful press conference of the year. I have got a list of who has been naughty and nice to call on. But let me first make a couple of quick points and then I will take your questions.

Typically I use this year-end press conference to review how far we have come over the course of the year. Today, understandably, I’m going to talk a little bit about how far we have come over the past eight years.

As I was preparing to take office, the unemployment rate was on its way to 10 percent. Today it is at 4.6 percent, the lowest in nearly a decade. We’ve seen the longest streak of job growth on record, and wages have grown faster over the past few years than at any time in the past 40.

When I came into office, 44 million people were uninsured. Today we have covered more than 20 million of them. For the first time in our history, more than 90 percent of Americans are insured.

In fact, yesterday was the biggest day ever for health care.gov, more than 670,000 Americans signed up to get covered, and more are signing up by the day.

We’ve cut our dependence on foreign oil by more than half, doubled production of renewable energy, enacted the most sweeping reforms since FDR to protect consumers and prevent a crisis on Wall Street from punishing main street ever again.

None of these actions stifled growth as critics are predicted. Instead, the stock market has nearly tripled.

Since I signed Obamacare into law, our businesses have added more than 15 million new jobs, and the economy undoubtedly more durable than it was in the days when we relied on oil from unstable nations and banks took risky bets with your money.

Add it all up, and last year the poverty rate fell at the fastest rate in almost 50 years, while the median household income grew at the fastest rate on record. In fact, income gains were actually larger for households at the bottom and the middle than for those at the top.

And we have done all this while cutting our deficits by nearly two-thirds, and protecting vital investments that grow the middle class.

In foreign policy, when I came into office we were in the midst of two wars. Now nearly 180,000 troops are down to 15,000. Bin Laden, rather than being at large, has been taken off the battlefield, along with thousands of other terrorists.

Over the past eight years no foreign terrorist organization has successfully executed an attack on our homeland that was directed from overseas. Through diplomacy, we have ensured Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon without going to war with Iran.

We opened up a new chapter with the people of Cuba. And we have brought nearly 200 nations together around a climate agreement that could very well save this planet for our kids.

And almost every country on Earth sees America as stronger and more respected today than they did eight years ago. In other words, by so many measures our country is stronger and more prosperous than it was when we started. It is a situation that I’m proud to leave for my successor. And it’s thanks to the American people, to the hard work that you have put in, the sacrifices you have made for your families and your communities, the businesses that you started or invested in, and the way you looked out for one another. And I could not be prouder to be your president.

Of course, to tout this progress does not mean that we are not mindful of how much more there is to do. In this season in particular, we are reminded that there are people who are still hungry, people who are still homeless, people who still have trouble paying the bills or finding work after being laid off.

There are communities that are still mourning those who have been stolen from us by senseless gun violence, and parents who still are wondering how to protect their kids.

OBAMA: And after I leave office I intend to continue to work with organizations and citizens doing good across the country on these and other pressing issues to build on the progress that we have made.

Around the world as well, there are hotspots where disputes have been intractable, conflicts have flared up, and people, innocent people are suffering as result, and nowhere is this more terribly true than in the city of Aleppo. For years, we’ve worked to stop the civil war in Syria and alleviate human suffering. It has been one of the hardest issues that I’ve faced as president.

The world as we speak is united in horror at the savage assaults by the Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies on the city of Aleppo. We have seen a deliberate strategy of surrounding, besieging and starving innocent civilians. We’ve seen relentless targeting of humanitarian workers and medical personnel, entire and neighbors reduced to rubble and dust. There are continuing reports of civilians being executed. These are all horrific violations of international law.

Responsibility for this brutality lies in one place alone, with the Assad regime and its allies, Russia and Iran, and this blood and these atrocities are on their hands. We all know what needs to happen. There needs to be an impartial international observer force in Aleppo that can help coordinate an orderly evacuation through say corridors. There has to be full access for humanitarian aid, even as the United States continues to be the world’s largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people. And beyond that, there needs to be a broader cease-fire that can serve as the basis for a political rather than a military solution.

That’s what the United States is gonna continue to push for, both with our partners and through multilateral institutions like the U.N.

Regretfully, but unsurprisingly, Russia has repeatedly blocked the Security Council from taking action on these issues, so we’re gonna keep pressing the Security Council to help improve the delivery of humanitarian aid to those who are in such desperate need and ensure accountability, including continuing to monitor any potential use of chemical weapons in Syria.

And we’re gonna work in the U.N. General Assembly as well, both on accountability and to advance a political settlement because it should be clear that although you may achieve tactical victories, over the long-term, the Assad regime cannot slaughter its way to legitimacy. That’s why we’ll continue to press for a transition to a more representative government, and that’s why the world must not avert our eyes to the terrible events that are unfolding.

The Syrian regime and its Russian and Iranian allies are trying to obfuscate the truth. The world should not be fooled and the world will not forget.

So even in a season where the incredible blessings that we know as Americans are all around us, even as we enjoy family and friends and are reminded of how lucky we are, we should also be reminded that to be an American involves bearing burdens and meeting obligations to others. American values and American ideals are what will lead the way to a safer and more prosperous 2017, both here and abroad. And by the way, you (ph) embody those values and ideals like our brave men and women in uniform and their families.

So I just want to close by wishing all of them a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

With that, I will take some questions, and I’m gonna start with Josh Lederman of A.P.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

There’s a perception that you’re letting President Putin get away with interfering in the U.S. election and that a response that nobody knows about (inaudible) don’t cut it. Are you prepared to call out President Putin by name for ordering (inaudible)? And do you agree with Hillary Clinton now says, that the hacking was actually partially responsible for her loss?

And is your administration open to correlate with Trump and his team on this issues, tarnishing (ph) the smooth transition of power that you have promised?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, with respect to the transition, I think they would be the first to acknowledge that we have done everything we can to make sure that they are successful, as I promised, and that will continue. And it’s just been a few days since I last talked to the president-elect about a whole range of transition issues. That cooperation’s gonna continue.

OBAMA: There hasn’t been a lot of squabbling. What we’ve simply said is the facts, which are that based on uniform intelligence assessments, the Russians were responsible for hacking the DNC and that as a consequence, it is important for us to review all elements of that and make sure that we are preventing that kind of interference through cyber attacks in the future. That should be a bipartisan issue, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.

And my hope is that the president-elect is going to similarly be concerned with making sure that we don’t have a potential foreign influence in our election process. I don’t think any American wants that. And that shouldn’t be a source of an argument.

I think that part of the challenge is that it gets caught up in the carryover from election season. And I think it is very important for us to distinguish between the politics of the election and the need for us as a country, both from a national security perspective but also in terms of the integrity of our election system and our democracy to make sure that we don’t create a political football here.

Now, with respect to how this thing unfolded last year, let’s just go through the facts pretty quickly. At the beginning of the summer, were alerted to the possibility that the DNC has been hacked. And I made (ph) an order, law enforcement, as well as our intelligence teams to find out everything about it, investigate it thoroughly to brief the potential victims of this hacking, to brief on a bipartisan basis the leaders of both the House and the Senate and the relevant intelligence committees.

And once we had clarity and certainty around what in fact had happened, we publicly announced that in fact Russia had hacked into the DNC. And at that time, we did not attribute motives or you know any interpretations of why they had done so.

We didn’t discuss what the effects of it might be. We simply let people know — the public know just as we had let members of Congress know that this had happened.

And as a consequence, all of you wrote a lot of stories about both what had happened and then you interpreted why that might have happened and what effect it was going to have on the election outcomes. We did not — and the reason we did not was because in this hyper-partisan atmosphere, at a time when my primary concern was making sure that the integrity of the election process was not in any way damaged, at a time when anything that was said by me or anybody in the White House would immediately be seen through a partisan lens. I wanted to make sure that everybody understood we were playing this thing straight, that we weren’t trying to advantage one side or another. But what we were trying to do was let people know that this had taken place.

And so if you started seeing effects on the election, if you were trying to measure why this was happening and how you should consume the information that was being leaked, that you might want to take this into account. And that’s exactly how we should have handled it.

Imagine if we had done the opposite, it would become immediately just one more political scrum. And part of the goal here was to make sure that we did not do the work of the leakers for them by raising more and more questions about the integrity of the election right before the election was taking place — at a time, by the way, when the president-elect himself was raising questions about the integrity of the election.

And finally, I think it’s worth pointing out, that the information was already out. It was in the hands of Wikileaks, so that was going to come out no matter what.

What I was concerned about in particular was making sure that that wasn’t compounded by potential hacking that could hamper vote counting, affect the actual election process itself.

And so in early September when I saw President Putin in China, I felt that the most effective way to ensure that that did not happen was to talk to him directly and tell him to cut it out, there were going to be some serious consequences if he did not.

And in fact, we did not see further tampering of the election process. But the leaks through Wikileaks had already occurred.

So when I look back in terms of how we handled it, I think we handled it the way it should have been handled. We allowed law enforcement and the intelligence community to do its job without political influence.

We briefed all relevant parties involved in terms of what was taking place. When we had a consensus around what had happened, we announced it, not through the White House, not through me, but rather through the intelligence communities that had actually carried out these investigations.

And then we allowed you and the American public to make an assessment as to how to weigh that going into the election.

And the truth is, is that there was nobody here who did not have some sense of what kind of effect it might have. I am finding it a little curious that everybody is suddenly acting surprised that this looked like it was disadvantaging Hillary Clinton, because you guys wrote about it every day, every single leak about every little juicy tidbit of political gossip, including John Podesta’s risotto recipe.

This was an obsession that dominated the news coverage. So I do think it is worth us reflecting how it is that a presidential election of such importance, of such moment, with so many big issues at stake and such a contrast between the candidates came to be dominated by a bunch of these leaks.

What is it about our political system that made us vulnerable to these kinds of potential manipulations which, as I’ve said publicly before, were not particularly sophisticated. This was not some elaborate, complicated espionage scheme.

They hacked into some Democratic Party e-mails that contained pretty routine stuff, some of it embarrassing or uncomfortable because I suspect that if any of us got our emails hacked into there might be some things that we would not want suddenly appearing on the front page of a newspaper or a telecast, even if there was not anything particularly illegal or controversial about it.

And then it just took off. And that concerns me, and it should concern all of us. But the truth of the matter is, is that everybody had the information. It was out there, and we handled it the way we should have.

Now, moving forward, I think there are a couple of issues that this raises. Number one is just the constant challenge that we are going to have with cyber security throughout our economy and throughout our society.

We are a digitalized culture. And there’s hacking going on every single day. There is not a company, there is not a major organization, there is not a financial institution, there is not a branch of our government were somebody is not going to be fishing for something or trying to penetrate or put in a virus or malware.

And this is why for the last eight years I have been obsessed with how do we continually upgrade our cyber security systems. And this particular concern around Russian hacking is part of a broader set of concerns about how do we deal with cyber issues being used in ways that can affect our infrastructure, affect the stability of our financial systems, and affect the integrity of our institutions like our election process.

I just received, a couple of weeks back, it wasn’t widely reported on, a report from our cyber-security commission that outlines a whole range of strategies to do a better job on this. But it’s difficult because it’s not all housed — the target of cyberattacks is not one entity, but it’s widely dispersed and a lot of it is private, like the DNC. You know, it’s not a branch of government. We can’t tell people what to do.

What we can do is inform them, get best practices. What we can also do is to on a bilateral basis warn other countries against these kinds of attacks, and we’ve done that in the past. So just as I told Russia to stop it and indicated there will be consequences when they do it, the Chinese have in the past engaged in cyberattacks directed at our companies to steal trade secrets and proprietary technology, and I had to have the same conversation with President Xi. And what we’ve seen is some evidence that they have reduced but not completely eliminated these activities, partly because they can use cutouts. One of the problems with the internet and cyber issues is there’s not always a return address, and by the time you catch up to it, you know, attributing what happened to a particular government can be difficult, not always provable in court, even tough our intelligence communities can make an assessment.

What we’ve also tried to do is to start creating some international norms about this to prevent some sort of cyber arms race because we obviously have offensive capabilities as well as defensive capabilities, and my approach is not a situation which everybody’s worse off because folks are constantly attacking each other back and forth, but putting some guardrails around behavior of nation states, including our adversaries, just so that they understand that whatever they do to us, we can potentially do to them.

We do have some special challenges because oftentimes, our economy is more digitalized. It is more vulnerable partly because we’re a wealthier nation and we’re more wired than some of these other countries and we have a more open society and engage in less control and censorship over what happens over the internet, which is also part of what makes us special.

Last point, and the reason I’m going on here is because I know that you guys have a lot of questions about this and I addressed all of you directly about this. With respect to response, my principal goal leading up to the election was making sure that the election itself went off without a hitch, that it was not tarnished and that it did not feed any sense in the public that somehow, tampering had taken place with the actual process of voting and we accomplished that. That does not mean that we are not going to respond, it simply meant that we had a set of priorities leading up to the election that were of the utmost importance.

Our goal continues to be to send a clear message to Russia or others not to do this to us because we can do stuff to you, but it is also important for us to do that in a thoughtful, methodical way. Some of it, we do publicly. Some of it, we will do in a way that they know but not everybody will. And I know that there have been folks out there who suggests somehow that if we went out there and made big announcements and thumped our chests about a bunch of stuff, that somehow that would potentially spook the Russians.

But keep in mind that we already have enormous numbers of sanctions against the Russians. The relationship between us and Russia has deteriorated, sadly, significantly over the last several years. And so how we approach an appropriate response that increases costs for them for behavior like this in the future but does not create problems for us is something that’s worth taking the time to think through and figure out. And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

So, at a point in time where we’ve taken certain actions that we can divulge publicly, we will do so. There are times where the message will be directly received by the Russians and not publicized. And I should point out by the way, part of why the Russians have been effective on this is because they don’t go around announcing what they’re doing. It’s not like Putin’s gone around the world publicly saying, look what we did. Wasn’t that clever? He denies it.

So the idea that somehow public shaming is gonna be effective, I think doesn’t read the — the thought process in Russia very well. OK.

QUESTION: Did Clinton lose because of the hacking?

OBAMA: I’m gonna let all the political pundits in this town have a long discussion about what happened in the election. It was a fascinating election. So, you know, I’m sure there are gonna be a lot of books written about it. I’ve said what I think is important for the Democratic Party going forward, rather than try to parse every aspect of the election.

And I — I’ve said before, I couldn’t be prouder of Secretary Clinton, her outstanding service and she’s worked tirelessly on behalf of the American people and I don’t think she was treated fairly during the election. I think the coverage of her and the issues was troubling, but having said that, what I’ve been most focused on — appropriate for the fact I am not going to be a politician in about — what is it, 32 days, 31, 34?

(LAUGHTER)

What I’ve said is that I can maybe give some counsel advice to the Democratic Party. And I think the — the — the thing we have to spend the most time on — because it’s the thing we have most control over — is, how do we make sure that we’re showing up in places where I think Democratic policies are needed, where they are helping, where they are making a difference, but where people feel as if they’re not being heard?

And where Democrats are characterized as coastal, liberal, latte- sipping, you know, politically correct, out-of-touch folks, we have to be in those communities. And I’ve seen that, when we are in those communities, it makes a difference. That’s how I became president. I became a U.S. Senator not just because I had a strong base in Chicago, but because I was driving downstate Illinois and going to fish fries and sitting in V.F.W. Halls and talking to farmers.

And I didn’t win every one of their votes, but they got a sense of what I was talking about, what I cared about, that I was for working people, that I was for the middle class, that the reason I was interested in strengthening unions and raising the minimum wage and rebuilding our infrastructure and making sure that parents had decent childcare and family leave, was because my own family’s history wasn’t that different from theirs even if I looked a little bit different. Same thing in Iowa.

And so the question is, how do we rebuild that party as a whole, so that there’s not a county in any state — I don’t care how red — where we don’t have a presence and we’re not making the argument, because I think we have a better argument. But that requires a lot of work. You know, it’s been something that I’ve been able to do successfully in my own campaigns.

OBAMA: It is not something I’ve been able to transfer to candidates in mid-terms and sort of build a sustaining organization around. That’s something I would have liked to have done more of, but it’s kind of hard to do when you’re also dealing with a whole bunch of issues here in the White House. And that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done, and I think there are gonna be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values, who are gonna be leading the charge in the years to come.

Michelle Kosinski (ph) of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This week we heard Hillary Clinton talk about how she thinks that the FBI director’s most recent announcement made a difference in the outcome of the election. And we also just heard in an op-ed her campaign chairman talk about something being deeply broken within the FBI.

He talked about thinking that the investigation early on was lackadaisical, in his words. So what do you think about those comments? Do you think there’s any truth to them? Do you think there’s a danger there that they’re calling into question the integrity of institutions in a similar way that Donald Trump’s team has done?

And the second part to that is that Donald Trump’s team repeatedly — I guess, given the indication that the investigation of the Russian hack as well as retaliation might not be such a priority once he’s in office.

So what do you think the risk is there? And are you going to talk to him directly about some of those comments he made?

OBAMA: Well, on the latter point, as I said before, the transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know, it’s bumpy. There are still feelings that are raw out there. There are people who are still thinking how things unfolded. And I get all that.

But when Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, then he has got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.

And I’ve said this before. I think there is a sobering process when you walk into the Oval Office. And, you know, I haven’t shared previously private conversations I’ve had with the president-elect. I will say that they have been cordial and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to ensure that regardless of our obvious deep disagreements about policy, maybe I can transmit some thoughts about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions, and he has listened.

I can’t say that he will end up implementing, but the conversations themselves have been cordial as opposed to defensive in any way. And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me as issues come up.

With respect to the FBI, I will tell you, I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents. I know Director Comey. They take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives.

