Obama considering ‘limited, narrow’ action against Assad

US president has strong preference for a multilateral response to Syria’s use of chemical weapons; hasn’t yet made a final decision

US President Barack Obama talks to the media from Martha's Vineyard, earlier this month (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
US President Barack Obama talks to the media from Martha's Vineyard, earlier this month (photo credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Barack Obama said Friday he recognizes the world and the US are war-weary in the face of potential military action against Syria.

But he said the United States has an obligation “as a leader in the world” to hold countries accountable if they violate international norms on use of chemical weapons.

“In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long term campaign, but we are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act,” he said, that  would make plain to Syria and others around the world that the international community would not condone the use of chemical weapons.

Obama added that he had “not made a final decision” on how to respond to Syria’s use of chemical weapons against its people last week. He was examining “a wide range of options,” he said. “What we will consider,” he reiterated, was the kind of “narrow” action that met the concerns over chemical weapons use, “understanding that there is not going to be a solely military solution” to the Syrian civil war.

Obama said he has a strong preference for multilateral action. But he said, “we don’t want the world to be paralyzed.”

Regarding the UN, Obama said, “There is an incapacity for the Security Council to move forward.”

Despite a vote in Britain against taking action in Syria, Obama indicated that France is with him.

On the home front, dozens of lawmakers, most of them Republican, have signed a letter saying Obama should not take military action without congressional approval, and top leaders of both political parties are urging the president to consult more closely with Congress before giving an order to launch hostilities.

Despite the urgings, there has been little or no discussion about calling Congress back into session to debate the issue. Lawmakers have been on a summer break for nearly a month, and are not due to return to the Capitol until Sept. 9. Obama has not sought a vote of congressional approval for any military action. Neither Republican nor Democratic congressional leaders have challenged his authority to act or sought to have lawmakers called into session before he does.

Senior White House, State Department, Pentagon and intelligence officials met for an hour and half Friday with more than a dozen senators who serve on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, said Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del. He described the discussion as “open and constructive.”

The White House will brief Republican senators in a conference call Saturday at the request of Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a spokesman for the senator, Don Stewart, said.

Obama’s comments came as his administration made its intelligence case against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for its chemical attack against civilians earlier this month.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press

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