Conflict & Justice

'Perilous Moment' for US policy in Syria Says Former Obama Point Man

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Credit: REUTERS

Demonstrators display placards during a protest against possible U.S. attacks on Syria, outside the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad (MALAYSIA - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS) - RTX139CD

President Obama pressed his case for military intervention in Syria Friday. He was in St. Petersburg, Russia after attending this week's G-20 summit.

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"I would greatly prefer working through multilateral channels and through the United Nations to get this done," Obama said during a news conference dominated by the topic of possible US-led strikes in Syria. However, "when there's a breach this brazen of a norm this important and the international community is paralyzed and frozen, and doesn't act, then that norm begins to unravel. And if that norm unravels then other norms and prohibitions start unraveling, and that makes for a more dangerous world."

Obama did not succeed in winning over Russian President Vladimir Putin on the idea of punitive strikes against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.

Asked about the widespread skepticism his plans for US strikes on Syria are running up against in Congress, Obama said, "I knew this was going to be a heavy lift."

He expressed no regrets for deciding to seek Congressional authorization for the use of force. But he characterized the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians – including hundreds of children – as a grave threat to world peace and security.

"This is not something that we've fabricated. This is not something that we are using as an excuse for military action," Obama said. "I was elected to end wars, not start them."

Ambassador Frederic Hof, the Obama administration's former point man for Syria, thinks the administration made a mistake by waiting so long to start developing a clear strategy for Syria. But in recent weeks, Hof says he finally sees a strategy coming together. Host Marco Werman talked with Hof about what the ambassador called a "perilous moment" for US policy in Syria.

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