While noting that he has made no “final decision” on striking Syria Obama gave his clearest indication yet that the United States would indeed act.
His remarks came after the United States released an intelligence report expressing “high confidence” that the regime had launched a chemical onslaught in the suburbs of Damascus last week that killed 1,429 people, including at least 426 children.
Obama said in brief remarks at the White House.
“This kind of attack is a challenge to the world, We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale, I have said before, and I meant what I said, that the world has an obligation to make sure we maintain the norm against the use of chemical weapons,”
Obama slammed the “incapacity” of the UN Security Council to act, and called the attack a threat to US “national security interests.”
August 28, 2013: A video appearing to show a man being reunited with his young son after they were separated during the recent Syrian chemical attack was uploaded to video sharing website Liveleak overnight.
Obama said his administration and the military were looking at a “wide range of options” but had ruled out “boots on the ground” or a “long-term campaign.”
“We are looking at the possibility of a limited, narrow act,” he said.
France gave its backing to the US plans, but British MPs voted against any involvement in military action and other close allies including Germany said they would not sign up.
Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, has meanwhile questioned US intelligence on the August 21 gas attacks and has warned against any military strikes without UN backing.
In Damascus, UN experts completed their investigation into the attacks east of the capital and said they would “expedite” a report on whether chemical weapons had been used there.
The team is due to leave the war-battered country Saturday and report back immediately to UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who has appealed to the West to allow time for their findings to be assessed.
August 22, 2013: Disturbing video has emerged allegedly showing a biological or chemical weapons attack on a suburb in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
US Secretary of State John Kerry cited “multiple streams of intelligence” indicating that the Syrian government had carried out the attack and that Assad himself is the “ultimate decision maker” for the country’s chemical weapons program.
Kerry went on to say that failure to act would not only erode the nearly century-old norm against the use of chemical weapons, but would embolden Syrian allies Iran and Hezbollah.
But, faced with an impasse at the Security Council and the British parliament’s shock vote on Thursday, the United States has been forced to look elsewhere for international partners.
While Germany and Canada ruled out joining any military strikes, French President Francois Hollande – whose country was a strident opponent of the US-led war on Iraq – said the British decision would not affect his government’s stance.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the White House was still seeking an “international coalition that will act together” against Assad’s regime.
The British government’s defeat in parliament came after the failure of an 11th-hour effort by British diplomats to win UN backing for action at a meeting of Security Council permanent members.
Gruesome pictures of some of the reported victims of the attacks, including children, have shocked the world and piled on the pressure for a response that could draw a reluctant West into the vicious Syrian civil war.
But Russia and Iran, and even some US allies have warned against any intervention, saying it risked sparking a wider conflict.