Obama to 'stand with' democracy activists during Middle East trip

President Obama will press Middle East nations to usher in democracy when he visits Israel, Jordan and the West Bank during his first second-term trip abroad next month, he said during his State of the Union address.

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“In the Middle East, we will stand with citizens as they demand their universal rights, and support stable transitions to democracy,” he said. He added that he would “stand steadfast with Israel in pursuit of security and a lasting peace,” a nod to restarting talks toward a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Obama added that he would “keep the pressure” on Syrian President Bashar Assad but made no mention of tougher U.S. action after his military leaders said last week they supported arming the rebels. And he said his administration would “insist” that countries such as Egypt respect “the fundamental rights of all people” even as they blaze their own way to democracy.

“These are the messages I will deliver when I travel to the Middle East next month,” he said.

Obama's minimal mention of Syria did not go unnoticed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the main champion of heightened U.S. intervention.

"Disappointed but not surprised by the President's failure to seriously address the issue of 60,000 dead in Syria," he tweeted.

Obama also vowed to continue to fight terrorism abroad while staying away from the large-scale invasions that marked his predecessor's time in office. 

“To meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations,” Obama said. “Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali.”