An appearance before the U.N. General Assembly is an opportune time to advance U.S. foreign policy, and President Barack Obama used his speech Tuesday to do so.
He warned Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program, stressing that the United States would not settle for containing a nuclear-armed Iran.
Should Iran gain nuclear arms, the consequences, would be grim, he said. It would start an arms race, nullify the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and severely threaten Israel.
America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy, and we believe there is still time and space to do so, he said. But that time is not unlimited.
Yet Mr. Obama devoted the greater part of his address on the Muslim worlds challenges brought on by the Arab Spring.
He praised the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens, one of four Americans killed by terrorists in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The president said Mr. Stevens represented Americas quest to help other countries attain freedom.
Mr. Obama urged the international community not to be discouraged by the violence that erupted across the Middle East over a film denigrating Islams founder, the prophet Muhammad. He said the violence was an assault on the very ideals upon which the United Nations was founded.
Replying to those critical of the U.S. government for not censoring the film, he said that the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech.
Besides, he pointed out, new technology has radically changed the world so that the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.
Mr. Obama made reasonable points for those who would hear. Yet some contend that he needs to be tougher on Iran.