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World Reacts Cautiously To Obama's Syria Speech


U.S. President Barack Obama pauses while speaking to reporters about Syria during a meeting with Baltic leaders in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington August 30.
There has been little official international reaction to U.S. President Barack Obama's announcement on August 31 that he would seek U.S.congressional approval for military strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government would be following the debate in Congress closely.

"I believe [U.S.] President [Barack] Obama's announcement is an expression of his strong will on this issue," Abe said. "We will be monitoring carefully what happens in [the U.S.] Congress and coordinate with the international community to gather and analyze the available information in the hope that the situation improves somewhat."

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Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi said Syria's army is "fully ready" to respond to any U.S. action.

The head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Mohammad Ali Jafari, said it was an "illusion" to think "military intervention will be limited" to within Syria.

Muhammad Aboud, deputy commander of the Eastern Joint Command of the opposition Free Syrian Army, welcomed Obama's support for military intervention.

"We have been waiting for this decision for a very long time. Even though it took the U.S. some time, they finally took this decision," Aboud said. "[Syrian] people and freedom fighters are very happy to hear that President Obama has taken such a decision. However, we understand from what he said that there will be a debate in Congress."

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticized Obama for bypassing the United Nations.

In Moscow, Aleksei Pushkov, head of the Duma's International Affairs Committee, said on Twitter that Obama is turning to Congress to "give the war at least some legitimacy."

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In his speech in Washington, Obama charged the Assad government with using chemical weapons on August 21 and killing more than 1,400 civilians.

"Make no mistake. This has implications beyond chemical warfare," Obama said. "If we won’t enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules -- to governments who would choose to build nuclear arms, to terrorists who would spread biological weapons, to armies who carry out genocide. We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us."

Later the same day, the White House sent a draft measure to Congress that would give Obama formal authorization to use military force to "deter, disrupt, prevent, and degrade" the potential for further chemical-weapons attacks.

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British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois welcomed Obama’s decision to seek congressional approval.

Cameron last week lost a vote on military intervention in the British Parliament. France, however, has been one of the biggest supporters of intervention and has suggested it could join any military operation.

Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on August 31 that Obama had not proven the Syrian regime used chemical weapons.

On September 1, Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States had evidence that the chemical nerve agent sarin had been used in Syria. In a series of Sunday talk-show interviews, Kerry also said he was confident that Congress would give its approval for the United States to launch strikes against Syria.

United Nations inspectors who visited the site of the attack said it could take as long as three weeks to evaluate the evidence.

Based on reporting by "New York Times," AFP, Interfax, and Reuters