President Obama Address United Nations General Assembly

US president uses speech as opportunity to condemn Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.
3:00 | 09/24/13

Coming up in the next {{countdown}} {{countdownlbl}}

Coming up next:



Skip to this video now

Now Playing:


Related Extras
Related Videos
Video Transcript
Transcript for President Obama Address United Nations General Assembly
This is a special report from ABC news. I'm Dan pepperoni or with a CBC news digital special report President Obama speaking to the world this morning as the UN United Nations General Assembly is kicking up here in New York City. This states this year perhaps higher than any other point in his presidency. On the table today the potential for if not a meeting assembly event of public declarations that America will re engage with Iran -- and -- -- -- residents of Vermont. And then of course there is the issue of Syria President Obama expected to address that country's plan to take apart its chemical weapons arsenal. We -- waiting for the president to make his way into the hall where he will begin addressing members. The United Nations I want to bring in our political director Rick Klein for more Rick set the stage force what does the president have to address this morning. This has been a whirlwind. Couple of weeks for US diplomatic efforts -- start with Syria. And where we've gone to the brink of war and then back and now to have international inspectors and the idea of international disarmament going on to -- -- the new entries from Iran which is linked to Syria President Obama -- just some progress in getting Iran to the negotiating table over nuclear weapons that would be a huge -- based on where we were just a few short weeks and months ago. It's become a rite of passage into the Iranian president's gonna denounced the Americans on US soil -- -- you Anderson -- fact that we're have such a different circumstance right now as interest. I will really appreciate that Gregg -- -- let's say go and throughout president now. -- We come together to reaffirm. The founding vision of this institution. For most of recorded history individual aspirations were subject to the whims of tyrants. And empires. Divisions of race and religion and tribe were settled through the sword. And the clash of varmints. The idea that nations and peoples could come together in peace to solve their disputes. And advance a common prosperity. Seemed unimaginable. It took be awful carnage. Two world wars. To shift our thinking. The leaders who built the United Nations were not naive they did not think this body could eradicate all wars. But in the wake of millions dead and comments and rubble. And with the development of nuclear weapons that could annihilate a plan. They understood that humanity could not survive. The course it was all. And so they gave us this institution. Believing that it could allow us to resolve conflicts. Enforce rules of behavior. And build habits of cooperation that would grow stronger over time. -- for decades. The United Nations has in fact made a difference. From helping to eradicate disease to educating children. To brokering peace. But like every generation of leaders. We face new and profound challenges. In this body continues to be tough to. The question is whether we possess the wisdom and the courage. As nation states and members of an international community. To squarely meet those challenges. Whether United Nations can meet. The test of our time. For much of my tenure as president some are most urgent challenges have revolved around an increasingly. Integrated global economy. And our efforts to recover from the worst economic crisis of our lifetime. Now five years after the global economy collapsed. And thanks to coordinated efforts by the country's here today. Jobs are being created. Global financial systems have stabilized. And people are once again being lifted out of poverty. But this progress is fragile and unequal and we still have work to do together. To assure that our citizens can access the opportunities that they need to thrive. In the 21 century. Together we've also worked to end a decade of war. Five years ago nearly a 180000. Americans were serving in harm's way. The war in Iraq was the dominant issue in our relationship with the rest of the world. Today all of our troops have left Iraq. Next year an international coalition -- and its war in Afghanistan. Having achieved its mission of dismantling the core of al-Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11. The United States these new circumstances of also meant shifting away. From -- perpetual war -- Beyond bringing our troops home. We have limited the use of -- so they target only those who pose a continuing imminent threat to the United States. -- capture is not feasible and there's a near certainty of no civilian casualties. We're transferring detainees to other countries and trying terrorists in courts of law. While working diligently to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. And just as we reviewed how we -- Our extraordinary military capabilities and a way that lives up to our ideals. We've begun to review the way that we gather intelligence so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies. With a privacy concerns that all people share. As a result of this war. And cooperation with allies and partners. The world is more stable -- it was five years ago. But even a glance in today's headlines indicates. The dangers remain. In