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President Barack Obama says he long resisted calls for military action in Syria because he didn't think force could solve the Syrian civil war. But he says he changed his mind after Syria's government gassed its own citizens.
Obama on Tuesday used a televised address to the nation to explain his thinking on the ongoing fighting in Syria. He said the use of chemical weapons on Aug. 21 shifted his thinking and that the United States must respond with a military strike to deter future use of such weapons.
Obama said no one disputes that chemical weapons were used and said thousands of Syrians have died from them. He said the images and videos of men, women and children are sickening and demand a response.
Obama ordered the military to maintain current posture to keep pressure on Assad but he is pledging that he won't deploy ground combat troops or wage a prolonged air campaign in Syria.
He said the U.S. is not the world's police, but U.S. ideals, principals and national security are at stake.
The president says he's continuing discussions with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while dispatching Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with his Russian counterpart on Thursday.
Obama also says he's speaking with leaders of France and Britain and will work with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the United Nations Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons.
Lee Terry Response
Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE) weighed-in on the president's speech saying, "After reviewing the classified materials, I do not believe we should become engaged in the Syrian conflict. The President tonight again failed to make the case for why initiating military force against the Assad regime is in our national interest.
“I am pleased the Administration is continuing to pursue a diplomatic solution to this crisis. I would like to see a clear deadline set for the Assad regime to turn over their stockpile of chemical weapons.
Our country has always achieved peace through strength and I hope through resolute American leadership the international community is successful in removing the chemical weapons from this brutal regime.”
Chuck Grassley Response
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley issued a statement saying, “Yesterday afternoon I went to the White House for a secured briefing about Syria with Vice President Biden. Today, I listened to the President directly when he came to Capitol Hill to talk with senators, as well as his speech on TV tonight.
"I appreciate the complicated issues the President faces. Still, I don't think the case for military action has been made. From what I have heard, Iowans strongly oppose military action by the United States. They have concerns and questions about what the President has proposed.
"If the goal is to deter and degrade Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons, how would a limited strike achieve this goal? What are the risks of military action? What is the U.S. national interest in striking Syria? I’m still leaning against the authorization for the use of force that’s been presented.
"In addition, the Russian proposal to force Assad to turn over chemical weapons to international monitors presents a possible alternative. Military action should be the last resort, so this diplomatic offer, if credible and enforceable, needs to be considered.”
Tom Harkin Response
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) tonight issued the following statement in response to the President’s primetime address on the situation in Syria:
“I am encouraged by the apparent opening for a multilateral response to the crisis in Syria.
"I support and commend the efforts of the President and his Administration to work with the international community and the United Nations to obtain a diplomatic resolution to take control of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
“The use of chemical weapons against civilians is abhorrent – both from a human rights perspective and from international norms dating back to World War I. When international norms are violated, those violations should be condemned and addressed by the international community as a whole.”
Because the issue of Syria is ramping up, some church leaders in Louisville, Nebraska, held the first prayer circle at the city park Tuesday night.
Like last week's Gallup Poll, many of those in attendance aren't sure military action is the answer.
"It's heartbreaking and makes you cry," said Pastor Cathy Stander. "You wish there was something we could do -- so we pray. I'm afraid it would lead to many more tragedies and lives lost."
"With Syria -- my personal opinion is we should leave it alone," said Pastor Bob Wynn. "We just need to be in prayer for all the people of the world."