President Obama took on a confrontational tone in his speech this morning to the United Nations General Assembly, specifically calling out Russia, China and Iran for destabilizing activities in various world conflicts.
Obama opened his speech directly decrying "strong states that seek to impose their will on weaker ones," then alluded to Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"On this basis, we see some major powers assert themselves in ways that contravene international law," Obama said. "We're told that such retrenchment is required to beat back disorder, that it's the only way to stamp out terrorism. In accordance with this logic, we should support tyrants like Bashar al-Assad."
Obama's remarks came just before a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two will also have their first sit-down in more than two years in the afternoon and are expected to discuss Russian involvement in the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.
In an interview clip released by the Kremlin Sunday, Putin explained Russia's recent surge of support for Assad's government as a means to combat ISIS terrorists in the country.
Obama then called on Russia to ease tensions in the conflict in Ukraine, explaining “the world cannot stand by” as Russia looks to assert its influence across sovereign borders.
Just days after hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping for a lavish state visit, Obama used his remarks to call out Chinese land-building activities in the South China Sea.
“The United States makes no claim on territory there,” Obama said. “But like every nation gathered here, we have an interest in upholding the basic principles of freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce.”
Despite the recent landmark agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, Obama called out the country for continuing to employ “violent proxies to advance its interests” in the Middle East.
“These efforts may appear to give Iran leverage in disputes with neighbors, but they fuel sectarian conflict that endangers the entire region,” Obama said. “Iranian people have a proud history filled with extraordinary potential. But chanting ‘Death to America’ doesn’t create jobs or make Iran more secure.”
Obama also took time to acknowledge past U.S. mistakes in involvement in historical conflicts, pointing to both Iraq and Libya as lessons learned, while defending use of military action against ISIS.
He then suggested an avenue of cooperation with Iran and Russia to bring peace to Syria, but only if the two countries support the removal of Assad from power.
"Assad and his allies cannot simply pacify the broad majority of a population who have been brutalized by chemical weapons and indiscriminate bombing," Obama said. "Yes, realism dictates that compromise will be required and that fighting will ultimately stamp out ISIL. But realism also requires a managed transition away from Assad and to a new leader.”
With Cuban President Raul Castro looking on, President Obama also hailed the warming of relations between the United States and Cuba, generating overwhelming applause from the audience as he expressed his belief that the embargo against the nation should be lifted.
“To move forward in this era,” Obama said, “you have to be strong enough to acknowledge that what you’re doing is not working.”