30 Aug 2013

Barack Obama: US considering ‘limited’ action in Syria

US President Barack Obama says his country is considering “narrow action” in Syria, as Secretary of State John Kerry outlines the case for US military intervention.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with Baltic leaders, the US president said he had consulted with military chiefs about a range of options, and that he had not made a decision about what the US response would be.

“In no event are we considering any type of military action that would involve boots on the ground – that would involve a long-term campaign,” he said.

“But we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act that would help make sure that not only Syria but others around the world understand that the international community caaes about maintaining this chemical weapons ban, and norm.”

He added that the US believed there would not be a “sole military solution” to the conflict in Syria.

Mr Obama said he was providing a classifed briefing to congressional members of staff and members of Congress on Thursday, and that he would continue to update the American people as more information became available.

‘What are we going to do?’

President Obama was speaking following a statement from US Secretary of State John Kerry which outlined the case and evidence for the US to take military action in Syria.

Mr Kerry told a Washington press conference that rogue states are watching how the world responds to the chemical weapons attack in Syria, and that it is in American national interests to respond.

He listed the things that the US intelligence community “knows” about the attack in Damascus on Wednesday 21 August.

The primary question is no longer ‘what do we know?’, the question is ‘what are we going to do about it?’ John Kerry

He said 1,429 people had died, and of whom 426 were children, and refered people to videos posted on social media.

He also said the US knew that the Assad regime had chemical weapons teams on the ground in the targeted areas in the days leading up to the attack; that rockets had only been fired from government-controlled areas into rebel-held areas; and that regime forces were told to take precautions such as wearing gas masks.

“In all of these things I have listed, in all of these things we know, the American intelligence community has high confidence,” he said. “This is evidence, these are facts.

“The primary question is no longer ‘what do we know?’, the question is ‘what are we going to do about it?'”

‘Thug and murderer’

Mr Kerry also said that a UN team if inspectors would not report back any information that “we don’t already know”.

Calling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a “thug and a murderer”, Mr Kerry said that history would judge the US harshly if it “turned a blind eye” to what happened in Damascus.

He added that the US would not have to act alone, and listed countries that would be ready to help.

He spoke of condemnation for the attack by the Arab League, Turkey, Australia and “our oldest ally” France. Mr Kerry made no mention of the UK, the day after parliament blocked a motion that would have supported the principle of British military involvement.

However, he also said that no decision had been made on military action, and said that US President Barack Obama would stick to his promise that there would be no “boots on the ground.”