- (Photo: Reuters/Mike Theiler)
President Barack Obama announced Saturday he will seek congressional approval to attack Syria for its use of chemical weapons against civilians.
After having made the decision to attack Syria, Obama said, he also decided to "seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."
His remarks were made before reporters at the White House. He did not take questions after speaking.
Congress is in recess, but under the U.S. Constitution, the president has the authority to call Congress back into session.
Since announcing that the administration is seeking to use force against Syria, Obama had been criticized by a bipartisan group of senators and congresspersons for not seeking congressional approval. Many news organizations had also pointed out that Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry had all argued when they were senators during the President George W. Bush administration that congressional approval should have been necessary when Bush was considering a strike against Iraq.
There is no guarantee that Congress will approve a strike against Libya, especially in the House of Representatives. Earlier this week, the British Parliament voted against supporting a military strike.
Obama did not indicate whether or not he would strike Syria anyway, if he were to lose the vote in Congress, but he did add that "I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization."
On Sunday, before Congress votes, the president will meet privately with members of the House to lay out the case for attacking Syria and share classified information. It is unclear, at the time of this publication, whether there will be a similar meeting with senators.
"Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century," Obama said.
"Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons," he explained, "launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see – hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children – young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government.
"This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria's borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.
"In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted."
Obama clarified that the U.S. commitment to the Syrian conflict would not be "open-ended" and no ground troops would be used.