Obama Welcomes Syria Chemical Bid, Expects Assad Compliance: U.S. Ready for Military Action if Diplomacy Fails

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U.S. President Barack Obama welcomed the deal reached Saturday to strip Syria of chemical weapons but said much remains to be done and Damascus must comply with the accord.

In a statement, Obama said that if the regime of President Bashar Assad does not live up to the deal Washington reached with Syria's ally Russia, "the United States remains prepared to act."

Obama said the accord was made possible 'in part' by what he called his credible threat to use force against Syria as punishment for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last month.

The new accord gives Syria a week to provide details of its chemical weapons stockpiles, and says Syria must give international inspectors unfettered access to them with the goal of removing them by the middle of next year.

"While we have made important progress, much more work remains to be done," Obama said.

"The United States will continue working with Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United Nations and others to ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today. And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act," the president added.

Obama had said earlier on Saturday he was willing to give diplomacy a chance to help resolve the Syrian crisis, but warned the military option was still on the table.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov were engaged in a third day of talks following Moscow's surprise initiative to finalize an agreement on eliminating Assad's chemical weapons.

"We are not just going to take Russia and Assad's word for it. We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons," Obama said in his weekly address.

"And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime."

The Russian plan has led Obama to put on hold planned military strikes in response to an August 21 chemical attack outside Damascus that Washington blames on the regime and says killed more than 1,400 people.

"We're making it clear that this can't be a stalling tactic," Obama said of the discussions in Geneva.

In Geneva, Kerry said the United States and Russia had clinched a deal that would include the threat of force and under which Syria must present details of its chemical weapons stockpile within a week.

"Any agreement needs to verify that the Assad regime and Russia are keeping their commitments: that means working to turn Syria's chemical weapons over to international control and ultimately destroying them," Obama said.

"This would allow us to achieve our goal -- deterring the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrading their ability to use them, and making it clear to the world that we won't tolerate their use."

The United States has estimated that Syria possesses around 1,000 metric tonnes of various chemical agents, including mustard and sarin gas, sulfur and VX.

The Russian estimates had been initially much lower, a senior U.S. administration official said.

Obama pointed to "indications of progress" after the Assad regime acknowledged for the first time that it possessed chemical weapons and applied to join the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention.

"We'll keep working with the international community to see that Assad gives up his chemical weapons so that they can be destroyed," the president said.

"We will continue rallying support from allies around the world who agree on the need for action to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"And if current discussions produce a serious plan, I'm prepared to move forward with it."

Invoking a "duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children," Obama repeated his call for an international response.

"A dictator must not be allowed to gas children in their beds with impunity. And we cannot risk poison gas becoming the new weapon of choice for tyrants and terrorists the world over," he said.

"But if there is any chance of achieving that goal without resorting to force, then I believe we have a responsibility to pursue that path."

Comments 7
Thumb irus_da_virus 14 September 2013, 13:50

And if the UN reports clearly identifies the Assad regime as being the one that executed the chemical attack, will Assad's destroying of these weapons make up for it?its like i shoot someone with a gun and then I receive no punishment because I surrender my weapon. Handing over the chemical arsenal doesn't make him innocent. This doesn't make sense!

Missing VINCENT 15 September 2013, 04:10

If Assad did it, you are absolutely correct.

Thumb benzona 14 September 2013, 16:49

Obama let down the majority of Syrians. 17 millions out of the 22 millions want Bachar out, jailed or killed.

Missing helicopter 14 September 2013, 20:42

Even though I wish, hope and pray that the 5 points happen, but as a Lebanese I am most concerned with points 1 and 3 (Shebaa farms and returning refugees who are in Lebanon). I would sign a peace treaty if these two points happen, get my country back to its previous glory, business/banking/tourism and add technology and industry to the mix. create employment, stop corruption and strengthen Lebanon militarily and economically. We have tons of internal work to do to get our own house in order.

Missing VINCENT 15 September 2013, 01:06

You are absolutely correct It is all about setting an example which inherently sends the correct message to the rest. For hundreds of years, all the civilizations that existed and those who moved on starting from Anatolia to the to Mediterranean coasts of Lebanon and Syria have shared common interests, cultures, goals, etc. Setting the correct example benefits us collectively and sends a firm and resolute message to those would want to divide and harm us. Our civilizations have survived the rigors of oppression and tyranny throughout the times, but time can also be our friend giving us the opportunity to develop new relationships and coalitions.

Missing phillipo 15 September 2013, 07:49

If all this were to happen then there would be no Israel, so your "problem" would be solved.
However :
3) Do you think that Abu Mazen would agree that the Palestinians who have stayed in their homes for the past 65 years would become a minority in the State of Palestine?
4) Hamas in Gaza have stated that they will never recognise an Israeli State.
Why just between Israel and Palestine. Upon signing a peace treaty the problems with Lebanon and Syria would automatically be solved.
5) So you want a State of Palestine "Juseinfrei", free of all Jews, so how about Israel doing the same with all the Israeli Arabs and sending them to Palestine. You and your cronies would certainly complain about that.

Missing phillipo 15 September 2013, 07:52

"but we must set an example first"

That example must be for the President and/or the Prime Minister of Lebanon sending a letter, either directly or through a third party, to the President and/or the Prime Minister of Israel asking for immediate talks towards a peace treaty between the two countries.