And it is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work that they are doing and the political system. It’s one of the difficulties of democracy generally.

We have a system where we want our law enforcement investigators and our prosecutors to be free from politics, to be independent, to play it straight. But sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics and particularly in this hyper-partisan environment that we’ve been in, everything is suspect, everything you do one way or the other.

One thing that I have done is to be pretty scrupulous about not wading into investigation decisions or prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute. I have tried to be really strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement, free from my own judgments and political assessments, in some cases. And I don’t know why it would stop now.

Mike Dorney (ph) of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

On Aleppo, your views of (ph) what happens there, the responsibility of the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Assad regime (inaudible), but do you, as president of the United States, leader of the free world, feel any personal moral responsibility now at the end of your presidency for the carnage we’re all watching in Aleppo, which I’m sure disturbs you (inaudible)?

Secondly, also on Aleppo, you’ve again made clear your practical disagreements with (inaudible) and President-elect Trump has throughout his campaign, and he said again last night, that he wants to create safe zones in Syria. Do you feel like in this transition, you need to help him toward implementing that or is that not something you need to be doing?

OBAMA: Mike, I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced. I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I’m president of the United States, I feel responsible. I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn’t deserve to suffer. So that’s a starting point. There’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility.

That’s true, by the way, for our own country. When I came into office and people were losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their pensions, I felt responsible and I would go home at night and I would ask myself, was there something better that I could do or smarter that I could be that would make a difference in their lives, that would relieve their suffering and relieve their hardship.

So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings — if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings — where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.

OBAMA: Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.

So it may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world’s eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.

Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that’s going to arise.

Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.

And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Mike, I can’t have too much…

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but do you see, responsibility notwithstanding, moving in that direction or help President-elect Trump move in that direction?

OBAMA: I will help President Trump — President-elect Trump with any advice, counsel, information that we can provide so that he, once he’s sworn in, can make a decision.

Between now and then, these are decisions that I have to make based on the consultations that I have with our military and the people who have been working this every single day.

Peter Alexander (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Can you, given all the intelligence that we have now heard, assure the public this was once and for all a free and fair election? And specifically on Russia, do you feel any obligation now as they have been insisting that this isn’t the case to show the proof, as it were? They say, put your money where your mouth is and declassify some of the intelligence and the evidence that exists.

And more broadly, as it relates to Donald Trump on this very topic, are you concerned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, especially given some of the recent cabinet picks, including his selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who toasted Putin with champagne over oil deals together? Thank you.

OBAMA: I may be getting older because these multipart questions, I start losing track.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was our concern and will continue to be of concern going forward, that the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately.

We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with, so that assurance I can provide.

That doesn’t mean that we find every single, you know, potential probe of every single voting machine all across the country, but we paid a lot of attention to it. We worked with state officials, et cetera, and we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

And so that’s on that point. What was the second one?

QUESTION: Say more about declassification.

OBAMA: Declassification. Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t be done, and I think there are going to be a lot of talented folks out there, a lot of progressives who share my values who are going to be leading the charge in the years to come.

Michelle Kosinski (ph) of CNN.

QUESTION: Thank you.

This week we heard Hillary Clinton talk about how she thinks that the FBI director’s most recent announcement made a difference in the outcome of the election. And we also just heard in an op-ed her campaign chairman talk about something being deeply broken within the FBI.

He talked about thinking that the investigation early on was lackadaisical, in his words. So what do you think about those comments? Do you think there’s any truth to them? Do you think there’s a danger there that they’re calling into question the integrity of institutions in a similar way that Donald Trump’s team has done?

And the second part to that is that Donald Trump’s team repeatedly — I guess, given the indication that the investigation of the Russian hack as well as retaliation might not be such a priority once he’s in office.

So what do you think the risk is there? And are you going to talk to him directly about some of those comments he made?

OBAMA: Well, on the latter point, as I said before, the transition from election season to governance season is not always smooth. You know, it’s bumpy. There are still feelings that are raw out there. There are people who are still thinking how things unfolded. And I get all that.

But when Donald Trump takes the oath of office and is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, then he has got a different set of responsibilities and considerations.

And I’ve said this before. I think there is a sobering process when you walk into the Oval Office. And, you know, I haven’t shared previously private conversations I’ve had with the president-elect. I will say that they have been cordial and in some cases have involved me making some pretty specific suggestions about how to ensure that regardless of our obvious deep disagreements about policy, maybe I can transmit some thoughts about maintaining the effectiveness, integrity, cohesion of the office, our various democratic institutions, and he has listened.

I can’t say that he will end up implementing, but the conversations themselves have been cordial as opposed to defensive in any way. And I will always make myself available to him just as previous presidents have made themselves available to me as issues come up.

With respect to the FBI, I will tell you, I’ve had a chance to know a lot of FBI agents. I know Director Comey. They take their job seriously. They work really hard. They help keep us safe and save a lot of lives.

And it is always a challenge for law enforcement when there’s an intersection between the work that they are doing and the political system. It’s one of the difficulties of democracy generally.

We have a system where we want our law enforcement investigators and our prosecutors to be free from politics, to be independent, to play it straight. But sometimes that involves investigations that touch on politics and particularly in this hyper-partisan environment that we’ve been in, everything is suspect, everything you do one way or the other.

One thing that I have done is to be pretty scrupulous about not wading into investigation decisions or prosecution decisions or decisions not to prosecute. I have tried to be really strict in my own behavior about preserving the independence of law enforcement, free from my own judgments and political assessments, in some cases. And I don’t know why it would stop now.

Mike Dorney (ph) of Bloomberg.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

On Aleppo, your views of (ph) what happens there, the responsibility of the Russian government, the Iranian government, the Assad regime (inaudible), but do you, as president of the United States, leader of the free world, feel any personal moral responsibility now at the end of your presidency for the carnage we’re all watching in Aleppo, which I’m sure disturbs you (inaudible)?

Secondly, also on Aleppo, you’ve again made clear your practical disagreements with (inaudible) and President-elect Trump has throughout his campaign, and he said again last night, that he wants to create safe zones in Syria. Do you feel like in this transition, you need to help him toward implementing that or is that not something you need to be doing?

OBAMA: Mike, I always feel responsible. I felt responsible when kids were being shot by snipers. I felt responsible when millions of people had been displaced. I feel responsible for murder and slaughter that’s taken place in South Sudan that’s not being reported on, partly because there’s not as much social media being generated from there.

There are places around the world where horrible things are happening and because of my office, because I’m president of the United States, I feel responsible. I ask myself every single day, is there something I could do that would save lives and make a difference and spare some child who doesn’t deserve to suffer. So that’s a starting point. There’s not a moment during the course of this presidency where I haven’t felt some responsibility.

That’s true, by the way, for our own country. When I came into office and people were losing their jobs and losing their homes and losing their pensions, I felt responsible and I would go home at night and I would ask myself, was there something better that I could do or smarter that I could be that would make a difference in their lives, that would relieve their suffering and relieve their hardship.

So with respect to Syria, what I have consistently done is taken the best course that I can to try to end the civil war while having also to take into account the long-term national security interests of the United States. And throughout this process, based on hours of meetings — if you tallied it up, days and weeks of meetings — where we went through every option in painful detail with maps and we had our military and we had our aid agencies and we had our diplomatic teams, and sometimes, we’d bring in outsiders who were critics of ours.

OBAMA: Whenever we went through it, the challenge was that short of putting large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground uninvited, without any international law mandate, without sufficient support from Congress, at a time when we still had troops in Afghanistan and we still had troops in Iraq and we had just gone through over a decade of war and spent trillions of dollars and when the opposition on the ground was not cohesive enough to necessarily govern a country and you had a military superpower in Russia prepared to do whatever it took to keep its (inaudible) involved and you had a regional military power in Iran that saw their own vital strategic interests at stake and were willing to send in as many of their people or proxies to support the regime.

And in that circumstance, unless we were all in and willing to take over Syria, we were going to have problems. And everything else was tempting because we wanted to do something and it sounded like the right thing to do but it was going to be impossible to do this on the cheap. And in that circumstance, I have to make decision as president of the United States as to what is best — I’m sorry.

What’s going on? Somebody’s not feeling good. All right. Why don’t we have — we got — we can get our doctors back there to help out. Somebody want to go to my doctor’s office and just send them — all right. Where was I? So we couldn’t do it on the cheap. Now, it may be —

QUESTION: Can we get a doctor in here? Can that be arranged?

OBAMA: Can somebody help out, please, and get Doc Jackson in here? Somebody grabbing our doctor?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Of course. In the meantime, just give her a little room. Doctor will be here in a second. You guys know where the doctor’s office is? So just go through the palm doors. Its right — its right next to the map room. There he is. All right. There’s Doc Jackson. He’s all right. OK. The doctor — the doctor’s in the house.

So — And I don’t mean that — I mean that with all sincerity. I understand the impulse to want to do something, but ultimately what I’ve had to do is to think about, what can we sustain, what is realistic? And my first priority has to be, what’s the right thing to do for America? And it has been our view that the best thing to do has been to provide some support to the moderate opposition so that they could sustain themselves. And that you wouldn’t see anti-Assad regime sentiments just pouring into Al- Nusra and Al-Qaeda or ISIL that we engaged our international partners in order to put pressure on all the parties involved. And to try to resolve this through diplomatic and political means. I cannot claim that we’ve been successful. And so that’s something that, as is true with a lot of issues and problems around the world, I have to go to bed with every night.

But I continue to believe that it was the right approach given what realistically we could get done. Absent a decision, as I said, to go into much more significant way. And that, I think would not have been a sustainable or good for the American people because we had a whole host of other obligations that we also had to meet, wars we had already started and that were not yet finished.

With respect to the issue of safe zones , it is a continued problem, a continued challenge with safe zones is if you are setting up those zones on Syrian territory, then that requires some force that is willing to maintain that territory in the absence of consent from the Syrian government and now the Russians or the Iranians.

So it may be that with Aleppo’s tragic situation unfolding that in the short term, if we can get more of the tens of thousands who are still trapped there out , that so long as the world’s eyes are on them and they are feeling pressure, the regime in Russia concludes that they are willing to find some arrangement, perhaps in coordination with Turkey, whereby those people can be safe.

Even that will probably be temporary, but at least it solves a short-term issue that’s going to arise.

Unfortunately we are not there yet because right now we have Russians and Assad claiming that basically all the innocent civilians who were trapped in Aleppo are out when international organizations, humanitarian organizations who know better and who are on the ground, have said unequivocally that there are still tens of thousands who are trapped and prepared to leave under pretty much any conditions.

And so right now our biggest priority is to continue to put pressure wherever we can to try to get them out.

(CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: Mike, I can’t have too much…

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) but do you see, responsibility notwithstanding, moving in that direction or help President-elect Trump move in that direction?

OBAMA: I will help President Trump — President-elect Trump with any advice, counsel, information that we can provide so that he, once he’s sworn in, can make a decision.

Between now and then, these are decisions that I have to make based on the consultations that I have with our military and the people who have been working this every single day. Peter Alexander (ph).

QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you very much.

Can you, given all the intelligence that we have now heard, assure the public this was once and for all a free and fair election? And specifically on Russia, do you feel any obligation now as they have been insisting that this isn’t the case to show the proof, as it were? They say, put your money where your mouth is and declassify some of the intelligence and the evidence that exists.

And more broadly, as it relates to Donald Trump on this very topic, are you concerned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, especially given some of the recent cabinet picks, including his selection for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who toasted Putin with champagne over oil deals together? Thank you.

OBAMA: I may be getting older because these multipart questions, I start losing track.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I can assure the public that there was not the kind of tampering with the voting process that was our concern and will continue to be of concern going forward, that the votes that were cast were counted, they were counted appropriately.

We have not seen evidence of machines being tampered with, so that assurance I can provide.

That doesn’t mean that we find every single, you know, potential probe of every single voting machine all across the country, but we paid a lot of attention to it. We worked with state officials, et cetera, and we feel confident that that didn’t occur and that the votes were cast and they were counted.

And so that’s on that point. What was the second one?

QUESTION: Say more about declassification.

OBAMA: Declassification. Look, we will provide evidence that we can safely provide, that does not compromise sources and methods. But I’ll be honest with you, when you are talking about cybersecurity, a lot of it is classified and we’re not going to provide it, because the way we catch folks is by knowing certain things about them that they may not want us to know and if we’re gonna monitor this stuff effectively going forward, we don’t want them to know that we know.

So, this is one of those situations where, unless the American people genuinely think that the professionals in the CIA, the FBI, our entire intelligence infrastructure, many of whom — by the way, served in previous administrations and who are Republicans — are less trustworthy than the Russians. Then people should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say.

This is part of what I meant when I said we’ve got to think what is happening to happening to our political culture here. The Russians can’t change us or significantly weaken us. They are a smaller country, they are a weaker country, their economy doesn’t produce anything that anybody wants to buy except oil and gas and arms. They don’t innovate.

But they can impact us if we lose track of who we are. They can impact us if we abandon our values. Mr. Putin can weaken us just like he’s trying to weaken Europe if we start buying into notions that it’s OK to intimidate the press, or lock up dissidents, or discriminate against people because of their faith or what they look like.

And what I worry about — more than anything — is the degree to which because of the fierceness because of the partisan battle, you start to see certain folks in the Republican Party and Republican voters suddenly finding a government and individuals who stand contrary to everything that we stand for as being OK, because that’s how much we dislike Democrats.

I mean, think about it. Some of the people who historically have been very critical of me for engaging with the Russians and having conversations with them, also endorsed the president-elect, even as he was saying that we should stop sanctioning Russia and being tough on them and work together with them against our common enemies.

It was very complimentary of Mr. Putin personally. Now that — that wasn’t news. The president-elect during the campaign said so. And some folks who had made a career out of being anti-Russian, didn’t say anything about it. And then after the election, suddenly they’re asking, oh, why didn’t you tell us that maybe the Russians were trying to help our candidate? Well, come on.

There was a survey some of you saw where — not this just one poll, but pretty credible source, 37 percent of Republican voters approve of Putin. Over a third of Republican voters approve of Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB. Ronald Reagan would roll over in his grave. And how did that happen? It happened in part because for too long, everything that happens in this town, everything that’s said is seen through the lens of does this help or hurt us relative to Democrats or relative to President Obama. And unless that changes, we’re going to continue to be vulnerable to foreign influence because we’ve lost track of what it is that we’re about and what we stand for.

With respect to the president-elect’s appointments, it is his prerogative, as I have always said, for him to appoint who he thinks can best carry out his foreign policy or his domestic policy. It is up to the Senate to advise and consent. There will be plenty of time for members of the Senate to go through the record of all his appointees and determine whether or not they’re appropriate for the job.

Martha (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. President, I want to talk about Vladimir Putin again. Just to be clear, do you believe Vladimir Putin himself authorized the hack? And do you believe he authorized that to help Donald Trump?

And on the intelligence, one of the things Donald Trump cites is Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction and that they were never found. Can you say unequivocally that this was not China, that this was not a 400-pound guy sitting on his bed as Donald Trump says? And do these types of tweets and kinds of statements from Donald Trump embolden the Russians?

OBAMA: When the report comes out before I leave office, that will have drawn together all the threads, and so I don’t want to step on their work ahead of time. What I can tell you is that the intelligence that I’ve seen gives me great confidence in their assessment that the Russians carried out this hack.

QUESTION: Which hack?

OBAMA: The hack of the DNC and the hack of John Podesta.

Now, the — but again, I think this is exactly why I want the report out, so that everybody can review it. And this has been briefed and the evidence in closed session has been provided on a bipartisan basis, not just to me, it’s been provided to the leaders of the House and the Senate and the chairmen and ranking members of the relevant committees. And I think that what you’ve already seen is, at least some of the folks who’ve seen the evidence don’t dispute I think the basic assessment that the Russians carried this out.

QUESTION: But specifically, could (ph) you not say that…

OBAMA: Well, Martha, I think what I want to make sure of is that I give the intelligence community a chance to gather all the information.

But I’d make a larger point, which is, not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin. This is a pretty hierarchical operation. Last I checked, there’s not a lot of debate and democratic deliberation, particularly when it comes to policies directed at the United States. We have said and I will confirm that this happened at the highest levels of the Russian government and I will let you make that determination as to whether there are high-level Russian officials who go off rogue and decide to tamper with the U.S. election process without Vladimir Putin knowing about it.

QUESTION: So I wouldn’t be wrong in saying the president thinks Vladimir Putin authorized the hack?

OBAMA: Martha, I’ve given you what I’ve — what I’m gonna give you.

What was your second question?

QUESTION: Do the tweets and do the statements by — by Donald Trump embolden Russia?

OBAMA: As I said before, I think that the president-elect, you know, is still in transition mode from campaign to governance. I think he hasn’t gotten his whole team together yet. He still has campaign spokespersons sort of filling in and appearing on cable shows. And there is just a whole different attitude and vibe when you’re not in power as when you are in power.

So rather than me sort of characterize the appropriateness or inappropriateness of what he is doing at the moment, I think what we have to see is how will the president-elect operate and how will his team operate when they’ve been fully briefed on all these issues. They have their hands on all the levers of government. And they have got to start making decisions.

One way I do believe that the president-elect can approach this that would be unifying is to say that we welcome a bipartisan independent process that gives the American people an assurance not only that votes are counted properly, that the elections are fair and free, but that we have learned lessons about how internet propaganda from foreign countries can be released into the political bloodstream and that we have got strategies to deal with it for the future.

The more this can be non-partisan, the better served the American people are going to be, which is why I made the point earlier and I’m going to keep on repeating this point, our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is. That’s the thing that makes us vulnerable.

