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Obama notes split over Syria attack, plans speech

By Josh Lederman

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 09:43 a.m. HST, Sep 06, 2013


ST. PETERSBURG, Russia » President Barack Obama acknowledged deep divisions at home and abroad today over his call for military action in Syria — and conceded the possibility he'll fail to sway the American public. He refused to say whether he would act without passage of congressional authorization for a strike in response to chemical weapons use.

Setting the stage for an intense week of lobbying in Washington over the strike resolution, Obama said he planned to make his case to the American people in an address Tuesday night.

Obama laid out in new detail his reasoning for seeking congressional approval, saying it was because the use of chemical weapons in Syria didn't pose an imminent threat to the United States or its allies — situations in which he said he would have responded immediately. But he said the use of weapons of mass destruction is a long-term threat to the United States and the world, and the U.S. has the ability to respond with air strikes without the risk of putting troops on the ground.

"It's conceivable at the end of the day I don't persuade a majority of the American people that it's the right thing to do," Obama acknowledged. "And then each member of Congress is going to have to decide."

Obama, speaking at the end of a two-day Group of 20 economic summit, earlier held a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a chief opponent of U.S. military action. Both Obama and Putin said that while they still disagreed, the meeting was constructive.

Obama, in his news conference, seemed to be feeling the burden of the challenge he faces in persuading the American public, the international community and Congress to back military action. But he expressed confidence the American people and lawmakers, weary after long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would listen.

"I trust my constituents want me to offer my best judgment. That's why they elected me. That's why they re-elected me," he said.

Ten members of the Group of 20 joined the United States in a joint statement accusing the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack on civilians last month and calling for a strong international response against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The statement stopped short of explicitly calling for military action against Syria, but administration officials argued that it amounted to support of Obama's move toward targeted military strikes.

The countries signing the statement with the U.S. were Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Seeking to rally support back in Washington, the administration planned another classified briefing for all lawmakers next Monday evening with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Marin Dempsey and White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice. And White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough planned to attend the closed-door Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday morning, according to a congressional aide.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid today formally introduced the resolution, which would authorize the "limited and specified use" of the U.S. armed forces against Syria for 90 days while prohibiting American ground troops from combat. Lawmakers return from their five-week recess on Monday and will begin to debate, with a Senate vote to move ahead on the resolution expected Wednesday.

"I think we're going to get 60 votes. It's a work in progress," Reid told reporters.

Although surveys showed a significant number of House Republicans and Democrats opposed to military action or leaning against it, officials in the leadership insisted it was premature to say the resolution could not be approved. At this stage, just a third of the House and Senate have participated in classified briefings and Obama is still reaching out to lawmakers.

Still, final passage rests on significant votes from House Republicans and Democrats, and the administration is struggling to reach those numbers. A spokesman for Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who is backing authorization, said Obama needs to make a convincing case to the public Tuesday night.

"Members of Congress represent the views of their constituents, and only a president can convince the public that military action is required. We only hope this isn't coming too late to make the difference," spokesman Brendan Buck said.

Obama said he and other leaders at the summit had had a "full airing of views on the issue" during a three-hour dinner Thursday night. He said the leaders were unanimous in believing that chemical weapons were used in Syria and that international norms against that use must be maintained. He said division comes over whether action must come through the United Nations.

Putin said that the U.S. push for military action has been supported only by Turkey, Canada, Saudi Arabia and France. Putin said that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has taken a "very cautious attitude."

He said that many others along with Russia and China voiced their opposition to the military action, including India, Indonesia, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Italy.

"The use of force against a sovereign nation is only possible as self-defense — and Syria hasn't attacked the United States — and on approval of the U.N. Security Council," Putin said. "Those who do otherwise place themselves outside the law."

British Prime Minister David Cameron supports military intervention, but the British Parliament opposed him and so he says his country won't be part of any action. Still, he argued that an international response is needed and shouldn't be held up by the U.N. Security Council. "If we say that there can only be a response if the U.N. Security Council votes for it, we are in fact contracting out our foreign policies, our morality, to the potential of a Russian veto. I think it's a very misguided approach," he said.

