President Barack Obama addresses the nation in a live televised speech from the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013. • AP Photo/Evan Vucci, Pool
President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to explore a Russian initiative to reign in Syria's chemical weapon arsenal. But during a prime time Oval Office address the president expressed skepticism about the Russia proposal.
Obama argued it is in U.S. national security interests for Syria to face consequences for chemical weapons use.
The president also stressed that any U.S. military action in Syria would be limited in scope and duration.
"We cannot resolve some else's civil war through force," Obama said. But the situation changed on Aug. 21 when evidence emerged of a poison gas attack perpetrated by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
"When dictators commit atrocities they depend on the world to look the other way."
The speech was originally scheduled to explain why he was asking Congress for authorization to take military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons.
Obama's speech came after days of frantic activity over Syria. Earlier Tuesday came word that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva to meet Thursday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to pursue talks on the Syrian crisis. The announcement comes after Syria accepted a Russian proposal to turn over its chemical weapons to international monitors.
The rapid-fire diplomatic developments elicited some skepticism from many regional and international players, who questioned the motives behind the Russian gambit and speculated that Moscow's plan would enable the Syrian authorities to buy time. There are also questions about the viability of the plan, which is still being developed.