(CNN) – The United States will maintain the threat of military force against Syria with efforts underway to diplomatically place its chemical weapons under international control, President Barack Obama said on Saturday.
His comments came as Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, continued their initial round of talks in Geneva on ways to forge a peaceful resolution with international backing.
While senior administration officials said on Friday the United States would not insist that the threat of military force be included in a potential U.N. resolution on Syria, Obama said in his weekly address that it was important for it to exist outside of that diplomatic process, which could last for weeks at least.
"Since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime," he said. "And if diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act."
A senior defense official told CNN there has been "no change" in the military's planning or readiness levels and commanders have not been instructed to change their "posture" in any way.
Russia, which can block action in the U.N. Security Council, opposes the threat of force in any resolution.
Obama said the surprise diplomatic opening that materialized earlier this week cannot be a stall tactic.
"Any agreement needs to verify that the Assad regime and Russia are keeping their commitments: that means working to turn Syria's chemical weapons over to international control and ultimately destroying them," he said.
He said "we need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons."
The Obama administration contends the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad launched a poison gas attack on civilians outside Damascus on August 21, killing more than 1,400 people.
Obama sought authorization from Congress for a limited military strike to punish the Syrian regime, which has denied being behind the chemical attack. He paused that effort amid weak support from lawmakers in both houses to give diplomacy a chance.
– CNN's Chris Lawrence contributed to this report.
Read Obama's full remarks below:
This week, when I addressed the nation on Syria, I said that – in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force – there is the possibility of a diplomatic solution. Russia has indicated a new willingness to join with the international community in pushing Syria to give up its chemical weapons, which the Assad regime used in an attack that killed more than 1,000 people on August 21. I also asked Congress to postpone a vote on the use of military force while we pursue this diplomatic path. And that's what we're doing.
At my direction, Secretary of State Kerry is in discussions with his Russian counterpart. But we're making it clear that this can't be a stalling tactic. Any agreement needs to verify that the Assad regime and Russia are keeping their commitments: that means working to turn Syria's chemical weapons over to international control and ultimately destroying them. This would allow us to achieve our goal – deterring the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrading their ability to use them, and making it clear to the world that we won't tolerate their use.
We've seen indications of progress. As recently as a week ago, the Assad regime would not admit that it possessed chemical weapons. Today, it does. Syria has signaled a willingness to join with 189 other nations, representing 98 percent of humanity, in abiding by an international agreement that prohibits the use of chemical weapons. And Russia has staked its own credibility on supporting this outcome.
These are all positive developments. We'll keep working with the international community to see that Assad gives up his chemical weapons so that they can be destroyed. We will continue rallying support from allies around the world who agree on the need for action to deter the use of chemical weapons in Syria. And if current discussions produce a serious plan, I'm prepared to move forward with it.
But we are not just going to take Russia and Assad's word for it. We need to see concrete actions to demonstrate that Assad is serious about giving up his chemical weapons. And since this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action, we will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime. And if diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act.
The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. As I have said for weeks, the international community must respond to this outrage. A dictator must not be allowed to gas children in their beds with impunity. And we cannot risk poison gas becoming the new weapon of choice for tyrants and terrorists the world over.
We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children. But if there is any chance of achieving that goal without resorting to force, then I believe we have a responsibility to pursue that path. Thank you.
While the Presidents handling of the Syria matter has not been the best, I believe in principle he is correct. If the WORLD has agreed to ban chemical weapons, a countries leader that uses them should be punished. I firmly believe that with out the threat of American bombing Assad would have never even thought of giving up his chemical weapons. What is really sad about this is many representatives do not seem to acknowledge this fact and for political reasons only want to focus on the bumpy road that led to this. We are becoming a nation of cynics who find it so easy to criticize any and everyone while most of us don't have a clue on how they would handle it. This whole Syrian issue is extremely complex and hopefully there will be some type of resolution in the next year or two.
The more pressure our government puts on the people who are trying to help make a peaceful resolution, the more we are going to end up with a disaster on our hands. The disaster will be "Boots on the Ground", which is exactly what you said as the US President you would not do.
Your talking about the world largest stock pile of chemical weapons, which is so complex that time for a resolution is needed. This is a critical and important step in resolving this huge crisis that's on the hands of all countries involved. There has to be solid concrete plans and because the situation is so large and so many people involved, more time is needed to get these plans in order.
I feel we need to show some respect and give more time before our country makes an irrational decision to strike into Syria.
Our country needs a peaceful resolution not another war outbreak.
Turning over the weapons is one thing. But so long as Syria has the ability to make pesticides/fertilizer, Assad still has the ability to make more chemical weapons. This just delays the inevitable of making more secretly. For those of you that never realized, Raid and those type of pesticides are nerve agents.
Chemical Assad (folks, you still remember "chemical Ali of Iraq"?) must comply. If he doesn't, he has to explain to the entire world why he acquired all those stockpile of chemicals, and why he should continue to retain them.
Very smart and very diplomatic president in modern history of USA.
What a waste of time and resources by the good ol` USA. The middle east diplomacy by the admin. has been awful. Bush for more or less made allies out of Egypt, Libya, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq Jordan, and Syria. Now, Obumbles has turned four of the seven into chaos and agitated the rest. Egypt used to be a tourist hot spot, not any more. Good job Obumbles.
I am glad the Preident isn't as weak-kneed as I am about the use of force. I am also relieved to know that he is not trigger happy.
Sometimes you need to carry a big stick and have the power to use it in regards to diplomacy . It doesn't mean one has to use it , or be reckless in regards to that power. I'm ashamed of congress and the left over GW Bush tea bags who conspire in demeaning any resolution by dividing America.
The last thing our President wants is another war.
When you purposely try to demean a person , you only demean yourself , TEA PARTY !
Smith – by 'awful' do you mean 'successful' so far? No war, no bombings yet.
You are peobably the same person who wanted the President to bomb Syria months ago. Now you think he os weak because he delivered a peaceful solution.
Did you ever go to war.....I am guessing not.
The president is correct.
Oh the pressure is on for the President and his administration that is! Putin's plan had better work otherwise the administration has no chance of getting an authorization to start another endless war. Obama should give Putin a big round of applause!
Keep the two prong strategy if one fails revert to the other. Gassing children is unfathomable drag whoever is responsible to ICC.