Obama denies his Syrian ‘red line’ comments

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama repeatedly denied Wednesday that he ever set a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and he insisted that the “world community” and Congress created the so-called red line, and should enforce the line.

“I didn’t set a red line,” he insisted to reporters at a press conference in Sweden Wednesday morning.

“The world set a red line when governments representing 98 percent of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a [1993] treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war,” he said.


“Congress set a red line when it indicated that — in a piece of legislation [in 2003] titled the Syria Accountability Act that some of the horrendous things that are happening on the ground there need to be answered for,” he said.

Following the Syrian gas attack on Aug. 21, Obama called on the U.S. and foreign governments to respond, or give up efforts to police rogue nations. “Are we going to try to find a reason not to act? And if that’s the case, then I think the world community should admit it,” he said.

“My credibility is not on the line,” he insisted. “The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’ credibility is on the line, because we give [only] lip service to the notion that these international norms are important,” he said.

Obama’s repeated denial of his red line statements comes as Congress debates whether to let him lead the nation into a limited war in Syria.

Many Democratic and Republican legislators are leery of increased U.S. involvement in the bloody civil war, are skeptical of the rebel’s political intentions, or doubt Obama’s leadership.

Last August, however, Obama announced that use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line.”

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized,” he told reporters at a White House press conference.

On Dec. 3, Obama reiterated his “red line” warning. “Today, I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching. The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you will be held accountable,” he said.

In an interview with The Daily Caller Wednesday morning, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said Obama is demonstrating a failure of leadership.

“The essence of leadership is the willingness to provide clarity and a vision, and to accept responsibility,” Rumsfeld told TheDC. “What we’re seeing is just the opposite,” he added.

In today’s press conference, Obama also confessed that he’d rather focus on domestic issues, such as getting additional funds for federal daycare programs, than on national security issues or on foreign crises.

“I would much rather spend my time talking about how to make sure every 3- and 4-year-old gets a good education than I would spending time thinking about how can I prevent 3- and 4-year-olds from being subjected to chemical weapons and nerve gas,” he said.

“Unfortunately, that’s sometimes the decisions that I’m confronted with as president of the United States.”

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