If fake news that’s being released by some foreign government is almost identical to reports that are being issued through partisan news venues, then it’s not surprising that that foreign propaganda will have a greater effect. It doesn’t seem that far-fetched compared to some of the other stuff that folks are hearing from domestic propagandists.

To the extent that our political dialogue is such where everything is under suspicion, and everybody is corrupt, and everybody is doing things for partisan reasons, and all of our institutions are, you know, full of malevolent actors, if that’s the story line that is being put out there by whatever party is out of power, then when a foreign government introduces that same argument, with facts that are made up, voters who have been listening to that stuff for years, who have been getting that stuff every day from talk radio or other venues, they’re going to believe it.

So if we want to really reduce foreign influence on our elections, then we had better think about how to make sure that our political process, our political dialogue is stronger than it has been.

Mark Langley (ph).

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.

I wonder whether I could move you from Russia to China for a moment.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Your successor spoke by phone with the president of Taiwan the other day, and declared subsequently that he wasn’t sure why the United States needed to be bound by the One China Policy.

He suggested it could be used as a bargaining chip perhaps to get better terms on a trade deal or more cooperation on North Korea. There’s already evidence that tensions between the two sides have increased a bit, and just today, the Chinese have seized an underwater drone in the South China Sea.

Do you agree, as some do, that our China policy could use a fresh set of eyes and what’s the big deal about having a short phone call with the president of Taiwan? Or do you worry that these types of unorthodox approaches are setting us on a collision course with perhaps our biggest geopolitical adversary?

OBAMA: That’s a great question.

I’m somewhere in between. I think all of our foreign policy should be subject to fresh eyes. I think one of the — I’ve said this before, I am very proud of the work I’ve done. I think I’m a better president now than when I started. But you know, if you’re here for eight years in the bubble, you start seeing things a certain way and you benefit from — the democracy benefits, America benefits from some new perspectives.

And I think it should be not just the prerogative, but the obligation of a new president to examine everything that’s been done and see what makes sense and what doesn’t. That’s what I have done when I came in and I’m assuming any new president’s gonna undertake those same exercises.

And given the importance of the relationship between United States and China, given how much is at stake in terms of the world economy, national security, our presence in the Asia-Pacific, China’s increasing role in international affairs, there’s probably no bilateral relationship that carries more significance and where there’s also the potential if that relationship breaks down or goes into full conflict mode that everybody is worse off. So I think it’s fine for him to take a look at it. What I have advised the president-elect is that across the board on foreign policy, you want to make sure that you’re doing it in a systematic, deliberate, intentional way.

And since there’s only one president at a time, my advice to him has been that before he starts having a lot of interactions with foreign governments other than the usual courtesy calls, that he should want to have his full team in place, that he should want his team to be fully briefed on what’s gone on in the past and where the potential pitfalls may be, where the opportunities are, what we’ve learned from eight years of experience so that as he’s then maybe taking foreign policy in a new direction, he’s got all the information to make good decisions, and by the way, that all of government is moving at the same time and singing from the same hymnal.

And with respect to China — and let’s just take the example of Taiwan, there has been a longstanding agreement essentially between China and the United States, and to some agree the Taiwanese, which is to not change the status quo. Taiwan operates differently than mainland China does. China views Taiwan as part of China, but recognizes that it has to approach Taiwan as an entity that has its own ways of doing things.

OBAMA: The Taiwanese have agreed that as long as they’re able to continue to function with some agree of autonomy, that they won’t charge forward and declare independence. And that status quo, although not completely satisfactory to any of the parties involved, has kept the peace and allowed the Taiwanese to be a pretty successful economy and — of people who have a high agree of self-determination. What I understand for China, the issue of Taiwan is as important as anything on their docket.

The idea of One China is at the heart of their conception as a nation. And so if you are going to upend this understanding, you have to have thought through what the consequences because the Chinese will not treat that the way they’ll treat some other issues. They won’t even treat it the way they issues around the South China Sea, where we’ve had a lot of tensions. This goes to the core of how they see themselves.

And their reaction on this issue could end up being very significant. That doesn’t mean that you have to adhere to everything that’s been done in the past, but you have to think it through and have planned for potential reactions that they may engage in. All right. Isaac Dovere, Politico.

QUESTION: Thank you Mr. President. Two questions on where this all leaves us.

OBAMA: What leaves us? Where my presidency leaves us? It leaves us in a really good spot.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: If we make some good decisions going forward.

QUESTION: What do you say to the electors who are going to meet on Monday and are thinking of changing their votes? Do you think they should be given an intelligence briefing about the Russian activity or should they bear in mind everything you have said and have said already (ph)? Should they — should votes be bound by the state votes as they’ve gone? And long-term, do you think that there is need for Electoral College reform that was tied to the popular vote?

OBAMA: Sounded like two but really was one.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: I love how these start. I’ve got two questions, but each one has four parts.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: On the Democratic Party, your labor secretary is running for — to be the chair of the Democratic National Committee. Is the vision that you’ve seen him putting forward what you think the party needs to be focused on? And what do you think about the complaint that say that the future democratic committee shouldn’t be a continuation of some of your political approach? Part of that is complaints that decisions that you have made as president and leader of the party has structurally weakened the DNC and the Democratic Party and they think that that has led to or has help lead to some of the losses in elections around the country. Do you regret any of those decisions?

OBAMA: I’ll take the second one first and say that Tom Perez has been, I believe one of the best secretaries of labor in our history. He is tireless. He is wicked smart. He has been able to work across the spectrum of you know, labor, business, activists. He has produced. I mean, if you look at his body of work on behalf of working people, what he’s pushed for in terms of making sure that workers get a fair deal, decent wages, better benefits, that their safety is protected on the job. He has been extraordinary.

Now others who have declared are also my friends and fine people as well. And the great thing is, I don’t have a vote in this. So – so – so we’ll let the process unfold, I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon. I described to you earlier what I think needs to happen, which is that the democratic party, whether that’s entirely through the DNC or through rebuilding of state parties, or some other arrangement, has to work at the grassroots level, has to be present in all 50 states, has to have a presence in counties.

Has to think about in that extension (ph) how are we speaking directly to voters.

I will say this, and I’m not going to engage in too much punditry. But that I could not be prouder of the coalition that I put together in my — each of my campaigns. Because it was inclusive and it drew in people who normally weren’t interested in politics and didn’t participate.

But I’d like to think — I think I can show that in those elections, I always cast a broad net. I always said first and foremost we’re Americans, that we have a common creed, that there’s more that we share than divides us. And I want to talk to everybody and get a chance to get everybody’s vote.

I still believe what I said in 2004 which is this red state-blue thing is a construct. Now it is a construct that has gotten more and more powerful for a whole lot of reasons from gerrymandering, to big money, to a way that the media is splintered.

And so people are just watching what reinforces their existing biases as opposed to having to listen to different points of view. So there are all kinds of reasons for it. But outside the realm of electoral politics, I still see people the way I saw them when I made that speech, full of contradictions and some regional differences but basically, folks care about their families.

They care about having meaningful work. They care about making sure their kids have more opportunity than they did. They want to be safe. They want to feel like things are fair.

And whoever leads the DNC and any candidate with the Democratic brand going forward, I want them to feel as if they can reach out and find that common ground and speak to all of America. And that requires some organization.

And you’re right that — and I said this in my earlier remarks, that what I was able to do during my campaigns, I wasn’t able to do during midterms. It’s not that we didn’t put in time and effort into it. I spent time and effort into it. But the coalition I put together didn’t always turn out to be transferable.

And the challenge is that — you know, some of that just has to do with the fact that when you are in the party in power and people are going through hard times like they were in 2010, they are going to punish to some degree the president’s party regardless of what organizational work is done.

Some of it has to do with just some deep standing traditional challenges for Democrats like during off-year elections the electorate is older and we do better with the younger electorate. But we know those things are true.

And I didn’t crack the code on that. And if other people have ideas about how to do that even better, I’m all for it.

So with respect to the electors, I’m not going to wade into that issue. Because, again, it’s the American people’s job and now electors’ job to decide my successor. It is not my job to decide my successor.

And I have provided people with a lot of information about what happened during the course of the election, but more importantly, the candidates themselves I think talked about their beliefs and their vision for America.

The president-elect I think has been very explicit what he cares about and what he believes in. And so it’s not in my hands now, it’s up to them.

QUESTION: what about long term about the Electoral College?

OBAMA: Long term with respect to the Electoral College, the Electoral College is a vestige, it’s a carry-over from an earlier vision of how our federal government was going to work that put a lot of premium on states, and it used to be that the Senate was not elected directly, it was through state legislatures. And it’s the same type of thinking that gives Wyoming two senators and — with about half a million people and California with 33 million get the same two.

So there’s — there are some structures in our political system as envisioned by the founders that sometimes are going to disadvantage Democrats, but the truth of the matter is is that if we have a strong message, if we’re speaking to what the American people care about, typically, the popular vote and the electoral college vote will align.

And I guess — I guess part of my overall message here as I leave for the holidays is that if we look for one explanation or one silver bullet or one easy fix for our politics, then we’re probably going to be disappointed. There are just a lot of factors in what’s happened, not just over the last few months, but over the last decade that has made both politics and governance more challenging. And I think everybody’s raised legitimate questions and legitimate concerns.

I do hope that we all just take some time, take a breath, that’s certainly what I’m going to advise Democrats, to just reflect a little bit more about how can we — how can we get to a place where people are focused on working together based on at least some common set of facts? How can we have a conversation about policy that doesn’t demonize each another? How can we channel what I think is the basic decency and goodness of the American people so it reflects itself in our politics, as opposed to it being so polarized and so nasty that in some cases, you have voters and unelected officials who have more confidence and faith in a foreign adversary than they have in their neighbors?

And those go to some bigger issues. How is it that we have some voters or some elected officials who think that Michelle Obama’s healthy eating initiative and school nutrition program is a greater threat to democracy than, you know, our government going after the press if they’re issuing a story they don’t like? I mean, that’s — that’s an issue that I think, you know, we’ve got to — we’ve got to wrestle with. And we will.

People have asked me how you feel after the election and so forth and I say well, look, this is a clarifying moment. It’s a useful reminder that voting counts, politics counts. What the president- elect is going to be doing is gonna be very different than what I was doing and I think people will be able to compare and contrast and make judgments about what worked for the American people. And I hope that building off the progress we’ve made, that what the president-elect is proposing works.

What I can say with confidence is that what we’ve done works. That I can prove. I can show you where we were in 2008 and I can show you where we are now. And you can’t argue that we are not better off, we are.

And for that, I thank the American people and then more importantly I thank — well, not importantly, as importantly — I was going to say Josh Earnest…

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: … for doing such a great job. For that, I thank the American people, I thank the men and women in uniform who serve. I haven’t gotten to the point yet where I’ve been overly sentimental. I will tell you that when I was doing my last Christmas party photo — I know many of you have participated in these, they’re pretty long.

Right at the end of the line, the President’s Marine Corps Band comes in, those who have been performing. And I take a picture with them. And that was the last time that I was going to take a picture with my Marine Corps Band after an event. And I got a little choked up.

Now I was in front of marines so I had to like tamp it down. But it was just one small example of all of the people who have contributed to our success. I am responsible for where we’ve screwed up, the successes are widely shared with all of the amazing people who have been part of this administration.

OK? Thank you, everybody. Mele Kalikimaka!

 

Political Musings November 28, 2014: Angelina Jolie expresses interest in running for political office

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Angelina Jolie expresses interest in running for political office

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Actress, director, United Nations Ambassador, mother of six, wife to Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie is considering adding another title to her resume, elected official. Jolie told the British news station ITV News on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2014 that she is…READ MORE

 

Political Musings September 29, 2014: Obama on 60 minutes acknowledges administration underestimated ISIS threat

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama on 60 minutes acknowledges administration underestimated ISIS threat

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama admitted 2014 that his administration underestimated the threat of ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in a CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ interview with Steve Kroft that was taped on Friday, Sept. 26, 2014…READ MORE

Political Musings September 28, 2014: Boehner wants Congress to vote on ground troops in war against ISIS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at U.N. Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters for ISIS — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at U.N. Security Council Summit on Foreign Terrorist Fighters

Source: WH, 9-24-14 

Watch the Video

 

United Nations
New York, New York

3:11 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you, His Excellency, the Secretary-General, for his statement.  I’ll now make a statement in my capacity as President of the United States.

Mr. Secretary-General, heads of state and government distinguished representatives, thank you for being here today.

In the nearly 70 years of the United Nations, this is only the sixth time that the Security Council has met at a level like this.  We convene such sessions to address the most urgent threats to peace and security.  And I called this meeting because we must come together — as nations and an international community — to confront the real and growing threat of foreign terrorist fighters.

As I said earlier today, the tactic of terrorism is not new. So many nations represented here today, including my own, have seen our citizens killed by terrorists who target innocents.  And today, the people of the world have been horrified by another brutal murder, of Herve Gourdel, by terrorists in Algeria.  President Hollande, we stand with you and the French people not only as you grieve this terrible loss, but as you show resolve against terror and in defense of liberty.

What brings us together today, what is new is the unprecedented flow of fighters in recent years to and from conflict zones, including Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa, Yemen, Libya, and most recently, Syria and Iraq.

Our intelligence agencies estimate that more than 15,000 foreign fighters from more than 80 nations have traveled to Syria in recent years.  Many have joined terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda’s affiliate, the Nusrah Front, and ISIL, which now threatens people across Syria and Iraq.  And I want to acknowledge and thank Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq for being here today.

In the Middle East and elsewhere, these terrorists exacerbate conflicts; they pose an immediate threat to people in these regions; and as we’ve already seen in several cases, they may try to return to their home countries to carry out deadly attacks.  In the face of this threat, many of our nations — working together and through the United Nations — have increased our cooperation.  Around the world, foreign terrorist fighters have been arrested, plots have been disrupted and lives have been saved.

Earlier this year at West Point, I called for a new Partnership to help nations build their capacity to meet the evolving threat of terrorism, including foreign terrorist fighters.  And preventing these individuals from reaching Syria and then slipping back across our borders is a critical element of our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

The historic resolution that we just adopted enshrines our commitment to meet this challenge.  It is legally binding.  It establishes new obligations that nations must meet.  Specifically, nations are required to “prevent and suppress the recruiting, organizing, transporting or equipping” of foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the financing of their travel or activities.  Nations must “prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups” through their territory, and ensure that their domestic laws allow for the prosecution of those who attempt to do so.

The resolution we passed today calls on nations to help build the capacity of states on the front lines of this fight — including with the best practices that many of our nations approved yesterday, and which the United States will work to advance through our Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund.  This resolution will strengthen cooperation between nations, including sharing more information about the travel and activities of foreign terrorist fighters.  And it makes clear that respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law is not optional — it is an essential part of successful counterterrorism efforts.  Indeed, history teaches us that the failure to uphold these rights and freedoms can actually fuel violent extremism.

Finally, this resolution recognizes that there is no military solution to the problem of misguided individuals seeking to join terrorist organizations, and it, therefore, calls on nations to work together to counter the violent extremism that can radicalize, recruit, and mobilize individuals to engage in terrorism.  Potential recruits must hear the words of former terrorist fighters who have seen the truth — that groups like ISIL betray Islam by killing innocent men, women and children, the majority of whom are Muslim.

Often it is local communities — family, friends, neighbors, and faith leaders — that are best able to identify and help disillusioned individuals before they succumb to extremist ideologies and engage in violence.  That’s why the United States government is committed to working with communities in America and around the world to build partnerships of trust, respect and cooperation.

Likewise, even as we are unrelenting against terrorists who threaten our people, we must redouble our work to address the conditions — the repression, the lack of opportunity, too often the hopelessness that can make some individuals more susceptible to appeals to extremism and violence.  And this includes continuing to pursue a political solution in Syria that allows all Syrians to live in security, dignity, and peace.

This is the work that we must do as nations.  These are the partnerships we must forge as an international community.  And these are the standards that we now must meet.  Yet even as we’re guided by the commitments that we make here today, let me close by stating the obvious.  Resolutions alone will not be enough.  Promises on paper cannot keep us safe.  Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack.

The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action, into deeds — concrete action, within nations and between them, not just in the days ahead, but for years to come. For if there was ever a challenge in our interconnected world that cannot be met by any one nation alone, it is this:  terrorists crossing borders and threatening to unleash unspeakable violence.  These terrorists believe our countries will be unable to stop them.  The safety of our citizens demand that we do.  And I’m here today to say that all of you who are committed to this urgent work will find a strong and steady partner in the United States of America.

I now would like to resume my function as President of the Council.  And I will now give the floor to the other members of the Security Council.

END
3:19 P.M. EDT

Political Musings September 24, 2014: In UN speech Obama issues call to destroy ISIS the “cancer of violent extremism”

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

In UN speech Obama issues call to destroy ISIS the “cancer of violent extremism”

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama delivered his annual address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014 where he covered important issues the United States is facing at home and abroad. The president emphasized in…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2014: President Obama’s 2014 Speech Address to the United Nations General Assembly — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks As Prepared for Delivery by President Barack Obama, Address to the United Nations General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-24-14


President Obama speaks during the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept 24. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

September 24, 2014
New York City, NY 

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen: we come together at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.

Around the globe, there are signposts of progress. The shadow of World War that existed at the founding of this institution has been lifted; the prospect of war between major powers reduced. The ranks of member states has more than tripled, and more people live under governments they elected. Hundreds of millions of human beings have been freed from the prison of poverty, with the proportion of those living in extreme poverty cut in half.  And the world economy continues to strengthen after the worst financial crisis of our lives.

