Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • Obama hits reset button on wobbly public response to Malaysia Airlines shootdown

    President Obama on Friday called the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 an “outrage of unspeakable proportions,” declared it a “wake-up call” for timid European leaders, and all but laid blame for the tragedy directly at the doorstep of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    Obama’s blunt language, delivered in the White House briefing room from behind a lectern with the presidential seal, offered a stark contrast to his muddled public handling of the disaster a day earlier.

    As the news broke on Thursday, the White House signaled that the president had first learned about the world-shaking events from Putin at the tail end of a telephone call arranged at Moscow’s request. With grisly details coming in, Obama went ahead with a heavily partisan public schedule: A speech in Wilmington, Delaware, where he hit Republicans over infrastructure funding, followed by a brace of Democratic fundraisers in New York City.

    Obama had begun his speech in Delaware with just seven sentences on the attack,

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  • Obama warns Russia, Ukrainian separatists over downed airliner

    President Barack Obama delivered an unmistakable warning to Russia and Moscow-backed Ukrainian separatists on Thursday not to tamper with the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet apparently shot down over rebel-controlled territory.

    With no hope for the roughly 300 people board the Boeing 777, Obama discussed the tragedy with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by telephone and offered “all possible assistance immediately” to figure out what happened, the White House said in a summary of the call.

    Poroshenko “welcomed the assistance of international investigators to ensure a thorough and transparent investigation of the crash site,” according to the summary.

    “The presidents emphasized that all evidence from the crash site must remain in place on the territory of Ukraine until international investigators are able to examine all aspects of the tragedy,” the White House said.

    That amounted to a warning to Ukrainian separatists who control the area – as well as to their patrons

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  • Obama may extend high-stakes nuclear talks with Iran

    Hunting for a badly needed second-term foreign policy victory, President Barack Obama strongly suggested on Wednesday that he will seek to extend negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program past their initial July 20 target date for a comprehensive deal.

    “It's clear to me that we've made real progress in several areas and that we have a credible way forward,” Obama told reporters in a hastily arranged statement in the White House briefing room.

    But “there are still some significant gaps between the international community and Iran. And we have more work to do,” the president underlined. “So, over the next few days, we'll continue consulting with Congress,  and our team will continue discussions with Iran and our partners as we determine whether additional time is necessary to extend our negotiations.”

    Apart from the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the president has no greater foreign policy priority than forging a deal to ensure that Tehran does not develop a nuclear weapon.

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  • Inside President Obama’s secret schedule

    There’s what the White House announces to the world he’s doing. And then there’s what he really does.

    On May 29, President Barack Obama had lunch at the White House with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The likely 2016 presidential contender has been to hundreds of West Wing meetings, first as first lady, then as senator, and finally as the top American diplomat.

    But this face-to-face was unusual. Unlike dozens of presidential meetings every week — and a similar Obama-Clinton meeting in July 2013 — it was not announced in advance.

    Instead, reporters who cover Obama learned about the secret visit from a People magazine tweet, and ultimately managed to wring a terse sentence from an anonymous White House official grudgingly confirming that the world’s most powerful person had met with the woman who is arguably the front-runner to succeed him. The topic of their discussion was not revealed.

    This is how the White House works. A week before the secret lunch, the schedule failed to mention that the president was hosting a bipartisan delegation of senators for what one Republican

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  • Obama’s war on ISIS could reach beyond Iraq into Syria

    Even before President Barack Obama announced a limited escalation of America’s military role in battling al-Qaida-inspired extremists in Iraq, one of his top allies in Congress openly worried that the U.S. involvement could spiral out of control.

    “You have to be careful sending special forces, because it's a number that has a tendency to grow,” Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters.

    Pelosi, one of four top congressional leaders who heard Obama’s Iraq plans on Wednesday at the White House, said, “I'd like to see the context, purpose, timeline and all the rest for anything like that.” She added, “I would say let's proceed cautiously in that regard, without thinking that a hundred is a hundred.”

