WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) – While speaking at a press conference during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, President Barack Obama used the opportunity to once again call for military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama is calling on Congress to authorize military action after his administration blamed Assad for a chemical weapons attack last month that he says killed more than 1,400 civilians.
“I did not put this before Congress just as a political ploy or as symbolism,” Obama said, adding that “it’s conceivable” that the vote could fail.
Other casualty estimates are lower, and the Syrian government denies responsibility, contending rebels fighting to topple the government were to blame.
“Even as we focused on our shared prosperity … [we also discussed] the grave threat to our shared security,” he said in transition from earlier fiscally focused remarks. “The Syrian regime’s … brazen use of chemical weapons isn’t just a Syrian tragedy.”
Obama said that not responding with military force would send a poor message to other nations if Assad’s regime is allowed to “develop and use weapons of mass destruction and not pay a consequence.”
He added, “That is not a world that we want to live in.”
While answering questions from reporters, Obama continued to focus on both the norms of warfare and the possible effects of reluctance regarding whether or not to strike.
“Do these norms mean something? And if we don’t act, what are we saying?” he asked rhetorically. ” If people who … decry international inaction in Rwanda, and say how terrible it is that there are these human rights violations around the world, and ‘Why aren’t we doing something about it?’ and they always look to the United States … and then the international community turns around when we’re saying it’s time to take some responsibility and says ‘Well, hold on a second. We’re not sure.'”
He finished, “That erodes our ability to maintain the kind of norms we’re looking at.”
Obama noted that he has seen “people being worried about a slippery slope, and how effective a limited action might be.”
“Our response, based on discussions with our military, is that we can have a response that is limited, is proportional … but that is meaningful … and serves as a strong deterrent,” Obama said.
He added, “Is it possible that Assad doubles down and … uses chemical weapons more widely? I suppose anything is possible, but it wouldn’t be wise.”
In regards to other possible conflicts, Obama additionally noted that with countries such as Russia or China, “[w]e have the kind of relationship with them where we’re not getting in conflicts of that sort,” and that all three of those nations are said to have agreed upon the fact that “neither country benefits from that kind of great power conflict.”
Obama also announced he will address the nation Tuesday about taking action in Syria.
Before discussing Syria, Obama made several positive comments about the finances of both the United States and the world, adding that the American economy is “[a] source of strength in global economy.”
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