Obama: ‘This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan’

September 3, 2013

President Obama suggested Tuesday that he is open to working with Congress on a revised resolution authorizing military force in Syria as long as the end result maintains the administration’s goals.

“I would not be going to Congress if I was not serious about consultation,” the president said before meeting with congressional leaders at the White House to seek their backing  for a possible strike on the military forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“So long as we are accomplishing what needs to be accomplished, which is to send a clear message to Assad degrading his capability to use chemical weapons, not just now but also in the future -- as long as the authorization allows us to do that," Obama said, "I’m confident that we’re going to be able to come up with something thathits that mark.”

Obama was sitting down with a bipartisan group of House and Senate leaders, including House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was not in attendance.

Many in Congress have balked at the administration’s draft resolution authorizing military force against Syria’s use of chemical weapons, fretting that the document is not written narrowly enough to define the limited scope of a mission that Obama has promised will not be open-ended.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, the presidentsaid he is committed to a specific set of strikes that will not involve U.S. combat troops on the ground.

“This is not Iraq, and this is not Afghanistan,” Obama said. “This is a limited, proportional step that will send a clear message, not only to the Assad regime but also to other countries that may be interested in testing some of these international norms, that there are consequences.

"It gives us the ability to degrade Assad’s capabilities when it comes to chemical weapons. It also fits into a broader strategy that we have to make sure that we can bring about over time the kind of strengthening of the opposition and the diplomatic and economic and political pressure required so that ultimately we have a transition that can bring peace and stability not only to Syria but to the region.”

Leaders of both chambers of Congress have said they will hold votes on the resolution the week of Sept. 9, when lawmakers return to Washington from a five-week summer recess.

“I look forward to listening to the various concerns of the members who are here today,” Obama said. “I am confident that those concerns can be addressed.”

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.
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