DENVER – With exactly six weeks left until Election Day, President Obama sought to assert the United States as a strong global leader that will confront foreign policy challenges from Israel to Iran and to quell criticism from his opponent that he has been soft on rogue regimes.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday morning, Obama told the world that the time to use diplomacy with Iran to resolve a looming nuclear crisis is running short.
“Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained,” Mr. Obama said. “It would threaten the elimination of Israel, the security of gulf nations, and the stability of the global economy. And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
The policy is no different to that outlined earlier this year, when Obama told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention that containment was not an option. Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants the White House to move the red line to preventing Iran from even acquiring nuclear capability, something the White House has rejected to this point.
Obama also addressed the recent unrest in Islamic countries over an American-made videotape mocking Islam, and started his speech by talking about the former U.S. Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, who was killed when Islamic rebels stormed the U.S. embassy in Benghazi.
Obama comments on former Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens
“Chris Stevens embodied the best of America,” Obama said.
“The attacks of the last two weeks are not simply an assault on America. They are also an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded – the notion that people can resolve their differences peacefully; that diplomacy can take the place of war; and that in an interdependent world, all of us have a stake in working towards greater opportunity and security for our citizens.
“If we are serious about upholding these ideals, it will not be enough to put more guards in front of an Embassy; or to put out statements of regret, and wait for the outrage to pass. If we are serious about those ideals, we must speak honestly about the deeper causes of this crisis. Because we face a choice between the forces that would drive us apart, and the hopes we hold in common.
“Today, we must affirm that our future will be determined by people like Chris Stevens, and not by his killers. Today, we must declare that this violence and intolerance has no place among our United Nations.”
“There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an Embassy. There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.”
Romney attacking Obama on foreign policy
Mitt Romney, sensing a political opening following the tumult in the Arab world, was quick to attack Obama in the hours after the Benghazi attacks, and was widely criticized for his knee-jerk reaction politicizing a tragedy.
But as the protests have spread from country to country, Romney has continued to talk about Obama’s low-key support of the Arab Spring revolutions and argued that the administration didn’t do enough to stabilize these nascent governments to avoid a messier Arab Fall.
Obama, who polls showed with an eight- or 10-point edge on foreign policy, has seen his lead in that area erode somewhat.
On Monday in Pueblo, Romney attacked Obama for telling CBS News ’60 Minutes’ that the recent violence in the Islamic world are “bumps in the road” on the difficult path to democracy.
“These aren’t bumps in the road,” Romney said. “These are people’s lives.”