Transcript for Reporters Question White House on Syria
This is a special report from ABC news. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- It's digital special report we're taking of the White House. Where Josh RS special assistant to the president is regardless orders likely. To be asked questions about the intense buildup to Syria so let's listen in this this call assuming that we have. -- working to schedule for a number of days now. But it is just part of this. Ongoing robust consultation that this administration believes is important enough for us to have with congress we -- -- I reported a look at this. Well we have is separate from that conversation they're having today we have. Discussed our commitment to producing. For human for the American public to review and an unclassified version of -- and intelligence assessment. About the -- regime's police chemical weapons in Syria it's my understanding that debt. That that report has not been finalized as of this moment. But that we are still on track to. Produced that report before the end of the week. Thank you you also. Set -- expectations. Several officials say that this is not that he planned job that there's -- sort of an -- -- in the intelligence that they can pull up. Out buying insurance soccer this year advisor is so. What's the public will be looking forward to lawmakers is important. When -- -- guarantee in this. Well there are few facts that we already know. We already know from a previous intelligence assessment. That the Asad regime has used chemical weapons against civilians. In Syria. We know that the Asad regime maintains stockpiles. A chemical weapons in Syria and we've indicated from this podium and -- places over the course of the last two years that these are version would be held accountable. For the security. Of this chemical weapons and would be held accountable of this chemical weapons -- US we also know that it is the regime alone it has the capability. To. Use the chemical weapons that were used in the in the attacks that we saw on August 21. We also know that the Assad regime was engaged in military campaign targeting the specific regions -- this chemical attack. -- So there are a lot of relevant important facts that we are you know. And we know those facts for a number of reasons previous intelligence assessments that we made public. Were also aware of some of the reporting that's been conducted by independent journalists on the ground in Syria. That have documented the horrific nature of the attack. We are aware of reports from non government organizations there on the ground in Syria trying to meet -- humanitarian needs of the Syrian people they have witnessed. They have been witness to those attacks and to the people who have borne the brunt of those tax so there's a lot of publicly available information that we -- already know. That is. Very convincing them. And here you're here largely circumstantial and what I'm wondering is it that circumstantial evidence enough -- -- Action -- even when he's healthy in the intelligence that he congressman got later today or tomorrow and goes beyond -- That is definitive proof. Attacks originated from pilot. Based on the facts that I just laid out there is a preponderance of publicly available evidence to indicate. Fifty Asad regime carried out chemical weapons attacks in Syria. That is what the president has said. The vice -- -- the secretary of state and said that we've also seen our partners all around the globe. Say that everybody from. A senior officials in the UK. In France. Even the Arab League has put out a statement. To this effect. -- also -- review one other piece of of relevant information. To this question you're asking because there is a difference between what can be provided publicly. And what classified intelligence assessment -- bill that we were producing a public intelligence document we have to be conscious of protecting sources and methods. And and there are other diplomatic sensitivities Frankel. Frankly we've talked about the intelligence sharing relationship that we have with the number of countries around the world and including some countries in the region. All of that information is combined to provide an assessment. But that assessment. That is provided publicly has to necessarily be different in the assessment that's provided. Privately so that might lead you -- -- -- ask about the quality of that classified intelligence assessment I'm of course not a position to talk about it from here. But I have seen statements from two people who have seen this classified. Intelligence assessments the first is the chair of the senate select committee on intelligence senator Feinstein. She said I've been briefed by the intelligence committee on last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria and I believe the intelligence points to an attack by the aside government. I would also direct -- to a statement from the vice chair of the senate select committee on intelligence. This is a Republican senator named Saxby Chambliss. A gentleman who is not shied away from contradicting the president in public on a wide range of issues however in this case. His assessment is. Similar if not the same. As assessment that has reached by the president. Senator Chambliss said based on available intelligence there can be no doubt. The Asad regime is responsible for using chemical weapons on the Syrian people. -- -- And in a position to talk about classified intelligence systems from here. I'm not in position to talk about them from here rescue -- -- congress duty and congress. Provided this. Well there are some classified details that. Have obviously been provided to congress at least it if you believe what senator Feinstein and senator Chambliss -- But the extent I would make the case -- that the robust consultation with congress involves more than just sharing intelligence. It involves some insight into the perspective of our. Diplomatic partners around the globe. It involves. Reading out conversations that the president and others have had with our allies. It involves. -- -- Review of options that are available. To the president as he considers an appropriate response to theirs a pretty wide range of topics that should be covered in any robust consultation with congress. And that will be the case. As a relates -- Conversation they'll have today. It is constrained by the fact that that conversation will take place -- an unclassified setting. But there's information -- can be shared and we are working to share that information I don't will also. I don't believe -- the impression that this conference call. Is the first or the last. Medium for consulting congress it's not there have been a range of other conversations that senior administration officials have had with -- -- congressional leadership with the leadership of the appropriate committees and with other members of congress have demonstrated in interest in this topic. And there will be more conversations some of those conversations are classified some of them were on classified. Some of them covered intelligence issues some of them covered -- diplomatic issues some of -- that he Lincoln's included conversations about. Different capabilities. So there are are there's a lot of consultation that's ongoing. But this conference call at 6 PM this evening is certainly an important part of that robust consultations. Yes that's just what happened. UK be expected to -- ahead of British prime minister operations. And what he's going to be able to tell congress. For us -- -- Whether that hackers deliberations. Well the as a couple of things about that I I don't want to get involved in. I commenting on. Debates that are ongoing in the British parliament I have my hands full commenting on debates in the US congress. That said. We certainly do appreciate the strong words to have come from senior leaders in the British government. About what's taken place in Syria if you've heard both the prime minister and the foreign secretary. Articulate there. Strong objection. And condemnation. These chemical weapons. We've heard him talk about there. Desire to see the -- regime be held accountable for its actions in carrying out this -- weapons attack. And we've also seen an acknowledgment from the foreign secretary. About the United States is. Right inability. To make our own foreign policy decisions that are in our national security interest -- me just read a brief. Segment of the foreign secretary statement he said the United States are able to make their own decisions of course we will remain closely coordinated with them -- in close touch with -- as we are every day. I speak to my counterpart secretary Kerry every day and done so this evening to some that he said yesterday. So of course -- will be able to make their own decisions but we will continue to be determined that the world should reject the use of chemical weapons. And it the United Kingdom has a role to play -- that we certainly welcome the role the United Kingdom has to -- -- just bounce off the first question is there are concerned. About waiting too long that delays could make the mission more complicated. If you wait until after the G-20 visit for example -- given the serious plenty of time to position themselves. Or any kind of response that might come. What about that concern. You've heard the president talk about in other settings outside of the situation in Syria. Talking about -- the conduct of foreign policy. And how that relates to our use of military authority. And how these are some of the most difficult decisions that -- make -- commander in chief. But he takes. Before him. And he's doing that in a -- robust way and he's doing that in consultation. With members of congress he's doing that -- close consultation. -- Our our our our allies around the globe. He's doing that in close consultation with his national security and there's a role for a number of people to play here as they assess the situation. -- So the president is going about that in a very recent orderly fashion. Now I would also point out that the president acknowledged in an interview with your network. That was -- one week ago today. Where he acknowledged that there is a compressed timeframe. In which a decision needed to be made. And part of that is driven by. The idea that there isn't international -- Against the use chemical weapons. And it is important for the Asad regime. And other totalitarian. Dictators around the globe to understand that the international community will not tolerate. The indiscriminate widespread use of chemical weapons particularly. Against. Women and children as they're sleeping in their back. Josh follow on that speaking of that interview. Appreciate the site where he also said in an interview that. Their questions in terms of whether international law. Which supports a response and he was when he was talking about that he's talking about whether or not he would have some sort of international partnership. And taking some kind of action against Syria. With the United States at this point given that there are some of the ways overseas on the other side of the Atlantic go to. I don't want to presuppose what kind of judgment the president reaches about the appropriate response in this circumstance. However. The president did acknowledge that interview the roles that it international law would play as he assesses an appropriate response. And that is a factor that has been considered among all these other things that have gone into making this decision. We have also. It seems pretty clear statements. From our allies around the globe from the Arab League and others who have said that these -- needs to be held responsible. And the opinion. Of other world leaders in this situation. -- -- -- Absent the UN mandate. Some sort of resolution at the United Nations. -- and some sort of definitive word from our key allies in Great Britain. Though this his words of encouragement those votes those separate statements that are made Pioneer -- and others might that be that suspicion is that your side. What I'm saying is that I'm not in a position to offer up any sort of legal justification for a response that has not been. Decided upon. However. It is relevant. That. A wide range of other international leaders and international bodies have weighed in on this situation. And they've weighed in in -- way generally speaking. Condemning the use of chemical weapons -- condemning the Asad regime for using chemical weapons against civilians. And articulating. A requirement that the Asad regime be held accountable for its actions. Those. Viewpoints are relevant to this discussion now there's one of the part of my answer that's important for you and your viewers understand. The president of the United States is elected with the duty to protect the national security interest of the United States of America. And the decision he makes. -- out that the decisions that he. And he makes about our foreign policy. Is with our national security interest. Front center and -- just -- follow. Whenever it was last night and PBS interview he said that. That there's a chance. That. Chemical weapons. Might be turned against the United States and I was just curious. He -- that was part of his national security deliberations. Does he really think that serious people watching chemical weapons -- -- at -- what did he mean by. I think what we're very concerned about is. The willingness to. It is apparent that they did so on the night of August 21. On a large scale that had horrific results. It's also. Been assessed by our intelligence community something that we've talked about a lot this summer that there had been a number of other occasions. Admittedly. On a smaller scale. But important nonetheless where the Asad regime has used chemical weapons we know they are sitting on a large stockpile of chemical weapons. They've demonstrated a willingness to use it. Today it. In violation of clear international -- The president believes firmly any citizen the interview that he did with. Chris Cuomo when he did that to this in the interview that he conducted last night that these international -- are important. And it is not appropriate for. Totalitarian dictators. To -- them with impunity. So. Protecting the international Armisen and that the president cares deeply about but it's also. A norm that other world leaders are very concerned about being having been violated but there -- a couple of other ways in which our national interest intersect here. We're talking about a very volatile region of the world. And we're talking about. Maybe the most volatile. Country. In one of the more volatile regions of the world. So that that instability is a cause of significant concern to the president he also mentioned in the interview that this country borders and NATO ally in Turkey. It borders of one of our most important partners in the region Jordan. And isn't close proximity. To the nation of Israel. A country whose security we have vowed to. Protect. So there are a wide range of interest and that doesn't even get into. Military bases and other interest that we had in the region. So there are a number of ways in which. -- -- -- What the president believes is that as he considers the appropriate response this circumstance. That it is important for his administration to consult with congress and a very robust way and that's what we're seeing as happened. Since this event was -- first reported last week. We have seen senior administration officials consulting with senior members of congress whether it is congressional -- the congressional leadership. Senior members of the relevant committees or even just members of congress -- have an expertise or interest in this area so. There is ongoing consultation with congress in the next step -- -- consultation will occur this evening at 6 PM where. A number of senior officials in the administration will be gathering on the phone. To consult again with some of these. Senior members of congress with an interest in -- -- comes -- doesn't necessarily. I'm -- it's very important for this consultation to -- that's why the presence made a priority and that's why so many senior members of the administration have been involved. In consulting with again the congressional leadership the leadership of the program committees and other members of congress -- -- -- expertise or interest in this area. British parliament from -- they are sick they don't. -- -- -- that he will he take any action or make any decision. Well let's talk about what the mandate is at the UN inspectors who -- in Syria. The mandate of those inspectors is to assess whether or not chemical weapons were used. The entire international community acknowledges that chemical weapons were used the Syrian regime is even acknowledge that chemical weapons. For -- it's not within the mandate. Does human inspectors to assess -- the responsibility for the use of those weapons it's just within their mandate to assess whether or not they were -- That's no longer -- open question unfortunately what we've also seen the United Nations is -- repeated willingness. On the part of the Russians to block. Action at the United Nations. And that is that's unfortunate. And you -- we have the United States believes strongly in the UN process that's why we. Have spent so much time engaged in the UN. -- process it's why you've seen. Does newly confirmed -- -- the United Nations Samantha Power spend so much time. Consulting with her colleagues on this issue we're invested in UN process at the same time we're currently seeing that process circumvented. By an intransigent. Russia does refusing to allow the UN to hold Syria accountable. So what the president will do is he will take. He will make a decision about an appropriate response based on the national security interest -- -- -- America. -- -- position to offer you guidance on the timeline. During which the president would make a decision that this doesn't enemy positions -- from. And -- so it -- blocks actions. Go around that. There in every time. I'm straight and they're like they're doing it again right and and then congress is on recess so we'll consult a humble column -- have a conference call. But we won't have Google won't have authorization what happened to the -- Obama 2008. -- said repeatedly you've got to get congressional authorization before you go with the military action. Well yeah net net decrease of losing a decision has not been made. So -- don't take military action so less than adults I didn't say anything else so when he talked about shot across -- -- last night he's. He's not talking about -- I'm not gonna Parse the president's words knee injury -- -- conducted with CBS -- with PBS -- target to meet next on war and but I mean look we go back and forth fund estimates and -- and -- but it's true that he has made a decision yet right denying that part of it. But you know. Well as anyone. That. -- -- -- In excellent elsewhere not. There's not when the military doesn't like Medicare -- discipline and that is what happened to Barack Obama 2000 agency got -- -- -- -- -- get resolution. Gotta go to -- Authorization. Now Russia blocks it from going around congress on recess we're gonna call but we're gonna move forward. What this president has done. As demonstrated a clear willingness. -- to consult and invest in the UN process. That is something that we've done it to you and throughout the president's tenure in office. And it's something that we've done in this case the president with great success in building an international coalition to deal with the situation in Libya a couple of years ago. Unfortunately what we're seeing right now is. Russia repeatedly blocking efforts at the UN to hold the Asad regime accountable. That is very disappointing but the president -- is not going to. Allow that obstruction to prevent him from making decisions -- in the best interest of our national security. And when it comes to congress the president believes strongly in robust congressional consultation -- -- -- we have been engaged in. Since day one this. Circumstance. And it is something that will continue we are seeing an important part that consultations this evening but it is it will. There will be additional consultations tomorrow and in the days and weeks ahead or more -- how important is -- allies Turkey Jordan Israel all right there. So this is standard being said now if there -- -- US military action. That if -- six months. Nine months this -- uses chemical weapons against Israel against Turkey against Jordan against his own people the US is ready to go back in again. Well. -- impact a couple of things he said there the president believes strongly as does the global community here. Right we've seen statements from prime minister Cameron. UK foreign secretary William Hague president -- London France. -- indicating strongly that it is important for the international community. To. To protect international norms against the use of weapons of mass destruction. Particularly like these chemical weapons that reason Syria against innocent civilians dead as an international -- that we cannot allow to be violated. So the answer is yes if if it happens again in six months so the US will go in protecting international norm is a priority to international community. The president has also made the case which he did an interview last night. That protecting that international norm is within. Within the core national security interest of the United States of America. So. That. Protecting that international -- is important -- What we also have with Turkey is defense treaty so we are committed to the to the defense of our ally Turkey. We you have heard me and others talk about the ANC's commitment to the security of our ally Israel. We -- the nature of our relationship with Jordan is slightly different but is a critically important partner in that region. It is a nation with whom we cooperate on a wide range of national security and counterterrorism. Efforts and we value that relationship. Seriously so I would speculate -- -- hypothetical scenario. But suffice it to say the protection of that international norm. Is a priority for the president is a priority for an international community. Because. We cannot allow a totalitarian dictator. To use weapons of mass destruction like that with impunity to -- We've been through you -- weapons of mass destruction -- our own allies. This is today well let's not pretend there's one small piece of intelligence that solvable problem. Call the American people went through this before with the war Iraq about smoking gun about slim down -- It's a different situation. But there are similarities. Should the president before taking any possible military action. Something close to a smoking piece of intelligence of the American people can know with as much certainty -- possible. That this is the right course. -- -- -- -- one other thing that David Cameron said that I think is relevant to this which is he said we know that day meeting -- regime have both the motive in the opportunity. Where is the -- -- opposition does not have those things. And the opposition's chance of having used chemical weapons in our view meaning the British view is astonishingly. Small. So -- the assessment that David Cameron has reached about the -- regime's use of chemical weapons. Is overlaps. To a large degree with the assessment has been reached. By the president and the vice president and secretary of state and a number of other world leaders. Now as it relates to the situation in Iraq. I don't agree that these are similar situations. I think that there are some very important differences what we saw. In that circumstance. Was an administration that was searching high and -- to produce evidence. To justify. In military invasion. An open ended military invasion of another country. With the final goal being regime change. That was that that was the articulated policy the previous administration. What we have seen here tragically. Is a preponderance of evidence. Available in the public domain -- the Asad regime use chemical weapons. Against innocent civilians there we don't have to search high and low -- that evidence that evidence exists thanks to social media. Thanks to some of the videos that have been broadcast fixes some of the good work that independent journalists are doing on the ground. Thanks to the reports. Non government organizations that are on the ground trying to meet the needs of the Syrian people. That's the first thing the second thing is the president's been very clear that where that he is not contemplating an open ended military action. He's contemplating. What we're talking about here is -- -- it's very discreet and limited. Thirdly the president was also candid yesterday in his interview about the fact that we're talking about regime change here. That we are talking about about enforcing. It critically important international nor. So I thoroughly reject the suggestion that -- these two situations are so. Gosselin right situation though when the president gave -- speech in 2002 a state senator about an hour of Rockingham to warn him against war Iraq. He said quote but I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to United States. He was saying I know -- -- chemical weapons -- he's formed his own people but what I also know that Saddam poses no imminent direct threat to the United States for its neighbors. That the Iraqi economy in shambles -- military fraction of its former self and he said quote he can be contained. Until in the way of all -- dictators he falls away into the dustbin of history. So why this situation can't aside. Be contained. And fall into the dustbin of history as vice presidential standard 2002. Well I haven't thoroughly looked at analogy that you're trying to draw here. I think what you read obviously I think it's on its -- Their policy is not regime regime change what comes of this scenario. But we are looking for is a response to the use of chemical weapons that will enforce it critically important international -- -- world the global community believes it's important for us to enforce that Norman the president has assesses in the court national interest in -- -- America. For -- to enforce that norm. But it is our view that there is not a military solution to the broader conflict that's taking place in Syria. We've seen a 100000 people in Syria lose their lives we've seen millions of people in Syria and displaced within that country or to neighboring countries. What we're seeing there is a tragic situation even outside. Of the abhorrent use of chemical weapons. And we believe the United States police and we've been working with our partners and allies around the globe to try to bring about a transition of leadership in Syria. That -- so that the Syrian people can have a government that reflects their will. -- that is somewhat different -- the approach that was taken by the previous administration dealing with Iraq. -- -- -- you don't think you -- stories. Quote intelligence officials say they could not get the exact look. It was -- US and -- -- and lost track of who controls some on the country's chemical weapons plus. According to intelligence officials and US -- do you -- I'm not in a position to talk about classified intelligence assessments -- not an indictment not a business you definitely didn't. Absolutely clear. Repeating that you adjacent -- US -- certain. The Syrian regime is in complete control of its chemical weapons -- this story the president that we're different people whose governments say they are not sure about. -- got a handful of anonymous individuals are quoted that story straight and I -- on the record statement from the chair of the senate select committee on intelligence. And on the record statement from the vice chair of the senate select committee on intelligence and on the record statements from the president states. The vice president to secretary of state and on the record statements from -- prime minister. The United Kingdom. We've got the president of France we've got a multilateral resolution passed by the Arab League. Indicating all these things so. I lead -- -- to decide whether or not you believe the whether you believe anonymous quotes that are included an eighteen story that war and on the record statement from people who have looked at exactly the same information about ten groups of different conclusion. They are willing to put their names behind. Their belief and that and the any intelligence assessment that has been conducted. That those statements to rip -- -- not response to the central question of absolute certainty. That the -- regime retains control all the supplies chemical weapons. And I say this well I mean I can go through them if you'd like I think that's what exactly would all of these people have sent. That the Asad regime is responsible for this use of chemical weapons. That that is what date that is what people who looked at this intelligence. And part of British and conceded and -- matches on Monday that. Because the bombing in this disputed areas that are Evans might have been destroyed so there may not be actually. It is a circumstance case based on inferences. They have -- regime to regime controls the chemical weapons. He's there for the -- -- okay this story is based on people who worked for this government and let's bring our. Remember is not very quickly honestly Paula back to Iraq that emit little people in -- The type -- debate about Iraq. Who raised their hands it we're not sure where convince. People that this all I'm saying is we have a history where maybe a little people who may. -- and weather information racer -- and we're not sure. People say we're actually -- Paula asking is. From this bode parties and pacs -- -- US government knows that every piece of chemical weapons equipment and supplies. Possessed by the Syrian government retains retained -- -- control. I'm not in position to offer you -- intelligence assessment I'm not an intelligence officer United States he would the United States in this administration has. Vowed to release a public version of the intelligence assessment that is compiled by the intelligence community. So -- have an opportunity to evaluate -- let me let me finish -- officially finished. I -- I will -- allow you the opportunity to console that public document and to review and assess for yourself how convincing you find. -- already acknowledged from here that whatever that public document is it will necessarily have to differ. From whatever classified document is also produced. That. Provides three. The evidence for. These assertions. And what I can also -- to you is that others who have seen that classified intelligence that includes. Leading members of congress in both parties that includes the leaders of our allies around the globe. That includes members of the early the most important collection of Arab states. They've all seen this evidence and they've reached an assessment. Dovetails. With the assessment that we have conveyed to you so far publicly now the other. Part of this that is relevant is there is other information that you know about the use of chemical weapons about the terrible impact that -- had on people. In Syria. And you are also aware of previous intelligence assessments that indicates that -- -- regime has used chemical weapons on multiple occasions before. So there are a lot of facts that you already know that you can compile to assess for yourself. And what's occurred and you also have the opportunity to consider a document that's prepared. In consultation with the intelligence community. To Marshall some other evidence now we're not -- in position to provide all of the evidence. That we've collected. But there are important pieces of intelligence that can be provided that Wilson. Substantiate the conclusions that you've heard the president vice president others articulate. About what happened in Syria on August 21 -- did you -- Which was about president saying it's in the national security is that state that we might be intact. President doesn't actually belief -- and attacked the next -- what humans and other regional allies and vocal role volatility. No intention. This is going to be something that's come to America correct. Well there are significant American interests in the region that we are items that are. Significant concern to the presidency about the direct national security interest. Of this country being threatened by Syrian chemical weapons. President not contending that -- real threat is -- I'm I'm not a position to offer a full assessment of the military capabilities of its. The nation of Syria -- the Asad regime but I -- decision to explain to you what the president was talking about when he was referring to are. Critical national security interest stuck in the region national norms and regional -- McCain and American facilities in the region. The United States government agree with the British legal assessment released today about how -- -- Proceed with the military strength even without the -- or voluntary. I -- look carefully at at their legal assessment I've seen the reports that they have not produced one. It is my understanding that if the president if and when the present. -- the president reaches a determination about the appropriate response in this circumstance. -- legal justification is required. Two. Substantiate or to back up that decision. Will produce one on our own camera -- -- but it costs. -- that Jay -- statement Monday to me and -- in -- question. When I asked. Whether -- Syria has control. Over all of its chemical weapons whether the rebels had any. Is that statement still holds that in light of what the -- -- Yeah I I don't see any reason. Any reason to contradict what what -- has already -- -- -- that's true we've there's no evidence that anyone has produced to indicate at least credible evidence to indicate. That that the rebels had used chemical weapons or they have they have access to the delivery systems that would have been required. To carry out the attacks that we saw in August when -- first outside the -- understand the delivery systems but. Does appear as though sources in your -- -- -- anonymous sources. Honestly