Five UN security council members to discuss Syria plans
Obama postpones vote on Syria action to pursue diplomatic path
“If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons,” the president warned, repeating arguments made by his senior administration officials over the past two weeks.
“As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them.”
Mr Obama described as “encouraging signs” the diplomatic overtures from the Russians on Monday to seek a peaceful solution to avert US military action. Syria have agreed in principle to the proposal from Moscow but the US remains scepticism in the Assad’s new-found willingness to capitulate.
Video: President Obama addresses the nation on Syria
He said US secretary of state John Kerry would speak with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov tomorrow, and that the US would work with Russia and China towards a resolution at the UN security council forcing Syria to give up its chemical weapons and to destroy them under international control.
Responding to criticism in Congress that there was no point in a “pinprick” strike against Dr Assad, Mr Obama said that the US military “doesn’t do pinpricks”.
“Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver,” he said.
The president’s address, originally expected to be a rallying call for military action, came after a frenetic 48 hours of growing opposition at home to the use of force and diplomatic manoeuvres abroad.
Agreeing a political solution could still prove tricky. The US, the UK and France want deadlines set for the handing over of Syria’s chemical weapons backed by the threat of force if it fails to deliver.
Russia said that a UN resolution to remove chemical weapons from Dr Assad was conditional on the US lifting the threat of military action and that assigning blame on Syria’s government was unacceptable.
Reacting today, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said he hoped that a US promise to pursue diplomacy to remove the threat of chemical weapons in Syria was “serious”, the state news agency IRNA reported.
“I am hopeful that the United States new attitude to Syria is serious and not a game with the media. For weeks they have threatened war against the people of this region for the benefit of the Zionists (Israel),” he said during a public address.
Iran is the main regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is embroiled in civil war with rebels who have support from Western powers.