Last night President Barack Obama
publicly said for the first timethat the U.S. has concluded the Syrian government carried out a chemical attack that killed hundreds of civilians and injured thousands last week.
Speaking with the PBS Newshour’s Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff in the Blue Room of the White House, Obama detailed the basic argument for a limited strike so that “the international norm against the use of chemical weapons” is “kept in place” in addition to saying the U.S. wants to avoid further direct intervention in the brutal civil war.
We’ve highlighted some of the key parts.
First, Obama established “what’s at stake here,” including:
- “… terrible things have been happening in Syria for quite some time.”
- “… the Assad regime there has been killing its own people by the tens of thousands.”
- “… I’ve also concluded is that direct military engagement, involvement in the civil war in Syria, would not help the situation on the ground. And so we’ve been very restrained.”
The president brought up the “red line” and argued that a military response to Assad’s regime using chemical weapons on his own people has to do with “
not only international norms but also America’s core self-interest.”
Here’s Obama on America upholding international norms against chemical weapons:
“We’re consulting with the international community. … we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable.”
And here’s the perceived threat to U.S. national security interests:
“We’ve got allies bordering Syria. Turkey is a NATO ally, Jordan a close friend that we work with a lot. Israel is very close by. We’ve got bases throughout the region. We cannot see a breach of the nonproliferation norm that allows, potentially, chemical weapons to fall into the hands of all kinds of folks.”
As for the attack itself, Obama made a key point about who is capable of carrying out a large scale chemical attack:
When asked what a limited strike would accomplish, Obama reiterated that “there need to be international consequences” if America and its allies conclude that the Syrian government gassed its own people.
The president then addressed concerns raised by long U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan:
“… we can take limited, tailored approaches, not getting drawn into a long conflict, not a repetition of, you know, Iraq, which I know a lot of people are worried about — but if … we send a shot across the bow saying, stop doing this, that can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term … may have a positive impact in the sense that chemical weapons are not used again on innocent civilians.”
One thing Obama didn’t talk about is explicit congressional approval for such an action.
Check out the interview below:
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