Obama: Syria needs ‘managed transition’ from Assad
President Barack Obama on Monday hailed the nuclear deal with Iran as a triumph of diplomacy that had potentially averted war, but also called on Tehran to overhaul its foreign policy outlook and seek peace rather than foment violence. “Chanting ‘Death to America’ does not create jobs or make Iran more secure,” the US president said, in an address to the annual UN General Assembly in New York.
The president also called for a “managed transition away from [President Bashar] Assad and to a new leader” in Syria, and vowed to defeat terrorism and extremism, in a speech that highlighted his belief in international cooperation as the only means to defeat conflict and create a better, safer world.
Strikingly, the president did not mention Israel or the Palestinians in his lengthy address — a marked contrast to previous years, when Obama has repeatedly used the UNGA forum to push for a two-state solution.
Noting that the United States “cannot solve the world’s problems alone,” Obama cited the ongoing instability in Iraq as proof that “hundreds of thousands of troops” and vast sums of money could not produce long-term calm. What was required, he said, was to “work with other nations under the mantle of international law.”
But just as external power alone could not impose international order, so internal repression could not “force the social cohesion for nations to succeed,” he said.
Obama argued that “dictatorships are unstable” and that the strength of nations “depends on the success of their people” and requires individual rights and good governance and internal security.”
He cited the July Iran deal as an example of the benefits of “cooperation over conflict.” Over two years of talks, the world powers had “stuck together” to achieve a deal that, he said, prevents Iran from achieving nuclear weapons. If it is implemented, “a potential war is avoided” and “our world is safer.”
Now Iran should pursue a wider peace, he said, rather than continue to employ “violent proxies” and fuel sectarian conflict. “Chanting ‘Death to America’ does not create jobs or make Iran more secure,” he said, whereas “If Iran chooses a different path, that would be good for the security of the region, good for the Iranian people and good for the world.”
Turning to Syria, Obama castigated Assad as a dictator who has slaughtered tens of thousands of his own people. A “managed transition” of leadership was needed, so that Syria could rebuild. “Assad reacted to peaceful protests by escalating repression and killing,” he lamented.
On the threat of terrorism Obama said, “There is no room for accommodating an apocalyptic cult like ISIS.” He vowed to “go after them” and ensure “there will never be a safe haven for terrorists that carry out these crimes.” As the US’s ongoing battle with al-Qaeda demonstrated, he said, “we will not be outlasted by extremists.”
The world needed to reject islamic extremism, he said, while also criticizing non Muslims who equate Islam with terror.
Obama ended his address by highlighting the values of democracy. Catastrophes like the one in Syria don’t occur in genuine democracies, he said. “History shows that regimes who fear their own people will eventually crumble.”
He hailed American democracy, noting that just outside the UN headquarters in New York, one can pass “churches and synagogues and temples and mosques where people worship freely.” In America, he said, “everybody can contribute.”