Obama to deliver statement on Syria at White House

U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about Syria to reporters during a meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House. Credit: Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking about Syria to reporters during a meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
Credit: Reuters

President Barack Obama planned to provide an update to the American people on Saturday about his decisions on how to proceed in Syria amid preparations for a potential military strike.

Obama was to appear in the White House Rose Garden at 1:15 p.m. EDT to deliver a statement. A White House official said his remarks were not an address about imminent military operations in Syria, but rather an update about his decisions on how to proceed in response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack August 21 that U.S. officials say killed 1,429 people.

The remarks were prepared after Obama’s top national security advisers gathered at the White House for talks, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were to give senators an unclassified briefing on the Syria situation in conference calls.

Members of the House of Representatives are to receive a classified briefing on Sunday from White House officials, a notice from House Speaker John’ Boehner’s office said.

Obama had insisted on Friday that he had made no final determination on whether to launch an attack against Syrian government targets, but on Saturday there was a sense that plans might be advancing amid a flurry of meetings and consultations.

The United States was prepared to act on its own, perhaps with France but without a broad international coalition, to underscore what Obama said was a brutal and flagrant violation of international norms against the use of chemical weapons.

Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said on Twitter that while there is no question the Syrian government used chemical weapons, the “question now is how to hold Syrian government accountable, keep Assad from using CW again.”

A debate has raged for days in Washington among members of the U.S. Congress over whether, or how quickly, Obama should take action. But with Obama promising a narrowly limited engagement and not an Iraq-type invasion, the White House was prepared to take the heat from opponents.

Senator Carl Levin, a Democrat who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after consultations with administration officials that he was concerned a strike without broad participation would be of weakened value.

“I also urged the administration to send a powerful message to the Assad regime by immediately getting lethal aid to vetted elements of the Syrian opposition. Doing so can change the balance militarily and also contribute to a political solution in Syria,” Levin said.

Obama has broad legal powers to take military action. He has made clear he believes the United States must do something to hold the Syrian government accountable for the attack.

RESERVATIONS

But U.S. lawmakers have pushed for more information about Obama’s intentions in Syria, with many expressing reservations about the cost and impact of potential strikes.

On Saturday afternoon, top national security officials will hold unclassified conference calls with the Senate Democratic Caucus as well as the Senate Republican Conference, a White House official said.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Hagel will participate, as well as Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The discussions follow the White House release of an unclassified intelligence assessment that said the government had “high confidence” that the Syrian government was responsible for the deadly August 21 chemical weapons attacks in a dozen neighborhoods.

Obama and Kerry said the United States could not ignore the attack, but have not said whether or when they plan to strike.

“So the primary question is really no longer, what do we know? The question is, what are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going do about it?” Kerry said in a televised address on Friday.

Protracted and expensive wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left Americans reluctant to get involved in Middle Eastern conflicts.

Most Americans do not want the United States to intervene in Syria. A Reuters/Ipsos poll taken this week showed only 20 percent believe the United States should take action, but that was up from 9 percent last week.

Obama and Kerry have said they recognize Americans are tired of war, and have emphasized that they do not plan an “open-ended” response and will not send U.S. troops into the country.

Late on Friday, defense officials said a sixth U.S. warship has now been positioned in the eastern Mediterranean, near five U.S. destroyers armed with cruise missiles that could soon be directed against Syria as part of a “limited, precise” strike.

However, the officials stressed that the ship, with several hundred U.S. Marines on board, was in the region for a different reason and was being kept there only as a precaution. There were no plans to put Marines on the ground as part of any military action against Syria, they said.

Some lawmakers have said Obama should seek backing for the strike with a vote in Congress. “The American people I think really deserve that debate,” said Barbara Lee, a California Democrat in the House of Representatives, in an interview with CNN.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Actor Tracy Morgan wasn't wearing seatbelt in June…

By Jonathan Stempel(Reuters) - Actor and comedian Tracy Morgan and others in his limousine were not wearing seat belts when their vehicle was struck by…

National

Connected cars: Is AT&T leaving Verizon in its…

By Marina Lopes and Bernie WoodallWASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - Verizon Communications, the No.1 U.S. wireless carrier known for its widespread coverage, is falling behind its biggest…

Local

Grand jury begins hearing evidence in Eric Garner…

A grand jury began hearing evidence Monday relating to the death of Eric Garner while in police custody in July. Garner, 43, of Staten Island,…

Local

Mayor announces plan for solar panels at city…

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the planned installation of 24 new solar panels at city schools on Monday morning. The panels, a $28 million investment,…

Going Out

Taste what Lower Manhattan is cooking at today's…

The Lower Manhattan food scene has changed a lot in three years, which you can taste first hand when the neighborhood's food festival returns. On…

Television

Review: 'Selfie' tries to coast on the charm…

"Selfie" offers cute leads and some good jokes, but focuses too much on a vague distaste for social media.

Movies

Review: Jason Reitman's 'Men, Women & Children' is…

Jason Reitman's "Men, Women & Children" takes a hysterical and melodramatic look at disconnection in the digital age, turning strong actors into zombies.

Television

TV watch list, Monday, Sept. 29: 'Castle,' 'Mom'…

Tune in for the season premieres of "Castle," "Mom" and "NCIS: Los Angeles."

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

MLB

Joe Girardi not confident David Robertson will return…

David Robertson was as seamless as anyone could be replacing Mariano Rivera as he converted 39 saves, with a 3.08 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 64 1/3 innings.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony preaches patience with new coach, offense

While star forward Carmelo Anthony said he’s “enthusiastic” and “optimistic” for the upcoming season, he still wants everyone — from within the locker room and…

Education

How to ace your private school interview

Getting ready for a private school interview can be daunting for many, most of whom might never have been in an interview situation before. We’ve…

Education

5 questions parents should ask while visiting private…

It can be hard to know what to look for when searching for a new school for your child. Parents considering several different schools can…

Education

3 ways to save money on college application…

With the average high school student applying to 5 or 6 schools, hefty application and test score fees can add up quickly. We’ve compiled some…

Education

Nap rooms: The latest college campus trend

College is a time filled with new experiences (and lots of schoolwork), leaving little time for students to get a good night’s rest. University of…