Today, whether you live in downtown New York or in my grandmother’s village more than two hundred miles from Nairobi, you can hold in your hand more information than the world’s greatest libraries. Together, we have learned how to cure disease, and harness the power of the wind and sun. The very existence of this institution is a unique achievement – the people of the world committing to resolve their differences peacefully, and solve their problems together. I often tell young people in the United States that this is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams.

And yet there is a pervasive unease in our world – a sense that the very forces that have brought us together have created new dangers, and made it difficult for any single nation to insulate itself from global forces. As we gather here, an outbreak of Ebola overwhelms public health systems in West Africa, and threatens to move rapidly across borders. Russian aggression in Europe recalls the days when large nations trampled small ones in pursuit of territorial ambition. The brutality of terrorists in Syria and Iraq forces us to look into the heart of darkness.

Each of these problems demands urgent attention. But they are also symptoms of a broader problem – the failure of our international system to keep pace with an interconnected world. We have not invested adequately in the public health capacity of developing countries. Too often, we have failed to enforce international norms when it’s inconvenient to do so. And we have not confronted forcefully enough the intolerance, sectarianism, and hopelessness that feeds violent extremism in too many parts of the globe.

Fellow delegates, we come together as United Nations with a choice to make. We can renew the international system that has enabled so much progress, or allow ourselves to be pulled back by an undertow of instability. We can reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront global problems, or be swamped by more and more outbreaks of instability. For America, the choice is clear. We choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of our control, but as something we can shape for the better through concerted and collective effort. We reject fatalism or cynicism when it comes to human affairs; we choose to work for the world as it should be, as our children deserve it to be.

There is much that must be done to meet the tests of this moment. But today I’d like to focus on two defining questions at the root of many of our challenges– whether the nations here today will be able to renew the purpose of the UN’s founding; and whether we will come together to reject the cancer of violent extremism.

First, all of us – big nations and small – must meet our responsibility to observe and enforce international norms.

We are here because others realized that we gain more from cooperation than conquest. One hundred years ago, a World War claimed the lives of many millions, proving that with the terrible power of modern weaponry, the cause of empire leads to the graveyard. It would take another World War to roll back the forces of fascism and racial supremacy, and form this United Nations to ensure that no nation can subjugate its neighbors and claim their territory.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine challenge this post-war order. Here are the facts. After the people of Ukraine mobilized popular protests and calls for reform, their corrupt President fled.  Against the will of the government in Kiev, Crimea was annexed. Russia poured arms into Eastern Ukraine, fueling violent separatists and a conflict that has killed thousands. When a civilian airliner was shot down from areas that these proxies controlled, they refused to allow access to the crash for days. When Ukraine started to reassert control over its territory, Russia gave up the pretense of merely supporting the separatists, and moved troops across the border.

This is a vision of the world in which might makes right – a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another, and civilized people are not allowed to recover the remains of their loved ones because of the truth that might be revealed. America stands for something different. We believe that right makes might – that bigger nations should not be able to bully smaller ones; that people should be able to choose their own future.

These are simple truths, but they must be defended. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. We will reinforce our NATO allies, and uphold our commitment to collective defense. We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history – for while small gains can be won at the barrel of a gun, they will ultimately be turned back if enough voices support the freedom of nations and peoples to make their own decisions.

Moreover, a different path is available – the path of diplomacy and peace and the ideals this institution is designed to uphold. The recent cease-fire agreement in Ukraine offers an opening to achieve that objective. If Russia takes that path – a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people – then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges. That’s what the United States and Russia have been able to do in past years – from reducing our nuclear stockpiles to meet our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to cooperating to remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons. And that’s the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again—if Russia changes course.

This speaks to a central question of our global age: whether we will solve our problems together, in a spirit of mutual interests and mutual respect, or whether we descend into destructive rivalries of the past. When nations find common ground, not simply based on power, but on principle, then we can make enormous progress. And I stand before you today committed to investing American strength in working with nations to address the problems we face in the 21st century.

As we speak, America is deploying our doctors and scientists – supported by our military – to help contain the outbreak of Ebola and pursue new treatments. But we need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders. It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it isn’t. That is why we will continue mobilizing other countries to join us in making concrete commitments to fight this outbreak, and enhance global health security for the long-term.

America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue, as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them. This can only happen if Iran takes this historic opportunity. My message to Iran’s leaders and people is simple: do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful.

America is and will continue to be a Pacific power, promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations. But we will insist that all nations abide by the rules of the road, and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully, consistent with international law. That’s how the Asia-Pacific has grown. And that’s the only way to protect this progress going forward.

America is committed to a development agenda that eradicates extreme poverty by 2030. We will do our part – to help people feed themselves; power their economies; and care for their sick. If the world acts together, we can make sure that all of our children can enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity

America is pursuing ambitious reductions in our carbon emissions, and we have increased our investments in clean energy. We will do our part, and help developing nations to do theirs. But we can only succeed in combating climate change if we are joined in this effort by every major power. That’s how we can protect this planet for our children and grandchildren.

On issue after issue, we cannot rely on a rule-book written for a different century. If we lift our eyes beyond our borders – if we think globally and act cooperatively – we can shape the course of this century as our predecessors shaped the post-World War II age. But as we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress: and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.

Of course, terrorism is not new. Speaking before this Assembly, President Kennedy put it well: “Terror is not a new weapon,” he said. “Throughout history it has been used by those who could not prevail, either by persuasion or example.” In the 20th century, terror was used by all manner of groups who failed to come to power through public support. But in this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions. With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels – killing as many innocent civilians as possible; and employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities.

I have made it clear that America will not base our entire foreign policy on reacting to terrorism. Rather, we have waged a focused campaign against al Qaeda and its associated forces – taking out their leaders, and denying them the safe-havens they rely upon. At the same time, we have reaffirmed that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them – there is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country.

So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity’s future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along fault lines of tribe or sect; race or religion.

This is not simply a matter of words. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment. Moreover, this campaign against extremism goes beyond a narrow security challenge. For while we have methodically degraded core al Qaeda and supported a transition to a sovereign Afghan government, extremist ideology has shifted to other places – particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, where a quarter of young people have no job; food and water could grow scarce; corruption is rampant; and sectarian conflicts have become increasingly hard to contain.

As an international community, we must meet this challenge with a focus on four areas.  First, the terrorist group known as ISIL must be degraded, and ultimately destroyed.

This group has terrorized all who they come across in Iraq and Syria. Mothers, sisters and daughters have been subjected to rape as a weapon of war. Innocent children have been gunned down. Bodies have been dumped in mass graves. Religious minorities have been starved to death. In the most horrific crimes imaginable, innocent human beings have been beheaded, with videos of the atrocity distributed to shock the conscience of the world.

No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning – no negotiation – with this brand of evil. The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death.

In this effort, we do not act alone. Nor do we intend to send U.S. troops to occupy foreign lands.  Instead, we will support Iraqis and Syrians fighting to reclaim their communities. We will use our military might in a campaign of air strikes to roll back ISIL. We will train and equip forces fighting against these terrorists on the ground. We will work to cut off their financing, and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region. Already, over 40 nations have offered to join this coalition. Today, I ask the world to join in this effort. Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can. Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone. For we will not succumb to threats; and we will demonstrate that the future belongs to those who build – not those who destroy.

Second, it is time for the world – especially Muslim communities – to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of al Qaeda and ISIL.

It is the task of all great religions to accommodate devout faith with a modern, multicultural world. No children – anywhere – should be educated to hate other people. There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they are Jewish, Christian or Muslim. It is time for a new compact among the civilized peoples of this world to eradicate war at its most fundamental source: the corruption of young minds by violent ideology.

That means cutting off the funding that fuels this hate. It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy, and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.

That means contesting the space that terrorists occupy – including the Internet and social media. Their propaganda has coerced young people to travel abroad to fight their wars, and turned students into suicide bombers. We must offer an alternative vision.

That means bringing people of different faiths together. All religions have been attacked by extremists from within at some point, and all people of faith have a responsibility to lift up the value at the heart of all religion: do unto thy neighbor as you would have done unto you.

The ideology of ISIL or al Qaeda or Boko Haram will wilt and die if it is consistently exposed, confronted, and refuted in the light of day. Look at the new Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies – Sheikh bin Bayyah described its purpose: “We must declare war on war, so the outcome will be peace upon peace.” Look at the young British Muslims, who responded to terrorist propaganda by starting the “notinmyname” campaign, declaring – “ISIS is hiding behind a false Islam.” Look at the Christian and Muslim leaders who came together in the Central African Republic to reject violence – listen to the Imam who said, “Politics try to divide the religious in our country, but religion shouldn’t be a cause of hate, war, or strife.”

Later today, the Security Council will adopt a resolution that underscores the responsibility of states to counter violent extremism. But resolutions must be followed by tangible commitments, so we’re accountable when we fall short.  Next year, we should all be prepared to announce the concrete steps that we have taken to counter extremist ideologies – by getting intolerance out of schools, stopping radicalization before it spreads, and promoting institutions and programs that build new bridges of understanding.

Third, we must address the cycle of conflict – especially sectarian conflict – that creates the conditions that terrorists prey upon.

There is nothing new about wars within religions. Christianity endured centuries of vicious sectarian conflict. Today, it is violence within Muslim communities that has become the source of so much human misery. It is time to acknowledge the destruction wrought by proxy wars and terror campaigns between Sunni and Shia across the Middle East. And it is time that political, civic and religious leaders reject sectarian strife. Let’s be clear: this is a fight that no one is winning. A brutal civil war in Syria has already killed nearly 200,000 people and displaced millions. Iraq has come perilously close to plunging back into the abyss. The conflict has created a fertile recruiting ground for terrorists who inevitably export this violence.

Yet, we also see signs that this tide could be reversed – a new, inclusive government in Baghdad; a new Iraqi Prime Minister welcomed by his neighbors; Lebanese factions rejecting those who try to provoke war. These steps must be followed by a broader truce. Nowhere is this more necessary than Syria. Together with our partners, America is training and equipping the Syrian opposition to be a counterweight to the terrorists of ISIL and the brutality of the Assad regime. But the only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political – an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity or creed.

Cynics may argue that such an outcome can never come to pass. But there is no other way for this madness to end – whether one year from now or ten. Indeed, it’s time for a broader negotiation in which major powers address their differences directly, honestly, and peacefully across the table from one another, rather than through gun-wielding proxies. I can promise you America will remain engaged in the region, and we are prepared to engage in that effort.

My fourth and final point is a simple one: the countries of the Arab and Muslim world must focus on the extraordinary potential of their people – especially the youth.

Here I’d like to speak directly to young people across the Muslim world. You come from a great tradition that stands for education, not ignorance; innovation, not destruction; the dignity of life, not murder. Those who call you away from this path are betraying this tradition, not defending it.

You have demonstrated that when young people have the tools to succeed –good schools; education in math and science; an economy that nurtures creativity and entrepreneurship – then societies will flourish. So America will partner with those who promote that vision.

Where women are full participants in a country’s politics or economy, societies are more likely to succeed.  That’s why we support the participation of women in parliaments and in peace processes; in schools and the economy.

If young people live in places where the only option is between the dictates of a state, or the lure of an extremist underground – no counter-terrorism strategy can succeed. But where a genuine civil society is allowed to flourish – where people can express their views, and organize peacefully for a better life – then you dramatically expand the alternatives to terror.

Such positive change need not come at the expense of tradition and faith. We see this in Iraq, where a young man started a library for his peers. “We link Iraq’s heritage to their hearts,” he said, and “give them a reason to stay.” We see it in Tunisia, where secular and Islamist parties worked together through a political process to produce a new constitution. We see it in Senegal, where civil society thrives alongside a strong, democratic government. We see it in Malaysia, where vibrant entrepreneurship is propelling a former colony into the ranks of advanced economies. And we see it in Indonesia, where what began as a violent transition has evolved into a genuine democracy.

Ultimately, the task of rejecting sectarianism and extremism is a generational task – a task for the people of the Middle East themselves. No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe-havens, nor act as an occupying power. Instead, we will take action against threats to our security – and our allies – while building an architecture of counter-terrorism cooperation. We will increase efforts to lift up those who counter extremist ideology, and seek to resolve sectarian conflict. And we will expand our programs to support entrepreneurship, civil society, education and youth – because, ultimately, these investments are the best antidote to violence.

Leadership will also be necessary to address the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. As bleak as the landscape appears, America will never give up the pursuit of peace. The situation in Iraq, Syria and Libya should cure anyone of the illusion that this conflict is the main source of problems in the region; for far too long, it has been used in part as a way to distract people from problems at home. And the violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. But let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza. So long as I am President, we will stand up for the principle that Israelis, Palestinians, the region, and the world will be more just with two states living side by side, in peace and security.

This is what America is prepared to do – taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished. The United States will never shy away from defending our interests, but nor will we shrink from the promise of this institution and its Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the notion that peace is not merely the absence of war, but the presence of a better life.

I realize that America’s critics will be quick to point out that at times we too have failed to live up to our ideals; that America has plenty of problems within our own borders. This is true. In a summer marked by instability in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, I know the world also took notice of the small American city of Ferguson, Missouri – where a young man was killed, and a community was divided. So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear.

But we welcome the scrutiny of the world – because what you see in America is a country that has steadily worked to address our problems and make our union more perfect. America is not the same as it was 100 years ago, 50 years ago, or even a decade ago. Because we fight for our ideals, and are willing to criticize ourselves when we fall short. Because we hold our leaders accountable, and insist on a free press and independent judiciary.  Because we address our differences in the open space of democracy – with respect for the rule of law; with a place for people of every race and religion; and with an unyielding belief in the ability of individual men and women to change their communities and countries for the better.

After nearly six years as President, I believe that this promise can help light the world. Because I’ve seen a longing for positive change – for peace and freedom and opportunity – in the eyes of young people I’ve met around the globe. They remind me that no matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or what God you pray to, or who you love, there is something fundamental that we all share. Eleanor Roosevelt, a champion of the UN and America’s role in it, once asked, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places,” she said, “close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works.”

The people of the world look to us, here, to be as decent, as dignified, and as courageous as they are in their daily lives. And at this crossroads, I can promise you that the United States of America will not be distracted or deterred from what must be done. We are heirs to a proud legacy of freedom, and we are prepared to do what is necessary to secure that legacy for generations to come. Join us in this common mission, for today’s children and tomorrow’s.

 

Full Text Obama Presidency September 23, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech on Airstrikes in Syria — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Airstrikes in Syria

Source: WH, 9-23-14  

South Lawn

10:11 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Last night, on my orders, America’s armed forces began strikes against ISIL targets in Syria.  Today, the American people give thanks for the extraordinary service of our men and women in uniform, including the pilots who flew these missions with the courage and professionalism that we’ve come to expect from the finest military that the world has ever known.

Earlier this month, I outlined for the American people our strategy to confront the threat posed by the terrorist group known as ISIL.  I made clear that as part of this campaign the United States would take action against targets in both Iraq and Syria so that these terrorists can’t find safe haven anywhere.  I also made clear that America would act as part of a broad coalition.  And that’s exactly what we’ve done.

We were joined in this action by our friends and partners — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, and Qatar.  America is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with these nations on behalf of our common security.

The strength of this coalition makes it clear to the world that this is not America’s fight alone.  Above all, the people and governments in the Middle East are rejecting ISIL and standing up for the peace and security that the people of the region and the world deserve.

Meanwhile, we will move forward with our plans, supported by bipartisan majorities in Congress, to ramp up our effort to train and equip the Syrian opposition, who are the best counterweight to ISIL and the Assad regime.  And more broadly, over 40 nations have offered to help in this comprehensive effort to confront this terrorist threat — to take out terrorist targets; to train and equip Iraqi and Syrian opposition fighters who are going up against ISIL on the ground; to cut off ISIL’s financing; to counter its hateful ideology; and to stop the flow of fighters into and out of the region.

Last night, we also took strikes to disrupt plotting against the United States and our allies by seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria who are known as the Khorasan Group.  And once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people.

I’ve spoken to leaders in Congress and I’m pleased that there is bipartisan support for the actions we are taking.  America is always stronger when we stand united, and that unity sends a powerful message to the world that we will do what’s necessary to defend our country.

Over the next several days I will have the opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Abadi of Iraq, and with friends and allies at the United Nations to continue building support for the coalition that is confronting this serious threat to our peace and security.  The overall effort will take time.  There will be challenges ahead.  But we’re going to do what’s necessary to take the fight to this terrorist group, for the security of the country and the region and for the entire world.

Thanks.  God bless our troops.  God bless America.

END
10:14 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency September 20, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: The World Is United in the Fight Against ISIL — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Weekly Address: The World Is United in the Fight Against ISIL

Source: WH, 9-20-14 

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President thanked Congress for its strong bipartisan support for efforts to train and equip Syrian opposition forces to fight ISIL. This plan is part of the President’s comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy to degrade and destroy the terrorist group, and does not commit our troops to fighting another ground war. America, working with a broad coalition of nations, will continue to train, equip, advise, and assist our partners in the region in the battle against ISIL. In the coming week, the President will speak at the United Nations General Assembly and continue to lead the world against terror, a fight in which all countries have a stake.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
September 20, 2014

Over the past week, the United States has continued to lead our friends and allies in the strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.  As I’ve said before, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific plots from these terrorists against America.  Right now, they pose a threat to the people of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East.  But its leaders have threatened America and our allies.  And if left unchecked, they could pose a growing threat to the United States.

So, last month, I gave the order for our military to begin taking targeted action against ISIL.  Since then, American pilots have flown more than 170 airstrikes against these terrorists in Iraq.  And France has now joined us in these airstrikes.