Kenya. Received terrorist target. Innocent civilians in a crowded shopping mall and our hearts go out to the families of those who have been affected. And pockets. Nearly 100 people were recently killed by. Suicide bombers outside a church. And -- Killings and car bombs continue to be. A terrible part of life. Meanwhile -- Qaeda has splintered and regional networks and malicious. Which doesn't give them the capacity at this point to carry out attacks like 9/11 but. Does pose serious threats to governments and diplomats businesses and civilians. All across the globe. Just -- significantly. The convulsions. In the Middle East and North Africa. Have laid bare deep divisions within societies. As an old order is up and the people grapple with what comes next. Peaceful movements. Have too often been answered by violence. From those resisting change and from extremists. Trying to hijack change. Sectarian conflict has reemerged. And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction. Continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace. Nowhere have we seen these trends converge more powerful it. -- and Syria. -- peaceful protests against -- authoritarian regime were met with repression and -- In the face of such -- many retreated to their sectarian identity. -- -- concerning. Christian emperor. And the situation spiraled in the civil war. The international community recognized the stakes are Leon. But our response has not matched the scale of the challenge. -- cannot keep pace with the suffering. Of the wounded and displaced. -- peace process is still more. America and others have worked to bolster the moderate opposition. But extremist groups have still taken -- to exploit the crisis. -- traditional allies of prop them up. Citing principles of sovereignty to shield his regime. And on August 21. The regime used chemical weapons in an attack that killed more than 1000 people. Including hundreds of children. -- the crisis in Syria. And the most of the heart. A broader challenges that the international community must now confront. How should we. Respond to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa. Conflicts between countries but also conflicts. Within the how do we address the choice of standing helplessly by while children are subjected to nerve gas. -- -- ourselves in someone else's civil war. What's the role of force in resolving disputes that threaten the stability of the region. And undermine all basic standards of civilized conduct. From what's the role of the United Nations. And international law. In meeting cries for justice. Today -- want outlined where the United States of America stands on these issues. With respect to Syria. We believe that as a starting point -- international community must enforce the ban on chemical weapons. When I stated my willingness to order a limited strike against the Assad regime in response to the brazen use of chemical weapons. I did not do so -- I did so because I believe it is in the national security interest of the United States. And in the interest of the world. To meaningfully and force a prohibition whose origins are older than the United Nations itself. The -- against the use of chemical weapons even in war has been agreed to buy 98% of humanity. It is strengthened by the searing memories of soldiers suffocating in the trenches. Jews slaughtered in gas chambers. Iran against poisoned. In the many tens of thousands. The evidence is overwhelming. The BS averaging use such weapons on August 41. UN inspectors gave a clear counting that advanced rockets fired large -- of Sarin gas at civilians. These rockets were fired from a regime controlled neighborhood. And landed. In opposition neighborhoods. It's an insult to human reason. And -- legitimacy of this institution. To suggest that anyone other than the regime carried out this attack. Not know that in the immediate aftermath of the attack there were those who question. The legitimacy -- even a limited strike in the absence of a clear mandate from the Security Council. But without a credible military threat. The Security Council had demonstrated no inclination to act at all. However. As I've discussed with president prudent for over a year. Most recently in Saint Petersburg. My preference has always been a diplomatic resolution to this issue. And in the past several weeks the United States. Russia. And our allies have reached an agreement to place serious chemical weapons under international control. And then to destroy. The Syrian government took a first step. By giving an accounting of its -- -- Now there must be a strong Security Council resolution. To verify the -- -- regime is keeping its commitments. And there must be consequences if they fail to -- so. If we cannot agree. Even on this. That we'll show that the United Nations is incapable of enforcing. The most basic of international -- On the other hand if we succeed. It will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place. In the -- for central. And that this body means what access. No agreement on chemical weapons should energize a larger diplomatic effort. To reach a political settlement within Syria. I do not believe that military action. By those within Syria or by external powers. Can achieve a lasting peace. Nor do I believe that America or any nation should determine who will lead Syria. Denis for the Syrian people to decide. Nevertheless a leader who slaughtered his citizens and -- children to death. Cannot regain the legitimacy to lead it badly fractured