Stockholm, Sweden (CBS DC) — President Barack Obama traveled to Sweden on Wednesday ahead of the G20 Summit as he is seeking international support for a military strike against Syria for use of chemical weapons. Obama landed in Stockholm to meet with Swedish Prime Minister John Fredrik Reinfeldt for a press conference on their shared views for international action in Syria.
“When bad stuff happens around the world, the first question is always, ‘What is the United States going to do about it … the real question is: after we go through all this, can we find a reason not to act?”
Obama expressed optimism that Congress would vote to approve his call for military action in Syria, and said that it is not just an American issue, it’s a worldwide concern.
He dodged the question, however, as to what would happen should Congress not approve a strike.
“I believe Congress will approve it. America recognizes that as difficult as it is to take any military actions, even as limited as the one we’re talking about, even without boots on the ground … if the international community fails to maintain certain norms, standards and laws; that over time, this world becomes less safe,” Obama said. “It becomes more dangerous … to all of humanity, and we’ve seen that again and again in history. And the people of Europe are very familiar with what happens when the international community fails to act.”
Obama also stated that Congress’ decision to back the strike against Syria is not just about his credibility as president to “set a red line” against hostile foreign actions.
“First off, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line,” said Obama. “Congress set a red line when it indicated in a piece of legislation — the Syria Accountability Act — that some of the horrendous things happening on the ground there need to be accounted for.
“My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. America and Congress’ credibility is on the line … we mean what we say.”
Obama reiterated throughout the press conference that his administration has “high confidence” from multiple intelligence sources that Assad used chemical weapons, specifically sarin gas.
And while he stated that he was “respectful” to the United Nations’ inspectors in Syria, he said it is not a debate if chemical weapons were used, rather it is a question of who used them – a problem that the U.N. is not set up to handle.
Obama said the strategy for action he discussed with the Swedish prime minister is “one that is limited, in time and in scope, to limit Assad’s use of chemical weapons in the future.”