Full Text Political Transcripts November 16, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference at the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by President Obama — Antalya, Turkey

 

Source: WH, 11-16-15 

Kaya Palazzo Resort

Antalya, Turkey

4:42 P.M. EET

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon. Let me begin by thanking President Erdogan and the people of Antalya and Turkey for their outstanding work in hosting this G20 Summit. Antalya is beautiful. The hospitality of the Turkish people is legendary. To our Turkish friends — çok teşekkürler. (Laughter.) I’ve been practicing that.

At the G20, our focus was on how to get the global economy growing faster and creating more jobs for our people. And I’m pleased that we agreed that growth has to be inclusive to address the rising inequality around the world.

Given growing cyber threats, we committed to a set of norms — drafted by the United States — for how governments should conduct themselves in cyberspace, including a commitment not to engage in the cyber theft of intellectual property for commercial gain. And as we head into global climate talks, all G20 countries have submitted our targets, and we’ve pledged to work together for a successful outcome in Paris.

Of course, much of our attention has focused on the heinous attacks that took place in Paris. Across the world, in the United States, American flags are at half-staff in solidarity with our French allies. We’re working closely with our French partners as they pursue their investigations and track down suspects.

France is already a strong counterterrorism partner, and today we’re announcing a new agreement. We’re streamlining the process by which we share intelligence and operational military information with France. This will allow our personnel to pass threat information, including on ISIL, to our French partners even more quickly and more often — because we need to be doing everything we can to protect against more attacks and protect our citizens.

Tragically, Paris is not alone. We’ve seen outrageous attacks by ISIL in Beirut, last month in Ankara, routinely in Iraq. Here at the G20, our nations have sent an unmistakable message that we are united against this threat. ISIL is the face of evil. Our goal, as I’ve said many times, is to degrade and ultimately destroy this barbaric terrorist organization.

As I outlined this fall at the United Nations, we have a comprehensive strategy using all elements of our power — military, intelligence, economic, development, and the strength of our communities. With have always understood that this would be a long-term campaign. There will be setbacks and there will be successes. The terrible events in Paris were a terrible and sickening setback. Even as we grieve with our French friends, however, we can’t lose sight that there has been progress being made.

On the military front, our coalition is intensifying our airstrikes — more than 8,000 to date. We’re taking out ISIL leaders, commanders, their killers. We’ve seen that when we have an effective partner on the ground, ISIL can and is pushed back. So local forces in Iraq, backed by coalition airpower, recently liberated Sinjar. Iraqi forces are fighting to take back Ramadi. In Syria, ISIL has been pushed back from much of the border region with Turkey. We’ve stepped up our support of opposition forces who are working to cut off supply lines to ISIL’s strongholds in and around Raqqa. So, in short, both in Iraq and Syria, ISIL controls less territory than it did before.

I made the point to my fellow leaders that if we want this progress to be sustained, more nations need to step up with the resources that this fight demands.

Of course, the attacks in Paris remind us that it will not be enough to defeat ISIL in Syria and Iraq alone. Here in Antalya, our nations, therefore, committed to strengthening border controls, sharing more information, and stepping up our efforts to prevent the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq. As the United States just showed in Libya, ISIL leaders will have no safe haven anywhere. And we’ll continue to stand with leaders in Muslim communities, including faith leaders, who are the best voices to discredit ISIL’s warped ideology.

On the humanitarian front, our nations agreed that we have to do even more, individually and collectively, to address the agony of the Syrian people. The United States is already the largest donor of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people — some $4.5 billion in aid so far. As winter approaches, we’re donating additional supplies, including clothing and generators, through the United Nations. But the U.N. appeal for Syria still has less than half the funds needed. Today, I’m again calling on more nations to contribute the resources that this crisis demands.

In terms of refugees, it’s clear that countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan — which are already bearing an extraordinary burden — cannot be expected to do so alone. At the same time, all of our countries have to ensure our security. And as President, my first priority is the safety of the American people. And that’s why, even as we accept more refugees — including Syrians — we do so only after subjecting them to rigorous screening and security checks.

We also have to remember that many of these refugees are the victims of terrorism themselves — that’s what they’re fleeing. Slamming the door in their faces would be a betrayal of our values. Our nations can welcome refugees who are desperately seeking safety and ensure our own security. We can and must do both.

Finally, we’ve begun to see some modest progress on the diplomatic front, which is critical because a political solution is the only way to end the war in Syria and unite the Syrian people and the world against ISIL. The Vienna talks mark the first time that all the key countries have come together — as a result, I would add, of American leadership — and reached a common understanding. With this weekend’s talks, there’s a path forward — negotiations between the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime under the auspices of the United Nations; a transition toward a more inclusive, representative government; a new constitution, followed by free elections; and, alongside this political process, a ceasefire in the civil war, even as we continue to fight against ISIL.

These are obviously ambitious goals. Hopes for diplomacy in Syria have been dashed before. There are any number of ways that this latest diplomatic push could falter. And there are still disagreements between the parties, including, most critically, over the fate of Bashar Assad, who we do not believe has a role in Syria’s future because of his brutal rule. His war against the Syrian people is the primary root cause of this crisis.

