Entries in President Obama (311)


Obama Will Be All Ears in Israel

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama plans to do more listening than talking when he makes his first trip to Israel this week since first becoming commander in chief more than four years ago.

Much has changed in the Middle East during that time but two things haven't: there is still no peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians, and Israel is determined to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, even if it takes a preemptive military strike to do so.

Obama has been adamant that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not take that action until he's been consulted, preferring to use diplomacy and sanctions to force Tehran's hand.

Netanyahu is more convinced than ever that Iran is on the verge of developing an atomic arsenal and wants assurances from the president that the U.S. will stand behind Israel if Israeli war jets strike Iranian nuclear facilities.

The leaders have had an uneasy alliance but Obama's journey, which will also include a brief side trip to Ramallah in the West Bank, could help to reaffirm America's 65-year solidarity with Israel.

As for the peace talks to perhaps one day establish a Palestinian state, the ruling body in the West Bank seems to believe Secretary of State John Kerry is more committed to reviving talks with the Israelis than Obama so his visit there will probably help matters.

Still, there's no chance of anything happening soon without Netanyahu's support.  Obama will have three days in Jerusalem to win him over.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Netanyahu Discusses Obama's Spring Trip to Israel

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images(JERUSALEM) -- In his first public statement since it was announced last week that President Obama will visit Israel in the spring, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the trip will reaffirm strong ties between the two governments.

Obama and Netanyahu have not always been on the same page when it comes to big issues such as Palestinian statehood and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

However, this visit to Israel, the first by Obama since he was first elected president, is expected to put the leaders on a new path to friendship or, at the very least, cool down past hostilities.

It does appear though that Netanyahu's most immediate concern is the continued threat to Israel's security by Iran and its rogue nuclear program.  He said that would top his list of items to talk about with the president.

Iran is a topic that has turned volatile between Washington and Israel.  Netanyahu has insisted on "red lines" in dealing with Iran, meaning if Tehran appears to be an imminent threat, Israel would act unilaterally to stop the danger.

Obama has been less inclined to establish "red lines" but has not ruled out a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama, Karzai to Meet Friday on Afghan Transition

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/GettyImages(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai will meet at the White House Friday to discuss the future of the U.S.-Afghan relationship as the Obama administration readies to draw down its remaining forces after more than a dozen years of war.

Karzai arrived Tuesday for three days of meetings, including his first face-to-face discussion with Obama since last year’s NATO summit. Obama and Karzai also plan to hold a joint news conference Friday.

With the Obama administration poised to withdraw the majority of its roughly 66,000 troops by the end of next year, the meeting is an opportunity for the presidents to take stock of the transition and evaluate the path forward, according to White House officials.

“This is not a visit during which President Obama will be making decisions about U.S. troop levels in the immediate future,” Deputy National Security Adviser For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters on a conference call Tuesday.  The president will make that decision in the “coming months.”

The administration has suggested keeping less than 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends after next year.  That number is far fewer than the 20,000 originally proposed by Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan.

According to Rhodes, the administration has not ruled out the “zero option” of leaving no U.S. troops on the ground after 2014. “We’re not guided by the goal of a certain number of U.S. troops in the country,” Rhodes stressed.

In addition to the transition, Karzai and Obama are expected to discuss the nature of U.S. support for Afghanistan beyond 2014, which would focus on the training and equipping of Afghan security forces and counterterrorism efforts against al Qaeda. The U.S. and Afghan governments are working on a Bilateral Security Agreement to accomplish these goals.

“We want to have an Afghan partner that is capable of standing on its own, with our support, again, and denying safe haven and having the capability to take the lead for its own security and for the future of the Afghan people,” Rhodes said.

The timeline set by the U.S. and Afghan governments requires an agreement for a post-2014 Bilateral Security Agreement be reached by November at the latest.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


McCain Calls on Obama to Begin Preparations for Military Action in Syria

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Thursday called on President Obama to start preparing for possible military action in Syria, in light of the news that U..S intelligence agencies have detected Assad’s government is potentially preparing for use of their chemical weapon stockpiles.
“We are deeply distributed,” Sen. John McCain said Thursday at a press conference on Capitol Hill, “these reports may mean that the United States and our allies are facing the prospect of imminent use of weapons of mass destruction in Syria. This may be the last warning we get.”
McCain said the option of military intervention is an option that the United States must be ready for.
“We urge the President of the United States to make whatever military preparations necessary to show Assad that the United States is fully willing and able to impose the consequences that he has spoken of in the event that these weapons are used.”
“We’ve sat for too long on the sidelines,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said, appearing at the same press conference Thursday afternoon, “the need for engagement and more than that, urgent action, is clear and now.”
Lieberman said the message to President Obama, who has said that there will be drastic consequences for Assad and his government if they use chemical and biological weapons, is: “We’re with you.”
“There is strong support across Congress if the president takes the strong action,” Lieberman said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Warns Syria Use of Chemical Weapons ‘Totally Unacceptable’

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama Monday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons by his regime would be “totally unacceptable” and that he would be “held accountable.”

“I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command, the world is watching,” Obama said at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction symposium in Washington.

“The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable,” he said.

The president stopped short of detailing those consequences.

The warning comes as U.S. intelligence has detected Syrian movement of its chemical weapons stockpile in recent days.

Earlier today the White House reiterated that use or proliferation of chemical weapons by the Syrian military is a “red line” that would prompt U.S. action.

“We will continue to support the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people, engaging with the opposition… providing them with humanitarian aid and working for a transition to a Syria that’s free of the Assad regime,” Obama said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Israeli Spokesman Labels Pic of Mud-Smeared Face 'Obama Style'

Lieutenant Sacha Dratwa/Facebook(CAIRO) -- One of the Israeli military’s most visible spokesmen is under fire for a photo he posted on his Facebook page captioned “Obama style” in which his face is smeared with mud.

Sacha Dratwa posted the photo in late September, but since the furor, he has restricted access to his account.  A screengrab of the original post circulating online showed that it drew mixed reactions, with one commenter saying, “You know this is racist, yeah?”

In the photo, Dratwa appears to be smeared in mud from the Dead Sea, a popular activity for many visiting and living in Israel.  

He responded to a user on Twitter accusing him of racism saying, “I’m not a racist, please stop [spreading] lies about me.”

Dratwa also posted a response on Facebook saying the firestorm around the photo misrepresents his opinions and is a “cynical use of the information” on his profile.

“I am, and have always been, completely candid about my beliefs and have nothing to hide,” he wrote on Sunday.  “The aforementioned photos do not reflect my beliefs and have no bearing whatsoever on my position in the IDF.”

Dratwa, 26, is originally Belgian and heads the Israeli Defense Forces new media desk, active in engaging Israel’s supporters and critics on social media.  The IDF’s Twitter account and various websites were regularly updated during Israel’s operation “Pillar of Defense” against Hamas in the Gaza Strip last week, distributing the latest numbers and highlighting Israel’s efforts not to kill civilians.

“What we try to do is to be fast and get information out before the old media,” Dratwa told Tablet Magazine last week.  “We believe people are getting information from social media platforms and we don’t want them to get it from other sources.  We are the ones on the scene, and the old media are not on the scene as are the IDF.”

The IDF declined a request to comment.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


In Cambodia, Obama Hails 'Constructive' US-China Relationship

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(PHNOM PENH, Cambodia) -- President Obama on Tuesday said the United States and China have taken a “cooperative and constructive approach” to their relationship, as he came face to face with the rising economic power that his administration is trying to counter-balance in the region.

Meeting with outgoing Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, Obama reiterated his commitment to working with China, despite the tenuous relationship between the two economic superpowers.

“It’s important that our two countries cooperate to build a more secure and prosperous future for the Asia Pacific region and for the world,” he said.  “As the two largest economies in the world, we have a special responsibility to lead the way in ensuring sustained and balanced growth, not only here in Asia but globally.”

In his first post-election meeting with a Chinese leader, Obama stressed that “we work to establish clear rules of the road internationally for trade and investment, which can increase prosperity and global growth.”

Obama cast an optimistic tone at what will likely be his last meeting with Wen.  The premier and Chinese President Hu Jintao are stepping down following China’s once-in-a-decade leadership changes.

Obama is paying the first visit by an American president to Cambodia, a country trying to emerge from its violent and repressive past.  The president arrived Monday night and went straight to what has been described as a “tense” meeting with Prime Minister Hun Sen, the 60-year-old leader who has been in power since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

The president devoted their private discussion entirely to pressing Hun Sen on human rights issues, calling for fair elections and the release of all political prisoners, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.

“He highlighted a set of issues that he was concerned about within Cambodia, in particular I would say the need for them to move towards elections that are fair and free, the need for an independent election commission associated with those elections, the need to allow for the release of political prisoners, and for opposition parties to be able to operate,” Rhodes said.  “He highlighted, for instance, one case of a radio broadcaster who’s been sentenced to many years in prison simply for something that they said on the radio.  He discussed the issue of land seizures, which have been a challenge for the people of Cambodia.”

“It’s necessary for us to continue to raise these issues directly with countries like Cambodia at the same time that we also foster positive examples that offer a better path so that people can see the results that come with reform,” he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Praises Myanmar's Democratic Progress on Historic Visit

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(YANGON, Myanmar) -- Becoming the first sitting U.S. president to visit this long-isolated nation, President Obama on Monday extended “the hand of friendship” to Myanmar as the country emerges from five decades of harsh authoritarian rule.  But he cautioned that the young democracy has “much further to go.”

“Instead of being repressed, the right of people to assemble together must now be fully respected,” the president told a subdued crowd at the University of Yangon.  “Instead of being stifled, the veil of media censorship must continue to be lifted.  As you take these steps, you can draw on your progress.”

Showcasing one of the foreign policy accomplishments of his first term, he praised the “dramatic transition” that Myanmar has made as he attempts to lock-in the nation’s reforms and encourage additional progress.

Obama made history when Air Force One touched down at 9:35 a.m. local time.  The president, joined by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was greeted by tens of thousands of people lining the streets of Yangon, including roughly 2,000 school children who stood shoulder-to-shoulder waving U.S. and Myanmar flags.

Obama’s first stop was at the government headquarters, where he met with reformist President Thein Sein.

“I’ve shared with him the fact that I recognize this is just the first step on what will be a long journey,” Obama told reporters, with Sein at his side.  “But we think a process of democratic and economic reform here in Myanmar that has been begun by the president is one that can lead to incredible development opportunities.”

While the U.S. uses the term “Burma,” the former name of the country, Obama referred to it as “Myanmar” -- the preferred terminology of the former military government -- when meeting with Sein.

“I shared with President Thein Sein our belief that the process of reform that he has taken is one that will move this… country forward,” Obama said.

Obama then made a personal visit to the home of opposition leader, and fellow Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, where she lived under house arrest before being released two years ago.

“One of my first stops is to visit with an icon of democracy who has inspired so many people, not just in this country but all around the world,” the president told reporters after their visit.  “Here through so many difficult years is where she displayed such unbreakable courage.  It’s here where she showed that human freedom and dignity cannot be denied.”

Speaking at the university -- the culmination of his visit -- with Suu Kyi and Clinton sitting in the first row, Obama warned that “no process of reform will succeed without national reconciliation” -- one of only two lines in his speech that received applause from the crowd.

“You now have a moment of remarkable opportunity to transform cease-fires into lasting settlements, and to pursue peace where conflict lingers,” he said.

Obama’s visit -- a brief six-hour stop on his whirlwind tour of Southeast Asia -- is seen as a symbolic validation of the country’s changes.  Human rights groups, however, have said the president’s trip is premature because the government continues to hold political prisoners and human rights abuses are ongoing.

In his remarks, the president noted that to protect freedom, those in power must accept constraints.

“That is how you must reach for the future you deserve -- a future where a single prisoner of conscience is one too many, and the law is stronger than any leader,” he said.

This journey to Myanmar is a first, but also a poignant last for Clinton.  In Yangon, she came down the air-stairs alongside Obama for what the White House calls her final trip with him as Secretary of State and her final official ride on Air force One as the architect of his foreign policy.  Clinton has said she will not remain for a second term.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


President Obama to Visit Burma, A Presidential First 

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) -- No American president has ever visited Burma, which renamed itself Myanmar in a shift toward democracy several years ago. Now, the country is making some reforms, and President Obama is paying a first-ever visit on Monday.

Critics of the president's landmark trip to Myanmar, which the U.S. still calls Burma, complain it is too soon to reward the repressive government there for the modest reforms it's made. But White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon is adamant about the trip.

"This is a moment where the president really can attempt to lock in the progress that's been made," he said.

President Obama's biggest photo op is to be at the home of fellow Nobel Peace prize winner Aung San Suu Ky whose long years under arrest are over.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Kenyan Village Cheers Obama Victory as ‘More Meaningful’ Than the First

TONY KARUMBA/AFP/Getty Images(KOGELO, Kenya) – Toward the end of an all-night election dance party in this rural village that claims President Barack Obama as a “son of the land,” an exhausted crowd sat shivering under shawls and blankets on plastic lawn chairs, watching the first results come in from America.  There was an unusual hush as early returns showed Mitt Romney ahead, but soon the count changed and the tension broke.  When a television news anchor projected President Obama would be re-elected, a new wave of energy swept over the crowd.

Residents of Kogelo leapt to their feet, singing a traditional Swahili gospel song and waving branches.  They danced over to the home of the president’s late father to celebrate with his 90-year-old step-grandmother.  “Mama Sarah,” as she is known here, beamed proudly at an impromptu press conference for the crush of reporters who have once again descended on the town for reaction from the U.S. president’s Kenyan relatives.

“The first reason why he won is because he is blessed by God. The second one is that he worked hard for his people,” Sarah Obama said through an interpreter.  “This election is more meaningful because it was not just euphoria but the decision of Americans who have seen his work.”

Residents of this typically sleepy village in rural western Kenya are not just celebrating the president’s re-election victory because of a sense of kinship; they said they have high hopes a second term will directly affect their lives.

“He has brought honor and glory to this community.  He has placed this community on the map,” said Sayid Obama, who called himself the president’s uncle.

Kogelo’s connection to the U.S. president has brought it more attention from the Kenyan government and some charity groups.  The village now has a paved road, electricity, new wells, and two new hotels and restaurants serving foreign tourists.

“Many guests have come around. Everyone has benefited. Shopkeepers have been selling small things,” said Nicholas Rajula, who says he was inspired by President Obama to try to find his own success as a businessman.

Rajula recently built the Kogelo Village Resort hotel and says he hopes international interest in the area will increase the pace of development.  Others say they are celebrating a victory for all people of the world — what they believe is evidence of a changing attitude toward race far beyond their village.

“Blacks and whites are the same,” said local teacher Alice Babu.  “It should be a lesson for everyone that we should not underrate people. We are all equal. It is only that given opportunity, then it can be seen.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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