Obama says Syria chemical weapons top priority
September 17th, 2013
09:37 PM ET
1 year ago

Obama says Syria chemical weapons top priority

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama believes Syria would be better off without its president, Bashar al-Assad, but said on Tuesday that removing his chemical weapons is the top priority and he remains focused on a diplomatic solution.

In an interview with Telemundo, Obama also said U.N. investigators have now "unequivocally said that chemical weapons were used" in Syria in August and "when you look at the details of the evidence they present, it is inconceivable that anybody other than the regime used it."

Obama believes the U.N. conclusions released in a report this week "changes international opinion on this issue" and pointed to developments with allies on a resolution to turn over Syrian stockpiles to international control.

"We're in negotiations with the Russians as we speak up in the United Nations. My goal consistently here has been to make sure that we get those chemical weapons out so that nobody can use them," he said.

Obama said, however, that Syria is still in the midst of a civil war regardless of developments on chemical weapons.

There's an underlying challenge that we've got to deal with, which is that there's a civil war going on inside of Syria and we've got a murderous dictator who so far at least has resisted efforts at a political settlement," Obama said.

"So this will only be the first step, even if we get an agreement on chemical weapons. We still have a destabilizing situation there and we're going have to take action diplomatically to try to resolve it. But I always preserve as commander in chief the possibility that if in fact U.S. interests are directly impacted we may end up having to do something," he added.

Obama has left the threat of force on the table even though Congress and the American public have so far indicated they do not support such action.

The White House has said the Syrian leader must be held accountable in part to send a message to states like Iran, if efforts to halt that country's nuclear program are to succeed.

"I think it's clear that Iran is under a whole host of international sanctions precisely because the entire international community believes that we can't see a nuclear arms race triggered in the most volatile part of the world. And there is an opportunity here for diplomacy," he said.

"I hope the Iranians take advantage of it. There are indications that (Hassan) Rouhani, the new president is somebody who is looking to open dialogue with the West and with the United States in a way that we haven't seen in the past. And so we should test it," Obama added.


Filed under: President Obama • Syria
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. S. B. Stein

    If what I heard on NPR about the UN report was accurate, the report came as close as they could without saying it was Syria because it was. I don't know what Russia has for evidence, but it needs to come out. Without it, there is no way the rebels could have done this.

    September 17, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  2. Richard Long

    Laser-focus on unemployment and the economy... ooops, got to get support for terrorists.

    September 17, 2013 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  3. Namejim

    He always says issues are top priorty and does NOTHING!!!!!!!!!

    September 17, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  4. Thomas

    Definitely in the top five of the to do list.

    September 18, 2013 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  5. Name Uche Agonsi

    If you ask me of the trustable big 'Bs' that can cause ripples in the diplomatic playbook, I give you the two American Presidents, Bill and Barrack. But why must UN mute its opinion on the actual group that used the chemicals which should have been a major point of reference. Putin require moral self-re-examination for supporting a regime with war crime record hanging on its neck, at least, until the record is straightened.

    September 18, 2013 01:53 am at 1:53 am |
  6. The Great Pontificator

    My only fear of Syria's chemical weapons is that al-Qaida could get a hold of them. Since al-Qaida is among the rebels, the worst possible thing to do would be to aid them by attacking and weakening the Syrian government. Other than that, I'm more worried about the debt over here and substituting the best in the world health care that I have now for a third world system where it takes months to have any practical tests done and much more money now to buy the level of coverage that I paid much less for before.

    September 18, 2013 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  7. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Obama says Syria chemical weapons top priority ???

    Gee...
    I thought OBAMA said the economy was "HIS"
    top priority.

    TRUST "ME"

    "I" will close GITMO

    "I" will veto ALL earmarks

    "I" will CUT the deficit it half

    "I" will make the sea jump back

    “I” will cut the cost of health care

    "I" will get un-employment under 5%

    “I” will LET you keep the Dr. you like

    "I" will NOT raise your taxes; NOT by one dime

    "I" will go line by line through the budget and cut

    “I” will end fraud waste and abuse in government programs

    "I" will end Red State – Blue State and just have United States

    "I" will have the most transparent administration in American history

    “I” will support and defend The Constitution of the United States of America
    TRUST "ME"

    September 18, 2013 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  8. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    The Guns Over People tea potty want war no matter what happens. President Obama listened to Americans to avoid war.

    September 18, 2013 07:27 am at 7:27 am |