Russia today warned the United States and its allies against striking any chemical weapon storage facilities in Syria. The Russian foreign ministry said such targeting could release toxic chemicals and give militants or terrorist access to chemical weapons.

"This is a step toward proliferation of chemical weapons not only across the Syrian territory but beyond its borders," the Russian statement said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving in warships into the area and stoking fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes.

Illustrating the risks associated with a strike, the State Department ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon, a step under consideration since last week when Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government.

Associated Press writers Nedra Pickler and Donna Cassata in Washington and Julie Pace, Angela Charlton, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.







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Oahuan2 wrote:
Obama cannot be trusted. Boehner either for that matter. Mr. Schatz and Ms. Hanabusa MUST stick to their guns and disallow a strike on Syria by the United States. And, I don't care what Obama promises in his speech on Tuesday night, we all know that once we strike that means we will eventually send boots on the ground. It is not worth it. The people of the middle east need to decide for themselves how to handle their bullies. We have our hands full with Obama.
on September 6,2013 | 06:42AM
Grimbold wrote:
Obama just wants to keep face. After he made that rash comment about the Red Line. He should just say, facts have changed. The rebels are now with Al-Kaida and therefore he changes his mind and will not attack.
on September 6,2013 | 08:05AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
He doesn't have a face to lose already.
on September 6,2013 | 10:13AM
Buckykat wrote:
A speech? Oh no, not a speech! We must comply or he'll give a speech! /sarcasm.
on September 6,2013 | 06:46AM
jayz43 wrote:
Early release of the beginning of his Tuesday speech should give us ALL reassurance that he means what he says, and says what he means: There will be no American boots on the ground, PERIOD.
on September 6,2013 | 08:32AM
DAGR81 wrote:
Do you seriously believe anything that Obama says?
on September 6,2013 | 09:58AM
serious wrote:
Just what we need another Obama speech!!!! I listen to most and then ponder---What did he say??? I mean he's not on a speaking tour where his crowd's all collected welfare people who have the time since they don't work!!!
on September 6,2013 | 06:49AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Everyone agrees that something needs to be done about Syria If you don't agree with Obama, let's hear your plan. It's okay to disagree but it's not okay to disagree but not provide a solution.
on September 6,2013 | 07:09AM
serious wrote:
"Everyone agrees" -- the only one I hear is Obama. There are atrocities done every day in all parts of the world--look at Africa, or China or N Korea--we can not be the police force for the whole world. It's a world situation--solution? Sure, the UN!!!
on September 6,2013 | 07:16AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Everyone agrees that the Hawaii Government should be solving the homeless problem but they can't due to incompetence, lack of funds, and not enough commitment. Should we leave the homeless problem for incompetent bureaucrats to solve? The United Nations presents the same problem. They don't refer to the UN as the United Nothing for nothing.
on September 6,2013 | 07:39AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I like Mazie's plan. Go on a trip. Oh wait, Barry tried that already.
on September 6,2013 | 09:19AM
ShibaiDakine wrote:
What the Associated Press-Star Advertiser reported: "...The statement stopped short of explicitly calling for military action against Syria, but administration officials argued that it amounted to support of Obama's move toward targeted military strikes..."

What the Group of 20 resolution explicitly says: "...Recognizing that Syria’s conflict has no military solution, we reaffirm our commitment to seek a peaceful political settlement through full implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique. We are committed to a political solution which will result in a united, inclusive and democratic Syria. .."


on September 6,2013 | 07:18AM
false wrote:
This may be one of those positions where no matter what you do.. it's wrong.
on September 6,2013 | 01:36PM
sailfish1 wrote:
NOT "Everyone agrees that something needs to be done about Syria". Nobody has yet provided absolute proof that Assad used the chemical weapons. Also, Al Qaeda is on the rebels side. Thus, the best course of action is to do NOTHING. Why? Because both sides are our enemies.
on September 6,2013 | 04:29PM
soundofreason wrote:
THIS is his formula....Do ANYTHING that divides the people of this country and SPEND as much as you can DOING it.
on September 6,2013 | 07:11AM
ShibaiDakine wrote:
Comment has been sent for approval
on September 6,2013 | 07:21AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
U too?
on September 6,2013 | 07:59AM
ShibaiDakine wrote:
What the Associated Press-Star Advertiser reported: "...The statement stopped short of explicitly calling for military action against Syria, but administration officials argued that it amounted to support of Obama's move toward targeted military strikes..."

