Obama seeks congressional authorization for military strike against Syria

President Barack Obama announced on Saturday that he will seek congressional authorization for “limited” military actions against the Syrian regime after U.S. intelligence found evidence that chemical weapons were used against civilians in eastern Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21st.  

According to an unclassified assessment released by the White House, the chemical weapons attack 12 days ago killed more than 1,400 people, including more than 400 children.

Read more:  U.S. intel report confirms use of chemical weapons in Syria

“This attack is an assault on human dignity.  It also presents a serious danger to our national security.  It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.  It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.  It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm,” said Obama. “In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.”

Citing the volume of credible evidence amassed by U.S. intelligence, Obama said the United States will take unilateral military action against Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime without waiting for the United Nations inspectors’ findings or securing the Security Council’s approval, which he pointed out is highly unlikely given China and Russia’s staunch support of Assad’s government. (As with the U.S., both China and Russia are permanent members of the Security Council and therefore hold veto power.)

However, Obama said he will seek authorization from Congress before moving ahead – a decision that will likely delay the military response by at least another week.

“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” said Obama. “While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective.  We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual.”

In written statements, both Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced a vote on the matter will be scheduled no later than the week of Sept. 9th.

Mindful of the Bush administration’s push for the Iraq invasion in 2003, Obama assured lawmakers and the public that U.S. military actions against Assad’s regime will be “limited in duration and scope”.

“This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground,” said Obama. “Let me say this to the American people:  I know well that we are weary of war.  We’ve ended one war in Iraq.  We’re ending another in Afghanistan.  And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military.  In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve.  And that’s why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.”

The objectives of the U.S. military action, he said, are to “hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.” The President stressed that military action is not a substitute for a long-term political solution in Syria.

Obama said the U.S. military is already positioned in the region and poised to strike as soon as the order is given after the White House secures congressional approval.

Given that the British Parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s request for military action just days before, Obama urged members of Congress to carefully consider the intelligence and the foreign policy and national security implications of inaction.

“Here’s my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community:  What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?  What’s the purpose of the international system that we’ve built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world’s people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?” said Obama. “Make no mistake — this has implications beyond chemical warfare.  If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules?  To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms?  To terrorist who would spread biological weapons?  To armies who carry out genocide? We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.”

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