What is different this time, and what gives us some degree of hope, is that, as I said, for the first time, all the major countries on all sides of the Syrian conflict agree on a process that is needed to end this war. And so while we are very clear-eyed about the very, very difficult road still head, the United States, in partnership with our coalition, is going to remain relentless on all fronts — military, humanitarian and diplomatic. We have the right strategy, and we’re going to see it through.

So with that, I’m going to take some questions. And I will begin with Jerome Cartillier of AFP.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. One hundred and twenty-nine people were killed in Paris on Friday night. ISIL claimed responsibility for the massacre, sending the message that they could now target civilians all over the world. The equation has clearly changed. Isn’t it time for your strategy to change?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what we have been doing. We have a military strategy that is putting enormous pressure on ISIL through airstrikes; that has put assistance and training on the ground with Iraqi forces; we’re now working with Syrian forces as well to squeeze ISIL, cut off their supply lines. We’ve been coordinating internationally to reduce their financing capabilities, the oil that they’re trying to ship outside. We are taking strikes against high-value targets — including, most recently, against the individual who was on the video executing civilians who had already been captured, as well as the head of ISIL in Libya. So it’s not just in Iraq and Syria.

And so, on the military front, we are continuing to accelerate what we do. As we find additional partners on the ground that are effective, we work with them more closely. I’ve already authorized additional Special Forces on the ground who are going to be able to improve that coordination.

On the counterterrorism front, keep in mind that since I came into office, we have been worried about these kinds of attacks. The vigilance that the United States government maintains and the cooperation that we’re consistently expanding with our European and other partners in going after every single terrorist network is robust and constant. And every few weeks, I meet with my entire national security team and we go over every single threat stream that is presented, and where we have relevant information, we share it immediately with our counterparts around the world, including our European partners.

On aviation security, we have, over the last several years, been working so that at various airports sites — not just in the United States, but overseas — we are strengthening our mechanisms to screen and discover passengers who should not be boarding flights, and improving the matters in which we are screening luggage that is going onboard.

And on the diplomatic front, we’ve been consistently working to try to get all the parties together to recognize that there is a moderate opposition inside of Syria that can form the basis for a transition government, and to reach out not only to our friends but also to the Russians and the Iranians who are on the other side of this equation to explain to them that ultimately an organization like ISIL is the greatest danger to them, as well as to us.

So there will be an intensification of the strategy that we put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work. But as I said from the start, it’s going to take time.

And what’s been interesting is, in the aftermath of Paris, as I listen to those who suggest something else needs to be done, typically the things they suggest need to be done are things we are already doing. The one exception is that there have been a few who suggested that we should put large numbers of U.S. troops on the ground.

And keep in mind that we have the finest military in the world and we have the finest military minds in the world, and I’ve been meeting with them intensively for years now, discussing these various options, and it is not just my view but the view of my closest military and civilian advisors that that would be a mistake — not because our military could not march into Mosul or Raqqa or Ramadi and temporarily clear out ISIL, but because we would see a repetition of what we’ve seen before, which is, if you do not have local populations that are committed to inclusive governance and who are pushing back against ideological extremes, that they resurface — unless we’re prepared to have a permanent occupation of these countries.

And let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria. What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send more troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps? Or if there’s a terrorist network that’s operating anywhere else — in North Africa, or in Southeast Asia?

So a strategy has to be one that can be sustained. And the strategy that we’re pursuing, which focuses on going after targets, limiting wherever possible the capabilities of ISIL on the ground — systematically going after their leadership, their infrastructure, strengthening Shia — or strengthening Syrian and Iraqi forces and Kurdish forces that are prepared to fight them, cutting off their borders and squeezing the space in which they can operate until ultimately we’re able to defeat them — that’s the strategy we’re going to have to pursue.

And we will continue to generate more partners for that strategy. And there are going to be some things that we try that don’t work; there will be some strategies we try that do work. And when we find strategies that work, we will double down on those.

Margaret Brennan, CBS.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. A more than year-long bombing campaign in Iraq and in Syria has failed to contain the ambition and the ability of ISIS to launch attacks in the West. Have you underestimated their abilities? And will you widen the rules of engagement for U.S. forces to take more aggressive action?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, we haven’t underestimated our abilities. This is precisely why we’re in Iraq as we speak, and why we’re operating in Syria as we speak. And it’s precisely why we have mobilized 65 countries to go after ISIL, and why I hosted at the United Nations an entire discussion of counterterrorism strategies and curbing the flow of foreign fighters, and why we’ve been putting pressure on those countries that have not been as robust as they need to in tracking the flow of foreign fighters in and out of Syria and Iraq.