    Obama, who has built much of his presidency on American war-weariness, acknowledged those concerns a few hours later in the White House briefing room as he unveiled plans to send up to 300 elite U.S. troops to Iraq as “advisers.”

    “We always have to guard against mission

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  • Hillary Clinton: Captured Benghazi figure may help with ‘unanswered questions’

    Hillary Clinton on Tuesday warmly welcomed the capture of a suspected ringleader of the deadly Benghazi terrorist attacks, and predicted that he could help shed light on “unanswered questions” from the bloody September 11, 2012, assault.

    “We want to know who was behind it, what the motivation of the leaders and the attackers happened to be. There are still some unanswered questions. It was, after all, the fog of war,” she said in a CNN-hosted, town hall-style meeting.

    Clinton also indirectly addressed Republican criticisms about the year-and-a-half gap between the terrorist strike on the U.S. facilities in the eastern Libyan city and the weekend U.S. Special Operations raid that netted the suspected ringleader, Ahmed Abu Khatalla.

    “It took, as you know, 10 years to bring Osama bin Laden to justice,” said Clinton, who was secretary of state when terrorists blitzed the American compound in Benghazi and killed four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

    Clinton noted that the

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  • Obama: Captured key Benghazi suspect will face ‘full weight’ of U.S. justice

    President Obama promised Tuesday that one of the suspected ringleaders of the deadly Benghazi attack will face “the full weight” of American justice after his capture over the weekend by U.S. special operations forces.

    “With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans,” Obama said in a written statement. “We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks.”

    Earlier, the Pentagon confirmed a Washington Post report that elite U.S. commandos, working with FBI agents, had nabbed Ahmed Abu Khatalla over the weekend, roughly a year and a half after the September 11, 2012, attack.

    “He is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya. There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya,” the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, Rear Admiral John Kirby,

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  • Obama to decide on Iraq strikes ‘in the days ahead’

    But he rules out sending U.S. ground troops

    Acknowledging that hard-won American gains in Iraq are at risk, President Barack Obama said on Friday that he won’t be sending U.S. ground troops back there to battle al-Qaida-inspired extremists but warned he could soon unleash military strikes there.

    “We have enormous interests there, and obviously our troops and the American people and the American taxpayers made huge investments and sacrifices in order to give Iraqis the opportunity to chart a better course, a better destiny,” Obama said.

    “We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq,” he promised on the South Lawn of the White House, with his Marine One helicopter as the carefully chosen backdrop. “But I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq's security forces. And I'll be reviewing those options in the days ahead.”

    Obama sternly warned the government in Baghdad that America needs Iraq's leaders — notably Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — to embrace

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  • George H.W. Bush makes 90th birthday parachute jump

    George H.W. Bush, you’re just the fifth American president to live to 90! How are you going to celebrate?

     It was Bush’s eighth parachute jump — his inaugural leap from an airplace came September 2, 1944, when he was shot down over the Pacific during World War Two.

    Bush, who is often in a wheelchair now, jumped from a helicopter over Kennebunkport, Maine, home to his family compound at Walker’s Point. It will be a tandem jump with members of the All Veteran Group, former members of the U.S. Army Golden Knights, according to the 41st president’s office.

    Bush’s last parachute jump was on his 85th birthday.

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  • Obama on mass shootings: ‘We should be ashamed’

    By turns angry and anguished, President Barack Obama declared on Tuesday that his “biggest frustration” since taking office has been America’s failure to take even modest steps to curb mass shootings so frequent that they threaten to become routine.

    “The country has to do some soul-searching about this,” Obama said gravely in a town-hall question-and-answer session led by Tumblr founder and CEO David Karp in the White House’s State Dining Room.

    “This is becoming the norm. And we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me,” he said. “I am prepared to work with anybody, including responsible sportsmen and gun owners, to craft some solutions. But right now, it's not even possible to get even the mildest restrictions through Congress. And we should be ashamed of that.”

    Obama, who did not stifle his profoundly emotional response to the December 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, lamented that politicians “terrified of the NRA” have blocked limited

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