Obama speaks on Iran, Syria
United Nations (CNN) — Embroiled in his campaign for re-election, President Barack Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly today in a sweeping speech meant to honour slain Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, confront Iran and Syria, and highlight American involvement in the Middle East.
“We were inspired by the Tunisian protests that toppled a dictator, because we recognized our own beliefs in the aspirations of men and women who took to the streets,” he told delegates. “We insisted on change in Egypt, because our support for democracy put us on the side of the people.”
Obama also sought to highlight American support of leadership transitions in Yemen, “because the interests of the people were not being served by a corrupt status quo,” and in Libya, where a U.N. Security Council resolution allowed NATO jets to help “to stop the slaughter of innocents.”
But in what is expected to be among the main topics of this week’s meeting of world leaders, Obama declared that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must come to an end, and said he will support “sanctions and consequences” in the absence of that transition.
He also blasted Iran, whose president on Monday declared Israel has “no roots in the Middle East,” blaming it for “propping up a dictatorship in Damascus” and supporting terrorist groups abroad.
Obama said that while the United States remains committed to a diplomatic solution on Iran’s nuclear program, “time is not unlimited.”
While Iranian leaders say their nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, western leaders believe Tehran wants to build a nuclear weapon. U.N. inspectors also have expressed doubts about the program’s aims.
The consequences of a nuclear-armed Iran are immense, Obama told delegates.
“It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of Gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. It risks triggering a nuclear-arms race in the region, and the unraveling of the non-proliferation treaty,” Obama said.