What the Group of 20 resolution explicitly says: "...Recognizing that Syria’s conflict has no military solution, we reaffirm our commitment to seek a peaceful political settlement through full implementation of the 2012 Geneva Communique. We are committed to a political solution which will result in a united, inclusive and democratic Syria. .."


on September 6,2013 | 07:22AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
He needs to let his hair grow.
on September 6,2013 | 07:58AM
tiki886 wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on September 6,2013 | 07:59AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Hey I have read your other posts on other subjects and u r my type of guy !!!!!
on September 6,2013 | 08:01AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Remember Barry is a lame duck.
on September 6,2013 | 07:59AM
Ronin006 wrote:
Watch it, HonoluluHawaii. Someone might find your comment racist.
on September 6,2013 | 08:56AM
Grimbold wrote:
Sarin is not so bad: Looks like a good method of driving insurgents out of a building. When they come out to surrender they can be kept alive by being washed down and given Atropine. Looks more humane to me than blowing them to pieces.
on September 6,2013 | 08:02AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
As they say pics say a thousand words and videos say zillion. I would say this, based on my amateur Body Language assessment of the pic of Obama. This is what Barry is conveying to us: I have no rings on my right hand. I am closed lips about something. Yes I can stare u down.
on September 6,2013 | 08:04AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
As they say pics say a thousand words and videos say zillion. I would say this, based on my amateur Body Language assessment of the pic of Obama. This is what Barry is conveying to us: I have no rings on my right hand. I am closed lips about something. Yes I can stare u down.
on September 6,2013 | 08:04AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Oh and his head tilted means, "yes I care for ya". I ain't no fan of ObamaCare though.
on September 6,2013 | 08:06AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Only deadbeats depend on the ER for medical care.
on September 6,2013 | 08:48AM
dctaira wrote:
He cannot be trusted. This is just another way for him to distract away from his failed policies and decisions (obama care, Bengazi, and the list goes on) and to throw Israel under the bus. Israel will be the sacrificial lamb and is the true target of this crisis.
on September 6,2013 | 09:01AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
The American people do not want military involvement in Syria. Period.
on September 6,2013 | 09:22AM
Ronin006 wrote:
The Geneva Protocol ban on the use of chemical weapon, as written, is applicable to warring states and not to civil wars within a country’s boundaries. The Protocol prescribes a number of economic sanctions to be taken against violators, but does not mention military enforcement. So what or who gave Obama the authority to unilaterally decide if Syria violated the Protocol and the authority to take punitive military action against Syria?
on September 6,2013 | 09:28AM
Mana07 wrote:
Well, Hawaii, you just had to have your liberal "native" son.....
on September 6,2013 | 09:33AM
hanalei395 wrote:
A McCain / Palin and Mitt / Ryan voter.
on September 6,2013 | 11:06AM
jussayin wrote:
I guess Obama will go on the Lettermen show again to persuade the American people ; ) Funny is that Russia seems to be more reasonable on this topic: The use of force against a sovereign nation should be only as self-defense, and Syria didn't attack the US. This is an issue for the United Nations to lead on.
on September 6,2013 | 10:08AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
Personally, I think it would be unwise to strike knowing that Russia is on the other side of the equation. Again, we try to get involved in a foreign country where we do not understand the ways of the people involved. Getting involved in this situation may be a powder keg that may blow up into something bigger that we might not want to deal with. Other countries have backed off for good reason. We need to stay clear of the situation unless we are willing to sacrifice more of our lives in that country. It may appear to be an air strike but it may blow up into a bigger war that we may regret. These countries that would kill their own people have always been unstable and doing an air strike may be putting fuel to the fire. I hope that we learned from the past and stop the warring mentality.
on September 6,2013 | 11:11AM
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