And so there has been an acute awareness on the part of my administration from the start that it is possible for an organization like ISIL that has such a twisted ideology, and has shown such extraordinary brutality and complete disregard for innocent lives, that they would have the capabilities to potentially strike in the West. And because thousands of fighters have flowed from the West and are European citizens — a few hundred from the United States, but far more from Europe — that when those foreign fighters returned, it posed a significant danger. And we have consistently worked with our European partners, disrupting plots in some cases. Sadly, this one was not disrupted in time.

But understand that one of the challenges we have in this situation is, is that if you have a handful of people who don’t mind dying, they can kill a lot of people. That’s one of the challenges of terrorism. It’s not their sophistication or the particular weapon that they possess, but it is the ideology that they carry with them and their willingness to die. And in those circumstances, tracking each individual, making sure that we are disrupting and preventing these attacks is a constant effort at vigilance, and requires extraordinary coordination.

Now, part of the reason that it is important what we do in Iraq and Syria is that the narrative that ISIL developed of creating this caliphate makes it more attractive to potential recruits. So when I said that we are containing their spread in Iraq and Syria, in fact, they control less territory than they did last year. And the more we shrink that territory, the less they can pretend that they are somehow a functioning state, and the more it becomes apparent that they are simply a network of killers who are brutalizing local populations. That allows us to reduce the flow of foreign fighters, which then, over time, will lessen the numbers of terrorists who can potentially carry out terrible acts like they did in Paris.

And that’s what we did with al Qaeda. That doesn’t mean, by the way, that al Qaeda no longer possess the capabilities of potentially striking the West. Al Qaeda in the Peninsula that operates primarily in Yemen we know has consistently tried to target the West. And we are consistently working to disrupt those acts. But despite the fact that they have not gotten as much attention as ISIL, they still pose a danger, as well.

And so our goals here consistently have to be to be aggressive, and to leave no stone unturned, but also recognize this is not conventional warfare. We play into the ISIL narrative when we act as if they’re a state, and we use routine military tactics that are designed to fight a state that is attacking another state. That’s not what’s going on here.

These are killers with fantasies of glory who are very savvy when it comes to social media, and are able to infiltrate the minds of not just Iraqis or Syrians, but disaffected individuals around the world. And when they activate those individuals, those individuals can do a lot of damage. And so we have to take the approach of being rigorous on our counterterrorism efforts, and consistently improve and figure out how we can get more information, how we can infiltrate these networks, how we can reduce their operational space, even as we also try to shrink the amount of territory they control to defeat their narrative.

Ultimately, to reclaim territory from them is going to require, however, an ending of the Syrian civil war, which is why the diplomatic efforts are so important. And it’s going to require an effective Iraqi effort that bridges Shia and Sunni differences, which is why our diplomatic efforts inside of Iraq are so important, as well.

Jim Avila.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the days and weeks before the Paris attacks, did you receive warning in your daily intelligence briefing that an attack was imminent? If not, does that not call into question the current assessment that there is no immediate, specific, credible threat to the United States today?

And secondly, if I could ask you to address your critics who say that your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jim, every day we have threat streams coming through the intelligence transit. And as I said, every several weeks we sit down with all my national security, intelligence, and military teams to discuss various threat streams that may be generated. And the concerns about potential ISIL attacks in the West have been there for over a year now, and they come through periodically. There were no specific mentions of this particular attack that would give us a sense of something that we need — that we could provide French authorities, for example, or act on ourselves.

But typically the way the intelligence works is there will be a threat stream that is from one source, how reliable is that source; perhaps some signal intelligence gets picked up, it’s evaluated. Some of it is extraordinarily vague and unspecific, and there’s no clear timetable. Some of it may be more specific, and then folks chase down that threat to see what happens.

I am not aware of anything that was specific in the sense — that would have given a premonition about a particular action in Paris that would allow for law enforcement or military actions to disrupt it.

With respect to the broader issue of my critics, to some degree I answered the question earlier. I think that when you listen to what they actually have to say, what they’re proposing, most of the time, when pressed, they describe things that we’re already doing. Maybe they’re not aware that we’re already doing them. Some of them seem to think that if I were just more bellicose in expressing what we’re doing, that that would make a difference — because that seems to be the only thing that they’re doing, is talking as if they’re tough. But I haven’t seen particular strategies that they would suggest that would make a real difference.

Now, there are a few exceptions. And as I said, the primary exception is those who would deploy U.S. troops on a large scale to retake territory either in Iraq or now in Syria. And at least they have the honesty to go ahead and say that’s what they would do. I just addressed why I think they’re wrong. There have been some who are well-meaning, and I don’t doubt their sincerity when it comes to the issue of the dire humanitarian situation in Syria, who, for example, call for a no-fly zone or a safe zone of some sort.

And this is an example of the kind of issue where I will sit down with our top military and intelligence advisors, and we will painstakingly go through what does something like that look like. And typically, after we’ve gone through a lot of planning and a lot of discussion, and really working it through, it is determined that it would be counterproductive to take those steps — in part because ISIL does not have planes, so the attacks are on the ground. A true safe zone requires us to set up ground operations. And the bulk of the deaths that have occurred in Syria, for example, have come about not because of regime bombing, but because of on-the-ground casualties. Who would come in, who could come out of that safe zone; how would it work; would it become a magnet for further terrorist attacks; and how many personnel would be required, and how would it end — there’s a whole set of questions that have to be answered there.

