Merle David Kellerhals Jr. | Staff Writer U.S. State Department | 31 August 2013
Washington — President Obama announced that he will seek support from the U.S. Congress to carry out a limited military response against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which executed a poison gas attack August 21 that killed 1,429 Syrian civilians in the Damascus suburbs.
“This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security,” Obama said in a televised address from the Rose Garden at the White House August 31.
“It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons,” he added.
Obama told the American people he will ask the members of the Senate and House of Representatives when they return to session for a resolution that supports military action against the Assad regime.
“I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” the president announced. “This morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they’ve agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.”
The Senate is expected to return to Washington from a summer recess by next week, and the House is expected to return by September 9. The White House is sending senior leaders to Capitol Hill September 1 to conduct a classified intelligence briefing for the members of the House of Representatives on the Syrian poison gas attack, which included 426 children among those killed.
Obama said that if the United States does not enforce accountability in the face of such a heinous act, it will undermine global resolve to stand up to those who flout fundamental international rules.
“I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons,” Obama said. “And our democracy is stronger when the president and the people’s representatives stand together.”
The president said the United States has positioned its military forces to respond to Syria’s use of poison gas weapons and can act at any time. But he added that he agrees with members of Congress who’ve said in recent weeks they want their views considered on the use of military force.
“I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention,” he said. “We would not put boots on the ground.”
“Our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope,” he added.
A U.N. chemical weapons inspection team returned August 31 from Syria to The Hague in the Netherlands with blood and urine samples from victims of the attack and soil samples from areas where the attacks occurred, according to news reports. The team was expected to make its report to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is responsible for the internationally mandated Chemical Weapons Convention. Syria is one of four nations that is not a signatory to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The inspection team’s report will not assign responsibility for who actually conducted the chemical gas attack, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky sai
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Obama to Seek Congress' Support on Response to Syria Chemical Use