Washington (dpa) – US President Barack Obama on Sunday sought to reassure Americans in a rare televised address from the Oval Office following a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California that left 14 dead.
Detailing ongoing anti-terrorism measures and the fight against Islamic State, Obama announced no new initiatives, but called on Americans not to give into fear.
“The threat from terrorism is real but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organizations that tries to harm us,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State terrorist group.
“Our success won’t depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart, resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power.”
He vowed the US military would continue to hunt down terrorists abroad while working with local partners in Iraq and Syria to fight Islamic State, but rejected a long, costly ground war like those the US engaged in in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama praised allies Britain, France and Germany for bolstering their role in the fight against Islamic State in recent days and said the US and its allies would continue to prevent plots, work with allies to cut off financing to the group and prevent it from recruiting.
Further he said the international community was working to establish a process and timeline for a ceasefire in the Syrian civil war that has allowed Islamic State to take advantage of a power vacuum.
Obama called on Congress to pass tougher gun control measures, including one that would bar people on the so-called no-fly list buying guns and making it harder for people to buy assault weapons.
He also called for Congress to toughen visa rules and to approve a new authorization for military operations in Iraq and Syria as he requested last year.
The alleged killers in California, an American Muslim, Syed Rizwan Farook, and his Pakistani-born wife, Tashfeen Malik, appeared to have been radicalized, but not to have belonged to an organized terrorist group, said Obama.
Islamic State on Saturday claimed the attack had been carried out by “supporters” but did not claim involvement in planning or orchestrating the plot.
Obama declared the attack in which the couple killed Farook’s co-workers at an office party a clear act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people, noting “it is clear that the two of them had gone down the brutal path of radicalization.”
The war on terrorism has entered a new phase in recent years as intelligence agencies have become more adept at preventing the large-scale organized attacks like those on September 11, 2001, and instead have turned to inspiring followers online to conduct smaller attacks, Obama said.
“We see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and the San Bernardino killers,” he said.
Obama however urged Americans not to give into Islamic State by alienating and demonizing millions of Muslim Americans.
It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim-Americans should somehow be treated differently,” he said. “Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.”