White House Resumes Syria Push Ahead of Obama Address to Nation

Secretary of State Kerry stresses that an attack on Syria will be "unbelievably small."
18:50 | 09/09/13

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Transcript for White House Resumes Syria Push Ahead of Obama Address to Nation
This is a special report from ABC news. -- New York with the CBC news digital special report the White House continuing to make its case for military strike inside Syria today. Right now we are watching the vice president Joseph Biden who is expected to take the podium there that is a live -- out of Baltimore Maryland. He is in town to promote a grant that was -- into the Port of Baltimore but he is expected to weigh in. On the latest to authorize military action in Syria in if he does make those comments we will take you back live to that shot but first this morning. It was secretary of state John Kerry who during a stopover in London. Sought to ease concerns about the US being drawn. Into the Syrian civil war. The aftermath of the Iraq experience and Afghanistan leave a lot of people saying. We don't want to believe you know see our young people coming back in the body bags -- but that's not what we're talking about. And what we have to do is make clear to people. That this is we're not talking about war we're not. Going to war. We will not have people at risk in that way we will be able to hold. Bashar Assad accountable. Without. Engaging in troops on the ground or any other prolonged kind of effort. In a very limited very targeted. The very short term effort. Degrades. His capacity to deliver chemical weapons. Without. Assuming responsibility for serious civil war that is exactly what we're talking about doing unbelievably small limited kind of effort. Unbelievably small limited effort they emphatic statement there from the secretary of state in London and I want to bring in ABC's -- shipper who is in London. Nick the British have voted. They're not taking part in any kind of potential intervention in Syria so what exactly was the secretary is -- hoping to accomplish this morning. I think the secretary of state wasn't really speaking to the British public I mean. I was there in that room when he did. Say hallows to his counterpart secretary of foreign secretary William Hague he did. Send a message to the British voters -- to the British public about. How the US UK alliance. Is still strong -- In that statement he really is trying to send a message back home and that message is to the House of Representatives. And you know -- -- latest count -- that is the administration's about twenty votes short. Of getting through the house. Any kind of bill authorizing a strike in this area -- was trying to send a message to them say look this is going to be in his words unbelievably small. And his notion that this isn't a war at all if it's it's a curious one for for a lot of people but the point is that he's trying to say look this is going to be small this is going to be targeted we are not going to be dragged into anything. Critics of course would say. That any time you attack -- country in the Middle East. I you have no idea what the repercussions might end up being right and I want to get to a SoundBite that was addressing that very issue it's obviously is a very big week for the White House and for the Obama administration. The president will be addressing the American public tomorrow night -- -- the case. For military strike in Syria but I -- -- that point that you had just made that secretary Kerry had brought -- and the fact that what repercussions there could be. If no action is taken in Syria let's listen -- that. So the evidence is powerful. And the question for all the -- what are we gonna do about it. Turn our backs. Have a we're dictator Kim of impunity threaten the rest of the world that he's gonna retaliate. For his own criminal activity. Because he's being held accountable. We live in a dangerous world as -- is votes. And that kind of threat is nothing different from the threat we face every single day. And if we don't stand up to it will face it more and they will think they can intimidate anybody. I don't believe that we should shy from this moment the risks of not acting is greater than the risks of active. -- -- nick on the heels of that com there's also been some confusion of about whether the secretary stead. As far as in the US potentially calling off any kind of strike. If -- Asad regime gave up control of its chemical weapons stockpile what exactly did secretary -- say. But I think that it -- two different aspects here one is that SoundBite that we just listen to his attempt to say look. There are risks. Acknowledge those risks and at least implicitly in the end but say look we have to act. If we don't act. -- we use chemical weapons that as the White House chief of staff one on six Sunday talk shows on Sunday to our -- we don't. Attack Syria -- Iran. Will be emboldened. Israel is saying that the entire Middle East will be able and so there's a huge push by the administration you heard that from. John Kerry to say it's too risky not to respond. Now on the other side. Kerry had a rather almost -- usual comments are almost an aside. One of the reporters who's traveling with him. -- look is there anything that -- could do at this point and he kind of threw up his hands and laughed. And then said really just dismissive -- said well look you know if he gave up Wallace chemical weapons and let -- in within the next week then you know maybe. And that comment became the lead of the Associated Press right out about his press conference. Therefore everybody else picked it up there for the State Department -- say whoa whoa -- he was just saying that it was a rhetorical point. That's what they argued and that in the next sentence. He pointed out that. Assad to knock -- -- do that that that's not really what's gonna happen but clearly he has a lot of people taking it very seriously and the Russians this afternoon is that when a minute. We saw that -- interest in. Why don't we talk to Syria about whether they might be W of the chemical weapons let's take this seriously -- was not making that seriously I was in that room. He said it very dismiss nearly as an aside but the Russians clearly are taking that ball and running with it -- and who knows what might happen. With the relationship -- the interaction between Russia the United States and of course all in -- of Syria has certainly an uninteresting to find out exactly especially coming on the heels of last week's G-20 summit. On as far as any kind of support that Russia has said that it would provide for for Syria if in fact there was a military strike that would happen. -- and of course also deny the fact there's any evidence that had been gathered that the Asad regime carry out any kind of chemical weapons attack but. Bit but more importantly we're looking at some of the video of this was from the president's. Meeting -- with a host. Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg last week -- everyone looking to see what kind of interaction those two world leaders had and that impromptu twenty minute conversation that they had and the very last day. Of the G-20 summit and of course the president saying fact that he was not surprised that there would not -- an agreement and how they feel that Syria should be handled. But never wanted to ask you the secretary Kerry who was questioned really about the ultimate goal of military invention an intervention. Allan Taylor bit about what he said. So let me be clear. The United States of America president -- myself others are in full agreement. At the end of the conflict in Syria -- requires a political. Solution there is no military solution. And we have no illusions about that. So the question isn't how does the White House square that kind of a statement. When it is trying to push forward some kind of military action. The end of that statement and he kept on saying is that look. I understand the UK certainly understands and he was acknowledging that the administration understands that. This strike. Frankly nothing on the battlefield. Is going to end this civil war they've been going at it for years a 100000 people. Have died it's not clear what that one side or the other hasn't huge initiative right now -- -- in. That the Syrian government is not gonna come to the negotiation table. They have no requirement to they have no need to have no pressure on them and part of that statement -- heard the second half was look. We have to send a message we have to get them. To the negotiating table and that's a stance that the United States is taken for many many years and centuries and in some case to show force. To put a little chance of -- and war and power against somebody and that's when that country will actually say okay you're right we don't want to go to war or we don't want more strikes we will start negotiating for peace and that's what he explicitly said. This strike is so. That -- is this strike is to convince the Assad regime. To come to the negotiating table well -- convincing Asad regime at the same time the international community is watching and as they've been hearing that explanation from the State Department. Does the White House or the State Department in general have confidence that kind of an explanation that kind of rationale is actually going to be change global opinion. No but I don't think this is really about global opinion this is about the opinion of about 350 people living in. I'm working in Washington in a big white building right now -- -- all that matters is the congressional vote. And so the administration has a few options you can talk about self defense. You can talk about humanitarian issues you could talk about a chemical weapons ban. That's a hundred years old you can talk about putting your line in the sand and -- and that red line or you can talk about shifting the balance inside Syria. And actually pitching the civil war against the Asad regime all of those arguments are possible not all of them actually relate to international law. So you hear the president making certain cases based on international -- you here's Senator -- -- secretary of state. John Kerry making certain cases today they're gonna try to all of those arguments and which ever one -- work. To get that magic number in the House of Representatives to vote for this strike is what they're -- -- do and you heard from John Kerry today frankly about three different. Reasons why the US should strike and and frankly the administration continues to grab at multiple reasons and I think we have heard some lawmakers. It back in Washington say this isn't making any sense we're not hearing a Cogent argument and the administration is still sticking to these multiple arguments to try and appease different constituencies and so. Times that kind of response can circle around here is stateside but I wanted to know actually from from your vantage point in London. What the reaction is -- from from folks you've been speaking -- there. When they have heard in fact that when parliament turned down that vote. Just in not that long ago for any kind of support in Syria. What the response was then by this. Tough sell that the president the White House has to make. To members of congress even from members within his own party. Look this intervention is not popular whether we're talking about Washington or London. Or Paris or Saudi Arabia. Which which is now tentatively endorsed some kind of military action. -- people of the United Kingdom and most of the people the United States do not want this strike. They simply don't want to see any kind of strike in part because they feel. Like we're talking about 2003 again we're talking about the invasion of Iraq we're talking about weapons of mass destruction people don't really trust. This debate right now in this intelligence and that's why in the UK UC 60% 70% of people -- No strike now that question are the answer to that question changes a little bit when you start -- OK if there were UN. Approval for this if there were more allies on board. With this would you approve a strike and you -- the British public. Among others saying yet the UN was on board we would be more for you see the French -- -- right now most out in front. Supporting the US saying yes if the UN were on board. Then we would support more of a strike. But right now the Security Council's not gonna vote first for a strike we know that. The Arab we couldn't even vote restrict -- you are gonna end up with the US. Isolated with a little help from France and at the end of the day if this strike happens. The majority of Americans the majority of brits in the majority of French will oppose it. It's -- as is certainly has been a very tough sell for the White House and yesterday vice president Joseph Biden how the dinner at his home with the naval observatory. With a handful of Republican. Senators. Hoping to the public to make the case on behalf of the White House and who happen to drop in but the president himself. Hoping that maybe a little a personal touch might -- -- and Republican senators that are. We area and not exactly enthusiastic about supporting any kind of -- military action. Wistful look a live shot there of Baltimore Maryland where the vice president is about to speak next couple of minutes from. Could possibly take that if he does address some concerns and the latest moves. On Syria. But the -- you know I finally interest in the fact that you know. This obviously had all been started by UN weapon inspectors going in there and everyone very closely watching what kind of evidence they may have gathered from that. They spent four days on the ground there. Me and now Syria and the Asad regime it has been inviting them back to continue their inspection. So we haven't heard from UN just yet as if there is. Any kind of acceptance for that -- -- -- invitation. At the same time to see that kind of -- in to see that kind of prominence being played out in the international community has been. Very fascinating and a lot of people have been saying each individual country almost seems to be taken either go it alone. Kind of attitude if in fact there were going to be some kind of military action. Yeah I mean again we've kind of you know seen this movie play out haven't -- having Saddam Hussein tried to invite the weapons inspectors after they left right before the war I think that the US and officials I speak with say that any attempt to bring in UN officials back into Syria is just a stalling tactic. Really but what's what what is important is that. The US has said. We could wait for of the UN. Inspector's report we could consider. What they have to say -- our intelligence our intelligence and frankly it doesn't really matter what they say because they can't. They can't say. Who launch these chemical weapons and it's the US intelligence it's the French intelligence and perhaps allies like German intelligence. That's providing the at the -- it -- material. That lets the USA we believe the Asad regime launch these chemical weapons -- it's going to be important. What the UN inspectors come back -- and in the next week or so we should hear from the UN -- We determined that. X number of people died that this particular gas was used that this is when it was used and presumably. If the US the UK and French intelligence. Are accurate then the UN intelligence will. Add to that. What will distance you know go in line with will sync up with. This western intelligence. But it's not clear that that's an sway anybody's vote the -- to convince anyone one way the other that the administration certainly is hoping that the UN inspectors come back. With evidence. Or with intelligence that they gather that's very similar to what America has. Supposed to have the -- the administration certainly -- and every kind of support that they can get in making its case not only to congress but to the American people as well. And uninteresting ally. That the White House beginning this afternoon is former secretary of state Hillary Clinton will be speaking on the issue of Syria. Her office last week put out of the statements and facts that the former secretary did support the president's. And initiative two to call for some military action. And those statements we know -- -- carried us this afternoon when she does make that address. But the White House really is reliant on a lot of support not only from those that are obviously still in the cabinet level and -- lurking within the administration but those from outside the administration and the international support and as you pointed out. The French government really has been out in full force as far as pushing for some kind of an action to take place in Syria. And and so what we'll have to we'll have to see exactly how the president's address tomorrow night to the American people what kind of points what will be made there. I wanna go to just take a look if we can. So way to -- the vice president to make that address and Baltimore Maryland there. For the secretary of State's. What is next on his agenda -- Yeah he's gone back to Washington he left that press conference and went straight back and he'll participate. In a closed door briefing to the entire house -- -- -- which they're doing this afternoon. -- presenting -- intelligence responding to questions. Tomorrow the senate will get the same thing and I and I think the administration is hoping that. Not only with the president's address tomorrow night as you mentioned and but today he's on a sales pitch really he's talking to Diane Sawyer tonight and six. Main American anchors over the next few hours it's but we call round Robin basically the president sits in a chair and six different. Anchors come up and asking the same questions presumably and he'll be pitching -- the American people so -- start running tonight you'll see him Tuesday night in prime time. And if he sits in the Oval Office -- disputed third time. For his entire presidency. That he'll actually address the nation from the Oval Office so that will be a very big deal and the administration will continue to push and and including John Kerry who left here straight to the house -- -- because they know. That it's going to be a hard sell the last ABC news tally in the house for that they were twenty votes short. And you know administration officials say that while the president still has the authority to act still could act without congressional approval. It'll be awfully difficult. For him to do so if the house representatives does not pass a bill authorizing a military strike in Syria the start to a significant -- our -- Schiffer in London -- thank you for that we certainly appreciate it. We have a complete report on abcnews.com. As the White House and the Obama administration is making its pitch to the public and congress. For military action in Syria for now I'm Dan -- -- New York with the CBC news digital special report. This has been a special report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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