Going forward, we won’t hesitate to take action against these terrorists in Iraq or in Syria.  But this is not America’s fight alone.  I won’t commit our troops to fighting another ground war in Iraq, or in Syria.  It’s more effective to use our capabilities to help partners on the ground secure their own country’s futures. We will use our air power. We will train and equip our partners.  We will advise and we will assist.   And we’ll lead a broad coalition of nations who have a stake in this fight.  This isn’t America vs. ISIL.  This is the people of that region vs. ISIL.  It’s the world vs ISIL.

We’ve been working to secure bipartisan support for this strategy here at home, because I believe that we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together.  We’ve been consulting closely with Congress.  And last week, Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Hagel, and military leaders worked to gain their support for our strategy.

A majority of Democrats and a majority of Republicans in both the House and the Senate have now approved a first, key part of our strategy by wide margins.  They’ve given our troops the authority they need to train Syrian opposition fighters so that they can fight ISIL in Syria.  Those votes sent a powerful signal to the world: Americans are united in confronting this danger.  And I hope Congress continues to make sure our troops get what they need to get the job done.

Meanwhile, because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition.  Over 40 countries have offered to help the broad campaign against ISIL so far – from training and equipment, to humanitarian relief, to flying combat missions.  And this week, at the United Nations, I’ll continue to rally the world against this threat.

This is an effort that America has the unique ability to lead.  When the world is threatened; when the world needs help; it calls on America. And we call on our troops. Whether it’s to degrade and ultimately destroy a group of terrorists, or to contain and combat a threat like the Ebola epidemic in Africa; we ask a lot of our troops.  But while our politics may be divided at times, the American people stand united around supporting our troops and their families.  This is a moment of American leadership.  Thanks to them, it is a moment we will meet.  Thank you.

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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.

Political Musings September 17, 2014: House passes spending bill and authorization to train and arm Syrian rebels

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House passes spending bill and authorization to train and arm Syrian rebels

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The Republican controlled House of Representatives passed a continuing appropriations resolution on Wednesday, September 17, 2014 to fund the federal government for 10 weeks into the 2015 fiscal year, lasting past the midterm elections. The bill passed with bipartisan support…Continue

Full Text Obama Presidency September 13, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address: We Will Degrade and Destroy ISIL ISIS — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

WEEKLY ADDRESS: We Will Degrade and Destroy ISIL

Source: WH,  9-13-14

WASHINGTON, DC — In this week’s address, the President reiterated his comprehensive and sustained counter-terrorism strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL. His plan brings together a campaign of targeted airstrikes, increased support for Iraqi and Kurdish forces already taking on terrorists, assistance from allies and partners, expanded efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition, and ongoing humanitarian aid for those displaced by ISIL. The President expressed his immense appreciation for the military men and women who make these efforts possible, and reminded the world that America continues to lead and stand strong against terror.

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
The White House
September 13, 2014

As Commander in Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.  And I’ve made it clear that those who threaten the United States will find no safe haven.  Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, we took out Osama bin Laden, much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and leaders of al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia.  We’ve prevented terrorist attacks, saved American lives and made our homeland more secure.

Today, the terrorist threat is more diffuse, from al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists—like ISIL in Syria and Iraq.  As I said this week, our intelligence community has not yet detected specific ISIL plots against our homeland.  But its leaders have repeatedly threatened the United States.  And, if left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States.  So we’re staying vigilant.  And we’re moving ahead with our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist organization.

To meet a threat like this, we have to be smart.  We have to use our power wisely.  And we have to avoid the mistakes of the past.  American military power is unmatched, but this can’t be America’s fight alone.  And the best way to defeat a group like ISIL isn’t by sending large numbers of American combat forces to wage a ground war in the heart of the Middle East.  That wouldn’t serve our interests.  In fact, it would only risk fueling extremism even more.

What’s needed now is a targeted, relentless counterterrorism campaign against ISIL that combines American air power, contributions from allies and partners, and more support to forces that are fighting these terrorists on the ground.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We’re moving ahead with our campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists, and we’re prepared to take action against ISIL in Syria as well.  The additional American forces I’ve ordered to Iraq will help Iraqi and Kurdish forces with the training, intelligence and equipment they need to take the fight to these terrorists on the ground.  We’re working with Congress to expand our efforts to train and equip the Syrian opposition.  We’ll continue to strengthen our defenses here at home.  And we’ll keep providing the humanitarian relief to help Iraqi civilians who have been driven from their homes and who remain in extreme danger.

Because we’re leading the right way, more nations are joining our coalition.  This week, Arab nations agreed to strengthen their support for the new Iraqi government and to do their part in the fight against ISIL, including aspects of the military campaign.  Saudi Arabia will join the effort to help train and equip moderate Syrian opposition forces.  And retired Marine general John Allen—who during the Iraq war worked with Sunnis in Iraq as they fought to reclaim their communities from terrorists—will serve as our special envoy to help build and coordinate our growing coalition.

Today, every American can be proud of our men and women in uniform who are serving in this effort.  When our airstrikes helped break the siege of the Iraqi town of Amerli [Ah-MER-lee], one Kurdish fighter on the ground said, “It would have been absolutely impossible without the American planes.”  One resident of that city said—“thank you, America.”

Today we’re showing the world the best of American leadership.  We will protect our people.  We will stand with partners who defend their countries and rally other nations to meet a common threat.  And here at home—thirteen years after our country was attacked—we continue to stand tall and proud.  Because we’re Americans.  We don’t give in to fear.  We carry on.  And we will never waver in the defense of the country we love.

 

Full Text Obama Presidency September 10, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech Announcing Military Strategy to Combat “Degrade and Destroy” ISIS ISIL Terrorist Group — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on ISIL

Source: WH, 9-10-14 

State Floor

9:01 P.M. EDT

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to speak to you about what the United States will do with our friends and allies to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL.

As Commander-in-Chief, my highest priority is the security of the American people.  Over the last several years, we have consistently taken the fight to terrorists who threaten our country.  We took out Osama bin Laden and much of al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  We’ve targeted al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, and recently eliminated the top commander of its affiliate in Somalia.  We’ve done so while bringing more than 140,000 American troops home from Iraq, and drawing down our forces in Afghanistan, where our combat mission will end later this year.  Thanks to our military and counterterrorism professionals, America is safer.

Still, we continue to face a terrorist threat.  We can’t erase every trace of evil from the world, and small groups of killers have the capacity to do great harm.  That was the case before 9/11, and that remains true today.  And that’s why we must remain vigilant as threats emerge.  At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain.  And one of those groups is ISIL — which calls itself the “Islamic State.”

Now let’s make two things clear:  ISIL is not “Islamic.”  No religion condones the killing of innocents.  And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.  And ISIL is certainly not a state.  It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border.  It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates.  ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple.  And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.

In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are unique in their brutality.  They execute captured prisoners.  They kill children.  They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage.  They threatened a religious minority with genocide.  And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists — Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff.

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, and the broader Middle East — including American citizens, personnel and facilities.  If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States.  While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies.  Our Intelligence Community believes that thousands of foreigners -– including Europeans and some Americans –- have joined them in Syria and Iraq.  Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

I know many Americans are concerned about these threats.  Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve.  Last month, I ordered our military to take targeted action against ISIL to stop its advances.  Since then, we’ve conducted more than 150 successful airstrikes in Iraq.  These strikes have protected American personnel and facilities, killed ISIL fighters, destroyed weapons, and given space for Iraqi and Kurdish forces to reclaim key territory.  These strikes have also helped save the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

But this is not our fight alone.  American power can make a decisive difference, but we cannot do for Iraqis what they must do for themselves, nor can we take the place of Arab partners in securing their region.  And that’s why I’ve insisted that additional U.S. action depended upon Iraqis forming an inclusive government, which they have now done in recent days.  So tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat.

Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy.

First, we will conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against these terrorists.  Working with the Iraqi government, we will expand our efforts beyond protecting our own people and humanitarian missions, so that we’re hitting ISIL targets as Iraqi forces go on offense.  Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.  That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq.  This is a core principle of my presidency:  If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.

Second, we will increase our support to forces fighting these terrorists on the ground.  In June, I deployed several hundred American servicemembers to Iraq to assess how we can best support Iraqi security forces.  Now that those teams have completed their work –- and Iraq has formed a government –- we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq.  As I have said before, these American forces will not have a combat mission –- we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq.  But they are needed to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment.  We’ll also support Iraq’s efforts to stand up National Guard Units to help Sunni communities secure their own freedom from ISIL’s control.

Across the border, in Syria, we have ramped up our military assistance to the Syrian opposition.  Tonight, I call on Congress again to give us additional authorities and resources to train and equip these fighters.  In the fight against ISIL, we cannot rely on an Assad regime that terrorizes its own people — a regime that will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.  Instead, we must strengthen the opposition as the best counterweight to extremists like ISIL, while pursuing the political solution necessary to solve Syria’s crisis once and for all.

Third, we will continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks.  Working with our partners, we will redouble our efforts to cut off its funding; improve our intelligence; strengthen our defenses; counter its warped ideology; and stem the flow of foreign fighters into and out of the Middle East.  And in two weeks, I will chair a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to further mobilize the international community around this effort.

Fourth, we will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians who have been displaced by this terrorist organization.  This includes Sunni and Shia Muslims who are at grave risk, as well as tens of thousands of Christians and other religious minorities.  We cannot allow these communities to be driven from their ancient homelands.

So this is our strategy.  And in each of these four parts of our strategy, America will be joined by a broad coalition of partners.  Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid.  Secretary Kerry was in Iraq today meeting with the new government and supporting their efforts to promote unity.  And in the coming days he will travel across the Middle East and Europe to enlist more partners in this fight, especially Arab nations who can help mobilize Sunni communities in Iraq and Syria, to drive these terrorists from their lands.  This is American leadership at its best:  We stand with people who fight for their own freedom, and we rally other nations on behalf of our common security and common humanity.

My administration has also secured bipartisan support for this approach here at home.  I have the authority to address the threat from ISIL, but I believe we are strongest as a nation when the President and Congress work together.  So I welcome congressional support for this effort in order to show the world that Americans are united in confronting this danger.

Now, it will take time to eradicate a cancer like ISIL.  And any time we take military action, there are risks involved –- especially to the servicemen and women who carry out these missions.  But I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil.  This counterterrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist, using our air power and our support for partner forces on the ground.  This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.  And it is consistent with the approach I outlined earlier this year:  to use force against anyone who threatens America’s core interests, but to mobilize partners wherever possible to address broader challenges to international order.

My fellow Americans, we live in a time of great change. Tomorrow marks 13 years since our country was attacked.  Next week marks six years since our economy suffered its worst setback since the Great Depression.  Yet despite these shocks, through the pain we have felt and the grueling work required to bounce back, America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth.

Our technology companies and universities are unmatched.  Our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving.  Energy independence is closer than it’s been in decades.  For all the work that remains, our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history.  Despite all the divisions and discord within our democracy, I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day –- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country’s future.

Abroad, American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world.  It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists.  It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples’ right to determine their own destiny.  It is America –- our scientists, our doctors, our know-how –- that can help contain and cure the outbreak of Ebola.  It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons so that they can’t pose a threat to the Syrian people or the world again.  And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, and tolerance, and a more hopeful future.

America, our endless blessings bestow an enduring burden.  But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead.  From Europe to Asia, from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East, we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity.  These are values that have guided our nation since its founding.

Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward.  I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform –- pilots who bravely fly in the face of danger above the Middle East, and servicemembers who support our partners on the ground.

When we helped prevent the massacre of civilians trapped on a distant mountain, here’s what one of them said:  “We owe our American friends our lives.  Our children will always remember that there was someone who felt our struggle and made a long journey to protect innocent people.”

That is the difference we make in the world.  And our own safety, our own security, depends upon our willingness to do what it takes to defend this nation and uphold the values that we stand for –- timeless ideals that will endure long after those who offer only hate and destruction have been vanquished from the Earth.

May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.

Political Headlines September 7, 2014: Full Meet the Press Interview With President Obama — Video

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Full Meet the Press Interview With President Obama

Source: NBC News, 9-7-14

Obama_Meet_the_Press_9-7-14

 

Full Text Obama Presidency September 5, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the NATO Summit

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama at NATO Summit Press Conference

Source: WH, 9-5-14

Celtic Manor Resort
Newport, Wales

4:50 P.M. BST

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon.  Let me begin by thanking my great friend, Prime Minister Cameron — and his entire team — for hosting this NATO Summit and making it such a success.  And I want to thank the people of Newport and Cardiff and the people of Wales for welcoming me and my delegation so warmly.  It’s a great honor to be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Wales.

We’ve met at a time of transition and a time of testing.  After more than a decade, NATO’s combat mission in Afghanistan is coming to an end.  Russia’s aggression against Ukraine threatens our vision of a Europe that is whole, free and at peace.  In the Middle East, the terrorist threat from ISIL poses a growing danger.  Here at this summit, our Alliance has summoned the will, the resources and the capabilities to meet all of these challenges.

First and foremost, we have reaffirmed the central mission of the Alliance.  Article 5 enshrines our solemn duty to each other — “an armed attack against one…shall be considered an attack against them all.”  This is a binding, treaty obligation.  It is non-negotiable.  And here in Wales, we’ve left absolutely no doubt — we will defend every Ally.

Second, we agreed to be resolute in reassuring our Allies in Eastern Europe.  Increased NATO air patrols over the Baltics will continue.  Rotations of additional forces throughout Eastern Europe for training and exercises will continue.  Naval patrols in the Black Sea will continue.  And all 28 NATO nations agreed to contribute to all of these measures — for as long as necessary.

Third, to ensure that NATO remains prepared for any contingency, we agreed to a new Readiness Action Plan.  The Alliance will update its defense planning.  We will create a new highly ready Rapid Response Force that can be deployed on very short notice.  We’ll increase NATO’s presence in Central and Eastern Europe with additional equipment, training, exercises and troop rotations.  And the $1 billion initiative that I announced in Warsaw will be a strong and ongoing U.S. contribution to this plan.

Fourth, all 28 NATO nations have pledged to increase their investments in defense and to move toward investing 2 percent of their GDP in our collective security.  These resources will help NATO invest in critical capabilities, including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and missile defense.  And this commitment makes clear that NATO will not be complacent.  Our Alliance will reverse the decline in defense spending and rise to meet the challenges that we face in the 21st century.

Fifth, our Alliance is fully united in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and its right to defend itself.  To back up this commitment, all 28 NATO Allies will now provide security assistance to Ukraine.  This includes non-lethal support to the Ukrainian military — like body armor, fuel and medical care for wounded Ukrainian troops — as well as assistance to help modernize Ukrainian forces, including logistics and command and control.

Here in Wales, we also sent a strong message to Russia that actions have consequences.  Today, the United States and Europe are finalizing measures to deepen and broaden our sanctions across Russia’s financial, energy and defense sectors.  At the same time, we strongly support President Poroshenko’s efforts to pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict in his country.  The cease-fire announced today can advance that goal, but only if there is follow-through on the ground.  Pro-Russian separatists must keep their commitments and Russia must stop its violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Beyond Europe, we pay tribute to all those from our ISAF mission, including more than 2,200 Americans, who have given their lives for our security in Afghanistan.  NATO’s combat mission ends in three months, and we are prepared to transition to a new mission focused on training, advising and assisting Afghan security forces.  Both presidential candidates have pledged to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement that would be the foundation of our continued cooperation.  But, as we all know, the outcome of the recent election must be resolved.  And so we continue to urge the two presidential candidates to make the compromises that are necessary so Afghans can move forward together and form a sovereign, united and democratic nation.

Finally, we reaffirmed that the door to NATO membership remains open to nations that can meet our high standards.  We agreed to expand the partnership that makes NATO the hub of global security.  We’re launching a new effort with our closest partners — including many that have served with us in Afghanistan — to make sure our forces continue to operate together.  And we’ll create a new initiative to help countries build their defense capabilities — starting with Georgia, Moldova, Jordan and Libya.

I also leave here confident that NATO Allies and partners are prepared to join in a broad, international effort to combat the threat posed by ISIL.  Already, Allies have joined us in Iraq, where we have stopped ISIL’s advances; we’ve equipped our Iraqi partners, and helped them go on offense.  NATO has agreed to play a role in providing security and humanitarian assistance to those who are on the front lines.  Key NATO Allies stand ready to confront this terrorist threat through military, intelligence and law enforcement, as well as diplomatic efforts.  And Secretary Kerry will now travel to the region to continue building the broad-based coalition that will enable us to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

So, taken together, I think the progress we’ve achieved in Wales makes it clear that our Alliance will continue to do whatever is necessary to ensure our collective defense and to protect our citizens.

So with that, let me take a few questions.  I’ll start with Julie Pace of the Associated Press.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to go back to the situation in Ukraine.  If this cease-fire does take effect and appears to be holding, would you and your European counterparts back away from these sanctions that you say you’ve prepared?  Or do you feel that it’s important to levy these sanctions regardless of this cease-fire agreement?  And if I could go back to the Rapid Response Force, can you say specifically what U.S. contributions will be in terms of troop numbers and equipment?  Is it beyond the agreement that you announced — or the proposal you announced in Warsaw?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  With respect to the cease-fire agreement, obviously we are hopeful, but based on past experience also skeptical that, in fact, the separatists will follow through and the Russians will stop violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  So it has to be tested.

And I know that the Europeans are discussing at this point the final shape of their sanctions measures.  It’s my view that if you look at President Poroshenko’s plan, it is going to take some time to implement.  And as a consequence, for us to move forward based on what is currently happening on the ground with sanctions — while acknowledging that if, in fact, the elements of the plan that has been signed are implemented — then those sanctions could be lifted is a more likely way for us to ensure that there’s follow-through. But that’s something that obviously we’ll consult closely with our European partners to determine.

