'US determined to prevent nuclear-armed Iran'

In State of the Union address largely devoted to US economy, Obama trumpets "ironclad commitment" to Israel's security.

By REUTERS, JPOST.COM STAFF
January 25, 2012 05:30
2 minute read.
Obama gives State of the Union address

Obama 311 . (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and will take "no options off the table" to achieve that goal, US President Barack Obama warned in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Obama said a peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear dispute is still possible if Iran changes course and meets international obligations.

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In a speech largely devoted to the US economy, the US President voiced his commitment to Israel's security.

"Our ironclad commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history," Obama stated.

The US president also briefly addressed the "wave of change" washing across the Middle East and North Africa.

"We will stand against violence & intimidation. We will stand for the rights & dignity of all human beings," Obama stated.

He said that Syrian President Bashar Assad would discover that "forces of change cannot be reversed."

The US president insisted that the US was winning the war on terror, saying al-Qaida operatives were "scrambling, knowing they cannot escape the reach of the US."

Obama reaches out to voters on taxes, economy

Speaking to Congress and beyond them to the broader electorate, Obama proposed sweeping changes in the tax code - most notably, a minimum 30 percent effective rate on millionaires - to eliminate inequalities that allow the wealthy to pay lower rates than the middle class.

While the biggest proposals in Obama's election-year speech are considered unlikely to gain traction in a divided Congress, the White House believes the president can tap into voters' resentment over Wall Street excesses and Washington's dysfunction.

Obama's message could resonate in the 2012 campaign following the release of tax records by Mitt Romney, a potential Republican rival and one of the wealthiest men to ever run for the White House. He pays a lower effective tax rate than many top wage-earners.

A new proposal outlined by Obama to ease the way for more American homeowners to get mortgage relief - and to pay for the plan with a fee on banks blamed for helping create the housing crisis - also struck a strong note of populism.

"Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that does the same," Obama told a joint session of Congress. "It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom."

Voters learned on Tuesday that Romney, a former private equity firm chief, and his wife paid an effective tax rate of 13.9 percent in 2010 and expect to pay a 15.4 percent for 2011 - tax rates that are far below the top rate of 35 percent on ordinary wages.

In a poignant moment prior to Obama's speech, US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who leaves Congress this week a year after being shot in the head by a gunman in her home state of Arizona, received a standing ovation from colleagues and a hug and kiss from Obama in an emotional appearance.


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