Transcript for Reporters Push White House on Syria Vote Delay
This is a special group. Report from ABC news. Hello -- Hernandez in New York this is an ABC news digital special report. President Obama told the nation last night about a potential. Diplomatic deal that would have -- -- regime handover its chemical weapons to an international over -- Press Secretary Jay Carney faces some follow up question about that proposed. Memorial events here in DC. Also in Virginia New York Pennsylvania and other states as you know. This morning the president joined. Secretary hagel and general Dempsey at an event at the Pentagon. Where he delivered remarks and participated. In a wreath laying ceremony to honor the victims. Of the attack there in the afternoon. He will participate in -- service project to commemorate the September 11 national day of service and remembrance the First Lady will visit with military children and families. At the new USO warrior and salmon center at Fort Belvoir. The largest center in USO history the USO warrior and family center supports wounded ill and injured troops. Their families and caregivers as well as local active duty troops during this is Obama's visit. She will participate in an activity making patriotic crafts with military children. This evening vice president and doctor Biden will host a Barbeque for wounded warriors and their families at the naval observatory and as I mentioned. Members of the cabinet or participating in events across the country including at memorial events in New York City and in Shanksville Pennsylvania. With that'll take your questions -- it is. Question and I. -- -- -- -- Congress -- to his. Conversation about. Is that the administration say that it's. Feasible because the fresh terror threat military -- but if you pull back on the vote. Then do you ease up on the possibility of military strength to -- -- that last. What the president said is that he believed it was the right thing to do for congress to postpone a vote. Congress is obviously continue to work on. This issue and the number. Members have. Begin looking at resolutions that might take into account. Avenues that are being pursued. And that is certainly worthy. Pursuit and -- in consultations with congress about that. There is no question that the credible threat of US military force. Brought us this diplomatic opening. Until two days ago. Syria did not even acknowledge that it possessed. Chemical weapons. We have seen more. Cooperation. And helpful activity on this matter. From the Russians in the last two days then we've seen in the last two years. And I think that is clearly because. The president's. Forceful. Comments about the need to hold. Bashar Al Assad accountable for the use of chemical weapons against his own civilians. So we are. Doing the responsible thing here which is. Testing. The potential here for success of resolving this matter of serious possession of chemical weapons and deterring Syria from using chemical weapons again. Through diplomatic means. Rather than military means timeline for when -- Tangible progress diplomats -- reform -- I don't have a timeline to give to you what I can say is that it obviously will take some time there -- technical aspects. Involved in. Developing a plan for securing. Syria's chemical weapons and verifying their location and putting them under an international control. Secretary -- is leaving for Geneva as you know that the president's request to meet with his Russian counterpart foreign minister Lavrov. -- where they will discuss this matter and each side the American and the Russian side will bring. Technical asked experts who bring a team a delegation to evaluate. The proposal and two assess. Paths forward so I expected this will take some time. But. We also are not sit and delaying -- -- tactics and we believe -- is very important to hold. Assad accountable what is I think very clarifying about this is has the president -- clear all along. The potential use. Limited military strikes for the United States was in response to -- Use of chemical weapons. It was not as he said. An effort to. Involve the United States militarily directly in the Syrian civil war it was not designed to. Precipitate receive -- regime change it was our around the question of chemical weapons and if besides chemical weapons stockpiles can be secured and removed from his possession. Absent military force that would be a very good thing. To be done violent -- but -- talking to an expert about this process as a -- that -- eight month. Years to carry out so don't you need to get some sort of firmer. Timetable. For what you need to see progress rates could just -- out. Again let's be clear this initiative. Has. Been presented only in recent days we are deploying the secretary of state to meet with his Russian counterpart in Geneva. And and these discussions will take place separate from that there are discussions in new York at the United Nations. Round framing a united nations Security Council resolution. On this issue and on the removal from -- control is chemical weapons -- so. Let's be clear I don't want to suggest because. It's certainly not the case that we are -- and a delay or avoidance of accountability here. And yet there are steps in this process if it were to succeed and that is obviously. Demonstration of sincerity and -- verifiable way to secure the weapons. And remove them from the -- control ultimately to destroy them. And the fulfillment of that process would certainly take. Some time but the implementation of it -- You know would you could begin. Obviously before its completion and we're gonna work with the Russians and it would it would be irresponsible not to explore. This potential diplomatic resolution. This very serious matter. -- -- -- -- About what the president expects from the diplomatic process. The United States a senior French draft resolution. Use of force. Failure of -- Need to be part of any UN UN resolutions possibilities. I'm not going to it. Drafting -- UN Security Council resolution from here that's a process that -- take place up at the UN. And we are working with. Within the. Separately in Geneva secretary Kerry will meet with foreign minister -- brought to explore the path forward. When it comes to how we would go about. Secure and besides chemical weapons identifying verifying securing -- ultimately removing from his. Possession those weapons. With the final goal of destroying so. You