Global Security Newswire
Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues
Obama Highlights National Security Accomplishments
WASHINGTON -- President Obama on Monday gave a prominent veterans' group a defense of his administration's steps to combat nuclear- and chemical-weapon threats, one day before his chief rival for the presidency was scheduled to address the same forum (see GSN, Jan. 28, 2010).
"We’re leading the fight against nuclear dangers," Obama said in a foreign policy address to a Veterans of Foreign Wars event in Reno, Nev. "We’ve applied the strongest sanctions ever on Iran and North Korea -- nations that cannot be allowed to threaten the world with nuclear weapons."
The United States and its allies have long suspected Iran of pursuing a nuclear weapons capability under the guise of a civilian atomic program (see related GSN story, today). The U.N. Security Council imposed a fourth round of penalties on the Middle Eastern nation in the second year of Obama's term, and the president has continued to expand unilateral penalties against suspected supporters of Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile activities (see GSN, June 9, 2010).
Last month, Obama's administration began implementing congressionally mandated sanctions against state supporters of Iranian oil. Critics, though, have blasted the president for granting half-year exemptions to several of Tehran's major petroleum clients (see GSN, June 29).
Obama has maintained penalties established by his predecessor over North Korea's pursuit of nuclear armaments (see GSN, June 19). In April, he canceled the planned delivery of food assistance that would have rewarded Pyongyang for rolling back certain nuclear weapon-related activities under a previously thwarted bilateral agreement. The move came after the North attempted unsuccessfully to use a long-range rocket to send a satellite into orbit; Washington and other capitals denounced the launch as a violation of U.N. prohibitions against North Korean ballistic missile operations.
Obama also addressed the situation in Syria, where the escalating uprising has spiked fears about the security and possible use of the nation's chemical arsenal.
The United States is "working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime," Obama said (see related GSN story, today).
"And given the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the United States, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," he said.
The president also touted blows his administration has dealt to al-Qaida (see GSN, July 5). Organization founder Osama bin Laden died last year in a Navy SEAL raid authorized by the president, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month said U.S. assaults had reduced the quantity of group leaders to just "small handful" (see GSN, June 22).
“Since I took office, we've worked with our allies and our partners to take out more top al-Qaida leaders than any time since 9/11. And thanks to the courage and the skill of our forces, Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again, and al-Qaida is on the road to defeat," Obama said in the speech that also addressed U.S. military drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has previously attacked Obama's national security record. In March, the former Massachusetts governor said "Iran will have a nuclear weapon" if the president wins re-election later this year (see GSN, March 5).
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