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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

Ali Regained Title in Historic Fight 40 Years Ago

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid