News

Obama to make national address on Syria

Obama to make national address on Syria

U.S. President Barack Obama listens to statements during a round table meeting at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. Photo: Reuters/Sergei Karpukhin/Pool

By Roberta Rampton and John Whitesides

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Friday he will take his case for military action in Syria directly to the American people next week and acknowledged his problems in convincing Congress to back strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Speaking in Russia, where he is attending the G20 summit, Obama told reporters he will address the nation from the White House on Tuesday in an effort to build public and congressional support for a military response to the Syrian government’s alleged use of chemical weapons.

Obama faces significant resistance to the proposed strikes in Congress, where scores of lawmakers are still undecided about authorizing military force. Opinion polls show a war-weary public strongly opposes U.S. action in Syria.

“In terms of the votes and the process in Congress, I knew this was going to be a heavy lift,” Obama told reporters in St. Petersburg.

“I understand the skepticism. I think it is very important, therefore, for us to work through, systematically, making the case to every senator and every member of Congress. And that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Administration officials have given public testimony and daily closed-door briefings on Syria to members of Congress but the fate of a resolution authorizing military action rests with scores of unconvinced U.S. lawmakers from both parties.

Members of Congress say they are concerned that even limited military strikes in Syria could draw the United States into a prolonged war and spark broader hostilities in the region.

So far, many say they have unanswered questions, and administration officials are expected to continue briefings once Congress returns from its August recess on Monday.

The Democratic-led Senate convened for slightly more than four minutes on Friday, ending the month-long summer break, in a procedural move that will help speed consideration next week of a measure authorizing military action against Syria.

Obama said he is striving to convince lawmakers the response will be limited “both in time and in scope” but still meaningful enough to degrade Assad’s capacity to deliver chemical weapons in the future and serve as a deterrent to their use.

“The concern really has to do with understanding that what we’re describing here would be limited and proportionate and designed to address this problem of chemical weapons use,” Obama said. “And that is going to be the case that I try to make, not just to Congress, but to the American people over the coming days.”

OUTCOME UNCERTAIN

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee narrowly approved on Wednesday an authorization that prohibits the use of U.S. combat troops on the ground in Syria and limits the duration of the action to 60 days, with one possible 30-day extension.

But aides in both the Senate and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives are still uncertain about the outcome of votes in those chambers as many lawmakers are withholding judgment. A Senate debate will begin next week, with a first full Senate vote possible on Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used the brief Friday session to prepare the legislation for floor debate.

Referring to U.S. intelligence reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its own citizens, Reid said: “As we know, many, many people were killed with this, including almost 500 children.”

Obama has had trouble rallying international support for a military response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians. The British Parliament voted last week against Britain’s participation in the action.

But Obama said that most leaders of the G20 countries agreed that Assad was responsible for using poison gas on civilians, although there was disagreement about whether force could be used without going through the United Nations.

Obama said he did not believe U.N. Security Council support was required.

“Given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required, and that will not come through Security Council action,” he said.

Obama declined to say whether he will proceed with military action against Syria if U.S. lawmakers vote against his plan, despite earlier comments from a top aide suggesting he would not use such force without congressional support.

“The president of course has the authority to act, but it’s neither his desire nor his intention to use that authority absent Congress backing him,” deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told National Public Radio on Friday.

Obama rejected criticism that he was playing politics by asking Congress for authorization, and acknowledged that Syria’s use of chemical weapons was not a direct threat to the United States.

“I did not put this before Congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism. I put it before Congress because I could not honestly claim that the threat posed by Assad’s use of chemical weapons on innocent civilians and women and children posed an imminent, direct threat to the United States,” Obama told reporters.

“In that situation, obviously, I don’t worry about Congress; we do what we have to do to keep the American people safe,” he said.

Recent Headlines

in National, World

Israel warns of long Gaza war as Palestinian fighters cross border

Fresh
Israeli soldiers patrol outside the northern Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dashes any hopes of a swift end to the three-week conflict as Palestinian fighters launched an audacious cross-border raid.

in Music

Glen Matlock denies new Sex Pistols reunion

John Lydon, right, and Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols perform at the Roxy in West Hollywood, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2007.

Sex Pistols star Glen Matlock dashes fans' hopes of another reunion by insisting he hasn't had any contact with John Lydon in five years.

in Music

Aretha Franklin storms out of fast food joint

FILE - In this May 11, 2013 file photo, Aretha Franklin performs during McDonald's Gospelfest 2013 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.Franklin won’t say what has caused her latest health problems, but says she’s had a “miraculous” recovery and is looking forward to performing soon.In a phone interview on Tuesday, Aug. 20, Franklin said that she recently had a cat scan and that it showed she was 85 percent improved. The 71-year-old has canceled several concerts and public appearances and blamed it on unspecified treatment.

Aretha Franklin stormed out a Johnny Rockets in Ontario, Canada last week after a nasty encounter with a rude employee.

in Sports

Only arguing remains in Sterling trail

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2010, file photo, Shelly Sterling sits with her husband, Donald Sterling, right, during the Los Angeles Clippers' NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Los Angeles. With a $2 billion sale of the Clippers hanging in the balance, a judge is set to determine Monday, June 30, 2014, if the terms of a family trust alone are enough to confirm Donald Sterling was properly removed as trustee and allow his estranged wife to sell the team without his consent.

Only final arguments and a ruling remain in the trial to determine whether Donald Sterling's estranged wife can sell the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion.

in Music

The Beatles wanted to film ‘Lord of the Rings’

FILE- This is a 1967 handout image from Parlophone of The British group, The Beatles,. From left, are: Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Paul McCartney; and George Harrison. The woman who as a child was the basis for the Beatles song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is gravely ill. It was thought by many at the time that the psychedelic song from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band was a paean to LSD because of the initials in the title, but it was actually based on a drawing that John Lennon's young son Julian brought home from school. He told his father the drawing was of Lucy in the sky with diamonds. Lucy Vodden, now living in Surrey just outside of London _ drifted apart after schoolyard days, but they have gotten back in touch as Lennon has tried to help Vodden cope with Lupus, a life-threatening disease.

Peter Jackson reveals John Lennon could have played Gollum in a Stanley Kubrick directed LOTR adaptation.