I guess my point is this, Jim: My only interest is to end suffering and to keep the American people safe. And if there’s a good idea out there, then we’re going to do it. I don’t think I’ve shown hesitation to act — whether it’s with respect to bin Laden or with respect to sending additional troops in Afghanistan, or keeping them there — if it is determined that it’s actually going to work.

But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough. And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.

We’ll do what’s required to keep the American people safe. And I think it’s entirely appropriate in a democracy to have a serious debate about these issues. If folks want to pop off and have opinions about what they think they would do, present a specific plan. If they think that somehow their advisors are better than the Chairman of my Joint Chiefs of Staff and the folks who are actually on the ground, I want to meet them. And we can have that debate. But what I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning, or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people, and to protect people in the region who are getting killed, and to protect our allies and people like France. I’m too busy for that.

Jim Acosta.

Q Thank you very much, Mr. President. I wanted to go back to something that you said to Margaret earlier when you said that you have not underestimated ISIS’s abilities. This is an organization that you once described as a JV team that evolved into a force that has now occupied territory in Iraq and Syria and is now able to use that safe haven to launch attacks in other parts of the world. How is that not underestimating their capabilities? And how is that contained, quite frankly? And I think a lot of Americans have this frustration that they see that the United States has the greatest military in the world, it has the backing of nearly every other country in the world when it comes to taking on ISIS. I guess the question is — and if you’ll forgive the language — is why can’t we take out these bastards?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, Jim, I just spent the last three questions answering that very question, so I don’t know what more you want me to add. I think I’ve described very specifically what our strategy is, and I’ve described very specifically why we do not pursue some of the other strategies that have been suggested.

This is not, as I said, a traditional military opponent. We can retake territory. And as long as we leave our troops there, we can hold it, but that does not solve the underlying problem of eliminating the dynamics that are producing these kinds of violent extremist groups.

And so we are going to continue to pursue the strategy that has the best chance of working, even though it does not offer the satisfaction, I guess, of a neat headline or an immediate resolution. And part of the reason, as I said, Jim, is because there are costs to the other side. I just want to remind people, this is not an abstraction. When we send troops in, those troops get injured, they get killed; they’re away from their families; our country spends hundreds of billions of dollars. And so given the fact that there are enormous sacrifices involved in any military action, it’s best that we don’t shoot first and aim later. It’s important for us to get the strategy right. And the strategy that we are pursuing is the right one.

Ron Allen.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because given the strategy that you’re pursuing — and it’s been more than a year now — ISIS’s capabilities seem to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned? And do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States?

And do you think that given all you’ve learned about ISIS over the past year or so, and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, so this is another variation on the same question. And I guess — let me try it one last time.

We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them. As I said before, when you’re talking about the ability of a handful of people with not wildly sophisticated military equipment, weapons, who are willing to die, they can kill a lot of people. And preventing them from doing so is challenging for every country. And if there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey, and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies.

There are certain advantages that the United States has in preventing these kinds of attacks. Obviously, after 9/11, we hardened the homeland, set up a whole series of additional steps to protect aviation, to apply lessons learned. We’ve seen much better cooperation between the FBI, state governments, local governments. There is some advantages to geography with respect to the United States.

But, having said that, we’ve seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on our soil. There was the Boston Marathon bombers. Obviously, it did not result in the scale of death that we saw in Paris, but that was a serious attempt at killing a lot of people by two brothers and a crockpot. And it gives you some sense of, I think, the kinds of challenges that are going to be involved in this going forward.

So again, ISIL has serious capabilities. Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess, as well. We are going after all of them.

What is unique about ISIL is the degree to which it has been able to control territory that then allows them to attract additional recruits, and the greater effectiveness that they have on social media and their ability to use that to not only attract recruits to fight in Syria, but also potentially to carry out attacks in the homeland and in Europe and in other parts of the world.

And so our ability to shrink the space in which they can operate, combined with a resolution to the Syria situation — which will reduce the freedom with which they feel that they can operate, and getting local forces who are able to hold and keep them out over the long term, that ultimately is going to be what’s going to make a difference. And it’s going to take some time, but it’s not something that at any stage in this process have we not been aware needs to be done.

Q (Off-mic) — Mr. President?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay, go ahead.

Q Should I wait for the microphone?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: No, I can hear you.

Q Okay, thank you so much. (Inaudible.) I want to ask a question (inaudible). These terrorist attacks we’ve seen allegedly have been attacks under the name of Islam. But this really takes — or upsets the peaceful people like countries like Turkey. So how can we give off that (inaudible) this is not really representative of Muslims?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, this is something that we spoke a lot about at the G20. The overwhelming majority of victims of terrorism over the last several years, and certainly the overwhelming majority of victims of ISIL, are themselves Muslims. ISIL does not represent Islam. It is not representative in any way of the attitudes of the overwhelming majority of Muslims. This is something that’s been emphasized by Muslim leaders — whether it’s President Erdogan or the President of Indonesia or the President of Malaysia — countries that are majority Muslim, but have shown themselves to be tolerant and to work to be inclusive in their political process.

And so to the degree that anyone would equate the terrible actions that took place in Paris with the views of Islam, those kinds of stereotypes are counterproductive. They’re wrong. They will lead, I think, to greater recruitment into terrorist organizations over time if this becomes somehow defined as a Muslim problem as opposed to a terrorist problem.

Now, what is also true is, is that the most vicious terrorist organizations at the moment are ones that claim to be speaking on behalf of true Muslims. And I do think that Muslims around the world — religious leaders, political leaders, ordinary people — have to ask very serious questions about how did these extremist ideologies take root, even if it’s only affecting a very small fraction of the population. It is real and it is dangerous. And it has built up over time, and with social media it has now accelerated.

And so I think, on the one hand, non-Muslims cannot stereotype, but I also think the Muslim community has to think about how we make sure that children are not being infected with this twisted notion that somehow they can kill innocent people and that that is justified by religion. And to some degree, that is something that has to come from within the Muslim community itself. And I think there have been times where there has not been enough pushback against extremism. There’s been pushback — there are some who say, well, we don’t believe in violence, but are not as willing to challenge some of the extremist thoughts or rationales for why Muslims feel oppressed. And I think those ideas have to be challenged.

Let me make one last point about this, and then unfortunately I have to take a flight to Manila. I’m looking forward to seeing Manila, but I hope I can come back to Turkey when I’m not so busy.

One of the places that you’re seeing this debate play itself out is on the refugee issue both in Europe, and I gather it started popping up while I was gone back in the United States. The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism, they are the most vulnerable as a consequence of civil war and strife. They are parents, they are children, they are orphans. And it is very important — and I was glad to see that this was affirmed again and again by the G20 — that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.

In Europe, I think people like Chancellor Merkel have taken a very courageous stance in saying it is our moral obligation, as fellow human beings, to help people who are in such vulnerable situations. And I know that it is putting enormous strains on the resources of the people of Europe. Nobody has been carrying a bigger burden than the people here in Turkey, with 2.5 million refugees, and the people of Jordan and Lebanon, who are also admitting refugees. The fact that they’ve kept their borders open to these refugees is a signal of their belief in a common humanity.

And so we have to, each of us, do our part. And the United States has to step up and do its part. And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.

When Pope Francis came to visit the United States, and gave a speech before Congress, he didn’t just speak about Christians who were being persecuted. He didn’t call on Catholic parishes just to admit to those who were of the same religious faith. He said, protect people who are vulnerable.

And so I think it is very important for us right now — particularly those who are in leadership, particularly those who have a platform and can be heard — not to fall into that trap, not to feed that dark impulse inside of us.

I had a lot of disagreements with George W. Bush on policy, but I was very proud after 9/11 when he was adamant and clear about the fact that this is not a war on Islam. And the notion that some of those who have taken on leadership in his party would ignore all of that, that’s not who we are. On this, they should follow his example. It was the right one. It was the right impulse. It’s our better impulse. And whether you are European or American, the values that we are defending — the values that we’re fighting against ISIL for are precisely that we don’t discriminate against people because of their faith. We don’t kill people because they’re different than us. That’s what separates us from them. And we don’t feed that kind of notion that somehow Christians and Muslims are at war.

And if we want to be successful at defeating ISIL, that’s a good place to start — by not promoting that kind of ideology, that kind of attitude. In the same way that the Muslim community has an obligation not to in any way excuse anti-Western or anti-Christian sentiment, we have the same obligation as Christians. And we are — it is good to remember that the United States does not have a religious test, and we are a nation of many peoples of different faiths, which means that we show compassion to everybody. Those are the universal values we stand for. And that’s what my administration intends to stand for.

Thank you very much, everybody.

END 5:43 P.M. EET

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Full Text Obama Presidency September 6, 2013: Joint Statement on Syria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Joint Statement on Syria

Source: WH, 9-6-13

The Leaders and Representatives of Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States of America made the following statement on the margins of the Group of 20 Nations Leader’s Meeting in Saint Petersburg, Russia:

The international norm against the use of chemical weapons is longstanding and universal.  The use of chemical weapons anywhere diminishes the security of people everywhere.  Left unchallenged, it increases the risk of further use and proliferation of these weapons.

We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific chemical weapons attack in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21st that claimed the lives of so many men, women, and children.  The evidence clearly points to the Syrian government being responsible for the attack, which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime.

We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.

Signatories have consistently supported a strong UN Security Council Resolution, given the Security Council’s responsibilities to lead the international response, but recognize that the Council remains paralyzed as it has been for two and a half years.  The world cannot wait for endless failed processes that can only lead to increased suffering in Syria and regional instability.  We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.

We commit to supporting longer term international efforts, including through the United Nations, to address the enduring security challenge posed by Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles.  Signatories have also called for the UN fact finding mission to present its results as soon as possible, and for the Security Council to act accordingly.

