World News

    Obama Makes Case for Syria Strike, While Backing Diplomacy

    U.S. President Barack Obama has vowed to pursue Russia's diplomatic initiative to eliminate Syria's chemical weapons, but says the U.S. military will be ready to respond if diplomacy fails.

    In a televised speech to the nation Tuesday night, President Obama referred to the Russian proposal and Syria's reported agreement as "encouraging signs."

    Under the deal, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government would surrender its chemical weapons to the United Nations to have them destroyed, and the United States would freeze its plans for a military strike.

    Mr. Obama said it is too early to tell whether the offer will succeed, but he said it has the potential to remove the chemical weapons threat without the use of force.

    The Tuesday night address was originally scheduled so that Mr. Obama could urge Congress and the public to support military action in Syria. But with the diplomatic situation rapidly changing, the president asked lawmakers to put their planned vote on hold.

    Despite the shift, Mr. Obama still spent most of his 15-minute speech making the case for a targeted military strike, saying the United States' ideals, principles and national security are at stake in Syria.

    He said the purpose of a U.S. strike would be to deter Mr. Assad from using chemical weapons, degrade his regime's ability to use them, and make clear to the world that the United States will not tolerate their use.



    President Obama said he resisted military action during the first two years of the conflict because "we cannot solve someone else's civil war through force." But he said the situation "profoundly changed" on August 21 when the Syrian government gassed to death more than 1,000 people outside the capital, Damascus, including hundreds of children.

    Mr. Obama said if the U.S. and the international community fail to act, Mr. Assad and other tyrants would see no reason not to use chemical weapons again. He said that over time, U.S. troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield, and it could be easier for terrorists to obtain such weapons and attack civilians with them. The president said a failure to act could open up Turkey, Jordan, Israel and other U.S. allies in the region to the threat of chemical weapons, and could embolden Mr. Assad's ally Iran.

    Mr. Obama said the U.S. is not the "world's policeman," but that when "with modest effort and risk" it can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make American children safer in the long run, he believes it should act. He said he would ask every member of Congress and everyone watching at home to view the videos of the attack and then ask, "What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?"

    But Republican Senator Rand Paul , responding to the speech, said the president "has not made a compelling case that American interests are at risk in Syria." He said the threshold for war should be "a significant one."

    Many Americans agree. In the latest public opinion polls, almost 60 percent of Americans surveyed say they oppose U.S. military action in Syria.

    President Obama said in his speech that he knows that after the terrible toll of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action is not going to be popular.

    But he vowed that he will "not put American boots on the ground in Syria," nor pursue "open-ended action" as in Iraq or Afghanistan, or a "prolonged air campaign" like in Libya or Kosovo.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the Obama administration will take a hard look at the Russian plan. Kerry intends to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Thursday in Geneva to discuss Syria.

    Meanwhile, at the United Nations, U.S., British and French diplomats worked on a draft resolution Tuesday calling for strong action if Syria fails to keep its word.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the plan for Syria can only work if the United States drops its threat of force.

    Syria's main opposition bloc, the Syrian National Coalition, dismissed the Russian proposal as meaningless. It said the plan still would give the Syrian army free rein to fight on with conventional weapons.

    On Tuesday, the country's civil war continued, with Syrian military jets again bombing rebel positions in the capital.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora