WASHINGTON -- President Obama today said he has "not made any decisions" on whether to launch a military strike on Syria, but sought to assure the American public and the international community that if he does, it will be a "limited, narrow act."
"We're not considering any open-ended commitment," Obama said, adding, "In no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground, that would involve a long-term campaign."
The president said that punishing Syria would send a message that the "international community cares about maintaining this chemical weapons ban."
Alongside Vice President Joe Biden and leaders from Baltic nations, the president called the crisis in Syria "a challenge to the world."
The president's remarks came on the same day that his administration provided fresh evidence that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. The president said he has instructed the military to look into a "wide range of options."
The unclassified report asserts that the administration has "high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013."
Accompanying the report is a map of areas of Syria reportedly affected by that attack.
"A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information," according to the report.
The government memo noted, "Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation."
Obama said at the White House, "We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale.
"This kind of attack threatens our national security interests by violating well-established international norms against the use of chemical weapons, by further threatening friends and allies of ours in the region like Israel and Turkey and Jordan, and it increases the risk that chemical weapons will be used in the future and fall into the hands of terrorists who might use them against us."
Secretary of State John Kerry told the American people earlier today to "read for yourselves" the government's evidence against Assad's regime.
"Instead of being tucked safely in their beds," there were "rows and rows" of dead children, Kerry said at the State Department. He added that it was important to hold the Assad regime accountable as a warning to other countries and groups.
Lawmakers have placed increasing pressure on President Obama to obtain Congressional authorization before taking military action and some key international allies like the United Kingdom have signaled their unwillingness to participate in any strike.
"As we have said, if the president believes this information makes a military response imperative, it is his responsibility to explain to Congress and the American people the objectives, strategy and legal basis for any potential action," House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman, Brendan Buck, said in a statement today. "We -- and the American people -- look forward to more answers from the White House."
President Obama vowed to "continue to consult closely with Congress" and said his administration would be providing lawmakers, congressional staffs and international partners with an additional classified briefing today.
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