Obama: No Boots On Ground In Syria - kcentv.com - KCEN HD - Waco, Temple, and Killeen

Obama: No Boots On Ground In Syria

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(Washington Post) - American credibility and its promise to the world that banned weapons of mass destruction must never be used are on the line in the decision about what to do in the face of a chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said Friday.

In a speech at the State Department, Kerry said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must be held accountable for last week's alleged attack, and rogue states and terror groups are "watching to see if Syria gets away with it."

"If we choose to live in the world where a "thug" and a "murderer" like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity," Kerry argued, "even after the United States and our allies said no, and then the world does nothing about it, there will be no end to the test of our resolve and the dangers that will flow from those others who believe that they can do as they will."

A short time later, in brief remarks before a White House meeting, President Obama said he was considering a "limited, narrow act" against Syria but has not yet made a final decision on a military strike.

"We're not considering any open-ended commitment. We are not considering any boots on the ground approach," Obama said at the beginning of a meeting with Baltic presidents. "We have consulted with allies. We have consulted with Congress."

Kerry said the terror network Hezbollah and North Korea are among those testing U.S. resolve now that Syria has used the internationally banned weapons.

"It is about Hezbollah and North Korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons' current or future use? Or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?

Kerry also made the case that the United States still has a special responsibility in the world to oppose such extreme acts.

"It is also profoundly about who we are. We are the United States of America. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully, but always tried to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations."

"The American people are tired of war," Kerry added. "But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility." He said that "history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly" if the United States does not respond to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.

As Kerry spoke at the State Department, the White House released a four-page report detailing its findings about the alleged attack.

"Read for yourself, everyone, those listening, read for yourselves the evidence from thousands of sources," Kerry said.

Kerry made clear that Obama will make his own decisions about the next step.

He made no mention of Thursday's diplomatic setback when Britain suddenly withdrew from what the White House had hoped would be a new "coalition of the willing" against Syria.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, deserted by rebels in his own Conservative Party, lost a parliamentary vote Thursday for provisional authorization for a strike on Syria.

Although U.S. officials have said repeatedly that they are trying to assemble an international coalition to support military action, the administration also insisted Thursday that, if necessary, Obama has both the authority and the will to act on his own.

On Friday, though, Kerry cited broad international support for action against Syria.

"The world is speaking out," he said. "And many friends stand ready to respond. The Arab League pledged, quote, ‘to hold the Syrian regime fully responsible for this crime.' The Organization for Islamic Cooperation condemned the regime and said we needed, quote, ‘to hold the Syrian government legally and morally accountable for this heinous crime.'

"Turkey said there is no doubt that the regime is responsible." Kerry cited French and Australian support as well.

French President Francois Hollande said his country backed intervention. "There are few countries that have the capacity to inflict a sanction by the appropriate means. France is one of them," according to the Reuters news agency. "We are ready. We will decide our position in close liaison with our allies."

But that coalition might not include Germany: German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Neue Osnabrucker newspaper that Berlin's participation in a U.S.-led coalition has "neither been asked nor is it being considered by us."

A lengthening list of U.S. lawmakers is also demanding an opportunity to vote on the issue.

The American public opposes broad military action in Syria, according to an NBC poll released Friday. But Americans are more open to limited weapons strikes that could undermine Syria's chemical weapons capability, the poll showed.

Still, an overwhelming majority of Americans want Obama to win the approval of Congress before authorizing such strikes, the poll found.

The possibility of U.S. military action in Syria has stirred concern among many current and former military officials, who say the mission seems ambiguous and that American forces are fatigued and overextended from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The White House briefed key congressional leaders over the telephone for 90 minutes Thursday night, presenting what Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) described as a strong argument that Assad's government bore responsibility for poisoning hundreds of its citizens.

The evidence cited by administration officials included patterns of movement of Syrian officials around the time of the incident, and electronic intercepts of conversations of "some high-level officials" in Syria, said Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I don't know if you can ever be 100 percent sure of everything," Engel said. "But they seemed pretty sure."

The White House said administration officials would "continue to engage" with members of Congress as Obama weighed his next steps.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said such communication is essential and added that the president must also explain his thinking to the American people before taking any action.

"It is clear that the American people are weary of war," Pelosi said in a statement. "However, Assad gassing his own people is an issue of our national security, regional stability and global security. We must be clear that the United States rejects the use of chemical weapons by Assad or any other regime."

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