President Obama called the group behind the Paris attacks “a bunch of killers with good social media,” in a press conference Sunday in Malaysia. He also reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to leading the global coalition about ISIS.
“They can’t beat us on the battlefield, so they try to terrorize us into being afraid, and changing our patterns of behavior, and panicking, and abandoning our allies and partners, and retreating from the world,” Obama said. “As president, I will not let that happen.” He said that “the most powerful tool” in resisting the extremist organization is refusing to be afraid.
Obama also addressed some politicians’ opposition to Syrian refugees entering the U.S. in the wake of the Paris attacks; a bill that passed the House of Representatives would stop the United States from accepting refugees from Syria and Iraq. “My hope though is, now that we have some time to catch our breath and take a look at this carefully, that people understand that refugees who end up in the United States are the most vetted, scrutinized, thoroughly investigated individuals that ever arrived on American shores,” he said.
Obama added that the United States is not at war with Islam, and that “prejudice and discrimination helps [ISIS] and undermines our national security.”
The president also pressed Russian President Vladimir Putin to support a political transition away from President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. The United States and its allies have long called for Assad’s departure from power, after he allegedly committed a string of human rights violations during the Syrian Civil War. “It will be helpful if Russia directs its focus on ISIL, and I do think that as a consequence of ISIL claiming responsibility for bringing down their plane, there is an increasing awareness on the part of President Putin that ISIL poses a greater threat to them than anything else in the region,” he said, referring to the Russian charter jet that was downed, apparently by ISIS, shortly after taking off in Egypt.
Meanwhile, also on Sunday, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blamed “irresponsible U.S. politics” in the Middle East, in part, for the rise of ISIS, according to Bloomberg.
Obama is set to travel to Paris at the end of the month for a climate conference.