Today during their live press conference, UK Prime Minister Cameron praised President Obama on his Iran strategy, saying Obama’s “tough, reasonable approach has united the world” behind the sanctions.
It’s Cameron Day at the White House, as President Obama welcomes British Prime Minister David Cameron for a day of meetings about Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and economic growth followed by a state dinner on the heels of a relaxed evening out at college basketball in Dayton, Ohio last night.
But all wasn’t light fun, as the leaders discussed the Afghanistan 2014 endgame. 68,000 troops are scheduled to leave at the end of this year, set against the backdrop of the alleged murders of 16 Afghan civilians by a US staff sergeant and the suspected car bombing at Camp Bastion, a UK Afghan base, as US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta landed.
Both leaders see no changes in their withdrawal schedule for Afghanistan, as both are under pressure to withdraw from the conflict, even as the region remains unstable.
The goal is to complete training Afghan forces in order to maintain security themselves, so that in 2013 Afghanistan forces will take over with the allies support leading up to the withdrawal in 2014. Obama is confident that the Afghan security forces are becoming stronger and will be prepared for our withdrawal, though he cautioned us against being naïve regarding the challenges facing the phased transition.
The US has already drawn down 10,000 troops in Afghanistan and is scheduled to withdraw another 23,000 this summer.
In what could be taken as a jab at the Republican presidential candidates’ war drums on Iran, Cameron praised Obama on his Iran strategy, saying Obama’s “tough, reasonable approach has united the world” behind the sanctions.
They discussed sanctions against Iran meant to deter them from their nuclear ambitions, and are fully united in being fully determined to deter Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Obama said, “Those sanctions are going to begin to bite even harder this summer.” (Note to Republicans, your fear-mongering on Iran and WMD has failed to sway conservative Cameron. Grow up and start taking international security a bit more seriously.)
They pledged aid to Syria and to pressure Syrian President Bashar Assad and those resisting inevitable transition and change. Both denied that military plans are being made, and said the region does not present an easy military solution, but Obama answered a pointed question about possible military involvement with, “our military plans for everything.” Somber words.
They agreed to work together on economic growth and increasing trade. They say their goals are the same, in spite of the fact that Cameron focuses more on austerity measures whereas Obama focuses on stimulating the economy. Obama explained that the two countries are in different positions, and Cameron pushed back against the notion that he is just implementing austerity measures.
The two leaders seem united on the major issues of the day, and appear to get along well in spite of their differing ideology.
7,000 people attended the official ceremony leading up to the noon press conference, and jokes abounded as President Obama welcomed David Cameron to the White House for the official visit. References to basketball and British vernacular peppered the leaders’ speeches this morning, both more graceful than Mitt Romney’s “I love grits, y’all” attempt at co-opting.
Watch the Official Ceremony here:
During the official ceremony, the President joked to much laughter, “It’s now been 200 years since the British came here, to the White House — under somewhat different circumstances. They made quite an impression. They really lit up the place. But we moved on.”
Cameron dryly countered, “I am a little embarrassed, as I stand here, to think that 200 years ago — my ancestors tried to burn this place down.”
Cameron has promised to teach Obama cricket in return for the President’s lessons on basketball, saying he learned a few new words on his visit, “alley-oops — brackets, fast breaks, and who knows — maybe that hoop will be installed in Downing Street after all.”
Live blog of press conference. Video of the full press conference will be added as it becomes available.