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February 16, 2011
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Obama Urges Peaceful Response to Protests in Mideast
Dan Robinson | White House
 February 15, 2011
Photo: AP
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference on the White House complex in Washington, February 15, 2011
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President Barack Obama has again criticized Iran's government for its crackdown on opposition protesters.  The president used a news conference to address ramifications for the Middle East following what happened in Egypt and Tunisia, and also responded to criticisms of the $3.73 trillion budget he sent to Congress this week.
President Obama said governments must respond peacefully to peaceful protests in the wake of the anti-government rallies in Egypt that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak and a series of protests in other countries in the region in recent days, where authorities have cracked down. Mr. Obama said people must be allowed to voice their grievances.

The president turned to Iran where the government broke up an opposition rally on Monday.

"I find it ironic that you've got the Iranian regime pretending to celebrate what happened in Egypt, when in fact, they have acted in direct contrast to what happened in Egypt by gunning down and beating people who were trying to express themselves peacefully," said Obama.

Obama reiterated that real change in societies "is not going to happen because of terrorism… or killing innocents," but by people coming together and applying moral force.

On Iran, Obama said he was clear after mass demonstrations following Iran's elections in 2009, and is clear now, that people should be able to express grievances and seek a more responsive government.

Saying America cannot "ultimately dictate," but can lend moral support, he said the U.S. is concerned about stability in the region, but sends a consistent message.

"The message that we have sent, even before the demonstrations in Egypt, has been to friend and foe alike,  that the world is changing, that you have a young, vibrant generation within the Middle East, that is looking for greater opportunity and that if you are governing these countries, you have got to get out ahead of change, you can't be behind the curve," added Obama.

Obama rejected suggestions that his administration was too cautious in supporting protesters in Egypt.   "History will end up recording" he said that at "every juncture" the U.S. was on the right side of history.

What will achieve stability in the Middle East, he said, is for governments to provide avenues for mobility and opportunity, adding he believes governments are starting to understand that they cannot maintain power through coercion.

President Obama also addressed the dispute with Pakistan over a jailed U.S. diplomat, Raymond Davis, who has been accused of killing two people.  He said the matter involves the broader principle of diplomatic immunity that must be upheld, saying the U.S. has been "very firm" about the need for Mr. Davis's release.

The president also addressed criticism by opposition Republicans of his $3.73 trillion 2012 fiscal year budget, which proposes what he calls "tough choices," but which he says would result in no additions to the $14 trillion national debt by the middle of the decade.

Saying he is ready to work with Republicans, Mr. Obama rejected "symbolic cuts" he says might endanger economic recovery.  He said there will be tough negotiations on the budget, and on the larger issues of huge government "entitlement" programs, Medicare and Social Security.  

"The key thing that I think the American people want to see is that all sides are serious about it, and all sides are willing to give a little bit, and that there is a genuine spirit of compromise as opposed to people being interested in scoring political points," Obama said.

On proposed cuts to some government programs that help lower income citizens, the president said he feels people's pain, adding he is both inspired by people's strength, but also frustrated by the number of people struggling in the current economy.

Mr. Obama said his budget reflects growth in the economy and more business confidence now that the U.S. economy has moved away from crisis.  However, he says the job ahead is to look at medium and long term problems in a much more urgent and serious way.

