President Obama is directing John Kerry to pursue fresh negotiations with Iran, the commander in chief announced today in a wide-ranging UN speech that also dealt extensively with the US position on Syria and other parts of the Middle East. Obama said that statements from President Rouhani and Ayatollah Khamenei "should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement," but that "conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions. … The roadblocks may prove to be too great, but I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested."
When it came to Syria, Obama demanded a Security Council resolution that would provide consequences if Bashar al-Assad fails to disarm. "If we cannot agree even on this then it will show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing even the most basic of international laws," he said, adding, "We're no longer in a Cold War. There's no great game to be won." The US has no interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people and the region. More tidbits from Obama's speech:
- The international response to Syria typified a persistent contradiction, Obama complained. "The United States is chastised for meddling in the region" and simultaneously for "failing to do enough to solve the region's problems."
- Obama touched on the Israel-Palestine conflict, saying the "time is now ripe for the entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace." He said that he believes "there is a growing recognition within Israel that the occupation of the West Bank is tearing at the democratic fabric of the Jewish state."
- Obama said that the US will continue to offer aid to Egypt for things like education, but that military aid "will depend on Egypt's progress in pursuing a democratic path."
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