WASHINGTON — President Obama told reporters in Sweden Wednesday his push for military strikes in Syria is not about saving face, as some critics have alleged.
“My credibility’s not on the line, the international community’s credibility is on the line,” Obama said at a press conference. “And America and Congress’ credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important.”
Critics have claimed Obama is pushing for military strikes in Syria to back up his comments about a “red line” for the country’s regime he made at a press conference in September. White House officials have rejected that claim, and Obama dismissed it in Sweden.
“First of all, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line,” Obama said. “The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war. Congress set a red line when it ratified that treaty.”
Obama said his “red line” comment last year was simply a reiteration of existing policy.
“When I said in a press conference that my calculus about what’s happening in Syria would be altered by the use of chemical weapons, which the overwhelming consensus of humanity says is wrong, that wasn’t something I just kind of made up,” he said. “I didn’t pluck it out of thin air. There’s a reason for it.”
Obama is hoping to get congressional sign-off on his plan to attack Syria in response to what U.S. intelligence agencies say is clear evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against rebels. Obama said he expects Congress to approve his plan.
“What happens if Congress says no?” Obama said. “I believe Congress will approve it.”