The president said recommendations of a bipartisan fiscal commission, which proposed drastic cuts to deal with deficit spending and the debt, provided a "framework" for tough conversations.
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Comments (36)
The people had some great questions for the president. He answered them truthfully. But, what trouble me the most is that can Republican & Democrat work together. Americans are asking president Obama, to speed up economy to go back to the way it used to be.
Triet Le (USA)
that really sucks how Iran government treats its peaceful demonstrators. I just wonder when this country can have freedom like the re-born Erypt!!!!!!
Matt (USA)
No matter what Obama or the Democrats do, Republicans will never work with them. They have made this clear as day. If a Republican does work together with Democrats it is political suicide. Tea Party has virtually divided this country with their "you're either with us or against us" attitude. It is truly disappointing. It makes me sick to my stomach.
it's the most brutal regime in the history of the world! It will be harder than Egypt who they had the army on their side and protecting them. Iran is a very different animal and they just suppress, arrest, torture and hang people. There are no Media allowed either to have a coverage and show anything to the outside world. If Iran is going to get rid of this regime unfortunately it will be very very bloody.... just pray for the demonstrators
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is evil, this regime is evil and will vanish. God please protect the brave people of Iran opposing this bloodthirsty regime. Once the regime falls, where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his son will run to hide?
xbronx (USA)
It is about time he spoke up on Iran and stop being so politically correct...
Stan Stasiak
Winsor > go back to the way it used to be. Before the wall street republicans wrecked it?
Tony Cruz (the states)
Iran dictator should stop execution on his people, he has a very good example what happens to saddam husein in Iraq and mubarak in Egypt if he keep persuading he will be next.
I tell you whats ironic is when the Egyptian soldiers and police were beating, shooting and killing Egyptian protesters, Obama never spoke out against that. Obama has another agenda here.
Del (U.S.)
A Little bit late to make this statement. He was very wishy washy and flip floped during the massive demonstrations plus masacre of the opposition a year ago!!
Patrick McCarthy (USA)
I find it ironic that a couple of the commentators suggested that Republicans would not work with Democrats. Obama promised a bipartisan administration. After he was elected he had the Republicans on the ropes and the timing for bipartisanship had never been better. Instead of fulfilling his campaign promise he pretty much shut the Republicans out and now claims they don't want to work with him. Politics at it's very worst.
eric (USA)
I fear it will take outside help from other countries to overthrow the Iranian goverment. I just don't want it to be us!
we always try and stick our noses into other peoples debates, sometimes we may generally care or most of the time its just to under rug sweep our own problems and frailties as a nation or a state, we have sickening levels of obesity, shocking levels of illteracy we are in a recession and one of the worst the world has ever seen , certainly in the modern age but we seem to have our leaders sticking there ore in to worlds and situations they cant truly understand.
Onyinyechukwu obiaso (Nigeria)
I which to use this media denouce tyrannic reader 'especially iranian government for not allowing its civilian to express themself.
BBurns (USA)
Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Matthew 24:7-8. -Jesus Christ-
dr.music (earth)
Anyone who thinks that any muslim country is ever going to be a democracy is a complete fool. by wanting democracy a muslim is rejecting Shariya law which is prescribed by allah the whoever and rejecting Shariya law is blasphemy. so for blasphemy any muslim can kill anyone including a muslim. so to stay alive a muslim has to wallow in islam even if she or he hates it just to stay alive, proper slavery and a classic case of Stockholm syndrome on a massive mega scale with absolutely no escape.
Rick Lamery (U.S.A.)
Instead of being politically corrrect, we need leaders who will forgoe useless rhetoric and show the iranian protestors, and leadership, that we are watching. It is time that we stand with the protesters and stop kissing the backside of the dictator.
Disingenuous. The man talks about spending cuts and tightening the budget when he proposes the largest deficit spending amount in history? Don't we realize we are going to have spend less than we take in to pay off the debt? Obama's schedule would put us at break even in 9 years--much less paying off all the debt.
sharpboat (USA)
Iran congratulates the people of Egypt, then promises to execute any internal opposition??? And they wonder why most of the free world sees them as demons!
alfonz (usa)
Obama is Muslim and speaks out of both sides of his mouth-one side is saying the usual political propaganda-the other side is telling Muslims to unite against all who stand in their way-soon Obama and Osama will join forces to start their quest-eliminate all Christians-sit back and watch the show-I'm never wrong.