I do want to point out, though, that the only reason that we’re seeing this cease-fire at this moment is because of both the sanctions that have already been applied and the threat of further sanctions, which are having a real impact on the Russian economy and have isolated Russia in a way that we have not seen in a very long time.

The path for Russia to rejoin the community of nations that respects international law is still there, and we encourage President Putin to take it.  But the unity and the firmness that we’ve seen in the Transatlantic Alliance in supporting Ukraine and applying sanctions has been I think a testimony to how seriously people take the basic principle that big countries can just stomp on little countries, or force them to change their policies and give up their sovereignty.

So I’m very pleased with the kind of work that’s been done throughout this crisis in Ukraine, and I think U.S. leadership has been critical throughout that process.

With respect to the Rapid Response Force and the Readiness Action Plan that we’ve put forward, in Warsaw I announced $1 billion in our initiative.  A sizeable portion of that will be devoted to implementing various aspects of this Readiness Action Plan.

We’ve already increased obviously rotations of personnel in the Baltic states, for example.  We have the air policing.  We have the activities that are taking place in the Baltic and the Black Sea.  But this allows us to supplement it.  It allows us to coordinate it and integrate it further with additional contributions from other partners.  And what it signifies is NATO’s recognition that, in light of recent Russian actions as well as rhetoric, we want to make it crystal clear:  We mean what we say when we’re talking about our Article 5 commitments.  And an increased presence serves as the most effective deterrent to any additional Russian aggression that we might see.

Angela Keane, Bloomberg.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  What are your specific expectations for what regional actors like Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Jordan can legitimately provide to a coalition against Islamic State?  Is there a role there for Iran, as well?  As you know, Secretary Kerry today said that he expects the Allied countries to coalesce around a specific plan by the end of September.  Do you agree with the timeline that he set out?  And what concrete commitments, if any, are you leaving this summit with from the other nations that were here?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Let me start with a general point.  There was unanimity over the last two days that ISIL poses a significant threat to NATO members.  And there was a recognition that we have to take action.  I did not get any resistance or pushback to the basic notion that we have a critical role to play in rolling back this savage organization that is causing so much chaos in the region and is harming so many people, and poses a long-term threat to the safety and security of NATO members.  So there’s great conviction that we have to act as part of the international community to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  And that was extremely encouraging.

Beyond that, what we have already seen is significant support from a variety of member states for specific actions that we’ve been taking in Iraq.  Keep in mind, we’ve taken already 100 strikes in Iraq that have had a significant impact on degrading their capabilities, and making sure that we’re protecting U.S. citizens, critical infrastructure, providing the space for the Iraqi government to form.  Our hope is that the Iraqi government is actually formed and finalized next week.  That, then, allows us to work with them on a broader strategy.

And some of the assistance has been in the form of airlift or humanitarian assistance.  Much of it has been providing additional arms to the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces.  There’s been logistical support, intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance support.  And so a variety of folks with different capabilities have already made a contribution.  I’m confident that we’re going to be able to build on that strong foundation and the clear commitment, and have the kind of coalition that will be required for the sustained effort we need to push ISIL back.

Now, John Kerry is going to be traveling to the region to have further consultations with the regional actors and the regional players.  And I think it is absolutely critical that we have Arab states, and specifically Sunni majority states, that are rejecting the kind of extremist nihilism that we’re seeing out of ISIL that say that is not what Islam is about, and are prepared to join us actively in the fight.  And my expectation is, is that we will see friends and allies and partners of ours in the region prepared to take action, as well, as part of a coalition.

One of our tasks, though, is also going to be to build capability.  What we’ve learned in Iraq is, yes, ISIL has significant capabilities, and they combine terrorist tactics with traditional military tactics to significant effect, but part of the problem also is, is that we haven’t seen as effective a fighting force on the part of the Iraqi Security Forces as we need.  And we’re going to have to focus on the capable units that are already there, bolster them, bolster the work that the Peshmerga has done.  We can support them from the air, but ultimately we’re going to need a strong ground game, and we’re also going to need the Sunni tribes in many of these areas to recognize that their future is not with the kind of fanaticism that ISIL represents so that they start taking the fight to ISIL, as well.  And that’s going to require the sort of regional partnerships that we’re talking about.

In terms of timetable, we are working deliberately.  If you look at what we’ve done over the last several months, we’ve taken this in stages.  The first stage is to make sure that we were encouraging Iraqi government formation.  Second stage was making sure that, building on the intelligence assessments that we have done, that we were in a position to conduct limited airstrikes to protect our personnel, critical infrastructure and engage in humanitarian activities.

The third phase will allow us to take the fight to ISIL, broaden the effort.  And our goal is to act with urgency, but also to make sure that we’re doing it right — that we have the right targets; that there’s support on the ground if we take an airstrike; that we have a strong political coalition, diplomatic effort that is matching it; a strong strategic communications effort so that we are discouraging people from thinking somehow that ISIL represents a state, much less a caliphate.  So all those things are going to have to be combined.

And as I said, it’s not going to happen overnight, but we are steadily moving in the right direction.  And we are going to achieve our goal.  We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, the same way that we have gone after al Qaeda, and the same way that we have gone after the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia where we released today the fact that we had killed the leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia, and have consistently worked to degrade their operations.

We have been very systematic and methodical in going after these kinds of organizations that may threaten U.S. personnel and the homeland.  And that deliberation allows us to do it right.  But have no doubt, we will continue and I will continue to do what is necessary to protect the American people.  And ISIL poses a real threat, and I’m encouraged by the fact that our friends and allies recognize that same threat.

Julie Davis.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to follow up on what you were saying about ISIL and ask, if you think that the objective here is to destroy and degrade them, are those the same thing in your mind?  Is the goal to ultimately — Secretary Kerry said that there’s no containing them, so is the goal to ultimately annihilate them?  And also, you talked about the importance of expertise on the ground and building up capacity on the ground.  Do you think since airstrikes are not going to do it here, if ultimately action is needed in Syria, can you realistically expect the Free Syrian Army to do what’s needed on the ground to really destroy, not just push back, ISIL?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You can’t contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc, displacing that many people, killing that many innocents, enslaving that many women.  The goal has to be to dismantle them.

And if you look at what happened with al Qaeda in the FATA, where their primary base was, you initially push them back.  You systematically degrade their capabilities.  You narrow their scope of action.  You slowly shrink the space, the territory that they may control.  You take out their leadership.  And over time, they are not able to conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks as they once could.

As I said I think in my last press conference, given the nature of these organizations, are there potentially remnants of an organization that are still running around and hiding and still potentially plotting?  Absolutely.  And we will continue to hunt them down the same way we’re doing with remnants of al Qaeda in the FATA or elements of al-Shabaab in Somalia, or terrorists who operate anywhere around the world.

But what we can accomplish is to dismantle this network, this force that has claimed to control this much territory, so that they can’t do us harm.  And that’s going to be our objective.  And as I said before, I’m pleased to see that there’s unanimity among our friends and allies that that is a worthy goal and they are prepared to work with us in accomplishing that goal.

With respect to the situation on the ground in Syria, we will not be placing U.S. ground troops to try to control the areas that are part of the conflict inside of Syria.  I don’t think that’s necessary for us to accomplish our goal.  We are going to have to find effective partners on the ground to push back against ISIL.  And the moderate coalition there is one that we can work with.  We have experience working with many of them.  They have been, to some degree, outgunned and outmanned, and that’s why it’s important for us to work with our friends and allies to support them more effectively.

But keep in mind that when you have U.S. forces, other advanced nations going after ISIL and putting them on the defensive and putting them on the run, it’s pretty remarkable what then ground forces can do, even if initially they were on the defensive against ISIL.

So that is a developing strategy that we are going to be consulting with our friends, our allies, our regional partners.  But the bottom line is, we will do what is necessary in order to make sure that ISIL does not threaten the United States or our friends and partners.

One last question.  Colleen Nelson, Wall Street Journal.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Some say that Democrats who are facing tough races in November have asked you to delay action on immigration.  How have the concerns of other Democrats influenced your thinking?  And do you see any downside at this point to delaying until after the election?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I have to tell you that this week I’ve been pretty busy, focused on Ukraine and focused on ISIL and focused on making sure that NATO is boosting its commitments, and following through on what’s necessary to meet 21st century challenges.

Jeh Johnson and Eric Holder have begun to provide me some of their proposals and recommendations.  I’ll be reviewing them.  And my expectation is that fairly soon I’ll be considering what the next steps are.

What I’m unequivocal about is that we need immigration reform; that my overriding preference is to see Congress act.  We had bipartisan action in the Senate.  The House Republicans have sat on it for over a year.  That has damaged the economy, it has held America back.  It is a mistake.  And in the absence of congressional action, I intend to take action to make sure that we’re putting more resources on the border, that we’re upgrading how we process these cases, and that we find a way to encourage legal immigration and give people some path so that they can start paying taxes and pay a fine and learn English and be able to not look over their shoulder but be legal, since they’ve been living here for quite some time.

So I suspect that on my flight back this will be part of my reading, taking a look at some of the specifics that we’ve looked at.  And I’ll be making an announcement soon.

But I want to be very clear:  My intention is, in the absence of action by Congress, I’m going to do what I can do within the legal constraints of my office — because it’s the right thing to do for the country.

Thank you very much, people of Wales.  I had a wonderful time.

END
5:15 P.M. BST

Political Musings September 4, 2014: Damage control for Obama, Biden’s tough response on ISIS as Congress plans war

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Damage control for Obama, Biden’s tough response on ISIS as Congress plans war

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The news of the beheading of another American journalist by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) commenced a new round of responses from President Barack Obama and his administration and differing levels of how to militarily respond to…READ MORE

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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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 28, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement and Press Conference updating on Iraq, Syria, Ukraine and the Economy

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President

Source: WH, 8-28-14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

4:09 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to say a few words on a number of topics and take a few questions before the long Labor Day weekend.

First, beginning with the number one thing most Americans care about — the economy.  This morning, we found out that our economy actually grew at a stronger clip in the 2nd quarter than we originally thought.  Companies are investing.  Consumers are spending.  Over the past four and a half years, our businesses have now created nearly 10 million new jobs.  So there are reasons to feel good about the direction we’re headed.

But as everybody knows, there’s a lot more that we should be doing to make sure that all Americans benefit from the progress that we’ve made.  And I’m going to be pushing Congress hard on this when they return next week.

Second, in Iraq, our dedicated pilots and crews continue to carry out the targeted strikes that I authorized to protect Americans there and to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.

As Commander-in-Chief, I will always do what is necessary to protect the American people and defend against evolving threats to our homeland.  Because of our strikes, the terrorists of ISIL are losing arms and equipment.  In some areas, Iraqi government and Kurdish forces have begun to push them back.

And we continue to be proud and grateful to our extraordinary personnel serving in this mission.

Now, ISIL poses an immediate threat to the people of Iraq and to people throughout the region.  And that’s why our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader, comprehensive strategy to protect our people and to support our partners who are taking the fight to ISIL.  And that starts with Iraq’s leaders building on the progress that they’ve made so far and forming an inclusive government that will unite their country and strengthen their security forces to confront ISIL.

Any successful strategy, though, also needs strong regional partners.  I’m encouraged so far that countries in the region — countries that don’t always agree on many things — increasingly recognize the primacy of the threat that ISIL poses to all of them.  And I’ve asked Secretary Kerry to travel to the region to continue to build the coalition that’s needed to meet this threat.  As I’ve said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I’m confident that we can — and we will — working closely with our allies and our partners.

For our part, I’ve directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options.  I’ll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy.  And I’ve been consulting with members of Congress and I’ll continue to do so in the days ahead.

Finally, I just spoke with Chancellor Merkel of Germany on the situation in Ukraine.  We agree — if there was ever any doubt — that Russia is responsible for the violence in eastern Ukraine.  The violence is encouraged by Russia.  The separatists are trained by Russia.  They are armed by Russia.  They are funded by Russia.  Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  And the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see.  This comes as Ukrainian forces are making progress against the separatists.

As a result of the actions Russia has already taken, and the major sanctions we’ve imposed with our European and international partners, Russia is already more isolated than at any time since the end of the Cold War.  Capital is fleeing.  Investors are increasingly staying out.  Its economy is in decline.  And this ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.

Next week, I’ll be in Europe to coordinate with our closest allies and partners.  In Estonia, I will reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the defense of our NATO allies.

At the NATO Summit in the United Kingdom, we’ll focus on the additional steps we can take to ensure the Alliance remains prepared for any challenge.  Our meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Commission will be another opportunity for our alliance to continue our partnership with Ukraine.  And I look forward to reaffirming the unwavering commitment of the United States to Ukraine and its people when I welcome President Poroshenko to the White House next month.

So with that, I’m going to take a few questions.  And I’m going to start with somebody who I guess is now a big cheese — he’s moved on.  But I understand this is going to be his last chance to ask me a question in the press room.  So I want to congratulate Chuck Todd and give him first dibs.

Q    I’m glad you said “in the press room.”  Let me start with Syria.  The decision that you have to make between — first of all, is it a “if” or “when” situation about going after ISIL in Syria?  Can you defeat ISIL or ISIS without going after them in Syria?  And then how do you prioritize?  You have said that Assad has lost legitimacy to lead.  Defeating ISIS could help Assad keep power.  Talk about how you prioritize those two pieces of your foreign policy.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to make sure everybody is clear on what we’re doing now, because it is limited.  Our focus right now is to protect American personnel on the ground in Iraq; to protect our embassy, to protect our consulates, to make sure that critical infrastructure that could adversely affect our personnel is protected.

Where we see an opportunity that allows us with very modest risk to help the humanitarian situation there as we did in Sinjar Mountain, we will take those opportunities after having consulted with Congress.  But our core priority right now is just to make sure that our folks are safe and to do an effective assessment of Iraqi and Kurdish capabilities.

As I said I think in the last press conference, in order for us to be successful, we’ve got to have an Iraqi government that is unified and inclusive.  So we are continuing to push them to get that job done.  As soon as we have an Iraqi government in place, the likelihood of the Iraqi security forces being more effective in taking the fight to ISIL significantly increases.  And the options that I’m asking for from the Joint Chiefs focuses primarily on making sure that ISIL is not overrunning Iraq.

What is true, though, is that the violence that’s been taking place in Syria has obviously given ISIL a safe haven there in ungoverned spaces.  And in order for us to degrade ISIL over the long term, we’re going to have to build a regional strategy.  Now, we’re not going to do that alone.  We’re going to have to do that with other partners, and particularly Sunni partners, because part of the goal here is to make sure that Sunnis both in Syria and in Iraq feel as if they’ve got an investment in a government that actually functions, a government that can protect them, a government that makes sure that their families are safe from the barbaric acts that we’ve seen in ISIL.  And right now, those structures are not in place.

And that’s why the issue with respect to Syria is not simply a military issue, it’s also a political issue.  It’s also an issue that involves all the Sunni states in the region and Sunni leadership recognizing that this cancer that has developed is one that they have to be just as invested in defeating as we are.

And so to cut to the chase in terms of what may be your specific concerns, Chuck, my priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back, and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself.

But when we look at a broader strategy that is consistent with what I said at West Point, that’s consistent with what I said at the National Defense College, clearly ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively.  And that’s going to be a long-term project.  It’s going to require us to stabilize Syria in some fashion, and stabilizing Syria in some fashion means that we’ve got to get moderate Sunnis who are able to govern and offer a real alternative and competition to what ISIL has been doing in some of these spaces.

Now, the last point with respect to Assad, it’s not just my opinion — I think it would be international opinion — that Assad has lost legitimacy in terms of dropping barrel bombs on innocent families and killing tens of thousands of people.  And right now, what we’re seeing is the areas that ISIL is occupying are not controlled by Assad anyway.  And, frankly, Assad doesn’t seem to have the capability or reach to get into those areas.  So I don’t think this is a situation where we have to choose between Assad or the kinds of people who carry on the incredible violence that we’ve been seeing there.  We will continue to support a moderate opposition inside of Syria, in part because we have to give people inside of Syria a choice other than ISIL or Assad.

And I don’t see any scenario in which Assad somehow is able to bring peace and stability to a region that is majority Sunni and has not so far shown any willingness to share power with them or in any kind of significant way deal with the longstanding grievances that they have there.

Q    Do you need Congress’s approval to go into Syria?

THE PRESIDENT:  I have consulted with Congress throughout this process.  I am confident that as Commander-in-Chief I have the authorities to engage in the acts that we are conducting currently.  As our strategy develops, we will continue to consult with Congress.  And I do think that it will be important for Congress to weigh in, or that our consultations with Congress continue to develop so that the American people are part of the debate.

But I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  We don’t have a strategy yet.  I think what I’ve seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at than we currently are.  And I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military as well.  We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them.  At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.  But there’s no point in me asking for action on the part of Congress before I know exactly what it is that is going to be required for us to get the job done.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you consider today’s escalation in Ukraine an invasion?  And when you talk about additional costs to Russia, are you ready at this point to impose broader economic sanctions?  Or are you considering other responses that go beyond sanctions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I consider the actions that we’ve seen in the last week a continuation of what’s been taking place for months now.  As I said in my opening statement, there is no doubt that this is not a homegrown, indigenous uprising in eastern Ukraine.  The separatists are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia.  Throughout this process, we’ve seen deep Russian involvement in everything that they’ve done.

I think in part because of the progress that you had seen by the Ukrainians around Donetsk and Luhansk, Russia determined that it had to be a little more overt in what it had already been doing.  But it’s not really a shift.

What we have seen, though, is that President Putin and Russia have repeatedly passed by potential off-ramps to resolve this diplomatically.  And so in our consultations with our European allies and partners, my expectation is, is that we will take additional steps primarily because we have not seen any meaningful action on the part of Russia to actually try to resolve this in diplomatic fashion.