know this is that this is a process -- will take certain amount of time. But. It needs to be credible it needs to be. Verifiable. And we will work with our allies and partners. To test whether or not that can be achieved. Since last night. Russian. And what -- principle for Kerri Ritchie replied -- I don't have any presidential -- -- out with foreign leaders today the president. Hopes that secretary Perry will be able to work with. Foreign minister allow Brooks. On the Russian proposal. The very explicit. Russian proposal. To have serious chemical weapons stockpile. Secured. Removed from -- possession placed under control of the international community and ultimately destroyed. And I think it is important to notice -- one of the milestones here that was cross that well there are several U. Syria saying. After twenty years of denying that they possessed chemical weapons and refusing to sign the chemical weapons convention. Suddenly acknowledging that they possess those weapons and suggesting that they would sign. The chemical weapons convention that is significant. To Russia after two years of blocking efforts at the United Nations and elsewhere to hold -- -- accountable. Broadly speaking and hold aside accountable for -- whereas chemical weapons stockpile. Now playing or at least suggesting that it wants to play a constructive role towards. Preventing aside from ever using those weapons again. This is significant and I think that it demonstrates. -- bit you know. Russia. Is now. Putting its prestige on the line when it comes to. Moving further along this diplomatic avenue. Russia is asides and Syria's closest ally. Russia has played the role. Blocking international efforts thus far to hold -- -- accountable. And the proposition that they put forward to deal with the sides chemical weapons presents a real opportunity. If it were to be successful. -- ministers meeting -- Susan Rice today and talk about surveillance. Until president. For a full explanation about what material effect here he's been -- result rather than answer drip -- is who -- become public. What what message is surprise you fit easily -- I don't have a specific preview to give you I can tell you that. The president obviously spoke with his Brazilian counterpart at the G-20. -- and this subject was part of that conversation. -- the president. Spoke about this in his press conference. In Saint Petersburg and so I would point you to what he said. That's entirely consistent with what. Our national security advisor Susan Rice. We'll be discussing with her -- -- Later today. We obviously like. Most nations collect intelligence. And you know when it comes to. Revelations. On specific countries we're not gonna get into some specifics about. The intelligence that we collect. But I would point to what the president's I don't -- it -- in -- Wanted to get back to this speech last night in its criticism of the president received. In response -- that speech -- that the polling that came out after the speech was not exactly. Excellence some of the members of your administration we're taking -- to order to provide some of the comments were being made do by various columnists and I'm just curious you know -- you go back -- the speech seems like the president was saying. We need action but it's not going to be another Iraq. But we're gonna put boots on the ground but we don't do -- -- it does seem like a tough case to make because they were so many. Twists and turns and in the speech. That there -- That really was assuming inherent conflicts in the speech -- it was a clear case that he was making the American people last night. I think hit your question makes it more complicated than it is when it comes to the use of military force this is -- Proposed limited military strike limited in scope and duration that it would have significant effect on. Such capabilities. -- and there's only one but not three but it would not be. And it is important that the American people understand this it would not be. An engagement that places American boots on the ground. It would not be the kind of open ended. Large scale military engagement that we saw in Afghanistan and Iraq. It would not even be. The size and scope of the Libya operation. Or the coast of -- operation in the late nineties. So those -- significant distinctions that need to be made because understandably as the president made clear. The American people and their representatives. Are understandably and justifiably. Wearied of military conflict and weary. New military conflict. President is. Completely. Understanding of that dynamic and instant polls notwithstanding he understood going in. -- it. This would be. A tough case to make. He has made that clear from the beginning since he. Announced that he wanted to go to congress for authorization. And he made that clear last night I think in very sincere terms where he. Addressed specifically one by want -- concerns that the American people happy talked about letters that he received from Americans on this specific issue. About. Is that you know about this question of whether or not the United States should be. The world's policeman. Whether or not it's in the US interest to. Involve itself in. A civil war in the Middle East. These are understandable questions and understandable anxieties in the president address them last night and the job that he set out to. Achieve last night was to lay out for the American people. Why Syria. And the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Matter to the United States. Why -- we are sure -- it. Aside and his regime are responsible for deploying this chemical weapons against innocent civilians. Why it is in ultimately our national security interest to hold. -- accountable for the use of chemical weapons. And why the international community. Broadly has as its interest. We're holding out we're good. That -- there's a lot of negative reactions to -- how do you account for why I'm not sure that that's the case I think that. Did it commentary that I saw reflected where the American people are -- commentators are experts are members of congress are which is conflicting. There's very little dissension about whether or not a chemical weapons attack occurred in fact -- -- none in this country. There's zero. Disagreement with the assertion that the Asad regime is responsible. There's zero assertion that I've seen at least from lawmakers. That it is in our national security interest to. Maintain a prohibition. On the use of chemical weapons. The question is. Do we need to take military action in order to enforce that prohibition. That's never desirable option. Prior at 48 -- 72 hours ago there were no diplomatic avenues open. To resolve this. Now that Russia has put forward -- potential diplomatic avenue we're going to explore that as -- responsible thing to do but it remains the case it. This is a very serious matter. Bit. In the long term. If unchallenged if aside -- not held accountable. Would make the world a more dangerous place for the United States and for our -- And earlier this morning. Some pretty notable Republican senators McCain. So that they would be. Authorization to use worse I'm just curious. As of yesterday. I think the vote was gonna go I think the president acknowledged from the beginning this. Would be a challenge. We have. Presented a great deal of information to members of congress both in the house of the senate and we are continuing to do that today in briefings. And will continue to do that. Moving forward congress is -- -- back in town for. Day and a half where their concerns about -- not going your way and did those concerns have anything to do with the president's. The decision to ask for -- -- I think is important to note that. We set the speech. The president was gonna make its case. And and and that's the case you -- that he did make last night part of the case now as is the opening that has been provided here. The possibility of resolving this through diplomatic means but. You know the president went forward and made the case for why we should hold -- -- accountable last night and that's the position he held. Prior this diplomatic opening and it's a position yields today. John -- president considered -- canceling as we know. The original test on Friday it was to make case for action. Make the case for congress to pass. This resolution would -- Clearly delayed. No no consideration whatsoever. It's I would be intimately involved in that consideration and it did not take place and and the reason for that is that it is still very important. For the president to speak to the American people about. What he'd used to be necessary. In response to this appalling attack by. The Syrian regime against its own people. And to put forward to the American people. The context of this discussion. From his point of view. As commander in chief and president. And to explain also the now potential diplomatic. Avenue that has been opened. That could. Allow us to resolve this. Without resorting to military force so absolutely the president -- we never considered canceling the president believed it was a useful thing to do that to have this. Opportunity to speak to the American people and it this is something else you know it did gone are the days when. Even a speech like that is seen by. The vast majority of Americans and we will continue to. Have this discussion. As we have over the last several days -- the president has through interviews. In the days. Ahead and try to get correct answer it was clearly. The threat forces you've said over and over again helps the diplomacy it's why didn't Michael. So you could have gotten that congress -- the diplomacy you asked for the president asked for delaying the vote because he didn't have. Books the president asks for delay -- that though because we are engaged in diplomatic. Is -- -- -- that diplomatic avenue and members of congress are interested also in exploring that diplomatic avenues you've seen in some of the actions that they've taken with regards potential resolutions. The president thought that was an appropriate thing to do. What. Remains true is that it. The credible threat of US military action is on the tape. And it is because that threat is on the table that we have seen. The kind of about face from the Syrians. That we see in these last several days and we've seen the constructive. Approach -- the Russians have. Taken in the last several days. And that remains an and the president make clear last night that his military remains. On the same status that it was and remains ready to implement. An operation if necessary Diane Feinstein -- that she believes. Really wants and stick to the White House the White House -- the similar confidence. That Vladimir Putin is acting in good faith. What the president said in one of his interviews is that we should approach this in the way that Ronald Reagan. A memorably did win. He was dealing with his counterparts and that is to trust but verify. It is simply the case that Russia has not been constructive or helpful. On this matter for the last two years there is an opportunity here. And it and they have waited out pretty specifically. For Russia to be helpful. Two. Hell create a scenario where we could secure us -- chemical weapons. Place him under international control. And ultimately. Destroy them so they can never be used again. And and so I think that that you know we're. It is absolutely the right thing to do and the responsible thing to do to -- this potential avenue. We of course remain. Skeptical. Any commitments that Syria. Is making. The -- regime -- not shown itself particularly consistent in keeping its commitments. But it is absolutely the right thing to do to explore this possibility and news want -- Question should this agreement also includes a -- turning over his biological. You know I'll have to it. Defer that to. The experts who are negotiating this. -- State Department or others team that's going with secretary -- You know. What is obviously directly concern here was the use of chemical weapons by the -- regime but I think that's. A question that's worth following up on you don't negotiate. Solution here but if you are asserting that you have the military force is an important -- it was important component about this development. You certainly can't say that given what. White house Press Secretary Jay Carney briefing white house press -- are on the latest Syrian negotiations. In Washington. -- -- John -- on his way to meet his counterpart from Russia in Geneva and that there is work underway in the United Nations to pursue -- hammer out. That potential deal you can catch the rest of that briefing -- stream in its entirety at abcnews.com. This has been an ABC news digital special report -- Hernandez in New York. This has been a special group. Report from me.
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