(by Carol E. Lee, The Wall Street Journal)  UNITED NATIONS — President Barack Obama implored world leaders to unite against a series of international crises – from the rise of militant group Islamic State, which he called “a network of death,” to the Ebola epidemic in West Africa and Russia’s intervention in Ukraine.

obamaunaddressMr. Obama, in his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, cited “the cancer of violent extremism” in the Middle East as the single issue that could derail future global progress, and said six years into his presidency that the world is at a crossroads. He specifically called on Muslim communities in the region to confront the threat of extremism and reject such ideology.

“Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment,” Mr. Obama said. “This is what America is prepared to do – taking action against immediate threats, while pursuing a world in which the need for such action is diminished.”

He said confronting this challenge will require a broad international coalition to combat the Islamic State, the Sunni militant group in Iraq and Syria that is also known as ISIS and ISIL, and for Middle Eastern nations in particular to address conditions in the region that fuel extremism.

“That means cutting off the funding that fuels this hate,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time to end the hypocrisy of those who accumulate wealth through the global economy, and then siphon funds to those who teach children to tear it down.”

Mr. Obama’s 40-minute speech came as a second day of U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria—a mission joined by five Arab states—hit Islamic State targets near the Iraq border. The president is seeking to use the annual U.N. gathering to press his counterparts for additional commitments to combat the extremist group.

Mr. Obama will meet with Iraq’s new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Wednesday and chair a U.N. Security Council meeting on the threat of foreign fighters—people with Western passports who enlist in groups such as Islamic State. Mr. Obama said the Security Council will adopt a resolution to address the issue and urged members over the next year to follow up by adopting measures to “counter extremist ideologies.”

Mr. Obama will also meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi on Thursday before returning to Washington. …

Mr. Obama pointed to the West’s confrontation with Russia over its incursion in Ukraine and the spread of Ebola in West Africa as additional challenges that require an international response.

He said the U.S. will lift sanctions against Russia if President Vladimir Putin pulls back and agrees to a diplomatic solution to the conflict.

On each crisis, Mr. Obama said, the U.S. is leading a response that follows the foreign policy doctrine he has touted since his first address to the U.N. General Assembly in 2009. “Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone,” Mr. Obama said at the time.

On Wednesday he said the world six years later is “at a crossroads between war and peace; between disorder and integration; between fear and hope.”

“If we think globally and act cooperatively, we can shape the course of this century as our predecessors shaped the post-World War II age,” he said. “But as we look to the future, one issue risks a cycle of conflict that could derail such progress: and that is the cancer of violent extremism that has ravaged so many parts of the Muslim world.”

As he urged other leaders to do something about unrest in their countries, Mr. Obama highlighted the violence last summer in Ferguson, Mo., to say the U.S. still has work to do on this front as well. In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown, Mr. Obama said it was clear to the world that “we have our own racial and ethnic tensions.”

—Jeffrey Sparshott and Jay Solomon contributed to this article.

Copyright 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from The Wall Street Journal. Visit the website at wsj .com.


1. During his annual address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday, what did President Obama say is the single issue that could derail future global progress?

2. What did President Obama call on leaders in Muslim countries to do?

3. What is necessary to combat ISIS, according to the President?

4. What accusation did President Obama indirectly make about leaders in the Middle East and their relationship to terrorists?

5. a) Define UN “resolution.”
b) What resolution did President Obama say the Security Council would adopt?

6. The Arab League has 22 member states.
a) How many Arab states joined the U.S. in its airstrikes against ISIS this week?
b) What role do you think the President should require the Arab states to take in the fight against militant Islamic terrorists?

7. From the last paragraph of the article: “As he urged other leaders to do something about unrest in their countries, Mr. Obama highlighted the violence last summer in Ferguson, Mo., to say the U.S. still has work to do on this front as well. In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown, Mr. Obama said it was clear to the world that “we have our own racial and ethnic tensions.”
a) What does this tell you about President Obama’s view of the U.S. and the world?
b) Ask a parent the same questions.

CHALLENGE: Watch the President’ address to the UN General Assembly. What points did he make that you agree with most? Was there anything with which you did not agree? Ask a parent the same questions.


From the WSJ article above:

  • In his U.N. address last year Mr. Obama cited the conflict in Syria, the Middle East peace process and a nuclear deal with Iran as the top foreign policy priorities of his second term.
  • Peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians have since collapsed, and Mr. Obama referenced the failure on Wednesday as a process worthy of reflection among Israelis. “Leadership will also be necessary to address the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis,” he said.
  • Iran nuclear talks are continuing, with a November deadline for a deal. The U.S., Iran and other nations are holding talks in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly and hope to make progress. Mr. Obama called on Iran’s leaders to “not let this opportunity pass.”
  • “We can reach a solution that meets your energy needs while assuring the world that your program is peaceful,” he said.

Analysis on major points of President Obama’s address from wsj.com:

President Barack Obama on Wednesday at the United Nations urged world leaders to join the U.S. as it confronts major global crises. Here are major points from the annual address.

1.) Violent extremism.

This was the key theme of Mr. Obama’s speech. The president made a case that groups like Islamic State and al Qaeda are born of extremist ideology and said “the cancer of violent extremism” risks derailing progress toward peace and prosperity. But he also warned that radical ideas would continue to spread unless other nations–particularly in the Islamic world–take tangible steps to root out extremists from schools and other sectors of civil society. “Collectively, we must take concrete steps to address the danger posed by religiously motivated fanatics, and the trends that fuel their recruitment,” he said.

2.) Islamic State.

Mr. Obama spoke just days after the U.S. and its allies hit the Sunni extremist group with airstrikes in Syria. He outlined the case against the group and asked other nations to join the fight. “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,” he said.

3.) Russia.

Mr. Obama used fairly forceful language to condemn Russia’s aggression in Ukraine but also suggested a diplomatic solution remained attainable. “We will impose a cost on Russia for aggression, and counter falsehoods with the truth. We call upon others to join us on the right side of history,” he said.

4.) Ebola.

As the deadly virus continues to spread in West Africa, Mr. Obama called for commitments from other nations to halt it. “We need a broader effort to stop a disease that could kill hundreds of thousands, inflict horrific suffering, destabilize economies, and move rapidly across borders. It’s easy to see this as a distant problem – until it isn’t,” he said.

5.) Global tensions.

The president also touched on a handful of other issues, including a call for Iran to pursue a diplomatic solution to its nuclear program, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, recent territorial squabbles between China and its neighbors, climate change and recent turmoil in Ferguson, Mo. “So yes, we have our own racial and ethnic tensions. And like every country, we continually wrestle with how to reconcile the vast changes wrought by globalization and greater diversity with the traditions that we hold dear,” he said.


Watch President Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly in its entirety: c-span.org/video/?321677-1/meeting-un-general-assembly

Read the text of the President’s address.

Get Free Answers

Daily “Answers” emails are provided for Daily News Articles, Tuesday’s World Events and Friday’s News Quiz.