UNGA 2015: Analysing President Obama's Speech

The Annual General Assembly Debate has started at the UN (28 Sept – 3 Oct) where several world leaders will make their political case. Therefore, till next Tuesday (6 Oct), I will comment the speeches delivered by six leaders.
Today, we start with President Obama's delivery.

At first glance, POTUS's speech seems an overall superficial statement; however, after a thorough analysis, it becomes clear this speech is about compromise. The United States of America is willing to make some interesting trade-offs with Russia, Asia-Pacific Nations and Israel.

Trade-off with Russia
“If Russia takes that path -- a path that for stretches of the post-Cold War period resulted in prosperity for the Russian people -- then we will lift our sanctions and welcome Russia’s role in addressing common challenges.  After all, that’s what the United States and Russia have been able to do in past years (..) cooperating to remove and destroy Syria’s declared chemical weapons.  And that’s the kind of cooperation we are prepared to pursue again -- if Russia changes course.”

The US offered itself to work with Russia in the Middle East and as a result, sanctions can be lifted (the same way the sanctions against Iran were recently lifted when Iranians decided to cooperate with America and Europe). This is very interesting because the Russian move, in Syria, pushed the Americans to re-think their position regarding Mr Putin – the Russian presence in such an important war theatre is a threat to US interests in the region, and therefore to control the damages it may be forced to give something to Russia in exchange for cooperation (one that, according to Caleb Newton, would enable “the US [to] indirectly establish a military presence in Syria by holding political leverage over the Russian forces”).

Iranian Issue
“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.”

I only have one question: what if Iran already has the capability to assemble a nuclear weapon? I understand the Iranian Nuclear Deal however the job was incomplete: too many loopholes were left on paper and the advice to unleash the Blue Dragon was not made publicly clear.

Trade-off with Asia-Pacific Countries
“America is and will continue to be a Pacific power, promoting peace, stability, and the free flow of commerce among nations.  But we will insist that all nations abide by the rules of the road, and resolve their territorial disputes peacefully, consistent with international law.  That’s how the Asia-Pacific has grown” 

This is a clear message to China. The Red Dragon should mind the fact that America is on a Coalition spree, therefore it could start working towards organising a Asia-Pacific group to counter the Chinese imperialistic demeanour. Considering that Japan has departed from a Pacifist stance...a word to the wise...

“Of course, terrorism is not new.  Speaking before this Assembly, President Kennedy put it well:  'Terror is not a new weapon,' he said. (..) But in this century, we have faced a more lethal and ideological brand of terrorists who have perverted one of the world’s great religions. (..) Islam teaches peace.”

Yes, terrorism has been around at least since the 18th century but do history lessons matter to the victims of terror? No. Today, they only identify one type of terrorism: Islamic Terror. Islam teaches peace within the Ummah, not with the Kuffar “You'll find that the worst enemies of the believers are the Jews and the idol worshipers [Christians]” (Sura 5:82)

“That means contesting the space that terrorists occupy, including the Internet and social media.”

This was perhaps the most important message regarding terrorism: the responsibility that social media companies have in the fight against terror. They cannot hide behind the freedom of speech laws to continue allowing terrorist groups to indoctrinate, recruit and spread fear and hatred throughout the internet – this position is aligned with PM David Cameron's.

Message to the Islamic World
“It is time for the world -- especially Muslim communities -- to explicitly, forcefully, and consistently reject the ideology of organizations like al Qaeda and ISIL.”

How can a devout Muslim do that when the Quran expressly states “Believers do not ally with disbelievers” (Sura 4:141)? Nevertheless, POTUS is trying to say that most of today's animosity towards Muslim Communities is due to their silence before Islamic Terrorism.

“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.”

This is a clear message to the Palestinian Clerics, to the Ayatollahs, and to all others who teach Muslim children to hate and kill Jews, Christians and any “non-suitable” Muslim. President Obama should've extended his criticism to Political Leaders, like Pres. Abbas, who incite against Jews and call for their death.

Middle East Policy
“But the only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political -- an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of creed.”

America understands that eventually Bashar al-Assad may have to relinquish power but the situation on the ground militates against that wish – this position is aligned to PM David Cameron's present policy regarding Syria – therefore, ISIS/AQ must be degraded and destroyed first and then new political realities can be forged in alliance with Russia (if Mr Putin accepts the American proposal).

“I can promise you America will remain engaged in the region, and we are prepared to engage in that effort.”

This is a message to the Arab allies (who worry about an American withdrawal), but mainly to Russia: the US will continue to defend its interests in the region. Thus, Pres. Putin is not totally at easy in the ME.

Trade-off with Israel 
“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.” 

The whole section discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict is a copy-paste from last year's UNGA Speech (highlighted by us in 2014). This apparent indolence offers the impression that the US has given up on the “Palestinian issue” but in fact this copy-pasting reveals a much deeper detail: in exchange for toning down its opposition to the Iranian Deal, the US is prepared to return to the Status Quo and give Israel space to solve the problem at its own pace and volition.

Final Evaluation: The most puzzling speech ever delivered by Barack Obama: result of intelligence crisis (i.e. tempering intel reports) or a subliminal promise of incoming drastic policy change? 

(Image Downloaded from gadebate.un.org)


  1. The Red Dragon should mind the fact that America is on a Coalition spree, therefore it could start working towards organising a Asia-Pacific group to counter the Chinese imperialistic demeanour.