country. The notion that -- Rick and some -- return to a prewar status quo is a fantasy. It's time for -- general -- To realize that insisting on Assad rule will lead directly to that outcome that they fear. And increasingly violent space for extremist operate. In turn -- Abbas who continue to support the moderate opposition. Must persuade them that the Syrian people cannot afford. A collapse of state institutions. -- -- a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing. The legitimate fears and concerns of -- whites and other minorities. We are committed. To working this political track and as we pursue a settlement. Let's remember this is not a zero sum and up. We're no longer in a Cold War. There's no great game to be want. Nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well being of its people the stability of its neighbors the elimination of chemical weapons. And ensuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists. I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution. But serious civil war. As we move the Geneva process forward I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries. America's committed over a billion dollars to the sept. Today I can announce that we will be providing an additional 340. Million dollars. No -- can take the place of a political resolution that gives the Syrian people the chance to rebuild their country. But it can help desperate people to survive. Broader conclusions can be drawn from America's policy -- -- I know there -- those who've been frustrated by our willingness to use our military might to depose Assad. And believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening American resolve in the region. Others have suggested that my willingness to direct. Even limited military strikes to -- the further use of chemical weapons shows we've learned nothing from Iraq. That America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes. In this way the situation in Syria. Mirrors a contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades. The United States is chastised for meddling in the region. Accused of having a hand and all manner of conspiracy. At the same time the United States is blamed for failing to do -- -- to solve the region's problems. And for showing indifference toward suffering Muslim populations. I realize -- this is memorable. Giving them given America's role in the world. These contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people support for our involvement in the region. And allow leaders in the region as well the international community sometimes to avoid. Addressing difficult problems themselves. So let me take this -- to outline what has been US policy towards the Middle East and North Africa. And what will be my policy during the remainder of my presence. United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power including military force. To secure. Our core interests in the region. We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners as we did. In the gulf war. We will ensure the free flow of energy. From the region to the world. Although America steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil the world still depends. On the region's energy supplies and severe disruption could destabilize. The entire global economy. We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. Wherever possible we will build the capacity of our partners respect the sovereignty of nations. And work to address the root root causes of terror but when it's necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack. We will take direct action. And finally we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. -- is -- consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security. We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region. And undermine the global nonproliferation regime. About to say that these are America's core interest is not to say that they are our only interest. We deeply believe it is in our -- -- To see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous. And we'll continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets because we believe. These practices achieve peace and prosperity. But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action. Particularly. Through military action. Rock shows us the democracy cannot simply be imposed by force. Rather these objectives are best achieved when we partner. We have the international community. And with the countries and peoples of the region. So what does this mean going forward. In the near term America's diplomatic efforts. Will focus on two particular issues. Iran's pursued nuclear weapons. And the Arab Israeli -- While these issues are not the cause of all the region's problems. They have been a major source of instability for far too long and resolving them can help serve as the foundation for a broader peace. The United States and Iran have been isolated from one another -- the Islamic revolution of 1979. This mistrust has deep roots. To run -- have long complained of a history of US interference in their affairs. And of America's role in overthrowing them a run in government during the Cold War. On the other hand Americans see and Iran in government that has declared the United States anatomy. And directly or through proxies take American hostages killed US troops and civilians. And threaten our ally Israel -- destruction. I don't believe this -- history can be overcome. Overnight -- the suspicions. -- to date. But I do believe that if we can resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program. Back and serve as a major step down a long road towards a different relationship. One based on mutual interests. And mutual respect. Since I took office I've made it clear. In letters to the supreme leader and around the more recently to president -- But America prefer us to resolve our concerns over Iran's nuclear program peaceful. Although we are determined. To prevent. Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. We are not seeking regime change. And we respect the right of the -- -- people to access peaceful nuclear energy. Instead we insist. The be running government meet its responsibilities under the nuclear nonproliferation treaty and UN Security Council resolutions. -- meanwhile the supreme leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. And president Ronnie has just recently reiterated. That the Islamic republic will never develop a nuclear weapon. So these statements made made by our respective governments. Should offer the basis for a meaningful agreement. We should be able to achieve a resolution. That respects the rights of the -- -- people. While giving the world confidence that -- -- program -- -- But to succeed. Conciliatory words will have to be matched by actions that are transparent. And verifiable. After all -- be arriving government's choices that have led to the comprehensive sanctions that are currently in place. And this not is not simply an issue between. The United States and Iran. The world -- seen Iran evade its responsibilities in the past and has. And abiding interest in making sure that Iran meets its obligations. In the future. But -- -- to be clear we are encouraged the president -- Received from Iran and people a mandate to pursue a more moderate course. And given president Ronnie stated commitment to reach an agreement I'm directing John Kerry to pursue this -- -- -- -- government. In close cooperation. We have. The European Union. The United Kingdom France Germany Russia and China. The roadblocks may it proved to be too great. But I firmly believe the diplomatic path must be tested. For while the status quo only deepen Iran's isolation Iran's genuine commitment to go down a different path will be. Good for the region and the world. And we'll help -- running people meet their extraordinary potential. And commerce and culture. And science and education. We are also determined. To resolve -- conflict -- goes back even further than our differences with -- The matters -- conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. I've made it clear that the United States will never compromise our commitment to Israel's security. Nor our support for its existence as a Jewish state. Earlier this year in Jerusalem. I was inspired by young Israelis who stood up for the belief that peace was necessary. Just and possible. And I believe there's a growing recognition within is were. -- the occupation of the West Bank is staring at the democratic fabric. Of dangerous state. But the children of Israel have the right to live in a world where the nation's assembled in this body. Fully recognize their country. And where we unequivocally reject those who fire rockets at their homes. -- incite others take them. Mike was the United States remains committed to the belief that the Palestinian people have a right. To live with security and dignity in their own sovereign state. On the same trip by a doctor to meet with -- young Palestinians in Ramallah. Whose ambition and incredible potential are matched by the pain they feel. And having no firm place in the community of nations. They are understandably cynical the real progress will ever be made. And they're frustrated by their families in door in the daily indignities of occupation. But -- to recognize the two states is the only real path to peace. Because just of the Palestinian people must not be displaced the State of Israel is here to stay. Some time is now right. The entire international community to get behind the pursuit of peace. Already Israeli and Palestinian leaders have demonstrated a willingness to take significant political -- President Abbas is put aside efforts to shortcut the pursuit of peace and come to the negotiating table. Prime minister Netanyahu has released Palestinian prisoners and reaffirmed his commitment to a Palestinian state. Current talks are focused on final status issues of borders and security. Refugees and Jerusalem. So now the rest of us must be willing to take. Risks as well. Friends of Israel including the United States. Must recognize that -- security as a Jewish and democratic state depend on the realization. Of a Palestinian state. And we should stick to say so clearly. Arab states and those who support the Palestinians. Must recognize that stability will only be served Detroit two state solution. -- a secure Israel. All of us must recognize the peace will be a powerful tool to defeat extremists. -- -- -- And embolden those were prepared to build a better future. Moreover ties of trade and commerce between Israelis and Arabs could be an engine of growth and opportunity at a time when too many young people in the region. Are languishing without work. So let's emerge from the lawyer corners of blame and prejudice. Let's support Israeli and Palestinian leaders who are prepared to walk. The difficult road to peace. The real breakthroughs on these two issues. Iran's nuclear program and Israeli Palestinian peace. Would have a profound and positive