On Tuesday night, President Barack Obama said he would pursue a diplomatic initiative from Russia over Syria’s chemical weapons, but still urged the American public to support his threat to use military force.
The recent offer from Russian President Vladimir Putin to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to place his chemical weapons under international control gave the possibility of halting the limited military being considering against Syria, President Obama said..
“I have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said President Obama. “
The question now is what the United States of America and the international community is prepared to do about it, because what happened to those people, to those children, is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security,” he added.
Obama argued that if the fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, the chemical weapons could threaten allies in Turkey, Jordan and Israel, as well as embolden Assad’s ally Iran. He said U.S. and Russian officials would keep talking about the initiative and that he would discuss it with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, President Obama has asked the U.S. Senate to put off a vote on his request for an authorization of military force to let the diplomacy play out. He has not yet set timetables for action, but said any deal with Assad would require verification that he keep his word.
“This initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies,” said Obama. “I have therefore asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path.”
Obama used much of his speech to make a case against Syria, saying that there is evidence the Syrian government was behind a chemical weapons attack on August 21st that killed more than 1,400 people, including several children.
“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” said Obama. “When, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different.”