Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Biden: "No doubt" Assad responsible for chemical weapons attack - CBS News

The United States must respond to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday, because "allowing the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would represent a significant challenge or threat to the United States' security interests."

Carney said there is "little doubt" the Assad regime is the party responsible for the mass use of chemical weapons outside of Damascus on Aug. 21. Furthermore, he said, "We have established with a high degree of confidence the Assad regime has used chemical weapons already in this conflict."

While Carney said "there must be a response," he noted that President Obama has yet to decide what course of action he'll take.

"A decision about the use of military force has not been made," he said. "His options are many, and they include a variety of options that are not limited to the use of force."

The potential for a military strike in Syria has triggered some concern in on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are pointing out that the president cannot legally use military force without congressional approval.

In 2007, Mr. Obama as a presidential candidate made the same argument with respect to potential military strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities.

"The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation," Mr. Obama told the Boston Globe. "In instances of self-defense, the president would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent."

Carney on Tuesday maintained that the president has yet to decide on what action to take, but he suggested that if the U.S. uses military force without congressional approval, it would meet Mr. Obama's 2007 standards.

"As I made clear, it is clearly in the United States national security interest that that norm be maintained," he said, "because the consequences of that standard dissolving are enormous and detrimental to the interest of the United States, and very detrimental to the international community, to our allies and partners in the region and to the world at large."

Carney maintained that the White House doesn't need congressional approval for anything yet because Mr. Obama has yet to decide whether or not to use military force. British Prime Minister David Cameron is recalling the British parliament so that it can vote this week on taking military action in Syria, but Carney insisted that in the U.S., "nothing has been decided."

"We are engaging in what we believe our responsibility is here, which is to consult with Congress," Carney said.

While the U.S. is considering various responses, Carney reiterated that "we don't envision U.S. boots on the ground in Syria."

He added that the options under consideration are "not about regime change."

"It is our firm conviction that Syria's future cannot include Assad in power," he said. "But this deliberation and the actions that we are contemplating are not about regime change. We believe... that resolution of this conflict has to come through political negotiation and settlement."

In an interview with the Daily Beast, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., suggested Mr. Obama is partially to blame for the continued use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"Assad was able to use chemical weapons before and there was no response, and so why not do it again? This should surprise no one," McCain said. "They viewed that not as a red line but as a green light, and they acted accordingly."

Carney said in response that when the Obama administration established with a high degree of confidence that the Assad regime had used chemical weapons on a relatively small scale "we did respond." The administration stepped up its support for the Syrian opposition, he noted.

"And there will be a response to this, not apparent but clear and undeniable large-scale attack. And that is what is under deliberation at this time."


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