Obama challenges Arab and Muslim states to fight violent extremism in U.N. address – Part 1

President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly by saying the world is “at a crossroads between war and peace.” He urged Arab and Muslim leaders to join a four-point campaign that would destroy the Islamic State group, delegitimize the ideology of Islamic extremists, reduce sectarian conflicts and create greater opportunity. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The U.S. military and Arab allies struck at Islamic State targets once again late this evening with a new wave of airstrikes. That came hours after President Obama addressed the United Nations General Assembly and appealed for action against both Islamist terrorists and Russian aggression.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner is in New York for the U.N. gathering.

    PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: We come together at a crossroads between war and peace, between disorder and integration, between fear and hope.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    That stark statement headlined the president's address on a raft of major dangers facing the world, starting with the renewed confrontation between Russia and the West. Mr. Obama accused Moscow of endangering the entire post-Cold War order with its aggressive actions in Ukraine.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    This is a vision of the world in which might makes right, a world in which one nation's borders can be redrawn by another. America and our allies will support the people of Ukraine as they develop their democracy and economy. We will reinforce our NATO allies and uphold our commitment to collective self-defense.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    But the bulk of the speech was a direct challenge to Arab and Muslim states to fight together what the president called a growing threat to the entire globe.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    And that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    He insisted, as he has before, that is not a war against a faith, but against those who pervert it.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    So we reject any suggestion of a clash of civilizations. Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics and the trends that fuel their recruitment.

    No God condones this terror. No grievance justifies these actions. There can be no reasoning, no negotiation with this brand of evil. 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.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    To that end, the president urged Arab and Muslim leaders to join in a four-part plan, to degrade and destroy the Islamic State, to explicitly delegitimize the ideology of groups like Islamic State and al-Qaida, to reduce the sectarian conflicts within their faith that stoke extremism, and to create greater opportunities for their own people.

    Mr. Obama also argued, in blunt terms, that the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian issue can no longer justify their inaction on other regional challenges.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Understand, the situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region. For far too long, that's been used as an excuse to distract people from problems at home.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    And Mr. Obama said that while the U.S. will do its parts to help revitalize the Middle East, the real impetus must come not from U.S. military involvement, but from the region itself.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    No external power can bring about a transformation of hearts and minds. But America will be a respectful and constructive partner. We will neither tolerate terrorist safe havens, nor act as an occupying power.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    One partner in the newly-formed coalition against Islamic State is Qatar, which aided the airstrikes on Syria that began Tuesday night. The wealthy Gulf emirate has long been accused of stoking and funding extremist rebel groups in Syria.

    Today, the new emir of Qatar didn't address that issue, though he did agree the region's governments need to do more to realize the dreams of their people.

  • EMIR TAMIM BIN HAMAD AL THANI, Qatar (through interpreter):

    If societies were to stand with us in the fight against terrorism, we need to be fair to them and we need not push them to choose between terrorism and tyranny or between terrorism and sectarian discrimination.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Meanwhile, the president met with Iraq's new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, continuing a show of support for the fragile new government.

    And this afternoon, the president, in an unusual turn, chaired a U.N. Security Council meeting on a resolution requiring all countries to take steps to keep their citizens from traveling to join violent militant groups in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere. After the resolution passed unanimously, he challenged everyone to back up their votes with deeds.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    Promises on paper cannot keep us safe. Lofty rhetoric and good intentions will not stop a single terrorist attack. The words spoken here today must be matched and translated into action.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Far from the council chambers, the U.S. continued airstrikes against Islamic targets in Syria and Iraq, with the latest wave starting as midnight approached.

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