    The United States at the Lower Mekong Initiative, like I wrote about here earlier this month, is somewhat of a fulfillment of this idea, which seems very reasonable.

    1. Hey Caleb :D!

      You are right. But there's always room to exert more pressure on aggressive nations (in how many ways could the US press China besides closing in the economic circle?). The possibilities are endless.

      Thank you, Caleb, for your comment :D.


  2. I don't know what's going on this year but the speeches at UNGA suck. Obama was always spot on but this year he was disappointing, his worst speech ever!

    1. Hi Anon :D!

      And it keeps on getting worse: did you watch Mahmoud Abbas? Good grief!
      I think President Obama's speech seemed one thing and was actually another, but will see. Nevertheless, yes...we have seen better days.

      Anon, thank you so much for your comment :D


  3. Obama's commitment to the M.E. area is strictly verbal. He will continue to talk, and talk and talk. Such is the level of his commitment. Have no fear enemies of the United States, we have an ignorant buffoon controlling America's demise. Either he is a buffoon or he is doing this on purpose. Take your pick.

    1. Hi Ray :D!

      Good to have you back.

      I believe Pres. Obama's strategy was to scale back America's involvement in the ME to test the theory that the American presence fuels conflict in the region. He had already seen that Israel is not the centre of the region's destabilisation either; so, both theories have been refuted. So, what now? Now, the US has only two choices: 1- it comes clean about its intentions in the region (cause it's not that clear) and clearly positions itself by Israel's side (while keeping the other necessary alliances) or 2- it proceeds with its failed policies (of dual/multilateral containment) and risks upsetting all friends and allies due to its ambiguity.
      Let's see which way it will go.

      Ray, thank you so much for your comment :D.


  4. My favorite time of the year here. The US working with Russia? I can see it but can Putin see it? Nah, he doesn't have the guts to take that historic step!
    The Iran deal is the biggest sham ever, but I suppose the US knows what they're doing?
    I doubt it that America would stand up to China but I could be wrong, wouldn't be the first time. Keeping my eyes on Japan though.
    Good point, Max: if a devout Muslim finds us Kuffar and therefore their worst enemies how can this great religion teach peace with us? To make peace with us they'd have to renounce the Quran! But ok, poor Obama keeps fooling himself, and he's not alone, Putin practically said the same.
    At least Obama knows what Muslims say about us and their intentions. He's not that oblivious but perhaps his hands are tied?
    Ah, I like the trade-off with Israel: it's an acceptable compromise. And what was the result? The Abbas speech, did you watch it? That man is horribly pitiful! Pooh pooh pooh
    Max, thank you for this great analysis. Looking forward to reading the others.

    1. Hi Cêcê :D!

      Seeing the US and Russia working together for peace in the ME would be amazing. But I don't know...do they have the fortitude for it? Barack Obama would...

      "At least Obama knows what Muslims say about us and their intentions. He's not that oblivious but perhaps his hands are tied?"

      Either they are tied or he's testing a theory. But one thing is certain, the State Dept and the IC have worked to make the President look bad; question is: why?

      I watched and have already commented on Abbas' speech: the man was hateful and he threatened Israel. And well, his people took him so seriously that Fatah has been on a killing spree in Jerusalem ever since he spoke.

      Thank YOU for reading it and for leaving a comment, darling :D.


  5. Every Friday at noon, all over the world, imams deliver the "khutbah," the speech that orients the lives and minds of a billion plus Muslims. Guess what this speech preaches / teaches? Any male can attend these as long as he observes the outward discipline observed prior to the namaaz. And the POTUS thinks that the Muslims of the world will listen to him? When one's nature and nurture have merged into a psyche that believes that Islam in the ONLY true religion and all the others are to be hated and destroyed, how will the Umma openly and honestly condemn the extreme sections of its belief?

    1. Hi Rummy :D!

      That's right. We know they preach and teach (even the more 'moderate' Imams transmit subliminal messages).

      "When one's nature and nurture have merged into a psyche that believes that Islam in the ONLY true religion and all the others are to be hated and destroyed, how will the Umma openly and honestly condemn the extreme sections of its belief?"

      The Ummah can't, for obvious reasons. They have tried to do it, by seeking to reform Islam, but they always fall back into the same routine because to be successful they'd have to renounce large parts of Islam; would they be ready to do it? Doubtful.

      Rummy, thank you so much for your comment :D.


  6. Max, thanks for the summary. My main thought is that the Asian states might find a consistent rival in China to be a more constructive partner than a powerful ally and trading partner with bipolar syndrome.

    Are you keeping score in the middle east? How many ongoing conflicts are there today compared to seven yeas ago? And has any one of them been resolved?

    1. Hi Looney :D!

      You're welcome.
      You have a point about Asian States but the fact is that they are asking the powerful ally (with bipolar syndrome, as you put it) for help against China's power politics. It's their choice.

      Compared to seven years ago, let's see...we have Syria (civil war), Libya (civil war) and Sinai (beginning of civil war); so we have three more conflicts than we had before, and then the sub-conflicts resulting from those main ones. The other is just a continuation of a pre-existent one (Yemen involving Saudi Arabia & Cº). It could get worse soon.
      No, none of them has been resolved; although Russia seems to be making great strides in Syria...so let's see. But what are you trying to say: POTUS has failed completely?

      Looney, thank you so much for your comment :D. Always a pleasure.



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