Delivering a firm set of remarks, President Obama said on Saturday that he will seek congressional authorization for a military strike on Syria when Congress returns in early September, adding the U.S. “must not turn a blind eye” to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.
“After careful deliberation I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” Obama said during his speech in the Rose Garden. “This will not be an open ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.”
“I am prepared to give that order,” but “will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” he added.
President Obama urged members of Congress to put aside partisan differences and vote for what he says is in the best interest of the American people.
“Some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment,” Obama said. “Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are united as one nation.”
Obama maintained he has the authority to order a strike without Congress. Following his statement, however, House GOP leaders said that such power rests with Congress.
“Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with Congress,” a joint statement released by Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said.
“In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9th,” the statement added. “This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people.”
In his remarks, the president also said he remains confident moving forward with military action without the UN.
“We will insist an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not only investigated… it must be confronted,” he said.
Before his remarks, a protester could reportedly be heard from the Rose Garden shouting “Obama hands off Syria.”
Iran warned on Saturday that a strike on Syria would have far reaching consequences.
“The fact that the Americans believe that military intervention will be limited to within Syrian borders is an illusion; it will provoke reactions beyond that country,” the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Mohammad Ali Jafari, reportedly said.
“Just as US interventions in the Islamic world (Afghanistan, Iraq) have bolstered extremism, so will an aggression on Syria reinforce extremism and, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, its results will be pain, massacre and the exodus of the innocent population,” he added.
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry delivered remarks in which he said he understands Americans are skeptical of initiating another military operation in the Middle East, but said the U.S. may not have a choice.
“Now, we know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too,” Kerry said. “But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility.”
“Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about and history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator’s wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all common understanding of decency, these things we do know,” he added.
Several U.S. warships are currently stationed in the Mediterranean Sea carrying cruise missiles.
Early Saturday morning, United Nations inspectors departed Syria ahead of schedule, leaving the path open for a potential U.S. strike.
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