Obama Vows to Dismantle 'Network of Death,' Not Base Foreign Policy on 'Reacting to Terrorism'
Calling ISIS a "network of death" that needs to be "degraded and ultimately destroyed," President Obama appealed to the United Nations General Assembly to fight the Islamic State while vowing "America will not base our entire foreign policy on reacting to terrorism."
"In this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world's great religions," Obama said. "With access to technology that allows small groups to do great harm, they have embraced a nightmarish vision that would divide the world into adherents and infidels, killing as many innocent civilians as possible, employing the most brutal methods to intimidate people within their communities."
His speech ran the gamut of global poverty, carbon emissions, Ebola and Pacific power before delving into ISIS nearly halfway through.
Before addressing the terror network, he touched on Russia's invasion of Ukraine as "a vision of the world in which might makes right -- a world in which one nation's borders can be redrawn by another."
"America stands for something different," Obama said. "We believe that right makes might."
The president vowed to "impose a cost on Russia for aggression" and to "counter falsehoods with the truth" as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin listened with stoic faces.
And while last year was hailed as a historic occasion for Obama's phone call to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Islamic Republic got a brief mention today.
"America is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear issue as part of our commitment to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and pursue the peace and security of a world without them. And this can only take place if Iran seizes this historic opportunity," he said. "My message to Iran's leaders and people has been simple and consistent: do not let this opportunity pass. We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful."
There was no mention of Khorasan or Iran's sheltering of al-Qaeda leaders.
He then turned to "the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world."
"We have reaffirmed again and again that the United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. Islam teaches peace. Muslims the world over aspire to live with dignity and a sense of justice. And when it comes to America and Islam, there is no us and them. There is only us, because millions of Muslim Americans are part of the fabric of our country," Obama said. "So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations."
"Belief in permanent religious war is the misguided refuge of extremists who cannot build or create anything, and therefore peddle only fanaticism and hate. And it is no exaggeration to say that humanity's future depends on us uniting against those who would divide us along the fault lines of tribe or sect, race or religion."
The president vowed that, without sending U.S. troops to "occupy foreign lands," airstrikes would "roll back" ISIS while a global coalition is forged to crush the group. "No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil," he said. "The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force. So the United States of America will work with a broad coalition to dismantle this network of death."
"Those who have joined ISIL should leave the battlefield while they can. Those who continue to fight for a hateful cause will find they are increasingly alone."
Obama then called on Muslim communities to "explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject" ideology espoused by al-Qaeda and ISIS.
"There should be no more tolerance of so-called clerics who call upon people to harm innocents because they're Jewish, or because they're Christian or because they're Muslim," he continued, adding that virtual space occupied by terrorists "including the Internet and social media" must be contested.
"All religions have been attacked by extremists from within at some point, and all people of faith have a responsibility to lift up the value at the heart of all great religions: do unto thy neighbor as you would do -- you would have done unto yourself," he said.