We condemn in the strongest terms all human rights violations in Syria on all sides.  More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, more than 2 million people have become refugees, and approximately 5 million are internally displaced.  Recognizing that Syria’s conflict has no military solution, we reaffirm our commitment to seek a peaceful political settlement through full implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique.  We are committed to a political solution which will result in a united, inclusive and democratic Syria.

We have contributed generously to the latest United Nations (UN) and ICRC appeals for humanitarian assistance and will continue to provide support to address the growing humanitarian needs in Syria and their impact on regional countries. We welcome the contributions announced at the meeting of donor countries on the margins of the G20.  We call upon all parties to allow humanitarian actors safe and unhindered access to those in need.

European signatories will continue to engage in promoting a common European position.

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Weathers Rain Storm at Rose Garden Press Conference with Help from Marine, Umbrella

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

WATCH: Obama Weathers Storm with Help from Marine, Umbrella

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

With a trio of scandals rocking the Obama administration, a dark cloud has descended over the White House in recent days.
On Thursday, clouds literally opened up on President Obama. Running 47 minutes late, President Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan stepped out into the Rose Garden for a joint press conference as a light sprinkle began to fall….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Scandals at Rose Garden Press Conference

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Vows to Get Ahead of IRS, AP Controversies

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-16-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Playing offense, President Obama on Thursday vowed to take action in response to the three controversies plaguing his administration, calling on Congress to provide additional resources to protect U.S. embassies abroad, vowing to hold accountable those who committed “outrageous actions” at the IRS, and pledging to strike a “balance” between protecting national security interests and the freedom of the press.

“My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government, that we fix it,” the president said in a rainy joint Rose Garden news conference with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey, as his administration seeks to take charge in the wake of the scandals. “That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines April 7, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry to press Turkey on Israel ties, Syrian border, Iraq

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Kerry to press Turkey on Israel ties, Syrian border, Iraq

Source: NBCNews.com (blog), 4-7-13

Kerry arrived in Istanbul some two weeks after U.S. President Barack Obama brokered a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel, whose relations were shattered by the killing of nine Turkish citizens in a 2010 Israeli naval raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla….READ MORE

Political Headlines February 1, 2013: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: Bombing at US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey a ‘Terrorist Attack’

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House: Bombing at US Embassy in Turkey a ‘Terrorist Attack’

Source: ABC News Radio, 2-1-13

YAVUZ OZDEN/AFP/Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Friday strongly condemned the attack on the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Turkey, saying “a suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror.”….READ MORE

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 2/1/13

Q    Thanks, Jay.  Does the President consider the attack on our embassy in Turkey to be a terrorist attack?  And does he have any information about who may have perpetrated it?

MR. CARNEY:  That’s an excellent question.  A suicide bombing on the perimeter of an embassy is by definition an act of terror.  It is a terrorist attack.  However, we  not know at this point who is responsible or the motivations behind the attack.  The attack itself is clearly an act of terror.

Full Text Obama Presidency March 25-27, 2012: President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit, Seoul, South Korea & Speech Transcripts

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama in South Korea

Source: WH, 3-25-12

Just after midnight on Saturday morning, President Obama boarded Air Force One and departed for a trip to South Korea. After crossing the International Date Line, he arrived in Seoul for a nuclear security summit.

As part of the trip, the President today got a first hand view of North Korea as he toured to the DMZ and met with U.S. troops stationed on the border. He told the servicemen and women, “Everybody back home could not be prouder of what you guys do each and every day — the dedication, the professionalism that you show.”
President Obama views the DMZ (March 25, 2012)
President Barack Obama is briefed by Lt. Col. Ed Taylor as he views the DMZ from Observation Post Ouellette at Camp Bonifas, Republic of Korea, March 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The President also kicked off the three days of diplomacy with a pair of bilateral meetings — with President Lee Myung-bak of South Korea and Prime Minister Erdogan or Turkey.

President Barack Obama and President Lee Myung-bak (March 25, 2012)

President Barack Obama and President Lee Myung-bak participate in a press conference at the Blue House in Seoul, Republic of Korea, March 25, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Discussing the Global Economy and Nuclear Security in Seoul

Source: WH, 3-26-12

The Korean trade agreement will support an estimated 70,000 jobs

Tomorrow, President Obama will head home from South Korea — after a busy three days of diplomatic meetings and discussions of nuclear security.

At a talk today with students at Hankuk University, the President outlined the reasons why he’s made the issue such a major priority:

We’re building an international architecture that can ensure nuclear safety.  But we’re under no illusions. We know that nuclear material, enough for many weapons, is still being stored without adequate protection. And we know that terrorists and criminal gangs are still trying to get their hands on it — as well as radioactive material for a dirty bomb. We know that just the smallest amount of plutonium — about the size of an apple — could kill hundreds of thousands and spark a global crisis. The danger of nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest threats to global security. And that’s why here in Seoul, we need to keep at it.

