Speaking from the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia this morning, President Obama addressed the topic of Syria, where he acknowledged that he knew it would be a tough fight to convince Congress and the American public to move forward with a military strike.
The president expressed a reluctance to use military force, saying “I was elected to end wars, not start them,” but he emphasized his belief that it’s a necessary move in order to enforce international norms.
From The Guardian:
When there’s a breach this brazen of a norm this important, and the international community is paralyzed, is frozen, and doesn’t act, then that norm unravels… and other norms begin to unravel. And that makes for more difficult choices, and more difficult responses in the future.
Over 1,400 people were gassed! Over 400 of them were children. This is not something that we fabricated. This is not something we’re using as an excuse for military action… I was elected to end wars, not start ’em.
Obama also stressed that he would prefer to take action on Syria with the support of the international community.
“If we end up using the UN Security Council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law, but rather as a barrier to acting on behalf of international norms and international law, then I think people rightly are going to be pretty skeptical about the system and whether it can work to protect those children we saw in those videos,” he said.
The president refused to give a direct response to the question posed by several reporters as to whether or not he would proceed with a strike on Syria if he did not have the approval of Congress.
But an aide to Obama signaled today that he would not, according to ABC News.
“The president, of course, has the authority to act, but it is neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him,” Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken told NPR’s Steve Inskeep this morning.Privately, other senior administration officials have been saying the same thing for days: Absent another major development in Syria, they find it inconceivable that the president would move forward with an attack if Congress fails to authorize it.
Earlier today, the president met with Russian president Vladimir Putin, where the two failed to come to an agreement on Syria. Putin maintained that he does not believe there is firm evidence that Assad was responsible for the chemical attacks and remains opposed to any action outside of the UN, according to the Associated Press/Washington Times.
Putin also insisted that the majority of the nations at the G20 meeting are not in favor of a military strike on Syria.
From the NY Times:
The only countries that supported Mr. Obama’s plan, the Russian leader said, were France, Canada, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, all nations that were on his side when he arrived here on Thursday.
Trying to counter the impression of isolation, the White House arranged for a joint statement including those allies as well as Australia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Britain condemning the Aug. 21 attack in the Damascus suburbs that according to American intelligence agencies killed more than 1,400 people through the use of chemical munitions.
“We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated,” the statement said. “Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable.” Still, the statement did not explicitly endorse military action.
Putin, meanwhile, says he will keep arming Syria.DONATE
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