impact on the entire. Middle East and North Africa. But the current convulsions arising out of the Arab Spring remind us that. A just and lasting peace cannot be measured only by agreements between nations. Must also be measured by our -- to resolve conflict and promote justice. Within nations. And by that measure it's clear that all of us have a lot more work to do. When peaceful transitions began in Tunisia and Egypt. The entire world was filled with hope. And although the United States like others. Was struck by the speed of transition. And although we did not and in fact could not -- events. We chose to support those who call for change. We did so based on the belief that while these transitions will be hard and take time. Society is based upon democracy and openness and the dignity of the individual. What ultimately be more stable more prosperous. And more peaceful. Or last few years particularly an -- We've seen just how hard this transition will be. Mohammed Morrissey was democratically elected. But proved unwilling or unable to govern in a way that was fully close. The interim government the replaced have responded to the desires of millions of egyptians. Who believed the revolution had taken a wrong turn. But it too has made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy. Through an emergency law and restrictions on the press and civil society and opposition -- Of course America's been attacked by all sides of this internal conflict. Simultaneously accused of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood an engineering the removal of power. In fact the United States has purposely avoided choosing sites. Our overriding interest to -- these past few years has been to encourage a government that legitimately reflects the will of the Egyptian people. And recognizes true democracy is required -- respect for minority rights. And the rule of law. Freedom of speech and assembly. And a strong civil society. That remains our interest today. And so going forward the United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government. The promotes core interests like to Camp David accords and counterterrorism. Will continue support in areas like education that directly benefit the Egyptian people. But we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems. And our support will depend upon Egypt's progress in pursuing. -- more democratic path. And our approach to Egypt reflects a larger point. The United States well at times work -- governments that do not meet at least in our -- the highest international expectations. But who work -- -- our core interests. Nevertheless we will not stop asserting principles that are consistent with our ideals whether that means opposing the use of violence. As a means of suppressing dissent. For supporting the principles embodied in the universal declaration of human rights. We will reject the notion. That these principles are simply western exports. Incompatible with Islam or the Arab world. We believe they're the birthright of every person. And while we recognize that our influence will at times be limited. Although we will be wary of efforts to impose democracy through military force. And although we will at times be accused of hypocrisy and inconsistency. We will be engaged in the region for the long haul. For the hard work of forging freedom. And democracy is the task of -- generation. This includes efforts to resolve sectarian tensions the continue to surface in places like Iraq. Bahrain. And Syria. We understand such longstanding issues cannot be solved by outsiders they must be addressed by Muslim communities themselves. -- we've seen it grinding complex come to an end before. Most recently in NORTHERN IRELAND where Catholics and Protestants finally recognize that an endless cycle. Of conflict was causing both communities to fall behind a fast moving world. And so we believe those same secretary -- complex. Can be overcome. In the Middle East and North Africa. To summarize. United States has. -- harder and humility. When it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries. Now the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda but. It isn't borne out by America's current policy or by public opinion. Indeed as recent. Debates within the United States over Syria clearly show. The danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries -- take on every problem. In the region as -- all. The danger for the world is that the United States after a decade of war. Rightly concerned about. Issues back home. Aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has invention engendered. Throughout the Muslim world. May disengage. Creating a vacuum of leadership but no other nation. Is ready to -- I believe such disengagement would be a mistake. I believe America must remain engaged for our own security. But I also believe the world is better for. Some may disagree. But I believe America is exceptional. In part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up. Not only for our own -- self interest but for the interest -- mall. I must be honest -- -- far more likely to invest our energy in -- countries that want to work with us that invest in their people instead of a corrupt few. Then embrace the vision of society where everyone can contribute men and women. -- worst Sunni Muslim Christian -- you. Because from Europe to Asia. From Africa to be Americans. Nations that are persevered on a democratic path have emerged more prosperous more peaceful. And more invested in upholding our common security and our common humanity. I believe that the same will hold true for the Arab world. The -- made to a final point. There will be times when the breakdown of societies is so great. The violence against civilians so substantial. -- the international community will be called upon to act. This will require new thinking and some very tough choices. While the United Nations was designed to prevent wars between states. Increasingly we face the challenge of preventing slaughter within states. And these challenges will -- more pronounced as we are confronted with states that are fragile. For failing. Places where horrendous violence can put innocent men women and children at risk with no hope -- protection from. -- national institutions. I've made it clear. That even when America's core interests are not directly threat. We stand ready to do our part to prevent mass atrocities. And protect basic human rights. But we cannot. And should not bear that burden a -- And Molly we supported both the French intervention that successfully pushed back al-Qaeda. And the African forces were keeping the -- -- Working. Bring the Lord's Resistance Army to -- And in Libya. When the Security Council provided a mandate to protect civilians. America joined a coalition that took action. Because of what we did there countless lives were saved and -- tyrant could not kill his way back to power. I noted some now criticize the action in Libya as an object lesson. They point to the problems that the country now confronts. A democratically elected government. Struggling to provide security. Armed groups in some places. Extremists. -- in parts of a fractured land. And so his critics argue that any intervention to protect civilians is doomed to -- look at Libya. -- no one's more mindful. Of these problems that I am -- that resulted in the death of four outstanding US citizens. Who were. Committed. Two Libyan people including ambassador Chris Stevens a man whose courageous efforts helped save the city of -- got. But does anyone truly believe that the situation in Libya would be better. -- Gaddafi had been allowed to kill imprisoned or brutalize his people in the submission. It's far more likely that without international action Libya would now be engulfed. In civil war and bloodshed. We live in a world of imperfect choices. Different nations will not agree on the need for action in every instance. And the principle of sovereignty is at the center of our international order but sovereignty cannot be a shield for tyrants to commit wanton murder. Or excuse for the international community. To turn a blind. While we need to be modest in our belief that we can remedy every able. While we need to be mindful that the world is full of unintended consequences. Should we really accept the notion of the world is powerless in the face marijuana. Fresh from an extra. If that's the world that people want to -- -- -- -- -- reckon with the cold logic of mass graves. But I believe we can embrace a different future. If we don't want to choose between -- war we must get better all of us at the policies to prevent the breakdown of basic -- For respect for the responsibilities of nations and the response the rights of individuals. Through meaningful sanctions for those who break the rules. Through dogged diplomacy. The resolves the root causes of conflict. Not merely its aftermath. -- development assistance the brings hope to the marginalize. And yes sometimes. Although this will not be enough. At. There are going to be moments -- the international community will need to acknowledge that. The multi lateral use of military force may be required to prevent. The very worst from -- Ultimately this is the international community of America six. One where nations do not -- the land or resources of other nations. But one in which we carry out the founding. Purpose of this institution. And where we all take responsibility. A world in which the rules established. Out of the horrors of war can help us resolve conflicts peacefully and prevent the kinds of wars that our forefathers fought. A world where human beings can live with dignity and meet their basic needs whether they live in New York -- Nairobi. In the shower or Damascus. These are extraordinary times. -- extraordinary opportunities. Thanks to human progress a child born anywhere on earth. Today can do things that sixty years -- goal would have been out of reach for the mass of humanity. I saw this in Africa where nations moving beyond conflict are not poised to take off. In America's -- partnering to feed the hungry and care for the sick and bring power to places off the grid. I -- crossed the Pacific region where hundreds of millions have been lifted out of poverty in a single generation. I see in the faces of young people everywhere. Who can access the entire world with a click of -- -- In more eager to join the cause of eradicating extreme poverty and combating climate change. Starting businesses expanding freedom. And leaving behind the old ideological battles of the past. That's what's happening in Asia and Africa. It's happening in Europe. And across the Americans. That's the future that the people. Of the Middle East and North Africa. Deserve as well. One where they can focus on opportunity. Instead of whether they'll be killed or repressed because of who they are what they believe. And time and again nations and people have shown. Our capacity to change to live up to -- -- ideals to choose our better history. Last