President Obama stated that “as a commander in chief” he has the right to order a military strike against Syria without congressional approval. However, he said that Capitol Hill support would strengthen the response to the alleged chemical attack.
“As commander in chief I always preserve the right and the responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security. I don't believe that I was required to take this to Congress. But I did not take this to Congress because I think it's an empty exercise," Obama said during a news conference in Stockholm on Wednesday, after a meeting with the Swedish prime minister.
Obama’s comments came shortly after he managed to win the support of key politicians on his plans to launch a “limited” strike on Syria. On Tuesday, Democrat and Republican leaders in Congress announced that that the United States should respond to Syrian President Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons.
The vote is expected early next week, after Congress reconvenes on September 9.
Obama is confident that lawmakers will authorize his request for the military strike against the Syrian regime.
“I believe congress will approve it because I think that America recognizes that as difficult as it is to take any military action even one as limited as we’re talking about, even one without boots on the ground. That’s a sober decision,” he said.
The president said that America recognizes that “if the international community fails to maintain certain norms, standards and laws governing how countries interact and how people are treated, then over time this world become less safe.”
Obama also said that his decision to seek congressional approval for his plan was not just a symbolic gesture.
"I think that it is very important for the Congress to say that we mean what we say. I think we will be stronger as a country in our response if the president and Congress do it together,” he said.
Obama added that the “red line” he mentioned last year while speaking about Syria’s use of chemical weapons was drawn “by the world” when its leaders signed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, rather than by him personally.
“I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war.”
Congress “set a red line” when it ratified that treaty, he added. “Congress set a red line when it indicated in a piece of legislation entitled the Syria Accountability Act, that some of horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for.”
Obama also declared that the entire international community’s credibility is at stake when it comes to the conflict in Syria.
“My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line. And America’s and Congress’s credibility is on the line.”
Meanwhile in Washington, key congressional committees are holding hearings and discussing the draft resolution on the military attack on Syria.The Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee approved on Wednesday the presidential plan to strike Syria.
Obama’s plan progressed a step further on Tuesday when it received backing from party leaders in Congress. However, only 36 percent of the American population support the initiative, an ABC News/Washington Post poll revealed.
“By this time, [after] 13 years of war, people and the military have no faith in anything the government has to say at all. They are sick and tired of the war, and the government has no credibility with the rank and file in the military,” Marine veteran Gordon Duff told RT.