News / USA

Obama: Syria Action Would be Limited, No Decision Yet

U.S. President Barack Obama looks up during a meeting with Baltic leaders at the White House, Aug. 30, 2013. During the meeting the president spoke with reporters about the crisis in Syria.
U.S. President Barack Obama looks up during a meeting with Baltic leaders at the White House, Aug. 30, 2013. During the meeting the president spoke with reporters about the crisis in Syria.
U.S. President Barack Obama says he continues to assess options for "limited, narrow" military action in response to the deadly chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21.  President Obama spoke after Secretary of State John Kerry summarized a U.S. intelligence report he said confirms Syrian government responsibility.  

Obama's remarks came in the White House Cabinet Room at the beginning of a meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

He had met earlier with his national security advisers to assess options for a military response to the chemical attack in the Syrian capital.

Obama referred to the release earlier of the U.S. intelligence report that he said detailed with "high confidence" that the government of President Bashar al-Assad carried out the attack.

"This kind of attack is a challenge to the world.  We cannot accept a world where women and children, and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,
 he said.  "This kind of attack threatens our national security interests, by violating well-established international norms against the use of chemical weapons."

Obama discussed limitations on any action he may decide upon.

"In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, any long-term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow, act that would help make sure that not only Syria but others around the world understand that the international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban and norm," he said.  

Obama knows there is war weariness in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.  The president referred to what he called "a certain suspicion" about any military action in the wake of the Iraq war.

But he said the scale of the chemical attack in Syria demands action.

"Part of our obligation as a leader in the world is making sure that when you have a regime that is going to use weapons that are prohibited by international norms on their own people, including children, that they are held to account," he said.

Full Obama statement:



Earlier, Secretary Kerry accused Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of a "crime against conscience and humanity," saying intelligence shows Syrian government knowledge of the attack.

"We know that for three days before the attack, the Syrian regime's chemical personnel were on the ground, in the area, making preparations," he said. "And we know that the Syrian regime elements were told to prepare for the attack by putting on gas masks, and taking precautions associated with chemical weapons.  We know these were specific instructions."

Kerry said the United States knows that chemical-laden rockets came only from regime-controlled areas, and went only to opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods.

Full Kerry statement:



The U.S. intelligence report says a senior regime official knew about the attack and confirmed that chemical weapons were used, reviewed the impact, and was afraid they would be discovered.

Kerry said at least 1,429 Syrians were killed, including at least 426 children.

Syria denies carrying out chemical attacks, including what the U.S. said was a smaller scale attack earlier in the year, and accuses rebels of using such weapons on Syrian soldiers.

Kerry said the U.S. intelligence community has high confidence in all the things it knows, and said the question now is what America and the world will do about it.

"We need to ask what is the risk of doing nothing?  It matters because if we choose to live in a world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity, even after the United States and its allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will," he said.

President Obama faces pressure from members of Congress to allow a vote on any military action.  Polls show many Americans oppose or are skeptical about any military response.

Obama said Friday that consultations will continue with U.S. lawmakers.

Two former U.S. presidents have weighed in.  Former Republican president George W. Bush said Obama has a "tough choice to make".  

Former Democratic president Jimmy Carter said a punitive military response would be illegal under international law and "only harden existing positions and postpone a sorely needed political process" in Syria.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs