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Obama challenges Congress to support his anti-Islamic State strategy

By Shawn Price
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Obama challenges Congress to support his anti-Islamic State strategy
President Barack Obama speaks on the recent terrorist attacks and outlined his policy on defeating ISIS during an address to the nation Sunday from the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. Obama called Congress to strengthen gun control and asked the American people not to turn against muslims in fear of terrorism. Pool Photo by Saul Loeb/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 (UPI) -- President Barack Obama spoke from the Oval Office on Sunday to reassure the nation of his strategy and to cajole congress into more anti-terror legislation.

In the third Oval Office address of his seven-year presidency, the president tried to reassure a nervous nation that his strategy to fight the Islamic State is working, laying out the broad points, but also reminding Americans not to give into racism and fear.

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The speech came three weeks after the terrorist attacks in Paris, four days after a husband and wife killed 14 people and injured 21 others at a facility for the disabled in San Bernardino, Calif., and the same day a new CNN/ORC poll showed for the first time a majority of the country thinks the United States should send ground troops to Iraq or Syria to fight the Islamic State.

In the same poll, a vast majority think our military response to the terror group has not been aggressive enough.

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The president began with the attack in San Bernardino, acknowledging it as an act of terror based on "a perverted interpretation of Islam." He checked off American successes against terrorism, but said "the threat has evolved."

He also tried to illustrate the fine line he and the government have walked in confronting terrorism since he took office, an approach that overall hasn't been particularly popular with either party.

"I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure," Obama said.

The president then tried to remind the country of his policies on the IS -- also identified as Daesh, ISIS and ISIL -- saying his administration would stop at nothing to "destroy" the terrorist organization, though it was complicated.

"Our success won't depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values, or giving in to fear. That's what groups like [the IS] are hoping for. Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart. Resilient and relentless. And by drawing upon every aspect of American power. "

Obama said the military would "continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary," and talked of recent success in airstrikes over Iraq and Syria.

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He also said U.S. military training to keep the Iraqis and Syrians the boots on the ground would continue, as well as the sharing of intelligence to disrupt or thwart Islamic State operations and recruiting.

Obama spoke about the role diplomacy played at home and abroad as well, to "counter the vicious ideology [the Islamic State] promotes," and in ending the Syrian war so the world could "focus on the common goal of destroying [the Islamic State], a group that threatens us all."

Though not new policy, the president said he's ordered the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to review the visa-waiver program that allowed Tashfeen Malik, the female militant in the San Bernardino attack, the ability to come into the country.

The president's speech also came three days after Republicans in Congress defeated an amendment to ban those on no-fly lists from buying guns and he took advantage of the opportunity to challenge them, publicly urging congress "to act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun. What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terror suspect to buy an automatic weapon?"

The president warned against the consequences of being too aggressive, saying it would only give the Islamic State power to recruit and wage war and blur American's perception of the Islamic world at home and abroad.

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"[The Islamic State] does not speak for Islam," the president said. "They are thugs and killers. Part of a cult of death."

He was also careful to remind the country that most victims of terrorist violence are Muslims.

But with the growing threat of Islamic State recruiting across the country, he challenged Muslim-Americans to do more.

"An extremist ideology has spread within some communities," the president said. "They is a real problem Muslims must confront without excuse."

He lastly called on "all Americans to reject discrimination," because "freedom is more powerful than fear."

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