This is the President’s third official visit to South Korea, and as he pointed today, he’s been to Seoul more than any other capital. That fact obviously to speaks the strength of the political relationship between our two nations, but it also highlights our growing economic ties.

That’s why President Obama worked so hard to pass the U.S.-Korea Trade Agreement — which will help to support an estimated 70,000 jobs in the years ahead and increase U.S. GDP by at least $11 billion due to increased exports of goods.

The economy was also a topic of discussion in a series of bilateral meetings between President Obama and foreign leaders. Today, he held talks with President Hu Jintao of China, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES









 

Full Text September 20, 2011: President Barack Obama Meets with World Leaders at the U.N. General Assembly — President Obama Speeches with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai & Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

 

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Meets with World Leaders at the U.N. General Assembly

Source: WH, 9-20-11

President Obama had a full day in New York City visiting the United Nations General Assembly to address a range of issues on the historic progress that has been made over the last year and the opportunities that lie ahead, including human rights abroad and the promotion of democracy.

The President began his day meeting with Transitional National Council (TNC) Chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil at the United Nations North Lawn Building.

UNGA: potus greets Chairman Mustafa Abdel jalil

President Barack Obama greets Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil of the Transitional National Council at the United Nations North Lawn Building in New York, N.Y., Sept. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton September 20, 2011.

Next the President headed to a meeting to demonstrate support for the new Libya. President Obama explained that Libya, “is a lesson in what the international community can achieve when we stand together:”

This is how the international community should work in the 21st century — more nations bearing the responsibility and the costs of meeting global challenges. In fact, this is the very purpose of this United Nations. So every nation represented here today can take pride in the innocent lives we saved and in helping Libyans reclaim their country. It was the right thing to do.

Late morning President Obama met with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan to address the tragic loss of former Afghani President and Chairman of Afghan Peace Council, Burhanuddin Rabban. Watch the video of the President’s remarks below:

Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (33MB) | mp3 (3MB)

After lunch, the President met with President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil before holding a meeting with the Open Government Partnership, a global initiative to promote transparency, fight corruption, energize civic engagement and leverage new technologies to strengthen the foundations of freedom.

To close the day at the U.N. General Assembly, the President held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

UNGA: Potus w/ Turkey Prime Minister

President Barack Obama participates in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y., Sept. 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton) September 20, 2011.

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by President Obama and President Karzai of Afghanistan before Bilateral Meeting

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with President Karzai of Afghanistan
September 20, 2011 6:38 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with President Karzai of Afghanistan

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

12:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: I want to welcome President Karzai and his delegation. We have a lot of important business to do. And I very much appreciate the efforts that he’s been taking in rebuilding Afghanistan and proceeding on the transition path that will ensure that the Afghans are ultimately responsible for their security and their prosperity.

We received some tragic news today that President Rabbani, who had been heading up the reconciliation process, was killed in a suicide attack. He was a man who cared deeply about Afghanistan and had been a valued advisor to President Karzai, and was a enormous contribution to rebuilding the country. So it is a tragic loss. We want to extend our heartfelt condolences to you and to his family, and the people of Afghanistan.

But, Mr. President, I think we both believe that despite this incident, we will not be deterred from creating a path whereby Afghans can live in freedom and safety and security and prosperity, and that it is going to be important to continue the efforts to bring all elements of Afghan society together to end what has been a senseless cycle of violence.

So we very much appreciate your presence here today. I know that you’re going to have to leave after our meeting. But we want to give you an opportunity to speak to the press, as well.

PRESIDENT KARZAI: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for your message of condolence and support to myself and to the Afghan people on the very tragic loss and martyrdom of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, the chairman of the Afghan Peace Council, the former Afghan President, and Afghan patriot, who, as we see, has sacrificed his life for the sake of Afghanistan and for the peace of our country.

The mission that he had undertaken was vital, Mr. President, for the Afghan people and for the security of our country and for peace in our country. We will miss him very, very much. I don’t think, Mr. President, that we can fill his place easily. He was one of the few people in Afghanistan with the distinction that we cannot easily find in societies. A terrible loss. But as you rightly say, this will not deter us from continuing on the path that we have, and we’ll definitely succeed.

Thank you, Mr. President, for condemning this act of brutality and cowardice against President Rabbani. I will take that message from you to the Afghan people. This is a hard day for us in Afghanistan, but a day of unity and a day of continuity of our efforts.

Thank you.

END
12:10 P.M. EDT

 

Remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey before Bilateral Meeting

President Obama's Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey
September 20, 2011 10:51 PM

President Obama’s Bilateral Meeting with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

Waldorf Astoria Hotel
New York, New York

4:46 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I want to welcome Prime Minister Erdogan and his delegation to New York City and to the United States.  Turkey is a NATO ally, a great friend and partner on a whole host of issues.  I want to thank him for all the work that we’ve done together — the cooperation in Afghanistan, the work that we most recently did in trying to provide freedom for Libya, and, in addition, the NATO obligations that both of us carry out together, most recently symbolized by the agreement of Turkey to host a missile defense radar.

