WASHINGTON, (PNA/RIA Novosti) -– US President Barack Obama on Saturday said that while he is prepared to launch a military strike against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, he will first seek authorization to use military force from the US Congress.
“I will seek authorization for the use of source from the American people’s representatives in Congress,” Obama said.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Obama added: “While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be more effective.
“We should have this debate,” he said.
The US Congress is away on a summer break scheduled to last until Sept. 9. Obama said that lawmakers should debate and vote on military action when they return.
“Over the last several days, we have heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard,” Obama said. “I absolutely agree.”
Obama made it clear once again that he believes the US military should take action against the Assad regime to punish the Syrian government for last week’s apparent chemical weapons attack – an attack Washington asserts was perpetrated by Syrian government forces and that it says killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.
“I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets … I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior and degrade their capacity to carry it out,” Obama said.
Obama also said the US is ready to strike at any time. “Our capacity to execute this mission is not time sensitive, it will be effective tomorrow or next week or one month from now and I am prepared to give that order.”
Obama said any military action would not be open-ended and repeated earlier assurances that “we would not put boots on the ground,” that is, deploy US ground forces in Syria.
On Friday the White House released a declassified intelligence assessment of the apparent Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs, which the administration asserted “with high confidence” was carried out by the Assad regime.
The report said its assessment was made based on “human, signals and geospatial intelligence,” as well as open source materials such as social media reports and videos of the alleged attack that have flooded the Internet over the past week.
“We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21,” the US government said in the report, adding that it has intelligence showing that preparations for the purported assault had been underway during the three days before it was allegedly carried out.
Critics in the United States and around the world have voiced skepticism about the US assertion that the Assad regime was behind the use of chemical weapons, with Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier Saturday describing the US case made so far as “utter nonsense.”
On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry made an impassioned speech for US action in Syria saying America had a moral obligation to punish the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons.
A United Nations team of chemical weapons inspectors left Syria on Saturday ahead of schedule and will brief Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but it could take two weeks before the final results of the inspection are made public.