News / Middle East

Obama: Syria 'Atrocity' Must Have Response

President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013.
President Barack Obama stands with Vice President Joe Biden as he makes a statement about Syria in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, Aug. 31, 2013.
U.S. President Barack Obama has delayed an expected military strike against Syria, instead telling Americans he will seek congressional approval to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
 
In a Saturday address at the White House, Obama said he has decided the United States should take military action against Syrian government targets, saying that while he holds authority to order a strike, he thinks it is important for the country to have a debate on the issue.
 
The president ruled out any action that would put American ground troops in Syria, and called what happened in Damascus nearly two weeks ago the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, adding that the U.S. must not turn a "blind eye" to it.
 
Obama has said he has confidence in a report from the U.S. intelligence community that indicated the Syrian government of President Bashar al Assad was responsible for the attack, referring to an unclassified document that directly blames the government for planning and carrying out the August 21 chemical attack that, the document says, killed at least 1,429 Syrians, including 426 children.
 
Calling the attack "an assault on human dignity," Obama said not responding risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, and that he does not feel compelled to await the outcome of the U.N. probe.
 
"I am comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable," he added.
 
The Syrian government has denied having any role in chemical weapons attacks and threatened to retaliate and defend itself against any foreign military attack. Syrian allies expressed support for the Assad government.
 
As he spoke in the White House Rose Garden, protesters outside the grounds chanted and waved signs to voice opposition to U.S. military intervention in Syria.
 
"We don’t think that the U.S. should be judge, jury and executioner in this situation, and that a U.S military intervention will not assist in bringing peace to the region, it will only further inflame war," said Eugene Puryear of the Answer Coalition, which is protesting any U.S. intervention in Syria. "So, regardless of the chemical weapons situation, we’re saying U.S. intervention is not the answer."
 
Heba Boustany was with a group supporting Syrian rebels and calling for action.
 
“We don’t exactly want intervention with bombs and missiles and everything, we just want someone to at least acknowledge that [President Bashar al-Assad] used chemical weapons and to say something about it and tell him ‘no more.’ Just make him scared to do anything more, because if you don’t say anything to him, he’s going to keep on using it.”
 
Congress
 
Later Saturday the president formally asked Congress to allow him to use military force in Syria to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the potential for more chemical attacks.
 
Senior administration officials briefing reporters said the president's determination to respond to the chemical attack in Syria was generally set a week before, and that Obama wrestled with issues such as the role of Congress in authorizing use of military force, and the need to take into account the feelings of Americans weary of war.
 
In his statement, Obama recognized the anti-war sentiment that follows the war in Iraq and coincides with a war winding down in Afghanistan, but said the U.S. has an obligation to act.
 
Senior administration officials also said Obama was assured by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey that the precise timing of when a possible military strike in Syria would occur does not matter. On the likelihood Syrian targets will be hardened before any strike, the officials said the U.S. military has capabilities and options and is not concerned about this.
 
In a White House meeting with advisers Friday night, senior administration officials said, there was robust debate about risks of any decision and the question of seeking congressional authorization.
 
Senior national security officials held conference calls with Senate leaders on Saturday. On Sunday, the White House plans to hold a classified briefing on Syria for the House of Representatives.
 
Republican leaders in the House say they are glad Obama is seeking authorization for any military action, and in a Saturday statement they said that under the U.S. constitution, "the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress."
 
U.S. congressional leaders expect the House and Senate to take up the matter when they return from their summer recess the week of September 9.
 
Obama said Congress would be voting for the national security of the United States.
 
UN probe, world reaction
 
A United Nations inspection team wrapped up its work in Syria and left the country Saturday. A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. chief will get a briefing on Sunday from the head of the inspection team. There is no word about when the team will present its full report. The U.N. spokesman said the team collected samples that will be analyzed in laboratories, as well as witness statements and interviews with doctors and survivors.
 
Protesters around the world took to the streets on Saturday to protest for and against a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria. Anti-war demonstrations were held outside the White House and in other countries including France, Germany, Britain, Australia, Jordan and Turkey.
 
Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the U.S. Security Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and to deploy international monitors to investigate and report on human rights abuses in Syria.
 
Some world leaders also expressed support for military action. British Prime Minister David Cameron sought but failed to get parliament's approval for Britain's participation in a strike on Syria, but he said he supports the U.S. president's decision not to let the Syrian government go unpunished for war crimes. 
 
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr expressed confidence that the Obama administration has carefully weighed an appropriate response.
 
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a volunteer coalition to stop the killings in Syria. In a televised speech Saturday, he also criticized Russia and China for blocking a U.N. Security Council resolution on Syria.
 
Also Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it is winning the war against "rebels."
 
In a statement, Putin urged the U.S. to allow the U.N. chemical weapons team to present its findings.
 
"As for the position of our American colleagues and friends who state that the government forces have used weapons of mass destruction, in this case used chemical weapons, and say that they have evidence — let them present them to the U.N. inspectors and the U.N. Security Council."
 
An Iranian delegation visited Damascus Saturday to consult with the Syrian government, following a similar visit Friday by an official delegation from Yemen.
 
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Shameful CIA funding from: VA
August 31, 2013 7:29 PM
Obama addressed the public on Saturday from the White House Rose Garden. He confirmed US’s intention to use force against Syria, however, is reportedly waiting to enforce military action until Congress is able to hold a debate and vote on the matter.

“House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said on Saturday that he expects the House to consider the measure the week of Sept. 9,” reported The Hill.

Obama claims he has the authority to move forward solo, but surprisingly stated it’s important for the country to debate military intervention.

“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress. The country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective,” said Obama.

His position most likely stems from innumerable world allies and government officials who have strongly voiced their opposition to military involvement in Syria.

Just as Dr. Paul Craig Roberts wrote today in a piece entitled America Totally Discredited, he assesses this is the greatest diplomatic meltdown in US history.

In his report he acknowledges the greatest danger now is that the White House may attempt to stage something else in order to persuade the unconvinced public into a war with Syria.

“The rest of the world has learned to avoid Washington’s rush to war when there is no evidence,” writes Roberts.

Both Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul have come out saying the chemical attacks have all the hallmarks of a false flag or staged event.

In closing, Obama nonchalantly informed the public that the US is in a position to strike, and that the strike could come tomorrow, next week or even a month from now.

A military response is “not time sensitive,” reiterated the President.

Following the UK Parliament’s decision to vote no against Syrian intervention, “Obama indicated he will not wait for either approval from the U.N. Security Council or the conclusion of U.N. inspectors’ investigation into the Syria attack,” reported Fox News.

Obama’s decision to follow the Constitutional law of the republic for now, is a tremendous victory for America.


by: Ramnarayan from: Florida
August 31, 2013 5:00 PM


I am not a fan of Obama anymore. However, I am glad he decided to consult the congress. Perhaps next ten days brings in new evidence and the world can listen to the resons before the US legislators decide. I agree this henious act must be punished and not let go simply because many of us dont like wars. But, let us be clear of the facts before shooting some missiles for fun. I am dreaming that our congress would vote no, but I know I am kidding myself. At the end of the day, our legislators will go along for a simple reason that most of them are idiots.. Also we in the US would like to think we have a God given right to establish the world order. I hope I am wrong and our politicians for a change follow our cousins.


by: Malek Towghi, Ph.D. from: Michigan, USA
August 31, 2013 4:55 PM
Thank you, Mr. President, for making the action concerning Syria contingent upon formal Congressional authorization. Hopefully, Congress will have the courage to say NO to the Military Industrial Complex. God bless the United States of America.


by: Anonymous
August 31, 2013 4:14 PM
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!!!NO WAR IN SYRIA!


by: Ismail Aljazaeri
August 31, 2013 3:37 PM
This was a good decision of president Obama. US should be honest with itself and with the world. every single indication show that the chemical weapons have been used by the terrorist cannibal gangs. Carla Del ponte confirmed, the Turkish government arrested Al nusra terrorists with 4.2 pounds of sarin back in may. recently it has been reported that Bandar Bin Sultan made the chemical substance available to the terrorist gangs, smuggled from Jordan to hasten the international involvement.
Fabricating false prove will not work, no one will believe that. America's credibility is at stake, don't ruin it to please medieval Arabs monarchies.


by: Mya Sole from: Oregon, USA
August 31, 2013 3:24 PM
Just for an instant, sometime earlier this week, I thought Ye Olde Empty Suit would actually back his campaign promises of being a 'true' representative of American 'values'.
Nope. Now that he's hell-bent on pleasing everyone, stepping on no toes, and conveniently forgetting that he once represented Mob City USA, the ONLY thing he's accomplished is becoming the Uncle Tom in Chief.

Comments page of 2
 Previous    

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid