NEW YORK — President Obama on Tuesday laid out a clear set of choices for the United Nations: Find consensus on Syria, or become irrelevant.
In a highly anticipated speech, Mr. Obama — making his fifth address to the international body — said the U.N. Security Council must pass a resolution calling for military action if Syrian President Bashar Assad does not give up his chemical weapons, as he has agreed to do.
“There must be a strong Security Council resolution to verify that the Assad regime is keeping its commitments, and there must be consequences if they fail to do so. If we cannot agree even on this, then it will show that the U.N. is incapable of enforcing the most basic of international laws,” he said. “On the other hand, if we succeed, it will send a powerful message that the use of chemical weapons has no place in the 21st century, and that this body means what is says.”
Thus far, Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council which could wield its veto power, has opposed any use of force in Syria. While the U.S. and Russia have worked together diplomatically to reach an agreement under which Assad has agreed to give up his chemical arsenal, military action — a last resort if Assad reneges, Mr. Obama said — will be a tough sell at the U.N.
Meanwhile, the White House also announced another $339 million in additional humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.
Having contributed nearly $1.4 billion since the Syrian civil war began, the U.S. is the largest contributor of humanitarian aid to the war-torn country, according to the White House.