all the time I just got -- -- is saying I'm just saying that anonymous sources but what you also. What you also say to me on a regular basis when I and others speak anonymously to you is that you place more. When you think you place more credibility in on record statements but right. Is that front that's all I'm directing you to right now. And like anonymous sources conceded yes veteran your government from a trusted newsman -- Children are saying that they don't know where some of these weapons are. This Jay Carney statements still hold that you do not work. And certainly not -- -- Not lost control and weapons. All -- will say is what we have said before which is that that we have not seen. Credible evidence. Or credible reports. That the opposition. Has used chemical weapons or that they have the capability. Of using the kind of chemical weapons. That we saw used in an attack outside Damascus on August 21 he also said. That there -- no evidence that Syria must control. -- that had been overrun and. The chemicals like stockpiles have been home run and -- -- -- -- I see no reason to it to differ with. Is -- chemical weapon attack considered so -- questions are. The current president of the united him this chemical what is that Kevin Love an attack -- -- direct threat. A direct payments. To the security of this country within our. The president has assessed at the vial of the clear violation of an international -- Against the use of chemical weapons goes to the court national security interest of the United States of America. And there are any number of reasons for that -- It includes a large stockpile of chemical weapons he -- regime maintains. It includes the volatility of not just the country but also the region. It involves the relationships that we have with other countries in the region including our allies like Turkey and Israel and are close partners and friends like. The nation of Jordan. It also involves. The the facilities the United States maintains in the region so there are a number of ways in which the violation of this clear international norm has an impact on our. On our core national security. Interests now and in the last thing -- Pegasus planet -- -- once or twice but it's worth repeating. It's also important for. Other totalitarian dictators around the globe. -- -- watching. The circumstances unfold in Syria and -- watching the international community's reaction. To understand that the international community will not tolerate. The use of chemical weapons that that international norm is in viable. And that any violations of that norm. -- companies. To understand that. No more weary country. -- don't -- country it's important to. Be careful movies where do you -- an impact. That some would -- that's different. And having -- direct and imminent threat gets its days rather than having an impact on its allies. And or international norm. Those are different things are concerned -- are -- is serious is directing and an imminent threat to our country and Parse them for the president's words any further on this I think the president's been very clear and I've done my best to try to. Describe to you all of the national interest that our that the president believes are important that he was elected to protect. There are at stake here and that is that the appropriate response this circumstance what the -- currently way. JC there's cautious -- Josh Earnest answers -- questions their reports the white house press briefing this afternoon on what intelligence me. The White House has -- on the side regimes. Using chemical weapons against the opposition forces there and force the run up to military intervention in Syria essentially being held up today with US and British leaders -- -- some tough questions from their own governments. British prime minister David Cameron took his case to the house of commons earlier this afternoon. Where opposition leader Ed Miliband met his call to arms. With an urge to wait. In no way does the opposition motion even beginning to point the finger of blame at present the -- That is it -- with what has been said by -- President Obama and every European and -- -- -- -- I've spoken to. There is an enormous amount of open source reporting there is enormous amount of videos we can see there's the fact we know that the regime has an enormous also the fact. They've used it before the fact they were attacking that area. And then with the opposition of course there's the fact they didn't have his weapons they don't have -- delivery systems and the attack took place is an area which they wed themselves holding. We didn't -- -- the evidence over the coming. As part of persuading. The international community of people in this country of president -- culpability and I think that's important. This happiness only -- -- point. To proceed decision not decision to proceed ever. Cameras bullet points almost verbatim to what we heard from Josh -- as he was briefing reporters in DC and speaking in Washington vice president Joseph Biden could escape a press conference on gun control. Without hearing questions on Syria. And of course couldn't help a response. Decision not been made so as you. Further no decision from the president. And now with the United Nations five permanent Security Council members set to meet this afternoon and UN inspectors on the ground in Syria getting ready to leave the country -- day early. The debate of course rages on. So with more on Washington in the Middle East we're gonna bring in ABC's -- Hughes at the State Department and Molly hunter via Skype from Jerusalem. Dave Thomas are with you first we just saw the debate in Britain and of course a want to talk about what Josh Earnest said with some reporters there. Joseph Biden saying no decision yet -- is -- US and obviously waiting for some kind of support from the UK. Well and senior administration officials from -- cable to secretary -- Have repeatedly said that they do not want to go into this alone. That they want to have some type of inter national support behind them now yesterday State Department spokesperson -- heart. Made the point of saying that that didn't necessarily have to be in the -- the United Nations. For example in Libya. The United States relied on NATO. And the same thing was true when the United States bombed at Serbia during the Kosovo war. Now the issue with that is right now there's not even a resolution with the United Nations and that is very -- -- even with Iraq. The Bush Administration. Managed to get a UN resolution -- Santos basin off those efforts in 2003 -- secretary of state Colin Powell made the case in front of the UN. But specifically contradict the by country though how -- the process different in Britain is David Cameron -- the support of parliament. Before -- any kind of military strike. Well. In the process in Britain -- it's a bit