President Obama warned Wednesday that a potential U.S. military strike on Syria's ruling regime in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack on its own people would send "a pretty strong signal that they better not do it again."
In an interview with PBS's "NewsHour" at the White House after speaking at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Obama confirmed that his administration has concluded that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons on a recent attack that killed scores of civilians. But the president emphasized that he has yet to make a decision about whether the U.S. response will include military strikes that his administration is reportedly weighing on Syrian government and military targets.
"We have concluded that the Syrian government, in fact, carried these out, and if so there need to be international consequences," Obama said. "I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict with Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms in regards to chemical weapons that could threaten us, they are held accountable."
Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would represent a "red line," and administration officials are reportedly leaning toward a limited military response that would include bombings of strategic Syrian targets, but not the chemical weapon stockpiles that are thought to be hidden throughout the country.
Administration officials have said the goal would not be to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power but to deliver a strong message that the international community will not abide the use of chemical agents.
In laying out a case for potential military action, the White House has warned that such weapons, if they were to fall into the hands of terrorists or other rogue agencies, could threaten U.S. national security.
"We want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against its own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency," Obama said, "but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected and that needs to stop."