Prime Minister Erdogan has shown great leadership on a range of issues and promoting democracy.  And we are very grateful to him for the work that we’ve done together.

I do want to stress my deepest condolences for the loss of life through the explosion that took place in Ankara.  And I understand that the investigation is ongoing, but I think that this reminds us that terrorism exists in many parts of the world, and that Turkey and the United States are going to be strong partners in preventing terrorism.  And we look forward to working with you on these issues.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you for your service and thank you for your friendship.

PRIME MINISTER ERDOGAN:  (As translated.)  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I’m very pleased that we have this occasion to meet during this week as we meet here for the 66th General Assembly of the United Nations.

And as you have described the relationship between Turkey and the United States, we have a model partnership.  And this is a process which is ongoing, in which we have taken some very important steps and we will continue to take some important steps.  One of those issues that is very common to both of us is fighting against terrorism, and fighting against terrorism based on a common platform.  We have, unfortunately, lost three citizens today as a result of the blast in Ankara, but in the later hours there was another attack in Siirt, in a city in the eastern part of Turkey, where four young girls were killed as a result of an attack in a car, and these were civilian citizens.  And so these are events which give us great sadness.  And this is an area which we have to work on.

As for whether or not we can completely eradicate terrorism I’m not very optimistic in thinking that perhaps we can completely eradicate it.  But I think that we have a lot of room to work together to make sure that we minimize terrorism to the lowest possible extent.  And to do that we have to keep working together on many areas of this effort — work together in — use technology so that we can continue to take joint steps in trying to fight against terrorism.  And those are some of the issues that we all will talk about.

I have also recently visited Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya, and we have also worked together in those countries, and Afghanistan as well, and also in Iraq.  So these are many of the areas where we will continue to talk to each other, so that Turkey and the United States continue with this model partnership to move into a better future.

And let me take this opportunity also to thank you for your hospitality today.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you very much, everybody.

Q Was there any discussion of the Palestinian —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We’re starting the meeting now.

END
4:54 P.M. EDT

Armenian Genocide: Thousands gather in Times Square to mark the Genocide anniversary

Source: Armenian Reporter, 5-5-11

On Sunday afternoon, May 1, as thousands of people gathered at the crossroads of America to honor the martyrs of the Armenian Genocide, the message to the world was clear: While almost a century has passed, and Turkish denial is stronger thanever, the Armenian Genocide will not be forgotten and it will remain an important part of history.

Hamazkayin’s New Jersey Arekag Choir taking stage on May 1. Taleen Babayan

Crowd assembled in Times Square. Taleen Babayan

Supporting this message in the middle of Times Square on a beautiful, clear day, were some of the country’s most respected politicians, who have continuously and tirelessly fought for U.S. and global recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

Citing the Armenian Genocide as “one of the worst genocides in world history,” U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust were “intrinsically related” and if the world had stopped the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust may not have occurred….

Revered historian and scholar Dr. Richard Hovannisian, said that although everyone may know the story of the Armenian Genocide, it is “a story that needs to be repeated and told to each generation.” He astutely noted that genocide does not end with the passing of genocide survivors or the passing of genocide resolutions, because the trauma of genocide continues. For Armenians, the loss of a homeland and the loss of a 3,000 year-old civilization is the “major continuing traumatic aspect.” He stressed the importance of making the Armenian Genocide a part of human history, to ensure it does not become lost. Concluding his remarks, Dr. Hovannisian said it is important to “re-commit ourselves daily to the memory so that it will continue until there is victory.”

By letting the Armenian Genocide go unrecognized, “we will allow the perpetrators one last victory,” said Dr. Rivitz, an associate of the NJ Commission for Holocaust Education. A daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Dr. Rivitz said the world suffered a blow when millions were killed in the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust. She noted the importance of survivors and future generations to “continue in solidarity to remember the dark parts of our parallel histories.” In his remarks, Dr. Dennis Papazian, Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Grand Commander of the Knights of Vartan, said that there has been progress regarding the acknowledgement and affirmation of the Armenian Genocide around the world. He spoke of Turkish historian Dr. Taner Akcam, who was one of the first Turkish scholars to openly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide. “In the future it will be honest Turkish scholars doing work on the Armenian Genocide,” he said. Furthermore, Dr. Papazian challenged the Turkish government to get rid of Article 301 of the Turkish criminal code and allow the Turkish people to investigate their own history. “Free the Turkish people, let them decide for themselves,” he said.
Survivors in attendance were recognized, including Perouz Kalousdian, 101, Arsaloys Dadir, 98 and Charlotte Kechejian, 99. The three survivors – who escaped the brutal atrocities of 1915 – were brought to the front of the crowd to a wave of applause and cheer, holding red carnations and small American flags, representing the country that welcomed them almost a century ago. Proclamations from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Congressman Scott Garrett (R-NJ) were read by Dr. Mary Papazian and Armen McOmber, Esq., who served as masters of ceremonies for the commemoration.

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