And I think that the sanctions that we’ve already applied have been effective.  Our intelligence shows that the Russians know they’ve been effective, even though it may not appear on Russian television.  And I think there are ways for us to deepen or expand the scope of some of that work.

But ultimately, I think what’s important to recognize is the degree to which Russian decision-making is isolating Russia.  They’re doing this to themselves.  And what I’ve been encouraged by is the degree to which our European partners recognize even though they are bearing a cost in implementing these sanctions, they understand that a broader principle is at stake.  And so I look forward to the consultations that we’ll have when I see them next week.

Zeke Miller.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last year, you said that you believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress.  In response to Chuck’s question you said you don’t have a strategy yet, but you’ll reconsider that going forward.  But why didn’t you go to Congress before this current round of strikes in Iraq?  Do you not believe that that’s the case anymore, what you said last year?  And throughout your career you’ve also said that — you raised concerns with the expansion of powers of the executive.  Are you concerned that your recent actions, unilaterally, had maybe — have cut against that?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  And here’s why:  It is not just part of my responsibility, but it is a sacred duty for me as Commander-in-Chief to protect the American people.  And that requires me to act fast, based on information I receive, if an embassy of ours or a consulate of ours is being threatened.  The decisions I made were based on very concrete assessments about the possibility that Erbil might be overrun in the Kurdish region and that our consulate could be in danger.  And I can’t afford to wait in order to make sure that those folks are protected.

But throughout this process, we’ve consulted closely with Congress, and the feedback I’ve gotten from Congress is, is that we’re doing the right thing.  Now, as we go forward — as I’ve described to Chuck — and look at a broader regional strategy with an international coalition and partners to systematically degrade ISIL’s capacity to engage in the terrible violence and disruptions that they’ve been engaging in not just in Syria, not just in Iraq, but potentially elsewhere if we don’t nip this at the bud, then those consultations with Congress for something that is longer term I think become more relevant.

And it is my intention that Congress has to have some buy-in as representatives of the American people.  And, by the way, the American people need to hear what that strategy is.  But as I said to Chuck, I don’t want to put the cart before the horse.  And in some of the media reports the suggestion seems to have been that we’re about to go full scale on an elaborate strategy for defeating ISIL, and the suggestion, I guess, has been that we’ll start moving forward imminently and somehow Congress — still out of town — is going to be left in the dark.  That’s not what’s going to happen.

We are going to continue to focus on protecting the American people.  We’re going to continue, where we can, to engage in the sort of humanitarian acts that saved so many folks who were trapped on a mountain.  We are going to work politically and diplomatically with folks in the region.  And we’re going to cobble together the kind of coalition that we need for a long-term strategy as soon as we are able to fit together the military, political and economic components of that strategy.  There will be a military aspect to that, and it’s going to be important for Congress to know what that is, in part because it may cost some money.

I’ll just take a couple more.  Yes.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Do you regret not moving on ISIS earlier?  There are some reports indicating that most of the weapons, the U.S. weapons that they have, they got it or they acquired it after the fall of Mosul.  And also, the Iraqi President said today that the Iraqi forces are in no position to stand up to ISIS.  What makes you think that forming a new government will change the situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, once ISIL got into Mosul that posed a big problem, because there’s no doubt that they were able to capture some weapons and resources that they then used to finance additional operations.

And at that stage, we immediately contacted the Iraqi government.  Keep in mind we had been in communications with the Iraqi government for more than a year indicating that we saw significant problems in the Sunni areas.  Prime Minister Maliki was not as responsive perhaps as we would have liked to some of the underlying political grievances that existed at the time.

There is no doubt that in order for Iraq security forces to be successful, they’re going to need help.  They’re going to need help from us.  They’re going to need help from our international partners.  They’re going to need additional training.  They’re going to need additional equipment.  And we are going to be prepared to offer that support.

There may be a role for an international coalition providing additional air support for their operations.  But the reason it’s so important that an Iraqi government be in place is this is not simply a military problem.  The problem we have had consistently is a Sunni population that feels alienated from Baghdad and does not feel invested in what’s happening, and does not feel as if anybody is looking out for them.

If we can get a government in place that provides Sunnis some hope that a national government serves their interest, if they can regain some confidence and trust that it will follow through on commitments that were made way back in 2006 and 2007 and 2008 and earlier about how you arrive at, for example, de-Baathification laws and give people opportunities so they’re not locked out of government positions — if those things are followed through on, and we are able to combine it with a sound military strategy, then I think we can be successful.  If we can’t, then the idea that the United States or any outside power would perpetually defeat ISIS I think is unrealistic.

As I’ve said before — I think I said in the previous press conference — our military is the best in the world.  We can route ISIS on the ground and keep a lid on things temporarily.  But then as soon as we leave, the same problems come back again.  So we’ve got to make sure that Iraqis understand in the end they’re going to be responsible for their own security.  And part of that is going to be the capacity for them to make compromises.

It also means that states in the region stop being ambivalent about these extremist groups.  The truth is that we’ve had state actors who at times have thought that the way to advance their interests is, well, financing some of these groups as proxies is not such a bad strategy.  And part of our message to the entire region is this should be a wake-up call to Sunni,to Shia — to everybody — that a group like ISIS is beyond the pale; that they have no vision or ideology beyond violence and chaos and the slaughter of innocent people.  And as a consequence, we’ve got to all join together — even if we have differences on a range of political issues — to make sure that they’re rooted out.

Last question.

Q    Mr. President, despite all of the actions the West has taken to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine, Russia seems intent on taking one step after another — convoys, transports of arms.  At what point do sanctions no longer work?  Would you envisage the possibility of a necessity of military action to get Russia to pull back from Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  We are not taking military action to solve the Ukrainian problem.  What we’re doing is to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Russia.  But I think it is very important to recognize that a military solution to this problem is not going to be forthcoming.  Now, the fact that Russia has taken these actions in violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Ukrainians has resulted, I believe, in a weakening of Russia, not a strengthening of Russia.  That may not be apparent immediately, but I think it will become increasingly apparent.

What it’s also done is isolated Russia from its trading partners, its commercial partners, international business in ways that I think are going to be very difficult to recover from.  And we will continue to stand firm with our allies and partners that what is happening is wrong, that there is a solution that allows Ukraine and Russia to live peacefully.  But it is not in the cards for us to see a military confrontation between Russia and the United States in this region.

Keep in mind, however, that I’m about to go to a NATO conference.  Ukraine is not a member of NATO, but a number of those states that are close by are.  And we take our Article 5 commitments to defend each other very seriously, and that includes the smallest NATO member, as well as the largest NATO member.  And so part of the reason I think this NATO meeting is going to be so important is to refocus attention on the critical function that NATO plays to make sure that every country is contributing in order to deliver on the promise of our Article 5 assurances.

Part of the reason I’ll be going to Estonia is to let the Estonians know that we mean what we say with respect to our treaty obligations.  We don’t have those treaty obligations with Ukraine.  We do, however, stand shoulder to shoulder with them, and we’re doing not just a lot of work diplomatically but also financially in order to make sure that they have the best chance at dealing with what is admittedly a very difficult situation.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    On immigration?

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, guys.  Thank you.

Q    Immigration?

Q    Mr. President, how are external events and your executive decision-making going to impact your decision on immigration reform?  Some people say you’re going to delay this.

THE PRESIDENT:  Let me just say this:  I’ve been very clear about the fact that our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed.  And my preference continues to be that Congress act.  I don’t think anybody thinks that Congress is going to act in the short term, but hope springs eternal that after the midterm elections they may act.

In the meantime, what I’ve asked Jeh Johnson to do is to look at what kinds of executive authorities we have in order to make the system work better.  And we’ve had a lot of stakeholder discussions; that set of proposals is being worked up.

And the one thing that I think has happened was the issue with unaccompanied children that got so much attention a couple of months back.  And part of the reason that was important was not because that represented a huge unprecedented surge in overall immigration at the border, but I do think that it changed the perception of the American people about what’s happening at the borders.

And so one of the things we’ve had — have had to do is to work through systematically to make sure that that specific problem in a fairly defined area of the border, that we’re starting to deal with that in a serious way.  And the good news is we’ve started to make some progress.  I mean, what we’ve seen so far is that throughout the summer the number of apprehensions have been decreasing — maybe that’s counterintuitive, but that’s a good thing because that means that fewer folks are coming across.  The number of apprehensions in August are down from July, and they’re actually lower than they were August of last year.  Apprehensions in July were half of what they were in June.  So we’re seeing a significant downward trend in terms of these unaccompanied children.

And what that I think allows us to do is to make sure that those kids are being taken care of properly, with due process.  At the same time, it’s allowed us to then engage in a broader conversation about what we need to do to get more resources down at the border.  It would have been helped along if Congress had voted for the supplemental that I asked for; they did not.  That means we’ve got to make some administrative choices and executive choices about, for example, getting more immigration judges down there.

So that has kept us busy, but it has not stopped the process of looking more broadly about how do we get a smarter immigration system in place while we’re waiting for Congress to act.  And it continues to be my belief that if I can’t see congressional action, that I need to do at least what I can in order to make the system work better.

But some of these things do affect timelines, and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done.  But have no doubt, in the absence of congressional action, I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.

Thank you, guys.
END 4:39 P.M. EDT

Political Musings August 12, 2014: Clinton attacks Obama on Syria in Atlantic then will hug it out in the Vineyard

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Clinton attacks Obama on Syria in Atlantic then will hug it out in the Vineyard

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In what promises to be an odd get together Hillary Clinton and Former President Bill Clinton will attend the same party on Wednesday, Aug. 14 as President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama in Martha’s Vineyard only…READ MORE

Political Musings January 29, 2014: Obama’s foreign policy goes from war to diplomacy in State of the Union Address

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

While the core President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 focused on the President’s economic opportunity program and domestic policy in general taking up nearly an hour of…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency September 24, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly about Middle East Diplomacy Doctrine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama in Address to the United Nations General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-24-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks at United Nations General Assembly (September 24, 2013) President Barack Obama delivers remarks during his address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, N.Y., Sept. 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

United Nations
New York, New York

10:10 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. President, Mr. Secretary General, fellow delegates, ladies and gentlemen:  Each year we come together to reaffirm the founding vision of this institution.  For most of recorded history, individual aspirations were subject to the whims of tyrants and empires.  Divisions of race and religion and tribe were settled through the sword and the clash of armies.  The idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes and advance a common prosperity seemed unimaginable.

It took the awful carnage of two world wars to shift our thinking.  The leaders who built the United Nations were not naïve; they did not think this body could eradicate all wars.  But in the wake of millions dead and continents in rubble, and with the development of nuclear weapons that could annihilate a planet, they understood that humanity could not survive the course it was on.  And so they gave us this institution, believing that it could allow us to resolve conflicts, enforce rules of behavior, and build habits of cooperation that would grow stronger over time.

For decades, the United Nations has in fact made a difference — from helping to eradicate disease, to educating children, to brokering peace.  But like every generation of leaders, we face new and profound challenges, and this body continues to be tested.  The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage, as nation-states and members of an international community, to squarely meet those challenges; whether the United Nations can meet the tests of our time.

For much of my tenure as President, some of our most urgent challenges have revolved around an increasingly integrated global economy, and our efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetime.  Now, five years after the global economy collapsed, and thanks to coordinated efforts by the countries here today, jobs are being created, global financial systems have stabilized, and people are once again being lifted out of poverty.  But this progress is fragile and unequal, and we still have work to do together to assure that our citizens can access the opportunities that they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Together, we’ve also worked to end a decade of war.  Five years ago, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in harm’s way, and the war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world.  Today, all of our troops have left Iraq.  Next year, an international coalition will end its war in Afghanistan, having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11.

For the United States, these new circumstances have also meant shifting away from a perpetual war footing.  Beyond bringing our troops home, we have limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties.  We’re transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law, while working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay.  And just as we reviewed how we deploy our extraordinary military capabilities in a way that lives up to our ideals, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

As a result of this work, and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago.  But even a glance at today’s headlines indicates that dangers remain.  In Kenya, we’ve seen terrorists target innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall, and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected.  In Pakistan, nearly 100 people were recently killed by suicide bombers outside a church.  In Iraq, killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life.  And meanwhile, al Qaeda has splintered into regional networks and militias, which doesn’t give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11, but does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats, businesses and civilians all across the globe.

Just as significantly, the convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa have laid bare deep divisions within societies, as an old order is upended and people grapple with what comes next.  Peaceful movements have too often been answered by violence — from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change.  Sectarian conflict has reemerged.  And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace.

Nowhere have we seen these trends converge more powerfully than in Syria.  There, peaceful protests against an authoritarian regime were met with repression and slaughter.  In the face of such carnage, many retreated to their sectarian identity — Alawite and Sunni; Christian and Kurd — and the situation spiraled into civil war.

The international community recognized the stakes early on, but our response has not matched the scale of the challenge.  Aid cannot keep pace with the suffering of the wounded and displaced.  A peace process is stillborn.  America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition, but extremist groups have still taken root to exploit the crisis.  Assad’s traditional allies have propped him up, citing principles of sovereignty to shield his regime.  And on August 21st, the regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

Now, the crisis in Syria, and the destabilization of the region, goes to the heart of broader challenges that the international community must now confront.  How should we respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa — conflicts between countries, but also conflicts within them?  How do we address the choice of standing callously by while children are subjected to nerve gas, or embroiling ourselves in someone else’s civil war?  What is the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region and undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct?  What is the role of the United Nations and international law in meeting cries for justice?

Today, I want to outline where the United States of America stands on these issues.  With respect to Syria, we believe that as a starting point, the international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons.  When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons, I did not do so lightly.  I did so because I believe it is in the security interest of the United States and in the interest of the world to meaningfully enforce a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself.  The ban against the use of chemical weapons, even in war, has been agreed to by 98 percent of humanity.  It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocating in the trenches; Jews slaughtered in gas chambers; Iranians poisoned in the many tens of thousands.

The evidence is overwhelming that the Assad regime used such weapons on August 21st.  U.N. inspectors gave a clear accounting that advanced rockets fired large quantities of sarin gas at civilians.  These rockets were fired from a regime-controlled neighborhood, and landed in opposition neighborhoods.  It’s an insult to human reason — and to the legitimacy of this institution — to suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack.

Now, I know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who questioned the legitimacy of even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council.  But without a credible military threat, the Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all.  However, as I’ve discussed with President Putin for over a year, most recently in St. Petersburg, my preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue.  And in the past several weeks, the United States, Russia and our allies have reached an agreement to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control, and then to destroy them.

The Syrian government took a first step by giving an accounting of its stockpiles.  Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so.  If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws.  On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century, and that this body means what it says.

Agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort to reach a political settlement within Syria.  I do not believe that military action — by those within Syria, or by external powers — can achieve a lasting peace.  Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria; that is for the Syrian people to decide.  Nevertheless, a leader who slaughtered his citizens and gassed children to death cannot regain the legitimacy to lead a badly fractured country.  The notion that Syria can somehow return to a pre-war status quo is a fantasy.

It’s time for Russia and Iran to realize that insisting on Assad’s rule will lead directly to the outcome that they fear:  an increasingly violent space for extremists to operate.  In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them that the Syrian people cannot afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.

We are committed to working this political track.  And as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero-sum endeavor.  We’re no longer in a Cold War.  There’s no Great Game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the wellbeing of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.

I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria’s civil war.  And as we move the Geneva process forward, I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries.  America has committed over a billion dollars to this effort, and today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million.  No aid can take the place of a political resolution that gives the Syrian people the chance to rebuild their country, but it can help desperate people to survive.

What broader conclusions can be drawn from America’s policy toward Syria?  I know there are those who have been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad, and believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening of American resolve in the region.  Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes to deter the further use of chemical weapons shows we’ve learned nothing from Iraq, and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes.  In this way, the situation in Syria mirrors a contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades:  the United States is chastised for meddling in the region, accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy; at the same time, the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems and for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations.

I realize some of this is inevitable, given America’s role in the world.  But these contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people’s support for our involvement in the region, and allow leaders in the region — as well as the international community sometimes — to avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.

So let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy towards the Middle East and North Africa, and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency.

The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.

We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.

We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world.  Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.

We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people.  Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror.  But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.

And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction.  Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region, and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.

Now, to say that these are America’s core interests is not to say that they are our only interests.  We deeply believe it is in our interests to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous, and will continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets, because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity.  But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action, particularly through military action.  Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force.  Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region.

So what does this mean going forward?  In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues:  Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the Arab-Israeli conflict.  While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.

The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  This mistrust has deep roots.  Iranians have long complained of a history of U.S. interference in their affairs and of America’s role in overthrowing an Iranian government during the Cold War.  On the other hand, Americans see an Iranian government that has declared the United States an enemy and directly — or through proxies — taken American hostages, killed U.S. troops and civilians, and threatened our ally Israel with destruction.

I don’t believe this difficult history can be overcome overnight — the suspicions run too deep.  But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear program, that can serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect.

Since I took office, I’ve made it clear in letters to the Supreme Leader in Iran and more recently to President Rouhani that America prefers to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program peacefully, although we are determined to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  We are not seeking regime change and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.  Instead, we insist that the Iranian government meet its responsibilities under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons, and President Rouhani has just recently reiterated that the Islamic Republic will never develop a nuclear weapon.

So these statements made by our respective governments should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement.  We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.  But to succeed, conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent and verifiable.  After all, it’s the Iranian government’s choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place.  And this is not simply an issue between the United States and Iran.  The world has seen Iran evade its responsibilities in the past and has an abiding interest in making sure that Iran meets its obligations in the future.

