@petesouza: Historic phone call in the Oval Office: Pres Obama talks w Iran Pres Hassan Rouhani this afternoon
Just now, I spoke on the phone with President Rouhani of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran’s nuclear program. I reiterated to President Rouhani what I said in New York. While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution.
I’ve directed Secretary Kerry to continue pursuing this diplomatic effort with the Iranian government. We had constructive discussions yesterday in New York with our partners, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China, together with the Iranian foreign minister.
Going forward, President Rouhani and I have directed our teams to continue working expeditiously in cooperation with the P-5-plus-1 to pursue an agreement. And throughout this process, we’ll stay in close touch with our friends and allies in the region, including Israel.
Now, we’re mindful of all the challenges ahead. The very fact that this was the first communication between an American and Iranian president since 1979 underscores the deep mistrust between our countries, but it also indicates the prospect of moving beyond that difficult history. I do believe that there is a basis for a resolution. Iran’s supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons.
I’ve made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations. So the test will be meaningful, transparent and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place.
Resolving this issue obviously could also serve as a major step forward in a new relationship between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, one based on mutual interests and mutual respect. It would also help facilitate a better relationship between Iran and the international community, as well as others in the region, one that would help the Iranian people fulfill their extraordinary potential, but also help us address other concerns that could bring greater peace and stability to the Middle East.
A path to a meaningful agreement will be difficult. And at this point, both sides have significant concerns that will have to be overcome. But I believe we’ve got a responsibility to pursue diplomacy, and that we have a unique opportunity to make progress with the new leadership in Tehran. I also communicated to President Rouhani my deep respect for the Iranian people.
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) September 27, 2013
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) September 27, 2013
Steve Benen: …. I hope the political world can appreciate just how remarkable this turn of events really is. A decade ago, U.S. foreign policy declared Iran part of an “axis of evil” and tensions between the nations escalated to dangerous levels. Now we’re seeing diplomatic breakthroughs and there’s a credible possibility of resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute.
Full post here
— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) September 27, 2013
Obama ended his call to Rouhani by saying “khodahafez.” Here’s why that word is significant: http://t.co/eouJKNGP8v
— Max Fisher (@Max_Fisher) September 27, 2013
Iraq – war ended ✓ Afghanistan – troop withdrawal complete in 2014 ✓ Syria – giving up its CWs ✓ Iran – new dawn ✓ Thank you Pres Obama
— TheObamaDiary.com (@TheObamaDiary) September 27, 2013
Good afternoon, everybody. Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century. Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.
Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see — hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children — young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.
This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.
In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.
Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.
Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I’m prepared to give that order.
But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I’m also mindful that I’m the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. I’ve long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I’ve made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.
Over the last several days, we’ve heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.
In the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America’s national security. And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote.
I’m confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I’m comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable. As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.
Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.
A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited. I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end. But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we just acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.
Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?
Make no mistake — this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?
We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.
So just as I will take this case to Congress, I will also deliver this message to the world. While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.
I don’t expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made. Privately we’ve heard many expressions of support from our friends. But I will ask those who care about the writ of the international community to stand publicly behind our action.
And finally, let me say this to the American people: I know well that we are weary of war. We’ve ended one war in Iraq. We’re ending another in Afghanistan. And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.
Instead, we’ll continue to support the Syrian people through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced, and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.
But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning. And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities.
So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security. I am looking forward to the debate. And in doing so, I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment.
Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country. I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say. And we lead with the belief that right makes might — not the other way around.
We all know there are no easy options. But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate. I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.
I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.
Thanks very much.
Text of the President’s Knox College speech:
Eight years ago, I came here to deliver the commencement address for the Class of 2005. Things were a little different back then. I didn’t have any gray hair, for example. Or a motorcade. I didn’t even have a teleprompter. It was my first big speech as your newest senator, and I spent my time talking about what a changing economy was doing to the middle class – and what we, as a country, needed to do to give every American a chance to get ahead in the 21st century.
You see, I’d just spent a year traveling this state and listening to your stories – of proud Maytag workers losing their jobs when their plant moved down to Mexico; of teachers whose salaries weren’t keeping up with the rising cost of groceries; of young people who had the drive but not the money to afford a college education.
They were the stories of families who worked hard and believed in the American Dream, but felt that the odds were increasingly stacked against them. And they were right.
In the period after World War II, a growing middle class was the engine of our prosperity. Whether you owned a company, swept its floors, or worked anywhere in between, this country offered you a basic bargain – a sense that your hard work would be rewarded with fair wages and benefits, the chance to buy a home, to save for retirement, and above all, to hand down a better life for your kids.
But over time, that engine began to stall. That bargain began to fray. Technology made some jobs obsolete. Global competition sent others overseas. It became harder for unions to fight for the middle class. Washington doled out bigger tax cuts to the rich and smaller minimum wage increases for the working poor. The link between higher productivity and people’s wages and salaries was severed – the income of the top 1 percent nearly quadrupled from 1979 to 2007, while the typical family’s barely budged.
Towards the end of those three decades, a housing bubble, credit cards and a churning financial sector kept the economy artificially juiced up. But by the time I took office in 2009, the bubble had burst, costing millions of Americans their jobs, their homes and their savings. The decades-long erosion of middle-class security was laid bare for all to see and feel.
Today, five years after the start of that Great Recession, America has fought its way back.
“…. I’ve got to have folks with me who care as passionately about these things as I do. I’ve got to have folks in the United States Senate who are willing to stand up for working people just like I have. I need folks in the United States Senate who, every day, are waking up thinking about the people who sent them there, and trying to figure out how do I make sure that they are getting a brighter future.
That’s who Ed Markey is. I need Ed Markey in the United States Senate.
…. if you work with the same focus and the same passion – if you are knocking on some doors and making some phone calls, if you’re talking to your friends and you’re talking to your neighbors – if you’re talking to cousin Jimmy who doesn’t always vote unless you give him a phone call – if you are making sure that people know Ed Markey’s remarkable record in Congress, then I guarantee you he will be the next United States senator from Massachusetts.
He’ll join Elizabeth Warren. He’ll carry on the legacy of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry. He will be my partner, and we will continue the march forward on behalf of not just this generation, but future generations.”
The President’s full remarks here
Greeted by Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Governor Deval Patrick, and Representative Ed Markey at Logan Airport
President Obama hugs Leilani Guthrie, 11, as her parents Natalie and Sean take photos and Congressman Ed Markey looks on during a stop at Charles Sandwich Shop in Boston
Ohio State University, May 5 (Pete Souza)
Photo: Pete Souza
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Hello, Buckeyes! O-H!
THE PRESIDENT: O-H!
THE PRESIDENT: O-H!
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much. Everybody, please be seated. Thank you, Dr. Gee, for the wonderful introduction. I suspect the good President may have edited out some other words that were used to describe me. (Laughter.) I appreciate that. But I’m going to let Michelle know of all the good comments.
To the Board of Trustees; Congresswoman Beatty; Mayor Coleman; and all of you who make up The Ohio State University for allowing me to join you — it is an incredible honor.
And most of all, congratulations, Class of 2013! (Applause.) And of course, congratulations to all the parents, and family, and friends and faculty here in the Horseshoe — this is your day as well. (Applause.) I’ve been told to ask everybody, though, please be careful with the turf. Coach Meyer has big plans for this fall. (Laughter.)
I very much appreciate the President’s introduction. I will not be singing today. (Laughter.)
AUDIENCE: Aww — (laughter.)