gemini (usa)
why has no one has mentioned cutting the salaries, health or retirement benefits of the people in congress or the senate. This is not a monarchy yet they continue to act as though they deserve better than the average American. Bye cutting there salaries by 10 % and making them pay half of their own insurance benefits, like I have to, and paying into their own retirement, like I have to,..we could save hundreds of millions of dollars. They are all liars and hypocrites.
Tom Richards, MassachusettsModerate (USA)
My Republicans do need to go back, but to the time of Eisenhower, not Reagan, whose legacy is the ruination of our economy and middle class, induced by his cutting income taxes on the big earners, who since have run their enterprises into the ground for short term gains and bonuses, exporting jobs in the process.
ChasL (USA)
Why are we calling these rioters "peaceful protesters"? Check Google News and look at the pictures, these people are setting fires and assulting police who are there to maintain social order that is the collective rights of all citizens.
rusty victor (UK)
The usa has only ever secured its own interests, The republicans have done the best at this not only due to thier idialogical stance but because of historic business ties with oppresive and co-operative Arab regimes. Politicians throught the world are often putty in the hands of US manaipulation due to their bribary, blackmail, and threats. Arab leaders are no exception but more like the most corruptable.
rusty victor (uk)
This world will only approach peace when the USA starts respecting others right and property (in the first instance), Arab leaders introduce proper democracy and stop 'raping' their people, this rediculous religious war ends and people start repecting each others numerous religious beleifs, and when the press starts 'finding' the many examples of harmonious intereaction instead of fostering just the bad news.
rusty victor (uk)
I was thinking: Dont they have moderators on here? And then I remembered I was a Liberal. So im going to ask the so called aLFONZO from the USA where he was educated and how he arives at the conclusion that Abama is Muslim. Perhaps listening to Fox News??? "Never Wrong" - What an ignorant fool you are
AQS (Afghanistan)
Reallay , after Tunisia and Egypt now it's time for Iranian greedy religious dictators who abuse power and religion because of their own interests to leave , but only hell will give asylum for them , they are again all people and all nations , even against Iranians.
Futurist (USA)
I find it hard to put myself in the shoes of other nations' citizens, but they have to be saying to themselves how hypocritical the U.S. is to bark at one nation for the way they treat demonstrators when our own nation has a bad history of this. We may have learned our lesson, but once someone learns from their mistake they don’t go around chastising others for committing the same thing.
Jacques (USA//Canada)
Unlike Egypt, Iran has been on the wrong side of history since 1979 and paid a hefty price although it may have been partially vindicated when in 2003 the US invaded Iraq but still isolation. Regardless of the nuclear issue how can you convince a nation to stand down when the resulting democracy is viewed as part of a stratagem to secure the borders of Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. But then again it would be interesting to find out what Iran wants, really.
hamad part 1 of 3 (oman)
Interference of the US government in an internal affairs of Iran cast heavy doubt on its intents whereas it has been silent over all those while seeing Mubarak regime have been violating Egyptians rights .Moreover , What I heard that some protesters or let suppose who exploited this protest used weapon against policemen and that cost victims . Those protesters should prevent any one from using weapons in order to describe them as peaceful protesters .
hamad part 2 of 3 (oman)
Stability does not mean that you have the right to poke your nose on other people business and instigate them against their government behind the curtain . Applying moral force is coming from people who believe about their demands without any dictations or instigation . Any way ,President Obama is tickling the whims of some people in the US and that could calm down the attention of them against him but they want more always .
hamad part 3 of 3 (oman)
Republicans will lead Mr.Obama to cut essential needs of American to prove that what he is doing works probably but that even will not satisfied them . They can not afford to stay away of presidency whereas they have led American to those tough choice . Preserving the economic situation in this term is wise choice to reach mainland of next presidential election .
Kyune (Nigeria)
Give that every society is not a solid crystal but an organism capable of change, and is constantly changing.the happens in midle-east is never a shocks but a process of change in it due time.
alfonz (usa - Dude are you for real?
Kyune (Nigeria)
Give that every society is not a solid crystal but an organism capable of change, and is constantly changing.the happens in midle-east is never a shocks but a process of change in it due time.
Nguyen Van Ry (Vietnam)
Why does'nt VOA have some one contact me in person...?
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