President Barack Obama spoke with the media Monday night, saying a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons to International control could avert a U.S. Military strike on the conflicted country.
Obama was quick to point out that turning over weapons could be a stall tactic, but he also said he is “all for” exhausting diplomatic efforts.
"It is a potentially positive development," Obama said. "I have to say that it's unlikely that we would have arrived at that point where there were even public statements like that without a credible military threat to deal with the chemical weapons use inside of Syria.”
Obama said he would “absolutely” hold off on a punitive strike if president of Syria, Bashar Al-Assad, gives up chemical weapons.
"It's possible that we could have a breakthrough, but it's going to have to be followed up on, and we don't want a stalling or delaying tactic to put off the pressure that's there right now,” said Obama.
Syria’s foreign minister said his country “welcomes” Russia’s new proposal to put its chemical weapons under International control, but it was not immediate clear whether Syria would accept the plan.
"The fact that the U.S. Administration and I have said we are serious about this has prompted some interesting conversations and these are conversations that I've had directly with Mr. Putin," Obama said. "When I was at the G20 we had some time to discuss this and I believe that Mr. Putin does not see the use of chemical weapons as a good thing inside of Syria or any place else.”
The Russian proposal comes after a casual comment made by Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry urged the war-torn nation to turn over their arsenal to the international community to avert a U.S. military strike.
"We've been very clear about what we expect, and that is do not use chemical weapons," said Obama. "And now that we've seen Assad's willingness to use chemical weapons, we're going to have to go further and give the international community assurances that they will not be used potentially by getting them out of there. At minimum, making sure that international control over those chemical weapons take place.”
In a Sunday interview with CBS’s Charlie Rose, President Assad denied using chemical weapons on his own people, but wouldn’t confirm whether his government kept such weapons.
"You should expect everything. Not necessarily from the government," said Assad. "You have different parties, you have different factions, you have different ideology. You have everything in this region now, so expect every action."
“Mr. Assad doesn’t have a lot of capability,” said Obama. “He has capability relative to children. He has capability relative to an opposition that’s still getting itself organized, and not with professionally trained fighters. He doesn’t have a credible means to threaten the United States.”
A new USA Today poll shows 63 percent of Americans are against possible military action by the United States in Syria. Channel 4 reached out to people in Jacksonville to see what they thought about the possibility of a U.S. response in Syria and got mixed reactions.
“I’m for the strike and it’s primarily because I feel it’s the only way to make a real impact and let him know that we’re serious,” said Angela Hughes.
“I don’t think anything that he could say that could make me think that we need to intervene,” said David Ruiz.
“I would hope they can work out the Russian deal, because otherwise, it’s not worth getting in there,” said Robert Van Cleave.
Channel 4’s Facebook fans and Twitter followers were just as vocal about whether the U.S. should get involved with Syria.
“No, we should not make the strike,” wrote Gary Coots. “We should stop trying to be world’s policeman, other nations have more at stake.”
“I think we need to start paying attention to the things going on in our own community and fix the things that are wrong here before we go trying to fix another country,” said Lori Smith.
Allie Lindsey tweeted her opinion Monday night saying, “I’m against a strike on Syria, we have enough problems here at home.”