President Obama did not rule out sending U.S. troops to Syria on Friday but said he did “not foresee” such a scenario if his administration confirms that Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons.
He said the regional leaders who want to see Assad gone “agree with that assessment.”
The president added that if his administration confirms that Assad's regime crossed his “red line” by using chemical weapons, he would take the case for action to the United Nations.
“If in fact there is a kind of systematic use inside of Syria, we expect that we're going to get additional further evidence. And at that point absolutely we will present that to the international community,” he said. “This is not just an American problem, this is world problem. There are international rules and protocols and norms and ethics. And when it comes to using chemical weapons, the entire world should be concerned.”
Heading to the United Nations would allow the United States to create the kind of international support that it lacked during the 2003 Iraq invasion while building pressure on Syrian ally Russia to abandon its support for Assad.
The comments come as CNN reported late Friday that Israel has bombed targets inside Syria. Israeli military intelligence last week accused Assad of “increasingly” using chemical weapons, following similar assessments by France and Britain.
The strikes, according to CNN, involved 16 aircraft and appeared not to have been targeted at chemical weapons sites but rather at arms transfers to Islamist militants, possibly Hezbollah. The aircraft are reported to have violated Lebanese air space but may not have crossed over into Syria.
"We will do whatever is necessary to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to terrorist organizations," Israel told CNN in a statement. "We have done it in the past and will do it if necessary in future."
Obama defended his administration's cautious approach.
“When we rush into things, when we leap before we look, not only do we pay a price but often times we see unintended consequences on the ground,” he said. “It's important for us to get it right. And that's exactly what we're doing right now.”