Obama: No Decision On Syria
By Christina Bellantoni
President Barack Obama said Wednesday he has not made a decision about action against Syria, and stressed he has "no interest" in "any kind of open-ended conflict" there.
In an exclusive interview with PBS NewsHour co-anchors Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff, Mr. Obama said:
So what I've said is that we have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place. And nobody disputes -- or hardly anybody disputes that chemical weapons were used on a large scale in Syria against civilian populations.
We have looked at all the evidence, and we do not believe the opposition possessed nuclear weapons on -- or chemical weapons of that sort. We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that's so, then there need to be international consequences.
So we are consulting with our allies. We're consulting with the international community. And you know, I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable.
Asked why chemical weapons use has pushed the situation to the brink, given more than 100,000 killed and 2 million refugees, Mr. Obama said the situation has been "heartbreaking."
"...[W]hen you start talking about chemical weapons in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where over time, their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they're allied to known terrorist organizations that, in the past, have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility, in which chemical weapons that can have devastating effects could be directed at us. And we want to make sure that that does not happen," he said.
The president also reflected on the historic day in Washington and the speech he'd just concluded at the Lincoln Memorial to mark the 50th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech.
"It is as important a day as any in our history," Mr. Obama said.
The 27-minute interview touched on issues of economic equality, his second-term agenda and his hopes for what Congress will do following the Supreme Court's action on the Voting Rights Act.