In turn, those of us who continue to support the moderate opposition must persuade them the Syrian people can’t afford a collapse of state institutions, and that a political settlement cannot be reached without addressing the legitimate fears and concerns of Alawites and other minorities.
We are committed to working this political trek. And, as we pursue a settlement, let’s remember this is not a zero sum endeavor. We’re no longer in a cold war. There’s no great game to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons and insuring that it does not become a safe haven for terrorists.
I welcome the influence of all nations that can help bring about a peaceful resolution of Syria’s civil war. As we move the Geneva process forward, I urge all nations here to step up to meet humanitarian needs in Syria and surrounding countries. America’s committed over $1 billion to this effort. And today I can announce that we will be providing an additional $340 million.
No aid can take the place of a political resolution that give the Syrian people a chance to rebuild their country, but it can help desperate people to survive.
What broader conclusions can be drawn from America’s policy towards Syria? I know there are those who’ve been frustrated by our unwillingness to use our military might to depose Assad and believe that a failure to do so indicates a weakening of American resolve in the region.
Others have suggested that my willingness to direct even limited military strikes to deter the further use of chemical weapons shows we’ve learned nothing from Iraq and that America continues to seek control over the Middle East for our own purposes.
In this way, the situation in Syria mirrors the contradiction that has persisted in the region for decades. The United States is chastised for meddling in the region, accused of having a hand in all manner of conspiracy, at the same time the United States is blamed for failing to do enough to solve the region’s problems and for showing indifference towards suffering Muslim populations.
I realize some of this is inevitable, giving -- given America’s role in the world. But these contradictory attitudes have a practical impact on the American people’s support for our involvement in the region and allow leaders in the region, as well as the international community sometimes, to avoid addressing difficult problems themselves.
So let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidents (sic).
The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region. We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.
We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror. But when it’s necessary, defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.
And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.
Now, to say that these are America’s core interests is not to say that they are our only interests. We deeply believe it is in our interests to see a Middle East and North Africa that is peaceful and prosperous. And we’ll continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity.
But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action, particularly through military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region.
So what does this mean going forward?
In the near term, America’s diplomatic efforts will focus on two particular issues: Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and the Arab- Israeli conflict. While these issues are not the cause of all the region’s problems, they have been a major source of instability for far too long, and resolving them can help serve as a foundation for a broader peace.