month -- stood where fifteen years ago Martin Luther King Jr. told America about Israel. At a time when many people of my race could not even vote. For present. Earlier this year I stood in the small cell where. Nelson Mandela endured decades cut off from his own people in the world. Who are we to believe. That today's challenges cannot be overcome. -- we've seen what changes the human spirit -- When this all can argue that the future belongs to those who seek to repress. That -- Rather than those who seek to liberate. I know what side of history -- want the United States American beyond. Were ready to meet tomorrow's challenges with the -- Firm in the belief that all men and women are in fact created eight. Each individual possessed when they dignity. And inalienable rights that cannot be denied. That is why we look to the future not with fear mortal. And that's why we remain convinced that this community of nations can deliver. -- more peaceful prosperous. And just world to the next generation. Thank you very much. His address at sixty. G-8 meeting of the United Nations General Assembly before. World leaders that have been gathered. Spent in the president touching on a number of on the issues this morning Syria the chemical weapons attack that -- used in that country Iran. -- as far as advancement of nuclear weapons the Israeli Palestinian peace process. And it overarching theme regarding the Arab Spring the development of those countries. Whose governments and whose presidents were dictators. Have changed in recent years and the US commitment -- the international community for peace -- resolution. -- wanna bring an ABC news political director Rick -- for more some of this speech and ripped a big part of that speech focusing. On Iran and the US relations and President Obama clearly extending a hand. That's right Danny got the sense that this speech was being worked on up to a few minutes before President Obama went out there and gave it no advance text -- this probably very reason. We've had such fast moving events in the last few weeks and -- and this is an intriguing twist the idea. Of having conversations with the Iranians hasn't happened. Since the 1970s. Is a big step forward the president trying to send a cautious signals trying to say that is contingent on. -- firm commitment to dismantle any nuclear efforts that is of course has been the sticking point over and over again. The Israelis have been concerned about that recently but the president. I think in no uncertain terms saying that if we can get somewhere on that if we can feel like we're making progress on the nuclear issues. Then we can pursue what -- what appears to be genuine effort -- a more moderate course saying that secretary Kerry will be leading this up he does not say whether he's gonna have a meeting himself with the Iranian President. I think that is something that of these terms of the course of today but this is a major step and I think that openness is something that again probably re written into the speech just with the last couple of hours or days. -- -- -- a deeper into that because the tone of the speech in the way that he spoke about Iran and the nuclear ambitious program that it has there. Content fact the White House make that kind of threats as far as of them. Pushing the investment for that and then perhaps in the same day -- -- -- seven and an attempt at a friendly negotiation. Well good and that's the only way that you can get to the table that's what the president is trying to say and again -- feels to me like the Israelis had -- role and that those a couple of paragraphs because they want to make sure that this isn't into this is in the play for time that this isn't eight a new Iranian regime playing the same old tricks so. It will see how the Iranians react to that they have always maintain that they have a nuclear program for for only peaceful ambitions are peaceful purposes they they don't support nuclear weaponry. If they show that if they're willing to engage in the same kind of -- force disarmament with consequences that is not meant -- it be happening now in Syria. That was sent a signal that they are serious about it and that's what the president saying that has the free -- -- the precursor for any of the of other talks toward normalization. And a phrase that we have heard often repeated is a zero sum game and that seems to be the tone in which that they that the White House in the administration is taking towards Iran. I think it didn't lose a -- that phrase another part of today's speech -- the president talked about the hard -- you humility. That that the American people feel right now that we -- interest in the regime's regime change it was a of course. A reference to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and at some of the policies of the bush administration of the previous regime. The president and even -- in Syria he -- where public opinion was on this that the United States comes at this differently. That's what the president was trying to convey in this -- trying to -- this isn't. This isn't your father's United States is George W Bush's United States it is what you may think about us in the past you have to conceptualize. What our role is here differently we don't have an interest in changing the regime in Iran. We don't go into any discussions thinking about that that's the only way that we can get any kind of credibility in a body like the United Nations. Weigh in on that written regarding Syria the president