But I want to be clear we are encouraged that President Rouhani received from the Iranian people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course.  And given President Rouhani’s stated commitment to reach an agreement, I am directing John Kerry to pursue this effort with the Iranian government in close cooperation with the European Union — the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China.

The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested.  For while the status quo will only deepen Iran’s isolation, Iran’s genuine commitment to go down a different path will be good for the region and the world, and will help the Iranian people meet their extraordinary potential — in commerce and culture; in science and education.

We are also determined to resolve a conflict that goes back even further than our differences with Iran, and that is the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.  I’ve made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel’s security, nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state.  Earlier this year, in Jerusalem, I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary, just, and possible.  And I believe there’s a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state.  But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nations assembled in this body fully recognize their country, and where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes or incite others to hate them.

Likewise, the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right to live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state.  On the same trip, I had the opportunity to meet with young Palestinians in Ramallah whose ambition and incredible potential are matched by the pain they feel in having no firm place in the community of nations.  They are understandably cynical that real progress will ever be made, and they’re frustrated by their families enduring the daily indignity of occupation.  But they too recognize that two states is the only real path to peace — because just as the Palestinian people must not be displaced, the state of Israel is here to stay.

So the time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace.  Already, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political risks.  President Abbas has put aside efforts to short-cut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state.  Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security, refugees and Jerusalem.

So now the rest of us must be willing to take risks as well.  Friends of Israel, including the United States, must recognize that Israel’s security as a Jewish and democratic state depends upon the realization of a Palestinian state, and we should say so clearly.  Arab states, and those who supported the Palestinians, must recognize that stability will only be served through a two-state solution and a secure Israel.

All of us must recognize that peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists throughout the region, and embolden those who are prepared to build a better future.  And moreover, ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region are languishing without work.  So let’s emerge from the familiar corners of blame and prejudice.  Let’s support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk the difficult road to peace.

Real breakthroughs on these two issues — Iran’s nuclear program, and Israeli-Palestinian peace — would have a profound and positive impact on the entire Middle East and North Africa.  But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that a just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations.  It must also be measured by our ability to resolve conflict and promote justice within nations.  And by that measure, it’s clear that all of us have a lot more work to do.

When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt, the entire world was filled with hope.  And although the United States — like others — was struck by the speed of transition, and although we did not — and in fact could not — dictate events, we chose to support those who called for change.  And we did so based on the belief that while these transitions will be hard and take time, societies based upon democracy and openness and the dignity of the individual will ultimately be more stable, more prosperous, and more peaceful.

Over the last few years, particularly in Egypt, we’ve seen just how hard this transition will be.  Mohamed Morsi was democratically elected, but proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was fully inclusive.  The interim government that replaced him responded to the desires of millions of Egyptians who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn, but it, too, has made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy — through an emergency law, and restrictions on the press and civil society and opposition parties.

Of course, America has been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict, simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, and engineering their removal of power.  In fact, the United States has purposely avoided choosing sides.  Our overriding interest throughout these past few years has been to encourage a government that legitimately reflects the will of the Egyptian people, and recognizes true democracy as requiring a respect for minority rights and the rule of law, freedom of speech and assembly, and a strong civil society.

That remains our interest today.  And so, going forward, the United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government that promotes core interests like the Camp David Accords and counterterrorism.  We’ll continue support in areas like education that directly benefit the Egyptian people.  But we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a more democratic path.

And our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point:  The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.  Nevertheless, we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals, whether that means opposing the use of violence as a means of suppressing dissent, or supporting the principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We will reject the notion that these principles are simply Western exports, incompatible with Islam or the Arab World.  We believe they are the birthright of every person.  And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited, although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force, and although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy and inconsistency, we will be engaged in the region for the long haul.  For the hard work of forging freedom and democracy is the task of a generation.

And this includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Bahrain and Syria.  We understand such longstanding issues cannot be solved by outsiders; they must be addressed by Muslim communities themselves.  But we’ve seen grinding conflicts come to an end before — most recently in Northern Ireland, where Catholics and Protestants finally recognized that an endless cycle of conflict was causing both communities to fall behind a fast-moving world.  And so we believe those same sectarian conflicts can be overcome in the Middle East and North Africa.

To summarize, the United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries.  The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.  Indeed, as recent debates within the United States over Syria clearly show, the danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries or to take on every problem in the region as its own.  The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war — rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world — may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.

I believe such disengagement would be a mistake.  I believe America must remain engaged for our own security.  But I also believe the world is better for it.  Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional — in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all.

I must be honest, though.  We’re far more likely to invest our energy in those countries that want to work with us, that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few; that embrace a vision of society where everyone can contribute — men and women, Shia or Sunni, Muslim, Christian or Jew.  Because from Europe to Asia, from Africa to the Americas, nations that have persevered on a democratic path have emerged more prosperous, more peaceful, and more invested in upholding our common security and our common humanity.  And I believe that the same will hold true for the Arab world.

This leads me to a final point.  There will be times when the breakdown of societies is so great, the violence against civilians so substantial that the international community will be called upon to act.  This will require new thinking and some very tough choices.  While the United Nations was designed to prevent wars between states, increasingly we face the challenge of preventing slaughter within states.  And these challenges will grow more pronounced as we are confronted with states that are fragile or failing — places where horrendous violence can put innocent men, women and children at risk, with no hope of protection from their national institutions.

I have made it clear that even when America’s core interests are not directly threatened, we stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities and protect basic human rights.  But we cannot and should not bear that burden alone.  In Mali, we supported both the French intervention that successfully pushed back al Qaeda, and the African forces who are keeping the peace.  In Eastern Africa, we are working with partners to bring the Lord’s Resistance Army to an end.  And in Libya, when the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians, America joined a coalition that took action.  Because of what we did there, countless lives were saved, and a tyrant could not kill his way back to power.

I know that some now criticize the action in Libya as an object lesson.  They point to the problems that the country now confronts — a democratically elected government struggling to provide security; armed groups, in some places extremists, ruling parts of a fractured land.  And so these critics argue that any intervention to protect civilians is doomed to fail — look at Libya.  No one is more mindful of these problems than I am, for they resulted in the death of four outstanding U.S. citizens who were committed to the Libyan people, including Ambassador Chris Stevens — a man whose courageous efforts helped save the city of Benghazi.  But does anyone truly believe that the situation in Libya would be better if Qaddafi had been allowed to kill, imprison, or brutalize his people into submission?  It’s far more likely that without international action, Libya would now be engulfed in civil war and bloodshed.

We live in a world of imperfect choices.  Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance, and the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order.  But sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder, or an excuse for the international community to turn a blind eye.  While we need to be modest in our belief that we can remedy every evil, while we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences, should we really accept the notion that the world is powerless in the face of a Rwanda or Srebrenica?  If that’s the world that people want to live in, they should say so and reckon with the cold logic of mass graves.

But I believe we can embrace a different future.  And if we don’t want to choose between inaction and war, we must get better — all of us — at the policies that prevent the breakdown of basic order.  Through respect for the responsibilities of nations and the rights of individuals.  Through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules.  Through dogged diplomacy that resolves the root causes of conflict, not merely its aftermath.  Through development assistance that brings hope to the marginalized.  And yes, sometimes — although this will not be enough — there are going to be moments where the international community will need to acknowledge that the multilateral use of military force may be required to prevent the very worst from occurring.

Ultimately, this is the international community that America seeks — one where nations do not covet the land or resources of other nations, but one in which we carry out the founding purpose of this institution and where we all take responsibility.  A world in which the rules established out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully, and prevent the kinds of wars that our forefathers fought.  A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs, whether they live in New York or Nairobi; in Peshawar or Damascus.

These are extraordinary times, with extraordinary opportunities.  Thanks to human progress, a child born anywhere on Earth today can do things today that 60 years ago would have been out of reach for the mass of humanity.  I saw this in Africa, where nations moving beyond conflict are now poised to take off.  And America is with them, partnering to feed the hungry and care for the sick, and to bring power to places off the grid.

I see it across the Pacific region, where hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in a single generation.  I see it in the faces of young people everywhere who can access the entire world with the click of a button, and who are eager to join the cause of eradicating extreme poverty, and combating climate change, starting businesses, expanding freedom, and leaving behind the old ideological battles of the past.  That’s what’s happening in Asia and Africa.  It’s happening in Europe and across the Americas.  That’s the future that the people of the Middle East and North Africa deserve as well — one where they can focus on opportunity, instead of whether they’ll be killed or repressed because of who they are or what they believe.

Time and again, nations and people have shown our capacity to change — to live up to humanity’s highest ideals, to choose our better history.  Last month, I stood where 50 years ago Martin Luther King Jr. told America about his dream, at a time when many people of my race could not even vote for President.  Earlier this year, I stood in the small cell where Nelson Mandela endured decades cut off from his own people and the world.  Who are we to believe that today’s challenges cannot be overcome, when we have seen what changes the human spirit can bring?  Who in this hall can argue that the future belongs to those who seek to repress that spirit, rather than those who seek to liberate it?

I know what side of history I want to the United States of America to be on.  We’re ready to meet tomorrow’s challenges with you — firm in the belief that all men and women are in fact created equal, each individual possessed with a dignity and inalienable rights that cannot be denied.  That is why we look to the future not with fear, but with hope.  And that’s why we remain convinced that this community of nations can deliver a more peaceful, prosperous and just world to the next generation.

Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:52 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts September 15, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry & Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s Remarks after their Meeting about Syria, Iran & Peace Talks

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Mr. Secretary, John, a pleasure to welcome you again in Jerusalem. I very much appreciate the fact that you’re here today. You’ve got a lot on your plate. Despite that busy schedule of yours, you took the time to come to Jerusalem. It’s deeply appreciated. I appreciate the fact that you’re making a great personal effort on matters of vital strategic importance for all of us.

We have been closely following and support your ongoing efforts to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The Syrian regime must be stripped all its chemical weapons, and that would make our entire region a lot safer. The world needs to ensure that radical regimes don’t have weapons of mass destruction, because as we’ve learned once again in Syria, if rogue regimes have weapons of mass destruction, they will use them. The determination the international community shows regarding Syria will have a direct impact on the Syrian regime’s patron, Iran.

Iran must understand the consequences of its continual defiance of the international community by its pursuit towards nuclear weapons. What the past few days have showed is something that I’ve been saying for quite some time, that if diplomacy has any chance to work, it must be coupled with a credible military threat. What is true of Iran – or what is true of Syria is true of Iran, and by the way, vice versa.

John, I appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to discuss at some length our quest for peace with the Palestinians and the ongoing talks. We both know that this road is not an easy one, but we’ve embarked on this effort with you in order to succeed, to bring about a historic reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians that ends the conflict once and for all. I want to welcome you once again to Jerusalem. I want to promise all of those who are seeing us now that this will not be our last long meeting.

SECRETARY KERRY: No. (Laughter.) Not by any means.

Mr. Prime Minister, my friend Bibi, thank you very much for one of your generous welcomes here again. I’m very appreciative, very happy to be back here in Israel, and only sorry that it’s a short time and a short visit. I thank you for your generous hospitality and I pick up on your comments that the road ahead is not easy. If it were easy, peace would have been achieved a long time ago. But what is clearer than ever today is that this is a road worth traveling. And so I’m delighted to have spent a good period of time – (clears throat) – excuse me, folks, the benefits of a lot of travel. (Laughter.)

I’m really happy to have spent a serious amount of time with the Prime Minister this afternoon talking in some depth about the challenges of the particular road that we are on. This is a follow-up to a very productive meeting that I had in London last week with President Abbas, so I am talking to both presidents directly as we agreed —

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: Don’t elevate me to the role of president.

SECRETARY KERRY: President – Prime Minister and President, I apologize.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I can’t reach those heights —

SECRETARY KERRY: (Laughter.) Both leaders.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: — and I respect Mr. Peres greatly and —

SECRETARY KERRY: I am talking to both leaders directly. And everybody, I think, understands the goal that we are working for. It is two states living side by side in peace and in security. Two states because there are two proud peoples, both of whom deserve to fulfill their legitimate national aspirations in a homeland of their own, and two states because today, as we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, I think everybody is reminded significantly of the costs of conflict and the price, certainly, that Israelis have paid in the quest for their security and identity.

The Prime Minister and I and all of the parties involved have agreed that we will not discuss details at any point in time. We are convinced that the best way to try to work through the difficult choices that have to be made is to do so privately with confidence that everybody will respect that process. And since I have asked for that from all the parties, I’m not going to break it now or at any other time. We will not discuss the substance of what we are working on.

I do want to comment, however, as the Prime Minister has, on the challenge of the region and what we have just been doing in the last few days of negotiations in Geneva. And that is, as the Prime Minister has said, an issue that directly affects the stability of this entire region, and ultimately, weapons of mass destruction, which are at stake in this issue, are a challenge to everybody on this planet. So this is a global issue, and that is the focus that we have tried to give it in the talks in Geneva in the last days, but we want to make sure people understand exactly what we are trying to achieve and how.

The ongoing conflict in Syria has enormous implications for all of the neighbors – the press of refugees, the fact of weapons of mass destruction having been used against the people of their own state. These are crimes against humanity, and they cannot be tolerated, and they are a threat to the capacity of the global community to be able to live by standards of rules of law and the highest standards of human behavior.

So I want people to understand the key elements of what we agreed to in Geneva. It is a framework, not a final agreement. It is a framework that must be put into effect by the United Nations now. But it is a framework that, with the Russian and U.S. agreement, it has the full ability to be able to, as the Prime Minister said, strip all of the chemical weapons from Syria. The Russians have agreed, they state, that the Assad regime has agreed to make its declaration within one week of the location and the amount of those weapons. And then we will put in place what we hope to put in place through the United Nations, what Russia and the United States agreed on, which is the most far-reaching chemical weapons removal effort well beyond the CWC that has been designed.

Now this will only be as effective as its implementation will be, and President Obama has made it clear that to accomplish that, the threat of force remains. The threat of force is real, and the Assad regime and all those taking part need to understand that President Obama and the United States are committed to achieve this goal. We cannot have hollow words in the conduct of international affairs because that affects all other issues, whether Iran or North Korea or any other.

The core principles with respect to the removal of these weapons and the containment of these weapons, which we want to achieve, as we said in the document, in the soonest, fastest, most effective way possible – if we achieve that, we will have set a marker for the standard of behavior with respect to Iran and with respect to North Korea and any other state, rogue state, group that decide to try to reach for these kinds of weapons.

The core principles will have the full backing of the international community through the UN Security Council. And Russia agreed that any breach of compliance, according to standards already set out in the CWC, any breach of the specifics of this agreement or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria will result in immediate referral and action by the Security Council for measures under Chapter 7, which means what they select, up to and including the possibility of the use of force.

So again, I reiterate diplomacy has always been the preferred path of the President of the United States, and I think is any peace-loving nation’s preferred choice. But make no mistake, we’ve taken no options off the table. President Obama’s been absolutely clear about the remainder of the potential of use of force if there is noncompliance or refusal to take part, because the egregious use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime against innocent men, women, children, their own citizens all indiscriminately murdered in the dead of night, is unacceptable. And we have said in no uncertain terms that this should never happen again. This country understands the words, “Never again,” perhaps better than any other.

I’ve been in contact with many of my counterparts, with Foreign Secretary Hague of the United Kingdom, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. Their partnership on these issues has been essential. And I will see both of them tomorrow and Foreign Minister Davutoglu of Turkey in Paris, where I’ll also meet Foreign Minister Saud Faisal of Saudi Arabia in order to talk about the road ahead to achieve our goals.

Our attention and our efforts will now shift to the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the UN Security Council, and the international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its commitments, and we expect Russia to join with us in holding them accountable.

I also want to make clear this effort is not just about securing chemical weapons in Syria. We are not just standing up for a redline that the world drew some 100 years ago, and which is worth standing up for. Our focus now must remain on ending the violence, ending the indiscriminate killing, ending the creation of more and more refugees that is not only tearing Syria apart, but threatens the region itself.

As President Obama has said, and I have said many times, there is no military solution to this conflict. We don’t want to create more and more extremist elements and we don’t want to see the implosion of the state of Syria. So our overall objective is to find a political solution through diplomacy, and that needs to happen at the negotiating table, and we will stay engaged with a sense of urgency. And I say to the Syrian opposition and all those in Syria who recognize that just removing the chemical weapons doesn’t do the job, we understand that, and that is not all we are going to seek to do. But it is one step forward, and it eliminates that weapon from the arsenal of a man who has proven willing to do anything to his own people to hold onto power.

Foreign Minister Lavrov and I met with Special Envoy Brahimi yesterday. We will meet again in New York. We are committed to continue to work towards the Geneva 2. And we have made clear that our support to the opposition in an effort to get there will continue unabated.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, I know you and I are both clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. We have to summon the grit and the determination to stay at this, to make the tough decisions – tough decisions about eliminating weapons of mass destruction and tough decisions about making peace between Israel and the Palestinians. We will not lose sight of the end game. I know that from talking with the Prime Minister today. And I think both of us remain deeply committed, and we hope very much with our partners in the region, to doing our best to try to make this journey towards peace get to its destination.

Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: John, another sound bite. (Laughter.)

Political Headlines September 12, 2013: John Kerry to Test Russia’s Seriousness on Syria Solution

POLITICAL HEADLINES

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

John Kerry to Test Russia’s Seriousness on Syria Solution

JACQUELYN MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva Thursday for talks with Russia about Syria’s chemical weapons and was met by a statement from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he was not surrendering the arsenal because of any U.S. threats….READ MORE

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