Obama said he was sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Thursday in Geneva, while he will continue talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At the same time, Obama said the United States and its allies would work with Russia and China to present a resolution to the United Nations Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons and to ultimately destroy them under international control.
In the interim, the military will be ready, maintaining a credible pressure on Assad. Directly addressing criticism over his own vow of limited strikes, Obama said some lawmakers have said “there’s no point in simply doing a pinprick strike in Syria.”
“Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks,” the president said. “Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver.”
The speech capped a frenetic 10 days that began with military action seeming imminent until Obama unexpectedly announced he would seek congressional authorization for the use of force against Assad. Congressional opposition from an unusual coalition of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats stalled the commander in chief’s push for authority as lawmakers challenged the administration’s contention that U.S. national security interests were at stake.
Obama also struggled in building international support for a military attack designed to degrade Assad’s ability to use chemical weapons.
Assad’s patron, Russia, has blocked U.S. attempts to rally the U.N. Security Council behind a military strike. But Monday, after an off-the-cuff remark by Kerry, it spoke favorably about requiring Syria to surrender control of its chemical weapons, and the Syrian foreign minister did likewise.
The foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said Tuesday that his government was ready to turn over its chemical weapons stockpile in line with Russia’s proposal in order “to thwart U.S. aggression.” He also said Syria was prepared to sign an international chemical treaty it long has rejected — a step it can take on its own at any time without U.S. or U.N. supervision.