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Obama Addresses Attempted Airplane Bombing, Iran Protests

The President discussed the Christmas Day “attempted terrorist attack” and the unrest in Iran in a brief statement just now from his vacation spot in Hawaii.

On the attack, which Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has now taken responsibility for, President Obama gave a rundown of what we know now about the events, while stressing that an investigation is ongoing. He said that “immediate action from passengers and crew” was able to subdue the man who “allegedly” tried to ignite an explosive device on his body while the Northwest Airlines plane descended into Detroit en route from Amsterdam. Obama said that the suspect is in custody and “we will not rest until we find all those involved.”

The President added that the US government is doing everything in its power to keep America “safe and secure.” He noted the immediate enhancement of screening and security procedures for all flights, and the adding of federal air marshals to many of them. Obama also said that he has ordered two important reviews “because it’s critical that we learn from this incident.” The first concerns the watch list system, and why the suspect, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was in the system but not on a no-fly list. In general, the Administration will be looking to strengthen the system, although banning people immediately from flights based on unverified information seems unreasonable. The second review “will look at screening policies” and how Abdulmutallab got explosives on the aircraft. Of course, Abdulmutallab boarded the plane in Lagos, Nigeria, not the United States.

The President said he directed his national security team to “keep up the pressure,” aimed at disrupting, dismantling and defeating those plotting attacks against the US homeland. For one of the first times, Obama mentioned Yemen and Somalia in this context, in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The American people should remain vigilant, but also be confident,” Obama said in closing. “Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our security but also the open society and the values we cherish as Americans.” He said that the botched attack was a reminder that an “alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated extremist.”

Far more interesting that the fairly rote recitation of facts and expected reactions to a failed terror attack (although the President was criticized for a low-key response initially), was President Obama’s comments about the uprising in Iran. I’m going to offer them in full without comment:

The United States joins with the international community in strongly condemning the violent and unjust suppression of innocent Iranian citizens, which has apparently resulted in tensions, injuries and even death. For months, the Iranian people have sought nothing more than to exercise their universal rights. Each time they have done so, they have been met with iron fist of brutality, even on solemn occasions and holy days. And each time that has happened, the world has watched with deep admiration for the courage and the conviction of the Iranian people, who are part of Iran’s great and enduring civilization. What’s taking place in Iran is not about the United States or any other country. It’s about the Iranian people and their aspirations for justice, and a better life for themselves. And the decision of Iran’s leaders to govern through fear and tyranny will not succeed in making those aspirations go away. As I said in Oslo, it’s telling when governments fear the aspirations of their own people more than the power of any other nation. Along with all free nations, the United States stands with those who seek their universal rights. We call upon the Iranian government to abide by the international obligations that it has to respect the rights of its own people. We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained within Iran. We will continue to bear witness to the extraordinary events that are taking place there. And I am confident that history will be on the side of those who seek justice.

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David Dayen

David Dayen