Seeking to rally support for military action against Syria, President Obama’s new ambassador to the U.N. said Friday that the administration has “exhausted the alternatives” and that Americans should agree that there are “lines in this world that should not be crossed and limits on murderous behavior that must be enforced.”
Samantha Power, who took over her post a month ago, said the United States has pressured the regime of Syrian leader Bashar Assad to stop using chemical weapons, but that Russia — often backed by China — has thwarted those efforts and refused to condemn Syria on the international stage.
“‘In Assad’s cost-benefit calculus, he must have weighed the military benefits of using this hideous weapon, against the recognition that he could get away with it because Russia will have Syria’s back in the Security Council,” she said in a speech at the Center for American Progress, a Washington-based think tank. “It is only after the United States pursued these nonmilitary options without achieving the desired results of deterring chemicals weapons use that the president concluded that a limited military strike is the only way to prevent Assad from deploying chemical weapons as if they are a conventional weapon of war.”
The Obama administration said the Assad regime launched a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 in the suburbs of Damascus that reportedly killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of women and children.
Mr. Obama has called for an international response, but struggled to win support for a military action against Syria.
Mr. Obama is now lobbying Congress to pass a resolution that came out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s this week that gives the president 90 days to carry out an attack and pushes the president to provide more support to the rebels fighting against the Assad government. The Senate is expected to vote on the resolution next week.
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Lawmakers are divided on the issue and are urging Mr. Obama to make a stronger case for a military strike. The Obama administration announced Friday that president is planning to address the American people from the White House on Tuesday.
Mrs. Power, meanwhile, repeatedly criticized Russia Friday for stonewalling U.S. efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to sign off on a military response against Syria.
“It is naive to think that Russia is on the verge of changing its position and allowing the U.N. Security Council to assume its rightful role as the enforcer of internationals peace and security,” Mrs. Power said. “In short, the Security Council that the world needs to deal with this urgent crisis is not the Security Council we have.”
Mrs. Power likened the situation to 1999 when the council refused to endorse a resolution authorizing the use of force in Kosovo.
“Many Americans recognize that while we were right to seek to work through the security council, it is clear that Syria is one of those occasions, like Kosovo, when the council is so paralyzed that countries have to act outside it if they are to prevent the flouting of international laws and norms,” she said.
Mrs. Power said the Arab League, NATO’s secretary-general, as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and 11 of the 20 states at the G-20 summit have called for an international response to the alleged chemical weapons attack.
“There is no question that authorization by Congress will help strengthen our case,” she said.
Mrs. Power said that Mr. Obama will not put military troops on the ground in Syria and said that the limited military action will help convince Assad regime officials that they can’t “kill their way to victory.”
“If we cannot summon the country to act when the evidence is clear and the action being contemplated is limited, then our ability to lead in the world is compromised,” she said. “The alternative is to give a green light to outrages that will threaten our security and haunt our conscious, outrages that will eventually compel us to use force down the line at far greater the risk and cost to our own citizens.”