Carrying limited backing from Republicans at home, President Barack
Obama traveled to Europe on Wednesday and declared that punishing
Syria for using chemical weapons was a matter of upholding the
credibility of the world.
The president landed in Stockholm and,
at a press conference with the Swedish prime minister, outlined the
administration's case for action.
"I didn't set a red line -
the world set a red line," Obama said, responding to a question about
his saying last year that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would
be a "red line" that would change his thinking.
international community's credibility is on the line, and America and
Congress' credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the
notion that these international norms are important," he added. "And
when those videos first broke and you saw images of over 400 children
subjected to gas, everybody expressed outrage. How can this happen in
this modern world? Well, it happened because a government chose to
deploy these deadly weapons on civilian populations."
Obama appeared at risk of losing the support of a critical Republican ally, Sen. John McCain of Arizona. He told NBC News that he would not back a draft of a Senate resolution
authorizing force against Syria because it does not address "changing
the momentum on the battlefield" and arming rebels who have fought the
Syrian government for more than two years.
The leaders of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreed Tuesday on the draft. A vote could come as early as next week.
Wednesday in Sweden whether he would strike Syria even if Congress
votes down a resolution authorizing military force, Obama said: "I
believe that Congress will approve it."
He added: "I do not
believe that I was required to take this to Congress, but I did not
take this to Congress just because it's an empty exercise. I think
it's important to have Congress' support on it."
The president said he was mindful that memories of the Iraq war were fresh, particularly in Europe.
in mind I'm somebody who opposed the war in Iraq, and am not
interested in repeating mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty
intelligence," he said. "But having done a thoroughgoing evaluation of
the information that is currently available, I can say with high
confidence that chemical weapons were used."
On Tuesday, some
Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, lent their
support to a limited attack on the Syrian government for using
poison gas against rebels outside the Syrian capital Aug. 21.
resolution would limit American involvement to two months, with a
possible one-month extension, and would bar the use of ground forces.
The administration has said punishing Syria would not mean putting
"boots on the ground."
"The president is not asking you to go to
war," Secretary of State John Kerry told Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. and a
skeptic of a Syria strike, during a hearing of the Foreign Relations
Committee on Tuesday.
Kerry and other administration officials
will testify before the Senate committee again Wednesday in session
closed to the public. They will also appear before the House Foreign
Obama on Thursday heads for Russia for a
summit of the so-called Group of 20 economic powers. President
Vladimir Putin, in something of a surprise, gave an interview in
which he did not rule out military action against Syria.
in an interview with The Associated Press, said that Russia "doesn't
exclude" supporting a United Nations resolution on a strike - if it
is proved that the Syrian regime indeed used poison gas on its
The United States says it has incontrovertible proof that
Syrian leader Bashar Assad gassed more than 1,400 people in a
But Putin said that it seems
"absolutely absurd" that Syria, an ally of Russia, would use chemical
weapons. Syria has the upper hand against the rebels, Putin said,
and Syria knows that using chemicals would trigger an international
response, perhaps forceful.
Further, Putin said Wednesday that Congress had no right to
"legitimize aggression" against Syria, and accused Kerry of lying to
Congress about al Qaeda's role in the conflict, Reuters reported.
affairs analysts have said that Russia and China, both of which hold
veto power as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, would
block any American effort to secure U.N. support for a strike.
in Britain, a fierce ally of the United States, Parliament rejected
military involvement last week, a rebuke to Prime Minister David