Give diplomacy a chance: President

January 30, 2014 - 3:32:38 am

US President Barack Obama gives a thumbs up to Army Ranger Sergeant First Class Cory Remsburg, who was a guest of the First Lady and was injured while serving in Afghanistan, as he delvers his State of the Union address in the House Chamber at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, yesterday. Obama was joined by Vice-President Joe Biden (left) and Speaker of the House John Boehner.

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama declared yesterday that America must move away from a permanent war footing to give diplomacy a chance to resolve some of the world’s toughest problems, such as the nuclear standoff with Iran.

“The fact is, that danger remains,” Obama warned, adding the United States had “to remain vigilant” in face of changing global threats.  “While we have put Al Qaeda’s core leadership on a path to defeat, the threat has evolved, as Al Qaeda affiliates and other extremists take root in different parts of the world,” Obama told US lawmakers, highlighting hotspots like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq and Mali.

“But I strongly believe our leadership and our security cannot depend on our military alone,” he said, adding in “a world of complex threats, our security and leadership depends on all elements of our power — including strong and principled diplomacy.”

He warned that as commander-in-chief he would never hesitate to use force when necessary to protect the American people.

“But I will not send our troops into harm’s way unless it’s truly necessary,” he argued, highlighting the draw-down of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan after more than a decade of war.

Obama called on US lawmakers to hold off any new sanctions on Iran for now, to allow time for fledgling negotiations between the Islamic republic and six global powers to work.

“It is American diplomacy, backed by pressure, that has halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme — and rolled parts of that programme back — for the very first time in a decade,” Obama said. 

The Syrian conflict drew barely a mention in the address. Obama said only that his administration would continue to work for a future “the Syrian people deserve — a future free of dictatorship, terror and fear”.

Call to shut Gitmo

He also called on Congress to end restrictions on moving prisoners from the US military jail in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. “With the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” Obama urged.

In a nod to the spying scandal which has angered leaders around the world, Obama said America’s “alliance with Europe remains the strongest the world has ever known”. He vowed to continue working with Congress to “reform our surveillance programs, because the vital work of our intelligence community depends on public confidence, here and abroad, that the privacy of ordinary people is not being violated.” AFP

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