at not to get too much in the weeds here but it is have been -- the winner take all system. Meaning that. He could conceivably. Go win with -- the support of the opposition but in practice that doesn't happen in Britain their needs to be some type of open debate and that right there the debate that's. Our viewers witnessed today is the quintessential difference between the United States and the UK. The US in the US in congress and the Obama administration is having the same debate. Only they're having it behind closed doors so it was quite interesting -- -- the United Kingdom government have this debate. Out in the open in public for that British citizenry to to watch and see and judge for themselves. Yet definite dichotomy -- how the debate it is plain out and everything I want to ask you about Dana is that the State Department says there is no silver bullet connecting. The Asad regime to those chemical attacks so would essentially have they shared in way of evidence. -- in what State Department has actually been careful to say is that they they can't pinpoint. -- president beside himself. Being tied to the chemical weapon attack of last week. That said they are very clear that whether aside from south is tighter not. They believe that the attack came from the regime and that aside as commander in chief of Syria. Is responsible. At the -- what the evidence -- -- presenting for that. That they want the American public. And journalists to see as true as they continue to point to the fact that the rebels do not have the capability. Nor do they have the motive -- the opportunity. To be able to use sets weapons. To cause as much destruction as what we saw last week. And -- what do we know about this meeting the five permanent members of the UN this afternoon white issue in particular will be up for discussion. Well. You know I don't think that any -- really expecting that a lot will come out of this meeting. It obviously Syria will be discussed. Some type of sanction some type of intervention but it every step of the way as the administration continues to say. Russia has put up roadblocks. But so far since the conflict began in 2011. Russia and China have vetoed three different draft resolutions in all of those draft a -- resolutions. Actually. Didn't even -- specific sanctions. Or consequences. On to the aside regime they were just condemnations. So I don't think anyone believes that Russia is suddenly going to wake up and change their minds and agree to a resolution that. Goes much further than sanctions and actually advocates some type of intervention. I think that this is a meeting that -- to beat pat because. It -- used foul with the United Kingdom debate. Many people in the UK including the opposition. Really want the United Nations involved to sign off on this. Italy came out today and said that it's important that the United Nations. -- signs off on this Germany is said the same thing and so. Whether there's an actual. Solution that comes out of this meeting today. United States house to participate it has to be seen as going as far as possible. With the United Nations systems before taking any kind of steps ahead in terms of intervention in Syria France. Also in issuing that same kind of sentiment -- statement conviction -- well and we also heard from that press conference I just before we got on the air there's that the president has spoke. With German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well no doubt discussing the situation in Syria Clinton. -- want to talk as we were just touched on this briefly. Echoes of Iraq and the call to war for that. -- and I want -- play a clip on from David Cameron about how the Iraq War may have an effect on today's decision. Deeply mindful of the lessons of previous conflicts and in particular the deep concerns in the country. Caused by what went wrong with the Iraq conflict in 2003. And so what is being discussed in Britain is also being discussed here in the US. Oh absolutely. -- I was just monitoring the State Department briefing today and there was a whole back and forth with reporters. About the comparisons between Iraq he ends. What's happening in Syria the administration is pushing back hard on this comparison. A spokesperson -- heart. Said that in this situation ever rock first -- -- the intelligence assessment was needed two to justify. Going into the country you had an issue with boots on the ground and the air -- the stated. The stated goal had to do with regime change had to do with getting rid of Saddam Hussein and so the the administration is saying. There's no comparison between the situations. Period. -- said if you talk to any analysts or anyone that's watching the situation that you will tell you that. Obviously. The bar is high the -- high for intelligence. On this because Americans are war wearied. And there's lots of debate still over whether going into Iraq was the right thing in fact members of this administration. The president in fact. Have had said since 2008. That there was no will mandate to go into Iraq that the intelligence was faulty so the Obama administration. Has the shadow. Of Iraqi hanging over its -- whether it wants to admit it or not. All right -- at the State Department Dana thank you I want to bring in -- in Jerusalem and -- it we've heard -- UN inspectors are leaving Syria. A day ahead of schedule and that and that was despite the invitation by Syria to stay in -- until Sunday right. Absolutely. When inspectors are planning to meet on Saturday which is actually a day had it. How -- evil are allowed to -- an entry. Yesterday at UN secretary I mean I think it's heat and -- it. Worked totaled need to complete their -- each and they started on Monday a tipping off Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday. They're looking at again tomorrow and it looking to get out of that entry by -- Now the thinking it is it the US will knots right. When the UN on the ground so we're watching very closely. Their departure. And so. I want to talk just as they are in Israel about what could follow a western attack on Syria do Israelis worry that they could be. In in for a retaliatory strike. Israelis are watching and waiting much like ER its stock that the US will get is not -- heads up. But Israel is really worry about what happened after that strike they're worried about the unknown Syrian response. Now most Israeli officials -- once they -- scenarios playing out. First no response from inside. This second a direct response from the side and the third a response from -- -- -- -- allies or proxies in the region like Hezbollah and let it. Now what option and -- side goes -- it will largely depend on how threatened he yells I got that straight. Now we've seen pictures of soldiers. And -- as civilians buying gas mask preparing. A potentially some kind of an attack is the Israeli public are on a war footing right now. Israelis are not panicky and despite all of those pictures neat scene of is really -- lining up to get -- gas masks. When it's kind of went tensions rise in the -- had. -- really -- go get gas -- they're free they're government issued but there's no mass hysteria here there's also a tremendous -- trust. In the government and IDF to -- -- Israel's borders. It what are our Israeli officials saying that obviously will we see that we see those kinds of images -- -- the same time you're saying that there isn't that kind of heightened tension. So what are officials having to -- Israeli officials are saying they are ready for anything and -- -- the public to be ready for any. They have called up reserve troops they have reinforce missile defenses in the north. That largely. They're saying they're ready for any scenario prime minister Netanyahu has spoken on us -- -- At -- -- and sharing his population and and this morning we heard from president Brett who also said its relative will be ready for any -- -- after the strike. Well and given that kind of statement -- how quickly can Israelis respond if they are dragged into a conflict. In short very quickly what kind of response will depend on the attack coming and who want to -- attacked. So if for example has a lot lines -- -- mortar into the Golan Heights. Israel will likely respond in kind but the real problem and comes with nonconventional weapons so it aside. Or his ally in the region attacked with nonconventional weapon. Israel had nuclear weapon -- not only -- is they'll be able to. Obliterate its sovereignty but that's -- -- -- and the conflict which is even worse case scenario that he had its. Iran a -- submit a backer of Syria. Our -- -- in Jerusalem Molly thank you for that I wanna go back stateside now in bringing ABC news political reporter for -- Walsh in Washington. Judge -- thanks Mayweather is -- more more talk about congress and its demands for more information from the White House in the bottom line is as we've heard just from that White House briefing. There will be an unclassified report that'll -- coming out of the public but is congress gonna get the kind of information that they're looking for. Well as you said there is going to be an unclassified. Report. Released to the public at 6 PM tonight. The administration is going to brief members of congress but that will be unclassified information so we hope. That the unclassified report comes out soon after about or at the same time. But as you saw from that press briefing just a few minutes ago for a spokesman Josh Earnest without several times about. Whether they'll be a vote on getting congressional story before military intervention and he answered several times. That the president will make a decision and we'll consult with congress in a robust way. But no answer to whether he won't he -- -- for. A vote from congress and you're seeing a lot of growing chorus -- -- members of congress who want there to be. The joint session vote -- for congressional -- before -- military intervention in Syria. You -- yet there's this letter is over a 115. Members of congress have signed a bipartisan group I should add that -- that -- that the president should. Have congressional authorization before any military action -- course that's not. Every member of congress but it is a growing chorus Rand Paul has been very outspoken on this senator from Kentucky and libertarian voice. With just on -- Mike Huckabee radio show saying the same thing saying he doesn't think that the United States. Is -- any risk right now and said that should be part of the despite the president's decision. Of course you have other voices on the other side John McCain is -- the most vocal senator from Arizona. That he think the president hasn't done enough and has been too slow. And we military intervention in Syria and he said any military and for intervention should have lasting impact do you really -- and voices on both sides from com. Spencer and certainly about the kind of commitment that it might be required -- you -- forces if if a decision is made. What are some of the things you mentioned Rand -- -- what are some of the other high profile names in the house and the senate and -- maybe even some 2016 front runners what are they saying about this. Well it. It's interesting really you -- -- Rand Paul has been really this libertarian voice over and over and John McCain has been on the other side. But there are other there are other people -- two of them. And just. Depressed -- briefing by John drums are an FTC. Dying find -- Saxby -- -- they both said that the evidence is clear that they're they're hat that being sought regime did use chemical weapons and you see the house until chair Mike Rodgers -- -- said that the evidence with. Convincing. As for other 26 Keener -- even. Vice President Biden just signed a few minutes ago saying that the president hasn't needed decision others -- Marco Rubio has come out and he said that and he had to be cautious on this and it but we haven't seen or really vocal -- of of other people the second Chris Christie -- -- better than focusing on being governor's right now right. What lesson before that negotiations that went to ask you about this data Houston talked about this the fact that the that a lot of the American public is war weary. And right when you do have this intelligence report that's going to be coming out at 6 o'clock tonight -- -- an unclassified document but as we heard from that press briefing. Josh -- saying just by the nature of it being unclassified it has to be different on the classified in I'm. I wonder if that difference is going to be enough that sort of sway the public opinion in how closely people going to be looking to see if that argument can be made. I think you make a great point -- what we've heard is that. This unclassified briefing may not have. The words that we've been using is the -- but that we've heard is that silver bullet tore. And if it doesn't have that you may see a lot of not just from members of congress but the public saying. We should have more evidence now that the administration missing over ever and we should not compare this to Iraq from the that you just spoke to that would Dana. But I think that from the public you're gonna have that has -- because of that war weariness that you talk about. All right Sean Walsh from Washington DC -- thank you so much for your time and your thing I -- afternoon. We have a complete report on abcnews.com. As the White House will be briefing congressional leaders this afternoon. On that information. About the Asad regime its claim. Amazing chemical weapons on the opposition for now I'm Dan -- -- New York with this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special. Report from me.
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