I just addressed the nation about the use
of chemical weapons in Syria.
Over the past two years, what began as a
series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar
al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war in Syria. Over 100,000 people
have been killed.
In that time, we have worked with friends
and allies to provide humanitarian support for the Syrian people, to help
the moderate opposition within Syria, and to shape a political settlement.
But we have resisted calls for military action because we cannot resolve
someone else's civil war through force.
The situation profoundly changed in the
early hours of August 21, when more than 1,000 Syrians -- including
hundreds of children -- were killed by chemical weapons launched by the
What happened to those people -- to those
children -- is not only a violation of international law -- it's also a
danger to our security. Here's why:
If we fail to act, the Assad regime will
see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these
deadly weapons erodes, other tyrants and authoritarian regimes will have no
reason to think twice about acquiring poison gases and using them. Over
time, our troops could face the prospect of chemical warfare on the
battlefield. It could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these
weapons and use them to attack civilians. If fighting spills beyond Syria's
borders, these weapons could threaten our allies in the region.
So after careful deliberation, I
determined that it is in the national security interests of the United
States to respond to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons through a
targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter
Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime's ability to use
them, and make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.
Though I possess the authority to order
these strikes, in the absence of a direct threat to our security I believe
that Congress should consider my decision to act. Our democracy is stronger
when the President acts with the support of Congress -- and when Americans
stand together as one people.
Over the last few days, as this debate
unfolds, we've already begun to see signs that the credible threat of U.S.
military action may produce a diplomatic breakthrough. The Russian
government has indicated a willingness to join with the international
community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons and the Assad
regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they'd
join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.
It's too early to tell whether this offer
will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its
commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of
chemical weapons without the use of force.
That's why I've asked the leaders of
Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue
this diplomatic path. I'm sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his
Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions
with President Putin. At the same time, we'll work with two of our closest
allies -- France and the United Kingdom -- to put forward a resolution at
the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons,
and to ultimately destroy them under international control.
Meanwhile, I've ordered our military to
maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in
a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight, I give thanks again
to our military and their families for their incredible strength and
As we continue this debate -- in
Washington, and across the country -- I need your help to make sure that
everyone understands the factors at play.
Please share this message with others to
make sure they know where I stand, and how they can stay up to date on this
situation. Anyone can find the latest information about the situation in
Syria, including video of tonight's address, here: