Beginning his speech to the U.N. General Assembly by paying tribute to slain U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens, President Obama focused on the Middle East, the Arab Spring and America’s relationship to the Muslim world.
While the killings of American personnel in Libya reflect the darker aspects of the Arab Spring’s aftermath, Obama stressed the continued U.S. support for Arabs seeking freedom and demanded that Bashar al-Assad’s rule “come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop and a new dawn can begin.”
He also called for the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace:
Among Israelis and Palestinians, the future must not belong to those who turn their backs on a prospect of peace. Let us leave behind those who thrive on conflict, those who reject the right of Israel to exist. The road is hard, but the destination is clear — a secure, Jewish state of Israel and an independent, prosperous Palestine. (Applause.) Understanding that such a peace must come through a just agreement between the parties, America will walk alongside all who are prepared to make that journey.
And he spoke about the need to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons:
In Iran, we see where the path of a violent and unaccountable ideology leads. The Iranian people have a remarkable and ancient history, and many Iranians wish to enjoy peace and prosperity alongside their neighbors. But just as it restricts the rights of its own people, the Iranian government continues to prop up a dictator in Damascus and supports terrorist groups abroad. Time and again, it has failed to take the opportunity to demonstrate that its nuclear program is peaceful, and to meet its obligations to the United Nations.
So let me be clear. America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe that there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited. We respect the right of nations to access peaceful nuclear power, but one of the purposes of the United Nations is to see that we harness that power for peace. And make no mistake, a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained. 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. That’s why a coalition of countries is holding the Iranian government accountable. And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.