is sticking to a very hard line in how to handle the crisis that's happening there isn't dangerous though. To take that kind of aggressive approach if in fact there is a chemical weapons deal they could already be underway. I think he has no choice he boxed himself in with the Red Line comment from a year ago and and and in pursuing what he said. Was the advisable course of action just a few weeks ago where he said he was prepared to. Order military strikes ask congress for the authorization and things kind of RAMP down. I don't think he can get away with anything less than saying to the UN if you're serious about this you have to have enforcement mechanisms you can't just take someone's work for we need to have teeth. That might at the end of this so I I think that he had to go as far as he did -- probably could invite -- -- not further. Does -- ensuring a military response if things break down he needs that. He he he maintains his administration maintains this wouldn't be happening all about the credible threat of military force he can't let that go away once we see some progress in negotiations. So what what -- you read that into the taught how he addressed the UN as an overall body. Is actually calling -- the efficacy. -- to some extent and how it -- serious and fact that the international community didn't react to the chemical weapons -- the way in which the United States the Obama administration had would have liked -- This sense of a president who who has learned a lot on this job over the last four plus years and he came in with it with an idealism about the about the concept of -- internationalism of them. Possibilities in the United Nations that that -- hardened with time -- he's been confronted with many challenges he's seen frustrations -- the United Nations he's seen. Attempts to try to get recalcitrant neighbors and and allies together on things. And he's frustrated by a lot of that and I think that's driven some of the perceptions around Syria. And I think now looking to the UN and saying look I'm going into this. In another sense trust but verify I trust that the United Nations can do something on here but I want to make sure and I want you to be clear about the US mission here. No we're not out there to change -- but no we're also not gonna hesitate to use all. Or force -- our interest or state -- those words of -- of course president Ronald Reagan I -- ask a little bit about the address that he -- specifically to Russia's president president Vladimir Putin regarding that New York Times op Ed piece where who had said in his American exceptional ism. Com in regards to -- US wanted to make -- in Syria a primary focus. Talks -- a little bit about kind of the reaction that we should be expecting from that comment. All he said flat out I do consider American to be exceptional it's an easy thing to say for an American president. You can imagine how that's heard in the room because the idea of American settles and that the US is better than the other countries. It grates on the ears of some of the the folks or less inclined to think of buses as as a powerful and it'll all good nation state so. I think he had to -- the calibrate that a little bit for the domestic audience knowing that it's not going to be heard quite the same way -- that room. The president also brought up the Israeli Palestinian conflict what has been -- about administration's efforts lately. That's an interesting one because a lot of folks inside the administration felt like this -- secretary Kerry. Riding around the world and and hoping to get something done without a lot of indication that -- -- on the grounds of the president to embrace this. On the same level as disarming Iran is a major American priority -- -- was that statement that he's behind this as well. Try to -- things look we haven't had progress much progress in a very long time so any of these indications are positive that specious wrapping -- at the United Nations but also later today the president meeting with someone who knows a thing or two. About giving big -- is what is on the docket for tonight this is must watch. In a must watch events of around 5 o'clock this afternoon Hillary Clinton will be introducing two presidents Obama and Bill Clinton. To talk about the new health care -- -- about a week. Before the -- state based insurance exchanges go into effect a major plank of obamacare -- twenty years almost to the day. For more President Clinton brought forward his comprehensive health care plan led by Hillary Clinton so the clintons know a lot about health care in the president the current president. Knows a lot about using the clintons to his advantage it is going to be a very important time in terms of defining what this -- means getting people sign up for getting people understand it. And that's with the clintons can be very valuable. And that as a head for tonight we'll speaking of American exceptional as a Rick Klein thank you so much for the insight and analysis as always invaluable. We have a complete report on On the general assembly for today for now I'm -- -- New York with this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

{"id":20357335,"title":"President Obama Address United Nations General Assembly","duration":"3:00","description":"US president uses speech as opportunity to condemn Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons.","url":"/International/video/president-obama-general-assembly-speech-2013-20357335","section":"International","mediaType":"default"}